Mild winter should mean more deer as modern firearm season nears

The modern firearm deer hunting season opens Oct. 17.
The modern firearm deer hunting season opens Oct. 17. Thinkstock

Mild winters throughout the region should mean excellent survival for all segments of the deer population, which bodes well for the fall hunting season.

That assessment comes from wildlife biologists across the state as hunters prepare for Saturday’s (Oct. 17) opening of the modern firearm hunting season.

“Big game hunts look promising this fall,” said Mick Cope, game manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Hunters had a pretty good season last year and, with the mild winter, that should be the case again this year.”

Last year, an estimated 88,706 took part in the general modern firearm season, harvesting 24,989 antlered and antlerless deer for a success rate of 28.2 percent. The total harvest and success rate were up compared with 2013 data.


District 10- Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties

Game management units 530, 501, 520 and 550 had some of the highest general season buck harvests in the state. The annual harvest rate has been between 2,000-2,500 bucks for a number of years.

Hunting for black-tailed deer in the district often is better at the end of the general season, as conditions improve for stalking and moving quietly through the forests.

District 11-Pierce and Thurston counties

Commercial and state timberlands continue to provide the best opportunities, especially in regenerating clear-cuts. Although access can be limited, the Vail, Kapowsin, Buckley and White River tree farms are popular hunting destinations.

Overall harvest rates have been on the decline since 2000. However, in the western portion of the district, hunter success rates have risen from about 15 percent in 2011 to about 28 percent in 2014.

District 15-Mason, Kitsap and eastern Jefferson counties

Observations by district biologists and harvest trends show there is good hunting potential in units 621, 627, 633 ad 651. Good hunting opportunities also exist at the lower elevations in unit 636.

Of note, the two-point minimum in GMU 636 has been lifted for the season.

District 17-Pacific and Grays Harbor counties

Last year’s deer harvest was 1,602 deer, up from the five-year average of 1,553 deer.

With deer populations stable in most areas of the district, the best chances of taking a deer will likely be in units 663, 648, 672 and 660.

District biologists said the highest deer densities have been in areas with 5- to 7-year-old clear-cuts. Such areas provide lots of cover and food.

The number of hunters in the district during the modern firearm season has fallen from about 8,800 in 2001 to about 5,000 in 2014.

Go to wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/intro.html for hunting prospect reports on each district in the state.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640



Black-tailed deer: Oct. 17-31 in multiple game management units.

White-tailed deer: Oct. 17-27 in multiple units, and Oct. 17-30 in units 101,105, 108, 111, 113, 117, 121 and 124.

Youth white-tailed deer youth season: Oct. 17-27 in units 127-142, 145, 149, 154 178 and Deer Area 1010. Oct. 17-30 in units 101,105, 108, 111, 113, 117, 121 and 124.

Mule deer: Oct. 17-27 in multiple game management units.

License requirements: Hunters must have a valid big-game hunting license that includes deer as a species option. Hunters must also have a valid modern firearm deer or multiseason tag. A resident adult deer license costs $44.90. Check https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/licenses_fees.html for license options.

Bag limit: One deer per hunter during the season, except for people with second deer special permits and tags in some game management units. Check regulations on what type of deer can be harvested in each game management unit.

Hunter orange: During the modern firearm season, hunters must wear at least 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange exterior clothing. It must be worn above the waist and be visible from all sides.