HUNTING -- A reduction in antlerless deer hunting in northeastern Washington because of losses to last year’s blue tongue outbreak will be discussed at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia.
Also on the agenda is a briefing on climate change effects on fish and wildlife management and a hearing on a proposal to buy 3,600 acres in the Simcoe Mountains of Klickitat County.
In April, the commission reduced the number of hunting days for antlerless deer for youth, seniors and hunters with disabilities after wildlife biologists estimated high losses in 2015 of white-tailed deer in some areas of far-Eastern Washington.
State Fish and Wildlife Department officials have proposed additional restrictions in antlerless white-tailed deer harvest for archery and muzzleloader hunters in northeastern Washington.
Mick Cope, department big-game program manager, said the archery season would be reduced to a handful of days and no muzzleloader antlerless hunting would be offered this year.
The white-tailed deer season in the region is proposed for Oct. 17-30, or Oct. 17-27 depending on the unit with any whitetail buck being legal in some units including 117 and 121, and a three-point minimum in others.
The late whitetail buck season would be Nov. 7-19.
Seniors 65 and older, disabled and youth hunters would have a reduced opportunity to harvest antlerless whitetails with a general tag this season. Only Mount Spokane Unit 124 would offer those groups a shot at antlerless deer for the full Oct. 17-30 general season.
Any whitetail would be fair game for those groups in an larger number of units during the late season.
The proposal would eliminate the expanded season for these groups offered last year just as the blue tongue epidemic was expanding.
Officials say they’ve shifted to a conservative management strategy because of ongoing surveys and uncertainty about the whitetail population.
“The proposed rule would make antlerless whitetail seasons the same as back in 2012,” Cope said, noting that those restricted seasons were adopted in response to the large deer losses during the winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09.