Early autumn storms are the main ingredient to boosting hunting prospects, whether you’re aiming toward the sky for waterfowl or trekking in the woods for deer.
The statewide waterfowl hunting season opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 26, and hunters should see some fairly good early opportunities.
“I’m anticipating a good waterfowl opener with these storms, and that is a little different than usual (when early fall weather is normally mild),” said Don Kraege, a state Fish and Wildlife waterfowl manager. “It should be good hunting for snow geese, and duck numbers also look good. Now we’ll see how the weather plays out.
“I’ve had a lot of reports of early bird migration into the coastal bays. There are a lot of snow geese in the Skagit area, and it totals over 10,000 birds.”
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Deer hunters also will find good prospects when the statewide general hunting season opens this Saturday.
State Fish and Wildlife game managers offered a positive outlook, crediting good survival from a series of mild winters followed by favorable spring conditions.
Last year, during the general deer season for archery, firearm and muzzleloader, a combined 142,657 deer tags were purchased (150,396 in 2011) with 115,453 hunters (120,396) harvesting 31,144 (26,638) for a success rate of 27 percent (22). Of that, the firearm season had 109,385 tags with 88,516 hunters bringing home 23,925 deer for a success rate of 27 percent.
In northeastern Washington, whitetail deer hunting will be improved after a revival from several terrible winters. The highest densities are in the valley and foothill benches, and especially in the farm-forested areas of Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
This is the third year where a four-antler-point minimum restriction remains in place for 49 Degrees North and Huckleberry areas, respectively known as Game Management Units 117 and 121. The top-three GMUs were 121 with a harvest of 1,238 deer; 101 (Sherman area) with 975; and 117 with 884.
The Okanogan area has the biggest migratory mule deer herd in the state, and success can be very good on a huge chunk of public lands. Numbers of older age class bucks are the best seen in years, and ideal summer forage should have deer in good shape. The surveys last year of 34 bucks per 100 does was the highest ratio seen in decades, and will result in excellent buck numbers.
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. Legal mature buck numbers are down, but hunters can expect a fair to good outlook.
In southeast Washington, mule deer numbers are the main show on private lands with whitetail found along the Blue Mountain foothills. Mule deer hunting is fair at best in the Columbia Basin.
In central Washington, mule deer populations are doing well in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties.
In Chelan County, the ratio last year was 28.8 bucks per 100 does compared to a range of 26.7 to 30.5 in 2011. Hunters harvested 1,488 bucks and 289 antlerless deer with best success coming in GMU 247 in Chelan County of 257 deer (39 percent were three-point bucks), and GMU 248 in Douglas County with 208 deer (48 percent were three-point bucks).
In western Washington, a new limited hunter access to one of the most popular sites known as the Vail Tree Farm will mean many hunters will have to look for alternative places to hunt. Vail permits are $150 with a maximum of 750 permits sold and two vehicles allowed on each permit.
Look for the best blacktail deer success to come from Vail, Kapowsin, Buckley and White River Tree Farms. Many will find success at higher elevations in the White River and Mashel areas.
In the Puget Sound region, most blacktails are found on private lands with the best chances coming in the Snoqualmie, Stampede, Stillaguamish, Cascade and North Sound units.
In the southwest region, look for the best blacktail deer hunts to come from the Lincoln, Washougal, Battle Ground, Lewis River, Yale, Winston, Coweeman and Ryderwood units.
In the Olympic Peninsula, the blacktail deer population is down, though the Clallam and Jefferson County areas saw a fair success rate. In Grays Harbor and Pacific counties; success should be fair to good.
Deer hunting in Kitsap, Mason and east Jefferson counties will be fairly good. Last year, 1,714 deer were harvested, and of the 1,502 bucks, 36 were five-points or better.
The Olympic unit saw 346 bucks harvested for a 26.1 percent success rate last season during the general season, and Satsop unit had 340 bucks for 25.7.
Depending on the region, the general firearm deer-hunting season ends Oct. 20, 25 or 31.
Other seasons get under way this month, and hunters should consult the regulation pamphlet or go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/
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