Washington Fish & Wildlife Commissioners today approved a four-point-minimum antler restriction for whitetail deer hunting in a pair of units northwest of Spokane.
According to WDFW spokesman Darren Friedel, the vote was 5-2, with commissioners David Jennings and Brad Smith voting against.
The rule affects hunting in Game Management Units 117, 49 Degrees North, and GMU 121, Huckleberry, in central Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.
Not much more information was immediately available.
The change was proposed by a stakeholder group from Stevens County, but was not widely supported outside of that.
A local outdoors columnist, scratching his head about how the proposal had made it so far (there were at least four public meetings), wondered if one of its proponents, Fish & Wildlife Commission vice chair Gary Douvia, had compromising pictures of the rest of the commission, a theme he followed up on last week with an unusually harsh article.
“The record provides a clear answer on how the vote should go,” wrote Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review — and it wasn’t the way it went.
Another reporter who’d followed the issue emailed me just now to say, “Well, it’s not biologically sound, but at least they didn’t take in two or more counties, like the 4 pt. fanatics wanted. Now wait ’til the local restaurants, gun shops, motels, bars, etc., start getting way less hunter traffic. Suddenly, those pro-4 pointers will get lots of flack. ”
The antler restriction was requested in spring 2010 by the Stevens County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee in a petition to the commission which requested that WDFW staffers get additional public input before considering it for this coming hunting season.
Northeast Washington has seen a decline in whitetail in recent years, blamed largely on a pair of severe winters in the late 2000s that also took a big bite out of turkey populations. Local hunters have been looking at ways to bring the deer back. This past February, they held a coyote hunting derby that took 227 animals, an estimated 90 of which were female.
“Hopefully this will give our whitetail deer population a shot in the arm,” wrote Freddie Giannecchini of the Stevens County committee in a derby wrap-up. “Their numbers have been going down for years with very little positive and proactive management from (WDFW). Yes the WDFW has restricted the taking of does recently in 2009 and 2010, and have restricted the youth, senior and disabled hunters in a time when our buck to doe ratios are very low. Without proactively adding bucks to the population, by point restrictions or shortening the late portion of the season, to help the low buck to doe ratio, the dept is going to flood the area with more does making breeding for what bucks are out there even tougher allowing many more does not to breed when nature intends them to be bred, causing later and later fawn births. This is the only hope we have at this time to try to help the Whitetail Deer herd in this area.”
According to WDFW’s 2010 game status report, however, today’s buck ratio for Northeast Washington is better than where it was at in the late 1990s.
“In the late 1990s there was unprecedented low representation of mature white-tail bucks in the harvest,” writes Colville-based district wildlife biologist Dana Base. “This concern was addressed by maintaining conservative late buck seasons that did not extend beyond the middle of the rut. From 1999 until 2005 there was consistent improvement in the percentage of older bucks based on monitoring antlers. Improvement in the general trend toward more bucks 4 years or older was also supported by cementum analysis of deer teeth. Since 2005 this trend leveled out at least for 5+ antler point bucks. We are currently at a level that has reasonably good representation of mature bucks in the white-tail population. At least 1 in 5 white-tail bucks harvested is 5 point or better.”
Stay tuned. I’m sure Landers will have something on this, and have no doubt that WDFW will fire off a press release about 10 minutes after quitting time.