Hunters in Eastern Washington may not get a chance to stalk antlerless whitetail deer in 2019.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending the elimination of antlerless deer permits in Game Management Units 101 through 121. The proposal will be discussed and voted upon at the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Spokane meeting on Friday.
“We’ve heard feedback from hunters that they are concerned about the whitetail deer population and this is one way we can address that concern,” said Annemarie Prince, WDFW’s biologist for District 1.
Last year was the first time in a long time that modern rifle hunters could apply for an antlerless permits. Before that, youth, disabled and elderly hunters could hunt antlerless whitetail as could bow and black powder hunters.
WDFW’s proposal would eliminate antlerless opportunities for all hunters, Prince said.
In November, WDFW announced it would drastically reduce the number of permits issued in 2019. In 2018, the department issued 630 permits. Prince said the agency decided to take a “more drastic” step.
In addition to hunter complaints, Prince said the decision was influenced by decreasing harvest numbers observed at check stations in the fall.
Matt Mimnaugh, a board member of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the chairman of the big game committee, supports the recommendation.
“It might be shocking to some people, but they should be happy to know that the department is listening to them,” he said. “While in the immediate future that might mean less hunting opportunity for some people, in the big picture and in the long run an action like that it’s just going to help a population.”
He also noted that the harsh winter conditions in the region could increase mortality. Prince said the decisions was made prior to the heavy snowfall. If the rougher winter weather continues, she expects to see reduced whitetail numbers in the spring.
The area’s whitetail numbers were decimated by an outbreak of bluetongue in 2015 followed by severe winter conditions in 2016 and 2017. The population is still recovering, Prince said.
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