District biologists have provided hunting forecasts for their
district based on surveys and field work.
Counties: Skagit and Whatcom
Chris Danilson, District Wildlife Biologist
The core Game Management Units (GMUs) that comprise District 14 are the Nooksack (GMU 418), Diablo (426) and Sauk (GMU 437). Portions of GMUs 407, 448 and 450 are also within the district. Land ownership in the District includes private residential and private agricultural in the lowlands (e.g. GMU 407 and the Nooksack and Skagit River valleys). Private industrial timber lands and lands managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources predominate the lower elevation foothills, while most higher-elevation forest lands are in public ownership (i.e. U.S. Forest Service and North Cascades National Park).
The Skagit Delta is host to abundant waterfowl resources, including the highest concentration of lesser snow geese in Washington. WDFW’s private lands access programs are again providing new and improved opportunities for hunters during 2012-2013 hunting season. Further inland, big game species such as elk in the North Cascades elk herd and the Mount Baker population of mountain goats offer some of the best trophy animal opportunities in western Washington for those who get drawn for these areas.
Pheasant: Game-farm produced pheasants will be released this fall on sites which are mapped on Go Hunt website and in the Western Washington pheasant program booklet. Pheasant release sites in Whatcom County include the Lake Terrell Wildlife Area, and the Intalco and British Petroleum release sites. District 14 personnel hope to finalize agreements that will bring a new release site on line in time for the 2012 season. Non-toxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Pheasant - Statewide and by County
Quail: There are relatively few quail in District 14 and most are in developed environments not suitable for hunting.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Quail - Statewide and by County
Forest Grouse: Ruffed and sooty (formerly classified as blue) grouse are present throughout the public and private forest lands in District 14. Cool wet spring weather may have adversely affected brood production somewhat this season. If so, this would be the second consecutive year of severe spring weather taking a toll on grouse numbers, effectively reducing harvest success rates in District 14.
The prospects for harvesting sooty grouse go up with increasing elevation. Hunters can expect the greatest success along trails and ridgelines above 2,000-3,000 feet and within Pacific silver fir and noble fir forest stands with huckleberry, grouse whortleberry and other species. Because both species utilize gravel, grouse vulnerability, and consequently hunting success, is often highest along abandoned or low traffic forest roads, particularly in the early morning hours.
Hunters targeting ruffed grouse should focus on elevations below 2,500’, particularly in riparian forest habitats, early seral forests (5-25 years old), and deciduous-conifer mixed forest types.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Forest Grouse - Statewide and by County
Wild Turkeys: District 14 is not managed for wild turkeys and the species remains relatively rare. WDFW receives occasional reports of individual turkeys throughout western Washington. Such individuals are invariably a result of accidental escape or intentional release (by private parties), which are not sanctioned by WDFW. The overall scarcity of turkeys in District 14 equates to extremely poor prospects for harvest.
Waterfowl: District 14 continues to provide one of the best waterfowl hunting opportunities in Washington. In 2011, Skagit County was the state’s second best duck producing county in the state, with harvest up 22 percent from 2010. Breeding duck surveys in Canada and Alaska indicate that 2012 population numbers are up for most species. Provided that the weather cooperates, increased duck numbers should equate to increased harvest opportunity in Skagit and Whatcom Counties.
Among the WFDW owned and managed lands in District 14, waterfowl hunters should look to the Skagit Headquarters Unit, Samish Unit (also known as the Welts property), Debay Reserve, Lake Tennant and Lake Terrell Wildlife Areas. All of these sites are managed for waterfowl and provide walk-in and/or boat access, with some blinds available. Additionally, the Region 4 Private Lands Access Program will again have roughly 1,000 acres of private lands enrolled in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt Program and dozens of private properties throughout District 14 enrolled in the Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program. Snow goose hunters should be aware that a special snow goose hunting authorization and harvest record card is required.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics
Black-tailed Deer: Black-tailed deer surveys have not been conducted in District 14 for several years; however biologists’ observations and other anecdotal reports suggest that deer population numbers and density are down in GMUs 418, 426, 437 and 450. Alternatively, in portions of GMU 407, which is the most urbanized GMU in the District, black-tailed localized deer densities can be quite high and deer are perceived to be a nuisance by some property owners and agricultural operations.
From a hunting perspective, GMU 407 may provide the best opportunity for harvesting a deer in District 14. The key to a successful harvest is securing the appropriate permission to hunt on private land and scouting the area prior to the hunting season. Hunters who intend to target deer in developed areas would be well advised to check with local jurisdictions regarding firearm restrictions.
Elsewhere in District 14, private industrial timber lands and property managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources are largely gated due to timber theft, dumping, vandalism and other problems. However, many of these roads can be accessed on foot or with mountain bikes, giving those willing to do the work, access to deer that don’t get as much hunting pressure. Be sure to check with the appropriate land owner/manager and obey all posted rules and regulations.
Finally, for those seeking a high elevation trophy black-tail hunting experience, areas within GMUs 418, 427, 437, and 450 that can be accessed by Forest Service road and trail systems lead to high mountain hunting areas, including portions of the Pasayten Wilderness Area in eastern Whatcom County and the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area in southeastern Skagit County.
District 14 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Deer General Harvest
- Deer Special Permits Harvest
Elk: Elk hunting prospects in District 14 are limited to the North Cascades (Nooksack) herd, which, for the most part, is restricted to a limited-entry bull-only harvest. Since 2007, this successfully managed hunt has been producing quality bulls and high hunter success rates for those fortunate enough to be drawn.
There are some general season elk harvest opportunities in GMU 407 and that portion of GMU 448 in Skagit County that do exist – particularly on private property; however elk densities in these two units are low and hunting pressure quickly pushes those animals into adjacent GMUs that remain closed to general harvest. On the positive side, the North Cascades elk herd continues to grow and expand its range, increasingly the likelihood for future harvest opportunities. Raw calf:cow rations and bull:cow ratios from the 2011-12 late winter surveys continue to exceed population management objectives.
District 14 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Elk General Harvest
- Elk Special Permits Harvest
Black Bear: While more than 120 black bears were harvested in GMUs 418 and 437 in 2011, the prospects for harvesting a black bear in District 14 remains good to excellent. The North Skagit spring bear hunt experienced a 50% harvest rate in May and June and numerous bears were observed that went unharvested just within this small damage area. Low elevation berry production has been good and, although the snow pack was deep, it is succumbing to higher July-August temperatures, which will hopefully help produce a mountain huckleberry crop that outshines that of 2011.
Similar to deer, access behind gated roads is largely available to those willing to walk or mountain bike, and there are ample numbers of clear cuts/younger age class regeneration units that will attract bears. At higher elevations, those willing to hike in-pack out, can pursue bears in classic alpine environments where spot-and-stalk opportunities await.
2011 Statewide Black Bear Harvest Statistics
Mountain Goat: The Mount Baker area continues to have one of the largest concentrations of mountain goats in Washington State. Mountain goat hunting in Washington State is an once-in-a-lifetime harvest opportunity and is a limited-entry tag that only a few lucky individuals draw in any year. Aerial surveys in late July of 2011 suggest that there may have been some winter kill associated with the prolonged winter that resulted in several snow events extending into June, and a persistent snow pack. As a precautionary measure, the number of mountain goat tags available for Mount Baker in 2012 was adjusted to ensure that hunter harvest does not adversely affect the population. Statewide harvest success rates for mountain goats is generally 75% or greater in any year and Mount Baker has produced some mature goats of exceptional quality.
2011 Mountain Goat Special Permit Harvest Statistics
Tribal Hunting: District 14 occurs within the ceded area of the Point Elliott Treaty tribes and tribal hunting occurs concurrent with WDFW hunting seasons. Tribes set their own seasons and bag limits. Tribal enforcement personnel ensure that tribal hunting regulations, which are sometimes very different from state regulations, are followed.
Hunters bagged only 10 quail in District 14 last year, an all of them came from San Juan County.
Skagit County hunters accounted for 1,703 forest grouse and Whatcom County hunters another 702 birds, for a District 14 total harvest of 2,405 grouse in 2011. Compared to 2010, the harvest was down 48 percent in Skagit County and 22 percent in Whatcom County.
Hunters in the five units that make up District 14 harvested 1,570 deer during the general season last year, about 78 percent of them bucks. Modern firearms hunters accounted for 72 percent of the deer harvested, and they enjoyed a district-wide success rate of 26.6 percent. Bow hunters, multiple-weapons hunters and muzzleloader hunters also had success rates of over 20 percent.
Over 48 percent (759) of the deer harvested in District 14 came from GMU 410 (Islands), and modern firearms hunters in that unit had an amazing 46.8-percent success rate. Success rates for bow hunters (28.5 percent), multiple-weapons hunters (41.4 percent) and muzzleloader hunters (28.7 percent) were also good in the Island Unit. GMU 407 (North Sound) produced 558 deer last season.
The only elk taken during District 14’s general season last year was a bull taken by a bow hunter in GMU 407 (North Sound).
The black bear harvest for western Washington’s northernmost district was an impressive 128 animals in 2011. GMU 418 (Nooksack) led the way with 59 bear, but GMU 437 (Sauk) was close behind with 52.
District 14 hunters harvested two cougar during the 2011 general season, both of them from GMU 407 (North Sound).
Skagit County was the state’s second-best duck producer in 2011. Hunters there took 49,702 ducks, with Whatcom County adding 24,195 birds and San Juan County another 956, for a District 14 total harvest of 74,853. The Skagit County harvest was up 22 percent from 2010, Whatcom County’s up 39 percent.
The 2011 District 14 goose harvest was 7,829 birds, with nearly 6,400 of those geese harvested in Skagit County.