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How hunters wear out their welcome, Part 1

 

HUNTING — Last week my outdoors column pointed out the benefits and responsibilities of getting permission to hunt on private land.

A few days later, I noticed this report from the area Fish and Wildlife Police weekly activity summary. In case you don't get the point, most landowners frown on game hogs and illegal hunting activity even if they initially were generous enough to hunt on their land.

From Region 1 wildlife enforcement Capt. Dan Rahn:

 Officer Spurbeck received a report of three bucks that were shot legally but only the back-straps were removed from the carcasses.  Officer Spurbeck met with the reporting party who showed Officer Spurbeck the three carcasses.  The reporting party gave Officer Spurbeck the names of the people who were hunting on the reporting parties land with permission.  Officer Spurbeck contacted Officer Leonetti to interview the subjects in Pierce County. 

Whitetails mark holiday with Thanksgiving courtship

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a rut report from eagle-eye Curlew resident Foster Fanning to go with his photo, above:

Pursuing passions in the wild…

Had a unique opportunity to watch a whitetail stag in courtship with a young doe Friday. A ruckus in the cottonwood grove across the Kettle River from my home caught our attention. Three whitetail deer were running, the does flashing the ‘danger’ signal they are named for. Watching for a moment we sorted out that a large four-point male was in pursuit of one of the young does.

They had dashed down off the river bank, splashing through the shallows and across the gavel bar. The doe managed to double back and before the buck realized and changed direction she had again jumped off the river bank and made her way under a hanging rootwad and rapidly dropped to the ground and went completely still and silent. The buck caught her scent and doubled back himself but ended up momentarily losing track of the subject of his lust. He walked the riverbank sniffing the air.

About that time I had set up camera and tripod in my yard across the river. The buck as well as pursued doe, now in hiding, took note of me. My presence wasn’t enough to throw him off the chase, but things slowed quite a bit.

I caught this image of the courtship, showing part of the story; the buck in pursuit, the doe in hiding and the proximity of their courtship. End of the story, as far as we could see was the doe springing to her feet and fleeing into the brush, almost tempting the buck with how close she passed to him. Of course, he took off in hot pursuit.

It will give me a pause to wonder when I view next year’s spotted fawns if maybe, just maybe…

Hunters use muscle power to get out their game

HUNTING — Three of my friends this season showed how muscle power can be a workable alternative to horsepower when it's time to pack out big game from the  mountains. 

  • Click continue reading to check out all three photos:

Kyle Hanson and his father, Dan, use a canoe to paddle out a whitetail buck they bagged along a northeastern Washington stream.

Jim Kujala uses a game cart to help me haul out the elk I shot in early November in the Blue Mountains. We boned out the meat and loaded it into four bags along with the hide, proof of sex and spike antlers. We pulled the cart briefly cross-country to closed logging roads for two miles out to a main road.

Pat Behm has a new twist on a "bicycle rack" as he pedals out of the mountains on his  mountain bike.  Behm and his hunting partner, John Karpenko, boned out the meat, stuffed it into their packs and carried it all out down a gated road to a main road.

"The hunting area was open to all, you just have to work a little smarter to get there," Karpenko said.

Season’s over for hunters, not for whitetail bucks

WILDLIFE — Most deer hunters retreated to the great indoors after the late whitetail buck hunting season in northeastern Washington closed on Monday.

But the bucks are still in the rut. Conceptions typically are peaking right around today.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson caught the buck (above) showing there's a lot of hard work to do out there maintaining the whitetail populations, but somebody's got to do it.

Said Johnson:

We managed to get into the whitetail pretty heavy today. We witnessed many bucks heavy in the rut. This guy was located in some pretty thick stuff. He decided to stop chasing the does long enough to… Let us get this image!

Local hunter rallies to salvage non-residents’ botched guided hunt

HUNTING — It's buyer-beware when paying money to an outfitter for a big-game hunt, especially when the deal is made online and payment is in person without going through a safety net such as PayPal or a credit card.

I give examples of hunters who say they've been burned by a Spokane-area man who advertises a hunting service on eBay in today's outdoors column.

  • Note: since my column was published, Sean Siegel's eBay ad for a 2013 7-Day Eastern Washington Elk Hunt has been removed.

One of these disgruntled hunters was able to salvage his trip from California through the generosity of a local man who heard of his plight at a restaurant.  I din't have room in the column for "the rest of the story:"

In 2012, Jeff Hunt of Modesto, Calif., and a friend booked a five-day bear hunt. First problem: Local hunting facilitator Sean Siegel had promised that for the price of $1,000, he would set the hunters up with a place to hunt, complete with tree blinds.

"I have it in writing," Hunt said. "But he sets us up in a ground blind. I'm glassing through the trees at daylight and I see lady doing dishes through her kitchen window. There’s a road right there. Another house. A school bus. I have a .300 Win. Mag and I’m afraid to shoot the thing.”

The clincher: Siegel later gave the men directions to timber company land on Mica Peak, but he never told them they were required to have an Inland Empire Paper Company access permit. A company security guard caught them, booted them off and called Fish and Wildlife police.

”We went to a restaurant, and we’re all pissed off about getting ripped off by this hunting guide, and somebody we don’t know from Adam hears us and offers to take us hunting,” Hunt said.

"The next morning he drives us all the way north near the Canada border and we saw several bears. We didn’t shoot one, but at least we saw some. The best part of our hunting experience was through a guy who wouldn’t take a dime for what he did for us."

Whitetail rutting activity picking up

HUNTING — While elk hunting in the Blue Mountains last week, I saw whitetails at elevation 5400 feet — and I also saw several scrapes.

But Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson saw more than that on Thursday.

We spent most of yesterday chasing whitetails. We noticed several does with roughed up back hair. We also saw several bucks whose necks were swollen and witnessed several jousting. It was raining off and on, but we stuck with it and ended up with over a hundred good images!

The large buck was pretty messed up – he was kicking everyone’s butt. We affectionately called him Duke (he walked sideways like John Wayne and didn’t take crap from anyone).

Deer hunter success rates up slightly

HUNTING – Eastern Washington deer check station results indicate that hunters have been filling their tags at a higher rate than last year.

And the last buck of the general season checked Sunday afternoon in the Methow area (left) sported the largest set of antlers measured at the Winthrop station in 17 years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

The Deer Park station on Saturday and Sunday checked 196 hunters with 53 deer. That count included 44 whitetails, 24 of which were antlerless deer harvested by seniors, disabled or youth hunters. The overall whitetail-mule deer success rate was  27 percent, up from 16 percent on the same weekend last year.

Nineteen more hunters were checked this year than last year at Deer Park. The difference may be last year’s initial negative reaction to new four-point minimum in Units 117 and 121, ”and possible misunderstanding about antlerless hunting still being available to seniors, disabled, youth hunters,” said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman in Spokane.

The Chattaroy station saw 67 hunters with seven deer for a success rate of only 12 percent. The station wasn’t operated last year so no comparison can be made.

Winthrop check station reported hunters had a success rate of about 20 percent during the general rifle season that ended Sunday.

”The last deer we checked for the season was a very large 9x10 point mule deer with a 33-plus-inch antler width,” said Scott Fitkin, district wildlife biologist.  ”This is likely the largest set of antlers seen at the check station in at least the last 17 years.  The lucky hunter harvested the estimated 4 ½ year-old animal in the Tripod Burn area which appears to be producing excellent summer deer forage 6 years after the fire.”

Hunting for white-tailed deer continues through Friday (Oct. 26) in Units 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 124 for any buck and in Units 117 and 121 for 4-pt. mininim.

No more check stations are scheduled to be operated in northeastern Washington until the last weekend of the late whitetail buck hunt, which runs Nov. 10-19.

Deer hunters posting decent opening weekend success

HUNTING — A little rain helped quiet the woods a bit in some areas for Saturday's deer season opener in Eastern Washington, but some areas were still snap, crackle pop.

Nevertheless, hunters were bagging deer at about the same rate as last year in NE Washington.

The Deer Park check station saw 114 hunters on Sunday with 12 deer (9 whitetails, 3 mule deer) for a 10-1/2 % success rate. Last year the same check station on opening weekend checked117 hunters with 7 deer.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also ran a Chattaroy check station  for the first time in years to help gather deer body condition for a research project.  That station  on Sunday checked 66 hunters with 9 deer for a 13.6% success rate.

WDFW eforcement staff reported “slow” opener, particularly in northeast GMUs (some speculate some hunters are using other areas that are open to any buck, rather than the 4-pt. minimum in popular GMUs 117 and 121).

A friend and his daughter hunting Lincoln County Saturday saw few deer hunters — but tons of geese.

Okanogan Deer Harvest: The Winthrop deer check station saw 127 hunters with 17 deer. These numbers are almost identical to check station data from last year, and are in line with anecdotal observations of good success and lower than average hunter numbers being reported by enforcement agents in the district. Prospects for the remainder of the season should get even better with periodic valley rain and mountain snow expected through next weekend.

 

Hunters boost deer research by stopping at check stations

HUNTING — Spokane-region hunter check stations will be staffed this weekend, with biologists sampling the harvest for data important to managing deer herds.

Look for the stations at truck scales along Highway 395 at Deer Park and Highway 2 south of Chattaroy.

The stations will be open five days this season: Sunday, Oct. 20 and 21, and Nov. 17 and 18.

Biologists will determine the age and health of the deer as well as gathering information for a major whitetail study under way in northeastern Washington.

However, the state won’t be sampling for chronic wasting disease at the stations, so the lymph nodes won’t have to be removed from the carcasses.

The agency will be testing only animals that show CWD symptoms, such as emaciation or abnormal behavior.

A federal grant that funded the more extensive CWD testing of the past expired last month, said Kevin Robinette, WDFW regional wildlife manager.

Smart hunters in blaze orange stand out in the crowd

HUNTING — Washington’s main deer hunting season opens Saturday, three days after Idaho hunters got the head start.

You can tell the difference between hunters from the two states. Washington hunters must wear fluorescent orange clothing during the modern rifle big-game seasons. Most Idaho hunters wear camouflage.

Growing up in Montana, where blaze-orange clothing has been required since I started hunting as a grade-schooler, I’m comfortable being highly visible to other hunters while being nearly invisible to big game.

Orange camo clothing is highly efficient. I’ve verified that during plenty of close encounters with unwitting deer and elk.

The first lesson my dad gave me is still the best and most basic advice for getting close to big-game, and it works regardless of whether you’re wearing blaze orange:

A hunter should be seen and not heard – and always strive to be still and downwind.

Disease testing required for game returning with hunters

HUNTING — Washington hunters returning with game from Wyoming or 16 others states and some Canadian provinces must have the meat and trophies properly processed to prevent possible spread of Chronic Wasting disease.

CWD has been found in wild deer populations in Texas and Missouri in the past year, bringin the number of states with verified cases to 17.

Washington residents hunting in states where CWD has been confirmed are required to conduct additional processing of deer, elk and moose carcasses brought back to Washington.

The others states where CWD has been detected include Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The requirements are in place to reduce the risk of spreading CWD into Washington, where no cases of the disease have been confirmed.

While CWD is a fatal illness in deer and elk, there have been no confirmed cases of CWD being transmitted to humans or passed to domestic animals or livestock.

See more information on the additional processing and reporting requirements, (also published onpage 93 of the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules Pamphlet.

Click here for more information on CWD.

New wildlife land in Asotin County off-limits to some hunters

HUNTING — An Asotin County ranch purchased by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last winter is open to public walk-in access this year with the exception of some big-game hunters.

Deer and elk hunters are allowed on the newly-acquired addition to the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area only if they drew “4-0 Ranch” special hunting permit, officials said this week.

“The restriction is an effort to provide high-quality hunting opportunities and was something the rancher wanted as a condition for sale of the property,” said Madonna Luers, agency spokeswoman.

The 2,180-acre 4-0 Ranch parcel – the first of a multi-phase, multi-year public land acquisition project – was purchased in January with the approval of the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The ranch is within Game Management Unit 172 (Mountain View).  But neither GMU 172 permit holders nor general season deer and elk hunters are allowed to hunt the parcel this year.

Read on for more details.

Idaho Wildlife Summit addresses pressing trends

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT —  Idaho Fish and Game officials have scheduled an Aug. 24-26 conference – with regional and online participation – to get sportsmen and other state citizens to help tackle major challenges facing wildlife management.

The Idaho Wildlife Summit, set in Boise, also will have six concurrent satellite sites including Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston.

Much has changed in the 74 years since Idaho adopted professional wildlife management, says Virgil Moore, department director:

  • The state’s population has tripled and two-thirds of the residents live in cities.
  • Wildlife habitat has changed or disappeared.
  • Invasive species compete against native wildlife.
  • Idaho’s population has increased faster than the number of Idahoans who hunt and fish.

“While 80 percent of Idaho’s wildlife is not hunted or fished, hunters and anglers support most of the cost to manage all species through license and tag fees,” he said. “No general tax revenue goes to manage the wildlife we all enjoy.”

Moore calls the Summit a starting point for exploring broader support for wildlife conservation and wildlife related activities.

The Summit will feature presentations by prominent wildlife and habitat authorities, including The Nature Conservancy. On Aug. 25, participants will gather rotating groups to discuss issues.

Participation is free, but registration is required for on-site attendance.  In this area, participants will be seated at North Idaho College.

Info: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/summit/.

Idaho controlled hunt drawing results out around July 10

HUNTING — Idaho will be keeping big tame hunters in suspense for a while.

Results of special drawings for big-game controlled hunt tags will be available in early July on the Idaho Fish and Game Department drawings web page.

Postcards will be mailed to successful applicants by July 10.

Ultimately, hunters must bear the responsibility to determine whether they've been drawn, state officials say.

Unsuccessful applicants will not be notified.

Winners must buy controlled hunt tags by August 1; any tags not purchased by that date will be forfeit.

Unclaimed and leftover tags from the first drawing will be available in a second application period Aug. 5-15.

 After the second drawing, any tags left over are sold over the counter.

Washington already has conducted its special hunt drawings.

Luck of the draw bypasses Landers again

HUNTING — Washington has completed its drawing for 2012 deer, elk and moose permits. Individual results are available online.

Once again I was  NOT SELECTED for any of the half dozen or so hunts I put in for.

What are the odds of that? Should I be surprised?

I'm canceling all plans for Vegas.

TV host tells his side of Idaho illegal hunting citation

HUNTING — On March 20, I devoted my weekly Outdoors column to the case of Oregon hunter Bob Beck, a TV hunting show host, who pleaded guilty to shooting two deer in Idaho even though he had only one non-resident tag.

The  case was made a year after the 2010 hunt when a sportsman gave Idaho Fish and Game a tip after seeing the hunt and the killing of both deer on Beck's Extreme Outer Limits program, which aired on the Sportsman Channel. Beck did not own up to the illegal kill until he was confronted by authorities. The guilty plea was entered and the fines were assessed in February 2012.

Beck has issues with my reporting and commentary on the case. He's elaborated his concerns in posts at many online forums.

Indeed, he's working to have details on the outcome of the case changed. But as of this week, the ruling remains the same as I reported it on March 20 based on information from Idaho Fish and Game Department investigators and the Benewah County prosecutor.

I'll update any changes that develop in the case.

As of today, the case is still active in Oregon.

Meanwhile, you can hear Beck's version of the case in his own words in a radio interview conducted last week by John Kruse of Northwest Outdoors Radio.

The taped interview will air on the show as follows:

  • on 1240 KOFE in St. Maries Saturdays at 8 AM.
  • on 920 KXLY  in Spokane Sunday at 6 AM.
  • on 1230 KSBN in Spokane on Sunday at 2 PM.

Kruse also plans a follow-up interview with Beck..

Whitetail bucks still on prowl as late archery seasons continue

BOWHUNTING — Idaho archers have about two weeks to shop for a whitetail buck before Christmas.

Rutting activity lingers in the West as Idaho Panhandle bowhunters take their last shot in a season that opens Saturday in selected units and runs through Dec. 24.

They're too late for a chance at the bruiser pictured above, taken by Spokane dog trainer Dan Hoke at the edge of a clearcut near Lake Pend Oreille while the rut was still hot and heavy just before the rifle seasons ended.

But hunters and wildlife watchers are seeing more of the same across the region. In fact, bucks in some areas appear to be in a peak phase of covering ground.

In Eastern Washington, where most of the archery buck hunting opportunity will end Dec. 15, Brandon Enevold of Spokane says bucks are still defending areas in pursuit of late-estrus does.

Read on for his recent field observations and those of a local farmer

Bowhunters give lighted nocks big vote of approval in WA email survey

BOWHUNTING — A proposal to allow lighted nocks to be used on arrows for bowhunting seasons in Washington got a big vote of confidence for bowhunters in an email survey conducted last month by the Fish and Wildlife Department.

The survey results were released to The Spokesman-Review this afternoon. The proposal had been opposed by some groups, notably the state's traditional bowhunters.

The proposal comes from Spokane hunter Jim Sutton, who couldn’t even get his idea discussed at the Spokane public meeting held this summer to gather public comment on the first round of proposals.

In a Spokesman-Review story published this summer, Sutton argued that lighted nocks are allowed for hunting in many states because they help archers recover wounded game as well as retrieve lost arrows from the field.

Even though the Pope and Young Club has been dragging its feet on the issue, the trend is changing.

Survey results:

  • 86 percent favored the use of lighted nocks,
  • 10 percent said no lighted nocks should be allowed,
  • 4 percent were undecided.

Dave Ware, WDFW big-game manager in Olympia said 3,800 people responded to the email survey presented to hunters who'd purchased archery tags in the past two years.

Washington has about 24,000 licensed archery deer hunters and 22,000 archery elk hunters, he said.

The proposal will be worked into the package of revised proposals to be presented for more public review in January and ultimately to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for a vote in March.

Whitetail rut still making bucks vulnerable to archers

HUNTING — The fat lady has sung for deer hunting seasons in Montana and for rifle hunters in Idaho, but late seasons are still giving hunters a few shots at whitetails in designated areas of eastern Washington.

And the rut's still on to some degree throughout the region.

Remember, the Nov. 20-21 peak of whitetail conceptions pegged by research in the northwestern states is only the top of the bell curve. As we move into the holidays, the season's breedings are on the downhill slope, but there's still action out there for bucks — and hunters.

The Idaho archery hunts open Dec. 10.

With just days remaining in most of the eastern Washington late bowhunting seasons, Chris van Kempen tagged the nice wall-hanger above by taking advantage of the buck's lingering desire to make sure every doe is bred and every competitor is challenged.

"I went out this afternoon got into my stand and did a few rattling sets," he reported Friday. "On the third set, I was able to rattle this buck in to 30 yards! It was awesome I was only in the stand for about a hour and 20 min."

Yes, I have the urge to kick Chris out of jealousy, too — but not before giving him a high-five. 

Field to Fork: Preparing a mule deer heart

GAME FOR COOKING — Most hunters relish bringing back their game for the family table. In the following story, a Montana hunter, mother, cook and comptetitive shooter tells about her adventure with saving a mule deer buck's heart from the gutpile and turning it into a feast.

Read on for the story and all the details via the Outdoor Wire.

Deer Quiz, Part 1: Test your knowledge about whitetails

WILDLIFE — How much do you know about the white-tailed deer that flourish from our yards to wheatfields and from river bottoms to modest forest elevations across the nation?

The whitetail is the most popular big-game animal in North America, prized by hunters and wildlife viewers alike. It's a prime example of an animal that adapts and perseveres.

Take this  DEER QUIZ prepared by Whitetails Unlimited  to see how much you know about the whitetail's biology, behavior and history.

PART 1: True / False

1) Deer are strong swimmers, in part because they have a layer of hair that is hollow, providing buoyancy in the water.

2) Deer have existed for 20 million years, and have had the same basic form for the last one million years.

3) Deer can run in excess of 35 miles per hour.

4) Deer can leap over fences eight feet tall.

5) Deer can cover 30 feet in a horizontal leap.

6) Just like humans, deer have a set of "baby teeth" that fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth.

7) You can tell how old a male deer is by how many points there are on his antlers.

8) Deer use their antlers during the winter to dig for food under the snow.

9) When antlers grow, they are covered with "velvet," a soft, fuzzy tissue. This velvet is the only regenerating skin found in mammals.

10) Like cows, deer have four stomachs.

11) Deer can eat poison ivy without ill effect.

12) Deer are native to every state in the U.S.

13) The reason fawns are born with a pattern of white spots is so the mother can recognize her offspring.

14) Deer have extraordinary senses, including sight, hearing and smell.

15) Newborn deer have no scent, and the mother will place the fawn by itself in a secluded spot for protection against predators.

Read on to see the answers. Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of the DEER QUIZ.

Bowhunters reaping rewards of late deer season

HUNTING — It ain't over 'til it's over, as the saying goes.

The whitetail rut might be winding down in some areas, but it's still a positive factor for hunters who have tagged big bucks in the past couple of days.

Bowhunters in eastern Washington's late archery season are effectively using calls and scents for bucks on the prowl.

Before climbing into his stand for the afternoon on Sunday, Joel Enevold said he freshened nearby scrapes with Tink's 69 doe-in-rut buck lure. He barely got settled in his stand at 1 p.m. before he spotted the "split brow-tine" buck he'd been seeing in the trail cam photos. The bruiser was working a scrape. The buck slowly but surely kept coming in, sniffed the air below Enevold's stand and posed for a storybook archery shot that dropped him five yards from where he was hit.

"This buck is the largest I have taken since the age of 15 and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to harvest such a great animal," he said.

Meantime, his brother passed up two 4x4 bucks that afternoon. "Both bucks were grunting up a storm, and one buck decided to stop 20 yards away and shred a tree for a few minutes," Brandon Enevold said. "Bucks seem to be actively searching for does and traveling with their noses close to the ground."

He's confident his time will come before the season expires.
  

Idaho nonresident big-game tag sales start Thursday

HUNTING — Idaho's 2012 licenses, tags and permits go on sale Thursday, with sales of the popular nonresident Selway B elk tags starting at 9 a.m.

.Nonresident hunters can buy their licenses and tags at Fish and Game offices, any license vendor, or by credit card by calling 1-800-554-8685. They can also buy them online.
 
Details on the sale and purchase of tags for residents and nonresidents on pages 92-96 of the Idaho 2011 Big Game Seasons rules booklet.
 
Residents also can buy 2012 hunting licenses starting Thursday, and they can buy a receipt for deer and elk tags, which don’t go on sale until after deer, elk and pronghorn controlled hunt drawings.
 
Resident hunters can redeem the receipt for a deer or elk tag after the controlled hunt drawings in July so those whose names were drawn don’t have to exchange their general season tags for controlled hunt tags at a Fish and Game office. Instead the controlled winners are simply issued a controlled hunt tag at any license vendor. The rest are issued general season tags.

Hunter orange clothing works in more ways than one

HUNTER SAFETY — Wearing fluorescent orange clothing already was a requirement for hunters in Montana when I passed my hunter education course and bought my first hunting license in the 1960s.

I know some guys think only scaredy cats wear hunter orange, especially in Idaho and Oregon, where sportsmen don't have the courage to enact minimum hunter orange requirements for modern firearms seasons.

Although Idaho's statewide hunting accident rate is low, more than 70 percent of recorded incidents are caused by hunters mistaking other hunters for game animals.

Hunter orange clothing requirements virtually eliminate mistaken for game shooting accidents.

And the impact on modern-firearms big-game hunting is nil, something that was confirmed to me again last week as I sat on a stand during the late whitetail buck hunt.

I was wearing a fluorescent orange fleece jacket with a camouflage pattern. A whitetail doe came out of the woods and angled through a slight opening in the woods to within 25 yards just upwind of where I sat leaning against a tree. At one point she looked right at me before twitching her tail, nibbling the brush and taking her sweet time walking on past.

I've lost track of how many times I've had the same experience with deer, elk and antelope.

Hunters who can hold still and take advantage of the wind have nothing to fear from hunter orange clothing, but a lot of life to gain if a foolish hunter is in the area.

Wild week for wildlife police: 48 arrests, 24 warnings made

HUNTING/POACHING — Hunters relished wintery conditions that coincided with the onset of the rut last week. Conditions were good for filling a tag in the final days of the late rifle whitetail buck hunt, which ended Saturday in northeastern Washington.

Poachers seemed to like the conditions, too. Washington Fish and Wildlife Department police made 48 arrests and issued 24 warnings during the past week in the Spokane Region.

Failure to tag a deer or using someone else’s tag on a deer were common infractions, but officers also were ticketing for violations including littering and road-hunting to spotlighting and shooting bucks that didn’t meet the new four-point minimum in Units 117 and 121.

Read on for details about just a few of the more interesting citations and investigations area officers had to deal with in the past week.

Whitetail bucks on the move for hunters as season nears close

DEER HUNTING — I saw my first buck yesterday as I walked my dogs near my house at 4 a.m.  — in my neighbor's driveway just south of Spokane.  Nice five-point whitetail with nose to the ground, lifted only to let my dogs know he'd take them on if they came any closer.

Then I drove with a friend for an hour north to try to find another buck during daylight where I could hunt.

Indeed, I got into deer. Had one buck walk 40 yards upwind of my stand at 9:45 a.m. — nose to ground just like the one near my house — but I couldn't quickly make a positive ID that he had at least four antler points on one side. He didn't respond to calls.  He was on a quest.

The rut is on and the bucks are active as Washington's late whitetail buck season ticks down. The season ends at the close of hunting hours on Saturday.  (North Idaho hunters have until December.) Conditions couldn't be better, although deer numbers clearly are down from the good ol' days.

Note: The photo above shows a fine whitetail buck taken a few days ago near Omak by Shawn Ankney. Here's the report from Jason Verbeck of Okanogan Outfitters:

The whitetail but has begun around here. I thought you'd enjoy this great buck that was taken from around our area.  The mule deer migration also has just begun. The whitetail buck (above) is a monster, huh.  Washington state is very underestimated for the quality of our bucks.    Personally I am happy with it staying that way. 
  

Woman deer hunter details unnerving encounter with wolves near Chelan

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A woman scouting for deer during Washington's early deer hunt details her tense encounter with two wolves that apparently were defending their deer kill near Lake Chelan in this blog post by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

No shots fired. I admire her poise.

Is Landers the only one skunked by whitetails this weekend?

DEER HUNTING — Nothing resembling the buck above showed its face to me in the whitetail thickets of northeastern Washington today. 

Less than one week to go in the 2011 late buck hunt.

Whitetail bucks coming out of the closet; rut heads for Nov. 20 peak

DEER HUNTING — Whitetail bucks are geting on with the rut, chasing does during daylight in some areas despite the bright full-moon phase. Western Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson delivered some proof in the photo above, snapped on Sunday.

He said bucks in his area were on the move and necks on most bucks were clearly swollen.

The activity isn't the same across the board, but no hunters should be going out this week without a plan to do some rattling.

Here are a couple of the latest reports:

Eastern Washington — "Pictures on my trail camera indicate much more activity during daylight hours," said Nate Krohn, who seriously hunts the eastern Okanogan region. "The majority of the activity seems to be in the early morning. I did notice one area in the snow where it appeared two medium sized bucks were locking horns. It didn’t appear to be very intense, but still a sign of change for the better. All of the decent sized bucks I am getting on my trail camera are still by themselves, but I am guessing that will change soon."

Let's hope so. Washington's late whitetail buck rifle hunt in northeastern Washington ends Nov. 19.

North Idaho — "Guys in this region are seeing plenty of whitetail rubs," said Tom Anderson, who's been posting more buck photos on the brag board at Big R near Sandpoint. The mule deer rut appears to be peaking right now, and the peak for whitetails usually follows by a week or more.

Idaho whitetail seasons hunts continue into December in some units.

Bucks safe on one side of road, targets on the other side

DEER HUNTING — Why did the buck cross the road?

In Northeastern Washington, it might be for a little safety afforded by the new four-point minimum buck rule.

After many hours of hunting, Elizabeth Odell — a few days shy of her 14th birthday —  got her four-point buck in Unit 117 last weekend (top photo), maintaining her goal of bagging at least one turkey and one deer since she was 9 (photo at left). Odell is from Spokane hunts with her father, Jim, and grandpa, Dick.

This buck, shot in Stevens County, would have been legal in any northeast unit that's open for the late whitetail buck hunt through Nov. 19.

However, bucks with fewer than four points on at least one antler are not legal for hunting this year in Units 117 and 121.

Just east of Highway 20 in Pend Oreille County, any whitetail buck is legal.