District biologists have provided hunting forecasts for their
district based on surveys and field work.
Scot Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen, District Wildlife Biologists
District 6 abuts the Canadian border in north-central Washington and encompasses 10 Game Management Units (GMUs 203-242). The western two-thirds of the district, stretching from the Okanogan River to the Pacific Crest, lies on the east slope of the Cascade Range and is dominated by mountainous terrain that generally gets more rugged as you move from east to west. Vegetation in this portion of the district ranges from desert/shrub-steppe at the lowest elevations through various types of conifer forests, culminating in alpine tundra on the higher peaks that top out at almost 9,000 feet. More than three-quarters of the land base in this portion of the county is in public ownership, offering extensive hunting access. Game is plentiful and dispersed throughout the area for most of the year, concentrating in the lower elevations in winter when deep snows cover much of the landscape.
GMU 204 comprises the eastern one-third of the district (from the Okanogan River east to the Okanogan County line) and is moderately rolling terrain, generally rising in elevation as you move east. The vegetation changes from shrub-steppe near the Okanogan River to a mix of tall grass and conifer forest throughout the remainder of the unit. This portion of the district is roughly a 50-50 patchwork of public and private land with the public lands generally averaging higher in elevation. Again, game is plentiful and dispersed throughout.
Pheasant: Pheasants are at low densities throughout the district, with most wild production occurring on private land. Hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access private land. Prospects may be similar to last year due to spring rains that affected chick survival. Game farm-produced roosters will once again be released at traditional release sites this fall. These sites are mapped on the Go Hunt website. Hunters are reminded that nontoxic shot is required for ALL upland bird hunting on ALL pheasant release sites STATEWIDE.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Pheasant - Statewide and by County
Quail, Gray Partridge, and Chukar: Populations of these upland bird species appear to be similar to last year throughout Okanogan County. A mild winter most likely increased adult survival but spring rains appear to have negatively affected early brood productivity; however, later broods appear to be more successful. Quail can be found in the shrub-steppe habitats at lower elevations throughout the district; the Indian Dan, Chiliwist, and the Sinlahekin Wildlife Areas are good places to start. Gray partridge populations are scattered and patchy within the district’s shrub steppe habitats. The Indian Dan and Chiliwist Wildlife Areas are good places to find partridges. Scattered groups of chukar partridges are found in the steeper rocky areas throughout the shrub-steppe habitats in the district. The steep hills along the Similkameen River in the north part of the Okanogan Valley hold good chukar populations.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics
Forest Grouse: The Okanogan supports strong populations of ruffed, dusky (blue) and spruce grouse, which are found throughout the forested areas of the district. Ruffed grouse are generally associated with deciduous tree cover at lower to middle elevations, particularly in riparian habitats. Dusky (blue) grouse are found in the mid to upper elevation conifer forests, often on ridge tops. Spruce grouse are located in higher elevation conifer forests throughout the district. Dusky (blue) and Spruce grouse populations continue to remain below historical norms within the boundaries of the 175,000-acre Tripod Fire, which burned in 2006 (GMU 224 and the east side of 218); numbers are higher outside of the burn. In general, forest grouse prospects should be good and similar to last year, although spring rains may have negatively affected chick survival in isolated locations.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Forest Grouse - Statewide and by County
Wild Turkeys: Turkeys are found in scattered concentrations throughout the district and often concentrate on private land near agriculture areas. Prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access private land. The fall turkey season occurs within GMUs 218-231, 242 and is by permit only. A mild winter most likely increased adult survival but spring rains may have negatively affected early brood productivity. However, later broods may have been more successful.
Waterfowl: Waterfowl surveys indicate local production is similar to last year, and abundant water this spring may increase the number of potholes retaining water during the hunting season. Overall, however, waterfowl hunting opportunities are mostly dependent on the number of migrants coming from Canada and Alaska and how long water remains ice-free throughout the district.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics
Dove: The 2012 dove call count surveys show populations 14 percent below the 10-year average in the areas surveyed in the district. Look for doves in planted food crops in the Sinlahekin and Chiliwist Wildlife Areas. Hunting success will depend on warm weather keeping the birds in the area through the season.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Dove - Statewide and by County
Deer: With the largest migratory mule deer herd in the state, the Okanogan is known for its mule deer hunting. Prospects for mule deer are better than last year throughout the district. Post-season survey results of 29 bucks per 100 does (highest observed in over 10 years) in conjunction with a mild winter and good summer forage conditions are making for excellent opportunity in the 2012 season. During the early general seasons deer will be widely distributed on the landscape and not yet concentrated in migration or winter forage areas. Look for deer taking advantage of the rejuvenated summer forage within the boundaries of the 2006 Tripod Fire as well as other areas holding green forage into the fall.
White-tailed deer are less abundant than mule deer west of the Okanogan River (PMU 21) but are found in most all valley bottoms up to mid-elevations, often associated with riparian vegetation. In PMU 21, many white-tailed deer are found on private lands, so prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access private land. The eastern one-third of the district (GMU 204) holds roughly equal numbers of mule and white-tailed deer and both are widely distributed across the unit on both private and public land.
District 6 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Deer General Harvest
- Deer Special Permits Harvest
Elk: Elk are few and far between in Okanogan County, with the majority of the limited harvest coming from GMU 204. Hunters are reminded that the elk regulations have changed in GMU 204 to an “any bull” general season harvest instead of the traditional any-elk season.
District 6 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Elk General Harvest
- Elk Special Permits Harvest
Black Bear: Black bears are abundant and well distributed throughout the district. The population appears to be relatively stable, so hunting prospects in the district should be good. Bears will likely be widely distributed on the landscape and keying in on local berry concentrations where available. Berry fields at higher elevations towards the Pacific Crest may not be productive until well into September.
For hunters pursuing black bear in the northern Cascades, it is critical for you to positively identify the bear, as endangered grizzly bears also inhabit these areas. We have posted on our web site some interactive training materials from BeBearAware.org to help you tell the difference between black and grizzly bears. Click here, then view the Interactive Bear Identification Program and take the Bear Identification Test.
2011 Statewide Black Bear Harvest Statistics
Miscellaneous Comments: Weather in the Okanogan District can be quite variable and capable of changing quickly in the fall. Be prepared for everything from warm, sunny days to the possibility of winter temps and significant snow at mid to higher elevations by the second week of October. Please be respectful of private land and treat land owners and their property the way you would want to be treated if roles were reversed. Agency biologists will be running a biological check and information station at the Red Barn in Winthrop both weekends of the modern firearm general deer season. We encourage hunters to stop and provide data to biologists whether you’ve harvested a deer or not; data collected assists in assessing herd health and shaping population management.
The harvest was up about 13 percent from 2010, as Okanogan County hunters bagged 1,073 pheasant last year. That number, though, is down 18 percent from the 2006-2010 average.
Although down from both the 2010 harvest and the five-year average, the quail harvest in District 6 was a substantial 7,126 birds in 2011.
Compared to 2010, the harvest of both chukar and gray partridge was up substantially in District 6 last year. Hunters harvested 960 chukar and 1,257 gray (Hungarian) partridge.
Sprawling Okanogan County was the top forest grouse produce in Washington last year, producing a harvest of 8,280 blue, ruffed and spruce grouse. While impressive, that number represents a 46-percent decline from 2010 and a 48-percent drop from the five-year average.
General season hunters harvested 2,031 deer from the 10 game management units comprising District 6, nearly 90 percent of them bucks. Modern firearms hunters accounted for about 69 percent of the harvest; all general modern-firearms hunts were buck-only. The deer harvest among bow hunters was 502, about 60 percent of that total being bucks. Archers enjoyed 27.4 percent success rate district-wide, multiple-weapons hunters 23.9 percent, muzzleloader hunters, 21.7 percent and modern firearms hunters, 13.9 percent.
The highest deer harvest numbers in the district last season were reported in GMU 204 (Okanogan East), GMU 215 (Sinlahekin), GMU 218 (Chewuch) and GMU 224 (Pearrygin). These four units produced 1,308 (64 percent) of the deer harvested from District 6.
Special permit holders harvested 363 deer in District 6, 243 antlerless and 120 bucks.
Elk are few and far between in Okanogan County, and hunters harvested only eight of them in District 6 during the 2011 general season. Six of the eight came from GMU 204 (Okanogan East). All but one were harvested by modern firearms hunters.
District 6 hunters harvested 77 black bear last season, with 14 of them coming from GMU 242 (Alta), 12 from GMU 215 (Sinlahekin) and 11 each from GMU 218 (Chewuch) and GMU 233 (Pogue).
Hunters harvested four cougar in District 6 during the 2011 general season, two of them from GMU 215 (Sinlahekin).
Duck hunters here enjoyed a 45-percent harvest increase in 2011, bagging 8,011 ducks in Okanogan County.
District 6 hunters harvested 983 Canada geese in 2011, a 26-percent increase over the 2010 harvest.