OLYMPIA – Fall marks the start of hunting seasons for deer, elk, waterfowl and upland game birds in many areas of Washington, and the state has released its annual prospects guide to assist hunters.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife hunting prospects guide can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/locations/prospects.
“Our district wildlife biologists write these popular reports to give an in-depth look at what field conditions should look like this year,” said Anis Aoude, game division manager. “These prospects have a lot of useful information that can help brand new and experienced hunters plan their season and take note of new hunting rules established during the 2021 season setting process.”
Hunters also can use the hunting regulations Web map, which allows them to find permit and general season hunts based on location, date, weapon choice and other factors. Recent surveys indicate 2021 should be another good hunting year, said state officials.
Aoude asks that hunters pay special attention several items for the upcoming season:
-Changes to forest grouse seasons. Forest grouse season now runs from Sept. 15 to Jan. 15, 2022, to protect brood hens with chicks.
-Wildfire impacts. Some hunting opportunities may be affected by emergency land closures. The departments wildfire website has more information.
-Black bear identification test. Hunters who wish to harvest a bear in certain game management units must first pass the bear identification test (through the department’s WILD system) with a score of 80 percent or better.
-Youth waterfowl hunting dates. On Saturday, Sept. 25, in western Washington, and Saturday, Oct. 2, in eastern Washington, youth-only hunting days provide an opportunity for success for ducks (including scaup), coots, and Canada and white-fronted geese.
-Youth, veterans, and active military personnel waterfowl hunting day. Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, will provide an opportunity for youth, veterans and active military personnel to experience hunting during the late season with an expanded list of allowable species.
Hunting regulations are described in the department’s big game hunting, and migratory waterfowl and upland game pamphlets.
Scott Fitkin, district wildlife biologist, and Jeff Heinlen, assistant district wildlife biologist, wrote the District 6 hunting prospects guide, which includes Okanogan County.
The outlook notes that as of late August, five major fires were still active in the county, with all state Department of Natural Resources lands in eastern Washington and some units of the Methow Wildlife area closed to recreational access. Access also is restricted in portions of the Methow Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the Tonasket Ranger District of the Colville National Forest.
Some private lands also may be under evacuation orders.
Campfires are banned throughout eastern Washington, with any type of open flame prohibited in some areas.
“Without significant additional precipitation, fire restrictions are likely to remain well into the fall,” said the report.
The fires are affecting many popular hunting and camping locations in District 6, including portions of the upper Methow watershed, Loomis State Forest, Conconully area and the Bonaparte block of the Tonasket Ranger District. Several trailheads leading into the Pasayten Wilderness Area also are closed.
Hunters should check access status, and note that some camping areas may remain closed throughout the season, said the report.
Biologists may run a biological check and information station at the Winthrop Barn during both weekends of the modern firearm general deer season, wrote Fitkin and Heinlen.
“We encourage hunters to stop and provide data to biologists whether they have harvested a deer or not,” said the report. “The data we collect helps us assess herd health and shape population management. Efforts may be constrained by COVID restrictions.”
The report also noted:
-Elk numbers are low in the district, especially in the western portion. In 2020, hunters harvested 20 elk in the nine western Okanogan County game management units combined.
GMU 204 is the only one in District 6 with a significant number of elk. The animals tend to be most numerous from Havillah north through the Molson and Chesaw area, Wauconda Summit/Mount Annie area and on U.S Forest Service lands bordering the Colville Indian Reservation.
-District 6 supports perhaps the largest migratory mule deer herd in the state, and Okanogan County has long been prized by hunters for its mule deer hunting opportunities, said the report. The district also supports significant numbers of white-tailed deer.
Increasing fawn survivorship indicates deer numbers are starting to rebound in the district in the wake of extreme fires, severe droughts and modestly tough winters from the middle part of the last decade, the report notes. As previously burned winter range continues to recover and mature, the trend is expected to continue.
During the 2020 general seasons, hunters harvested 2,419 deer (2,232 bucks and 187 antlerless), which was up 17 percent from the previous year and above the five-year average of 2,210.
Deer are likely to be more concentrated in higher elevations with green forage into early fall as a result of the 2021 summer being the hottest on record and severe drought conditions that began in spring. This summer’s fires are not likely to change deer distribution significantly.
The report also gives prospects for black bear, cougar, waterfowl, forest grouse, pheasants, quail, turkeys, chukar and gray partridge and doves.