The region’s most popular hunting seasons open on Saturday when hunters take to the field for ducks, geese and deer. Other hunting seasons that open in October include pheasant, quail, chukar and gray partridge. Big game hunts also look promising this fall, said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ware expects hunter success to be similar to last year. “Overall, hunters had a decent season for elk and deer last fall,” Ware said. “That should be the case this year as well.” Closer to home, the opening of the Modern Firearms’ deer season gets more pessimistic reviews. WDFW wildlife biologist Dana Base predicts a lower whitetail harvest this year due to continued restrictions in antlerless harvest opportunities and the new four-antler-point minimum restriction in Game Management Units 117 and 121. The downside is predicted to continue with the loss of acreage in cereal grain and alfalfa hay farm production. Two recent bad winters further exacerbated the situation. On the positive side, 2011 is so far shaping up, weather-wise, to be favorable for whitetail deer in Northeast Washington. Restriction in antlerless harvest opportunities Last winter was classified as moderate, and the rainy spring led to a flush of green foliage. The overall whitetail harvest will inevitably be lower this year than in the previous 10 or more years because of continued restrictions in antlerless harvest opportunity, along with the first season having the four-point or better antler point restriction within GMU’s 117 and 121. Youth/Senior/Disabled Modern Firearm hunters will have four days (Oct. 20-23) to lawfully bag an antlerless whitetail. Muzzleloaders will also be limited to antlerless whitetail bucks only during their season and the same is true for archery hunters during the early season only (Sept. 1-23). Overall, mule deer appear to have weathered the two bad winters of 2007-2008 band 2008-2009 better than the whitetail deer population, but have shown the same spotty pattern of productivity. Hunting prospects should be similar to 2010, which was better than the 10-year average. Oct. 29 is the opening of modern firearm elk hunting season and the best prospects in the region appear to be in the Blue Mountains of the southeast district. Elk are traditionally much fewer and farther between in the central and northeast districts of the region. In the northeast district, finding elk is the biggest challenge with so many densely forested areas. Biologist Base reports that the most successful northeast elk hunters tend to be archers and muzzleloaders because their seasons are at a time nearer the rut when elk are more vocal and easier to find and approach. With rare exception, the elk population in the region does not appear to have been as heavily impacted as whitetail deer from the two bad winters previously discussed. Hunting prospects should be similar to 2010. All big and small game hunters in the northeast who might harvest coyotes (open year-round) are reminded to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected as an endangered species under state law and can not be shot or killed. Pheasant hunting opens Oct. 22 and bird numbers aren’t the best this year due to extended rain and cool temperatures during spring nesting and hatching. But farm-raised roosters will be released several times during the season at nine sites, including WDFW’s Sherman Creek Wildlife Area.
Pheasant numbers are limited in the area
There are a limited number of wild pheasants in areas like the Colville valley bottom, according to Base. There is a very limited quail population in Northeast Washington. There is also a very limited population of Gray Partridge in the northeast region. The number of Forest Grouse continue to be down in District one. Even so, this is a good district for grouse and it continues to provide good opportunities for hunting. The first hatch of wild turkeys, which typically occurs in early June, did not produce many poults, likely due to prolonged rainy weather throughout the late spring. More turkey broods hatched later in the season and are being reported now. Longer term, turkeys are recovering from two bad winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.. Flocks of adult birds are being observed in most of the usual places, particularly in lower elevation country within the farm and forest mosaic of Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties. There is limited opportunity for duck hunting within district one. Most hunting seems to concentrate on the Pend Oreille River. Diving ducks, including goldeneyes, mergansers and others are the most available ducks throughout the rest of district one on lakes and rivers. Canada geese are also available on major water bodies like Lake Roosevelt, the Pend Oreille River and large farm fields in valley bottoms. Dove hunting prospects in 2011 should be similar to 2010. However, district one is not a major dove area, with doves occurring at low population densities relative to the Columbia Basin and similar regions. The introduced Eurasian Collared-Dove continues to become more common in the district, particularly within town environments like Colville and Northport. Considered an exotic species, Eurasian Collared Doves are open to hunting year-round with no bag limit.