HUNTING -- It's the eve of Montana's rifle deer hunting season. I'm traveling back to my home state, game for action but keeping my expectations in check.
I've noticed some whitetail buck scrapes in key places in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, but all I've actually seen during daylight in those vicinities is small bucks.
That fits, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene. "Often the early scrapes and rubs you see are just the work of young bucks fooling around and playing out roles they really don't know anything about, yet."
Even though North Idaho deer season opened Oct. 10, hunters there are mostly focusing on their shorter window for elk.
Eastern Washington deer season opened Oct. 15, but check stations report a light turnout and harvest for the opening weekend.
It's still warm, with tons of colorful autumn leaves (see photo) on the trees and brush making hunting difficult. The best is yet to come.
Even in Montana, I have to be cautiously optimistic. The nine ranchers I've contacted before my hunt in central Montana all had various gloomy reports of the impact EHD had on the whitetails and antelope. One rancher is still finding dead deer in the creek bottoms.
But deer are plentiful in other areas and I'll be looking for them.