Deer hunters headed into the woods across the state for last weekend’s opener, and it was a mixed bag of success with the Okanogan region garnering the best results.
“Participation was a bit lighter than expected, but it has been that way for the last couple of years,” said Dave Ware, a state Fish and Wildlife game manager. “A lot of people wait until later in the season hoping they might be more effective.”
That is when leaves have fallen off the trees, bushes are less dense and animals are more visible.
“The Okanogan region had good success rates for mule deer, and it was quite a bit higher than the past couple of years and kind of what we predicted,” Ware said. “Participation was light in northeast Washington, but we saw an uptick in whitetail deer and are hoping that continues.”
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At the Winthrop station, Fish and Wildlife checked 107 hunters Oct. 12-13 with 30 deer. The numbers suggest a reduction in hunting pressure, but a significant increase in success compared to last year’s opening weekend.
Scott Fitkin, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist at Winthrop, saw a higher than average percentage of the harvest in the 4½-year-old age class as expected, including a nice buck with a 30-inch-wide antler spread.
“Prospects for the rest of the season remain good, although mild weather will likely keep deer well distributed on the landscape,” Fitkin said.
Elsewhere in the eastern region, the Deer Park check station on Highway 395 in north Spokane County had about a 13 percent success rate. The department checked 91 hunters with 12 deer compared to 114 with 12 last year.
The Chattaroy check station surveyed 67 hunters with nine deer compared to 66 with nine last year.
Surveys taken last year in the Okanogan area saw 34 bucks per 100 does, which was the highest ratio seen in decades.
In Spokane, Lincoln and Whitman counties, there was a high fawn production last year, and herds seem to have recovered from severe winters in 2008 and 2009.
In western Washington, the opening weekend was on the slow side, and hunters tend to have better success later this month or during the late buck season in November.
According to Ware, hunting success in southwest Washington will be in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 percent.
The blacktail deer population looks stable, and the best success usually comes from the southwest region, although northern Puget Sound should have some glory moments for nice bucks.
Depending on the region, the general firearm deer-hunting season ends this Sunday or Oct. 25 or Oct. 31. The late blacktail season is Nov. 14-17, and the late whitetail season is Nov. 9-19.
The 69th Tengu Derby, one of the most challenging and longest running salmon derbies, will begin Oct. 27 in Elliott Bay. Last year, the 10-week derby produced 23 legal-size (more than 22 inches long) hatchery-marked Chinook for 46 anglers. The best fishing came in the second half of the season with 27 anglers Dec. 9 catching three, including the derby winner; 29 on Dec. 16 had four; 30 on Dec. 23 had five; and 28 on Dec. 30 had three.
In good years, it is not uncommon to have 50 to 100 fish weighed in for the season, but catches have dropped off since 2009. The record-low catch total since the derby began in 1946 was four fish in 2010, and the record catch was 234 in 1979.
The derby was named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth. Like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.
In the derby, only mooching (fishing using a banana-style lead weight to a leader with a herring) is allowed. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted.
The derby is held from daybreak to 11 a.m. every Sunday through Dec. 29 at the Seacrest Boathouse in West Seattle. Cost is $15, and $5 for kids under age 12. Rental boats are $65, and $85 for boat and motor. Details: 206-324-7600.