The Washington Outdoor Report - week of Sept 11

Big game hunting prospects

In the Wenatchee District, GMU 251 (Mission) offers the best chance for elk hunters going after animals from the Colockum elk herd in places like Jump Off Ridge as well as the Camas and Tronsen Meadows. Courtesy John Kruse

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has released their annual hunting prospects report, put together by regional and district game biologists. Here’s the highlights for deer and elk for the upcoming season:

The best place to go for white-tailed deer in Washington is Northeast Washington’s District 1, covering Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties. Ferry County also offers good opportunities for mule deer. Last year 3544 deer were harvested in this region, which was down 18 percent from the five-year average. WDFW biologists state roadside surveys indicate deer populations are stable. The best Game Management Units to hunt for success are GMU 121 (Huckleberry) where 31 percent of deer hunters harvested an animal during the modern firearm season though this did attract an average of five hunters per square mile. GMU 101 (Sherman) was best for archery hunters. Very few hunters were in the area last year and the success rate was 23 percent. WDFW will have voluntary check stations set up at locations throughout this region during the opening weekend of hunting season and will be checking animals for the presence of chronic wasting disease.
Heading to North Central Washington’s District 7, covering Chelan and Douglas counties, you’ll find what is traditionally some of the best mule deer hunting in the state. The Chelan herd of mule deer has a buck to doe ratio of 25:100 while the Douglas herd’s ration is 26:100, meeting or beating management objectives. Harvest was down last year but biologists believe that’s because hunter participation was as well.  
If you are looking for big numbers of mule deer, head to Okanogan County (District 6) which has the largest migratory mule deer herd in the state. Good numbers of white-tailed deer are found in GMUs 204 and 215. Fires and drought in recent years have set deer numbers back but the herds are recovering. Biologists expect a modest increase of 2 ½-year-old bucks this year and a harvest similar to last season.
Last year 2,228 deer were harvested in Okanogan County, about a hundred deer above the five-year average. Archery hunters did best with a 26% success rate, followed by muzzleloaders with a 23% success rate and modern firearms hunters, of which only 18% harvested a deer.
The Desert Wildlife Area and Columbia Basin in Grant and Adams Counties also offers very good mule deer hunting, albeit, carefully managed and often limited to hunters lucky enough to draw a tag. Last year 747 bucks were harvested in this area (District 6), and 156 of them were 5-point antlered bucks or better. Modern firearms hunters had the best success in the open terrain found in this region and with very healthy buck to doe ratios biologists expect good mule deer hunting again this year. Most of the bucks will likely be harvested in GMU 272 (Beezley) and GMU 284 (Ritzville).

Finally heading to Klickitat, Skamania and Clark Counties, deer hunters have limited public land opportunities so permits from timber companies often dictate opportunity and success. Having said that, biologists say, “Deer harvest and success is remarkably consistent within District 9, where hunters are expected to harvest approximately 2,000 bucks during the 2022 general season, representing a success rate of 20-25 percent.” Biologists also noted, “Deer harvest in West Klickitat (GMU 578), Grayback (388), and East Klickitat (382) was higher in 2021 than in recent years, which is an indication of recovery for these populations.”

The Blue Mountains elk herd has been significantly declining in numbers in recent years, down to an estimated 3900 animals this year compared to a high of some 5,800 animals eight years ago. The bull to cow ratio is just under 20 bulls for 100 cows. Harsh winters in the last decade definitely had an effect on this herd but so does predation. Very few calves radio collared in a recent study survived and most of those that died were killed by cougars. Staff biologists predict, “The low number of calves being recruited into the population in 2022 will result in a low number of yearling bulls (spikes) available for harvest this fall. This fall will be another below-average year for yearling bull harvest.”
The Mount Saint Helens elk herd has also struggled in recent years due to hoof rot disease as well as harsh winters and cold, late springs. Biologists say, “These indicators point toward an elk population that is below objective and well below historic highs. Therefore, hunters should expect a generally less productive elk hunting season during the 2022 hunt. WDFW has reduced antlerless hunting opportunity accordingly.”
Another option is Northeast Washington, where the Selkirk elk herd resides, but WDFW biologists caution, “In general, opportunities are marginal and harvest success is very low.”
The Coluckum herd, residing in Chelan and Kittitas Counties, offers a brighter note. In the Wenatchee District, GMU 251 (Mission) offers the best chance for elk hunters going after animals from the Colockum elk herd in places like Jump Off Ridge as well as the Camas and Tronsen Meadows. Of the 42 elk harvested in this district during last year’s general season, the vast majority came from here. During the general season, this is a spike bull-only harvest area. There was also a late cow elk season last year in the Peshastin area to reduce damage to orchards and this will likely happen again this year. Overall, biologists are hearing reports of increasing numbers of elk in this district and harvest rates are expected to be between 40 to 55 elk.  
For more information about hunting prospects in Washington this season go to

John Kruse – and

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