Late deer harvest numbers down; WDFW plans to reduce antlerless permits
If hunter stories and check station results are accurate, the 2018 rifle deer season was a slow one.
“Just in general it seemed like a pretty slow season,” said Annemarie Prince, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist for District 1. “Our hunter numbers at the check stations seemed about normal. I don’t think there has been a drastic decline in hunters.”
Ninety-six hunters came through WDFW’s Deer Park check station during the late deer season (Nov. 10-19). Those hunters checked 16 white-tailed bucks for a success rate of 16.6 percent. In 2017, 124 hunters bagged 43 bucks for a 34.7 percent success rate, Prince said. In 2016, 79 hunters took 17 deer for a 22 percent success rate.
Prince emphasized that check station results are not the final determination. Mandatory hunter surveys will give WDFW officials a better sense of the season, but those numbers won’t be reported until the end of January.
Matt Mimnaugh, a board member of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the chairman of the big game committee, said he’s heard from other hunters that hunting was slow.
In particular, he said he noticed the rut started about a week later than normal. Normally, the rut begins around Nov. 15.
“It seemed like everything was a little late,” he said. “About a week late this year for whatever reason.”
Mimbaugh, who’d just returned from hunting the late archery season, said he saw legal deer, but he also saw plenty of wolf tracks. He was hunting in game management unit 101 in Ferry County.
“Obviously, there are some wolves up there,” he said. “I actually got to hear them from my tree stand several nights howling.”
Prince hesitated to speculate on why numbers were down, but weather may have played a role. A dry summer and fall may have pushed the deer lower into the valley floors, making traditional hunting spots less than ideal.
“You know, I heard from some other folks that they did see deer, but they were all down in the valley bottoms, which makes sense if there was not enough food,” she said.
The opening weekend (Oct. 13) for general deer season was good, although hot and dry weather the following weekend put a damper on hunting. In Chewelah, 49 hunters stopped at the check station during that opening weekend.
They brought in eight white-tailed deer (two buck and six does) and two mule deer bucks. The Chewelah station also saw two cougars and two turkeys.
In Deer Park, 127 hunters stopped on opening weekend. WDFW officials checked 35 white-tailed deer (24 bucks and 11 does) and three mule deer bucks. In 2017 174 hunters stopped in Deer Park checking in 25 white-tailed deer and three mule deer.
Anterless permit reduction planned
One management change is expected next year, Prince said. The number of anterless deer permits will be cut in third.
This was the first year in a long time that anterless permits have been offered in Northeast Washington. Because WDFW doesn’t have past years of data to compare and contrast, Prince said the agency is acting conservatively by reducing the number of permits in 2019.
In 2018, WDFW offered 630 anterless permits. In 2019, they will offer about 200.
“Our permits get adjusted every year,” she said. “The longer we have them, the more informed they become.”