2010 WA Deer Kill, Hunter Numbers Down, But Success Up

Prepping for this fall’s seasons, your alert blogger has JUST stumbled onto the 2010 game harvest reports for Washington.

Ahem, they’ve been online since April.

Anyway, I immediately started looking at the numbers for deer and was surprised by two things over the past three seasons: the relatively large drop in hunter numbers and the upswing in our success.

With the recession dragging on, last fall, 126,107 general-season sportsmen bagged 30,707 bucks and antlerless deer across the state for a 24.3 percent success rate.

That’s nearly 5,850 fewer hunters than the 2009 season and 12,020 less than the one before that, and 236 fewer deer than last year and 874 less than 2009 — hunts that also left only 23.4 and 22.9 percent of the state’s deer chasers with venison in the freezer.

Still, the number of hunters and deer killed are the lowest of the 2000s, though the success rate was the highest since 2005 and is just below the average of 24.8 for the millennium so far.

General season elk hunter numbers are similarly depressed from recent years (66,757 in 2010, roughly 3,000 fewer than the previous two lows in 2006 and ’05) and last year’s kill was down from the season before (5,242 vs. 5,918), but still above 2008’s poor hunt, which saw only 4,939 killed.

If there’s a positive, it’s that the buck harvest was actually up last year by 707 from 2009 and also topped 2008 and 2006 figures, though is 2,000 to 7,200 antlered blacktails, whitetails and muleys fewer than the early and mid-2000s figures. The great fall of 2004 leads all comers with 33,656 bucks and 39,359 deer for 146,411 general season hunters, a 26.9 success rate.

It remains to be seen what we’ll find this fall — here’s a peak at winter survival for the Okanogan — but be aware that the rules have become more restrictive in two of Washington’s major buck factories, the Huckleberry and 49 Degrees North Units.

New this year is a 4-point minimum for whitetails.

If the rule were in place during the 2010 season, hunters would have had to have passed on 660 of the 1,192 bucks shot in the former and 441 of the 893 taken in the latter.

The tweak was pitched by some local sportsmen and passed by the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

In the short term, the harvest will be off, but longer term should pick up again as spikes and 21/2-year-olds mature into harvestable animals.

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