Washington Elk Not Too Promising
Hunters will find slim pickings for elk in Washington this fall.
Forecasts by Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists call for poor to fair hunting success in the Spokane region, particularly in the Blue Mountains, and fair to good hunting in the Cascades.
The poor survival rate among calves in the Blue Mountains means there will be few spikes available when the general season opens Oct. 25, said Ken Woltering, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department conservation officer at Clarkston.
Preliminary findings from a multi-year department study have suggested that drought, predators, hunting and habitat changes have contributed to the decline of calf elk survival rates in the Blues. But conclusions from the study are still a year or two away.
Hunting in past years has been limited to spikes with the exception of a few branch-antlered bull permits and some antlerless permits.
This year, there will be no antlerless permits in the Blues and fewer branch-antlered permits than in previous years, Woltering said.
This year’s forage conditions have been so good because of heavy rains that antler development may be greater than normal. That means that more yearlings may have branched antlers and thus be off limits to hunters.
Hunters killed 441 elk in the Blue Mountains last season. Success rate was only 6 percent.
“Traditional elk hunting areas, including the headwaters of the North-South Touchet river drainages, Tucannon River drainage, Wenatchee Creek and Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness area should again be the best producers,” the forecast says.
Elk numbers are increasing slowly in northeast Washington, but, the forecast says, “habitat type limits this collective population from ever providing more than a fraction of the overall regional harvest.”
Most of the elk that are taken in the northeast counties are shot by hunters who live in the area and know where the animals are foraging.
The most productive unit in the northeast corner last year was 113 (Selkirk). However, the hunter success ratio was only 3 percent.
Only spike bulls can be killed in the Yakima region again during the general season this fall. Branch-antlered or “any bull” hunting is by limited number of permits.
Spike bull elk are numerous enough in the region to provide fairly good hunting, biologists say. In addition, a high percentage of persons who drew “any bull” permits should tag bulls.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Fenton Roskelley Correspondent Outdoors editor Rich Landers contributed to this story.