Deer Status and Trend Report 2013 Washington state

Deer Status and Trend Report 2013 Washington state

The Trend is impressive to say the least, though the time spent looking for animals is still a huge undertaking. though with these trends being released means that it should be easier now to find big game. The WDFW released 2013 trends. I high lighted just the conclusions so you can get to the good stuff.

Full report can be read here


PMU 11 – GMU 101
PMU 13 – GMUs 105, 108, 111, 113, 117, 121, 124

Management conclusions
The total deer harvest in the Colville District increased
in 2012, which was the first season with an increase
since 2006. Meanwhile the number of days hunted per
deer harvested declined in 2012, which was the first
decrease since 2005. The low proportion of antlerless
white-tails harvested in several GMUs should help
increase escapement of female deer for continuing
growth in the white-tail population back to previous
levels. The proportion of mature white-tail bucks in
the harvest appears to be maintaining a reasonably high
level at 22%. Maintaining adequate hunter field checks
(check stations) along with analyses of harvest reports
will be necessary to continue monitoring the age
structure and antler classes of the deer population


PMU 14 – GMUs 127, 130, 133
PMU 15 – GMUs 136, 139, 142


Management Conclusions Mule Deer
Currently we are meeting the Game Management Plan
guidelines for mule deer buck escapement (20 to 24
bucks per 100 does post-season). However, the low
legal mule deer buck to doe ratios indicate that our
harvest is being sustained solely by recruitment of
yearlings (i.e., we are harvesting almost all of our old
age classes). With accommodating weather and
productive habitats these populations produce a
sustained harvest. Reductions in productivity for one or
more years, however, could result in pronounced
declines in harvest and hunter success. Discussions on
long-term management of mule deer and the
subsequent future mule deer plan will address these
and similar issues. Short-term recommendations are to
continue monitoring buck escapement and to propose
restrictions in hunting opportunity if declines in
populations are observed.
White-tailed Deer
We are meeting the Game Management Plan guidelines
for post season buck ratios for white-tailed deer these
past three years (WDFW 2008). However, post season
surveys have been focused more in mule deer habitat
(i.e. open terrain) than in white-tailed deer habitat and
thus may not accurately reflect their status across the
entire district. Attempts at post season surveys in the
more forested GMUs (124,127, & 133) have routinely
produced low counts and low buck to doe ratios.
However this is more likely due to the poor visibility
and the almost nocturnal activity patterns of bucks
once hunting season has opened, than an actual
decrease in buck numbers. To address these problems
there is an on-going WDFW research project in NE
WA, investigating survey techniques for white-tailed
deer in forested habitats.
Those GMUs near the Spokane urban center continue
to receive high hunting pressure and will need to be
closely watched to avoid over or under harvest. So far,
we have not experienced excessive urban deer
problems in Spokane. However, the public perceives
high numbers of vehicle collisions with white-tailed
deer as a problem in parts of GMUs 124 and 127.
Additionally, crop damage is reported annually in some
portions of all GMUs. Intensive recreational harvest
with a wide range of seasons and antlerless
opportunities has helped mitigate some of the damage
claims and perceived urban population issues. This
seems to be the most successful tool to help control
damage and to provide recreational opportunity. We
will continue to offer antlerless hunts by modern
firearm permit, and general white-tailed antlerless
opportunity for archery, muzzleloader, youth, senior,
and disabled hunter seasons in units near the urban area
of Spokane for white-tailed deer.


PMU 16 – GMUS 145, 149, 154, 178, 181
PMU 17 – GMUS 162, 163, 166, 169, 172, 175, 186


Management Conclusions

Mule deer populations along the breaks of the Snake
River and in the lowlands appear to be stabilizing,
except for GMU 181. Mule deer populations in the
mountains are thought to be considerably below
desired levels, but are slowly improving, except for
recent declines in GMU 175.
Periodic summer/fall drought along with localized
severe winter conditions over the last twelve years
(2001-2003, 2005, 2007, 2011, and 2012) resulted in
lower winter fawn survival for mule deer in the arid
lowlands and along the breaks of the Snake River.
Fawn production/survival in 2009 and 2011 was well
above average, but still below levels attributed to
increasing populations. The higher recruitment in 2009
may have contributed to increased harvest success seen
in 2012; however 2012 fawn production saw a return to
chronically low recruitment. Given favorable winter
conditions in 2012/13 and apparently good over-winter
survival, populations may remain stable through the
2013 hunting season.
The 2012 post-hunt mule deer buck ratio was lower
than 2011, but still higher than recent years at 21
bucks/100 does. Thirty percent of the post-season
bucks classified appeared to be 3-years old or older,
and these were predominantly observed on private
The quality of bucks harvested under the three-point
program has improved, compared to the era when
hunters could harvest any buck. Since 1992, the mule
deer buck harvest has average 51% four point or larger,
compared to 11% prior to the three-point regulation.
The white-tailed buck harvest has averaged 20% five
point or better, compared to 9% prior to the three-point


PMU 21 – GMUS 203, 209, 215, 218, 224, 231, 233, 239, 242, 243
PMU 22 – GMU 204

Management conclusions The gradual long-term decline in mule deer numbers is
expected to continue unless steps are taken to revitalize
shrub growth on the winter range and manage
increasing development. Fire, community planning, and
habitat protection will likely be the most important
tools in this effort. More recently, the population hit a
short-term low about 15 years ago following a string of
bad winters. Almost immediately, this reduced pressure
on seasonal ranges, improved productivity and
recruitment, and allowed the herd to rebound quickly
during a string of mild winters. Conservative antlerless
hunting seasons aided recovery. More recently, herd
growth and harvest reached a plateau, with productivity
and recruitment falling off as the modeled population
level exceeds about 25,000 animals, which appears to
be the approximate landscape carrying capacity for
deer. We implemented more aggressive antlerless
harvest to stabilize or slightly reduce herd size in an
effort to improve productivity, maximize sustainable
harvest yield, and reduce overuse of seasonal ranges.
Most recently, moderately tough winters have reduced
recruitment and led to a noticeable herd decline. As a
result, we have reduced antlerless permits accordingly.
White-tailed deer numbers have also dipped during
harsh winters, but also rebounded strongly in recent
years. In the face of increasing human development, the
long term prognosis for white-tailed deer distribution
and abundance is more favorable than for mule deer.
This is a function of the whitetail’s ability to better
handle habitat changes associated with human
development, less winter range loss due to fire
suppression, and the de-facto refuge effect of private
lands, where white-tailed deer tend to concentrate.
For deer in the short term, fluctuations in fawn
recruitment will likely be reflected in similar
fluctuations in legal buck availability. The recent
shortening of the general hunting season and
corresponding earlier closing date have improved buck
escapement and raised the post-season buck:doe ratio.
As a result, the opportunity to harvest an older age class
buck is the best it’s been in years.
Over the last couple of decades, populations of resident
deer on the Methow and Okanogan Valley floors had
increased significantly to problematic levels.
Nuisance/damage complaints had risen sharply and
population levels had surpassed social tolerance.
Reduced harvest pressure associated with increasing
development and housing density is the major
contributing factor. A winter feeding effort in 1997
likely exacerbated the problem, as does taught
succeeding generations of fawns to look for winter
forage near the feeding sites, despite the discontinuation
of the feeding effort in subsequent years. Mild winters
allowed deer to survive with this strategy, but more
recently, tougher winters have resulted in high fawn
mortality in developed areas. Ironically, this mortality
has generated public calls to reinitiate feeding efforts, a
move that would only expand the nuisance problems.
Instead, in 2007 and 2009 we initiated an antlerless
permit season on resident, valley-bottom deer on
private land in the Methow and Okanogan Valleys,
respectively. To date, the program is operating
smoothly and appears to be successful in reducing deer
nuisance/damage complaints, particularly in the
Methow, where permit numbers have been reduced
accordingly. Ultimately, long-term success will hinge
on community acceptance and landowner cooperation.

PMU 23 – GMUS 248, 254, 260, 262, 266, 269
PMU 26 – GMUS 244, 245, 246, 247, 249, 250, 251

Management conclusions Buck age structure in the Chelan PMU will require
close monitoring in the future to avoid dramatically
reducing buck numbers and age structure. We could
probably meet buck escapement goals under the current
season structure in Chelan without the 3-point
regulation because many buck do not migrate to lower
elevations where they are vulnerable to harvest until
after the general modern firearms hunting season.
However, the 3-point restriction is very popular with a
large segment of the public, and is often credited for
the large numbers of older, mature bucks seen on
winter ranges. Consistent retention of this regulation
for mule deer may also improve compliance with
hunting regulations. However, this population can be
strongly regulated by winter conditions, and is
susceptible to weather-related declines. For the 2006-
2010 general season, modern firearm hunting season
length was reduced from 14 to 9 days in Chelan and
Okanogan counties, in response to concerns about
lowered buck escapement in Okanogan County, and
hunter desires to maintain older aged, large bucks in
the Chelan PMU.
With the more open habitat conditions in Douglas, the
3-point regulation is working well and has increased
total buck escapement. Prior to the implementation of
the 3-point restriction in Douglas, buck escapement
was low, estimated between 6-10 bucks:100 does.
There are, however, concerns about the long-term
ramifications of poor recruitment of older age bucks, as
it appears most bucks are still being harvested by 3.5
years of age. Due to the open nature of this PMU, it is
unlikely that age structure truncation can be avoided
under general modern firearms season structure.
Population modeling of the Douglas PMU has been
hampered by insufficient, inconsistently collected
postseason composition data. Additional helicopter
composition survey resources would help address this
shortcoming; currently, limited resources are
prioritized in favor of the Chelan PMU, due to the
majority of public land in this PMU and resulting
unrestricted public access. Additionally, interchange
between the Douglas population and the population to
the south, PMU 25 (primarily in GMU 272), may be so
extensive that PMU 23 does not function as a closed
population. If additional, consistent efforts to classify
deer in PMU 23 do not result in improved alignment of
simulations with observed data, a marking study may
be necessary to quantify interchange between these

PMU 25 – GMU 284

Management conclusions Trend data in GMUs 272, 278, and 284 indicate
relatively stable populations. GMUs 272 and 284 have
post-hunt buck:doe ratios that satisfy the management
goal of >15 bucks:100 does. Damage complaints
associated with these herds have also been relatively
low in recent years, indicating they have not exceeded
the social carrying capacity that exists in agricultural
settings. Consequently, current harvest restrictions and
season lengths appear to be appropriate for these herds
and will likely change little in the near future.
As deer populations approach carrying capacity they
are often characterized by suppressed levels of
productivity, decreased fawn survival rates, and an
adult female population that is dominated by older age
classes (Fowler 1981). Fawn:doe ratios have been low,
suggesting that this population may be fluctuating
around carrying capacity.
Because surveys in GMU 290 were conducted using
volunteers, estimated ratios prior to 2012 must be
interpreted with caution. Surveys were conducted in
mid- to late-December when it can be difficult to
correctly identify a large fawn from a young doe. If
fawns are commonly mistaken for an adult female,
there are 2 primary consequences. First, productivity
rates are likely to be underestimated as the fawn:doe
ratio would be biased low. Secondly, the buck:doe ratio
would also be biased low because the number of does
observed during surveys was overestimated. Therefore,
observed trends in productivity rates and the adult sex
ratio may also be viewed as highly conservative

PMU 31 – GMUS 379, 381

Management conclusions Continuing coordinated aerial surveys in the future will
provide important trend data and facilitate more
informed harvest management decisions at the
appropriate landscape scale. The substantial increase in
doe harvest since 2009 with advent of the late
muzzleloader general season requires monitoring to
assure harvest is not reducing the population below
desired levels.
GMU 381 deer hunting seasons are structured to
provide abundant opportunity for both general season
and special permit hunters. The late muzzleloader
general season is a unique mule deer opportunity in
eastern Washington. Maintaining this opportunity and
the numerous special permit seasons requires reliable
survey and harvest data. It also requires the willingness
to change seasons and permit levels if the available
data indicate it is necessary.


PMU – 32 GMUS 328, 329, 334, 335
PMU – 33 GMUS 336, 340, 342, 346
PMU – 34 GMUS 371, 372, 373
PMU – 35 GMUS 352, 356, 360
PMU – 36 GMUS 364, 368


Management conclusions It is unknown how the lice will affect mule deer in the
long-term. Despite no antlerless hunting since 2006
and relatively favorable weather, the deer population in
the district is responding slowly. Statewide, the
average deer hunter success is 28% compared to 9% in
2012 for the district. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
(MIT) intiated a doe survival study in February of
2013. WDFW is cooperating on the study and it is
hoped the data will help us better understand both
movements and population dynamics.

PMU 41- GMU 410
PMU 43- GMU 407
PMU 45- GMUS 418, 426, 437

Management conclusions Future goals for effectively managing north Region
Four deer populations include:
1. Explore a comprehensive habitat analysis of deer
range in Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan counties.
2. Develop deer herd monitoring protocols for
Whatcom, Skagit, and San Juan counties.
3. Increase hunter access to private land in San Juan
County to alleviate deer damage. Provide incentive
to landowners to create land pool available for
hunting through a private lands hunter access
4. Continue to conduct targeted surveillance for
chronic wasting disease in Whatcom, Skagit, and
San Juan counties’ deer populations.
5. Continue monitoring local deer populations for
presence/absence, distribution and severity of hair
loss syndrome.

PMU 44 – GMU 422, 454
PMU 47 – GMU 460
PMU 48 – GMU 466, 485

Management Conclusions Deer in GMUs 422 and 454 should continue to be
managed with liberal seasons designed to keep deer
at acceptable levels in developing areas. Isolated
groups of deer, generally on the eastern boundary of
GMU 454, should continue to offer hunting and
recreational viewing opportunity.
In GMU 460, the Region will maintain the late buck
season closure for modern firearms and measure
response by monitoring post-hunt buck:doe ratios.
In cooperation with the Muckleshoot Tribe and
Tacoma Water, surveys will continue in GMUs 485
and 466 to increase sample size for population
estimation and gain a better assessment of herd


Management Conclusions GMU 448 is hunted primarily by local residents who
have access to private land or are well acquainted
with access on public lands. Although the number of
hunters has dropped compared to a decade ago,
hunting is still a quality experience for those who
know where to hunt in GMU 448. Hunters will find
that crowding is not a problem in PMU 46.

PMU 53 – GMUS 524 (MARGARET), 554 (YALE), 556 (TOUTLE)
PMU 56 – GMUS 503 (RANDLE), 505 (MOSSYROCK), 520 (WINSTON), 550 (COWEEMAN)

The cumulative effects of increased development, certain forest management activities, reduced federal timber harvest, and hairloss syndrome have combined to slowly reduce the Region’s deer population in recent years. Furthermore, distribution of the deer population is not uniform, with deer much more abundant in the lower elevation portions of the Region. As recently as the 1980s, habitat conditions were more favorable
throughout the Region, i.e. less of the landscape was developed, reforestation efforts were much less intensive, the federally managed lands were subject to extensive timber harvest, and hairloss syndrome was yet to arrive. Anecdotal reports consistently state that there were many more deer in Region 5 during those
years. Given the changes in habitat condition in the years that have followed, it is likely that these sentiments are correct. Unfortunately, monitoring
methodologies have evolved throughout this time span
and therefore meaningful comparisons of current population size to those of the past are not possible.
At this time, WDFW does not have the authority to implement landscape level programs or regulations that
would change the habitat conditions that fundamentally control the deer population. Very large scale changes that would benefit deer at the population level would include such things as a moratorium on the subdivision of private property, changes to the Forest Practices laws, and the establishment (through cutting
or burning) of tens of thousands of acres of earlysuccessional forest on federally-managed lands.
Favorable habitat changes of these magnitudes are not realistic in the foreseeable future of western Washington State.

PMUs 61 – 67; GMUs 601 – 684

Management conclusions
No major changes to the general seasons are
anticipated for the 2013 deer season; the last year of the current 3-year hunting package. The number of special permits will remain the same as 2012 totaling 935; 80 Quality Buck, 460 Antlerless, 170 Second
Deer, 110 Youth, 40 65 or older, 55 Disabled, and 20
Master Hunter permits.
Deer Area 6014, Anderson Island, was changed to GMU 655; however, general and special permit seasons remain the same as they were in 2012.


full report here