District biologists have provided hunting forecasts for their
district based on surveys and field work.
Counties: Chelan and Douglas
David Volsen, District Wildlife Biologist
Jon Gallie, Assistant District Biologist
The Wenatchee District
Split in two by the Columbia River and composed of Chelan and Douglas counties, the Wenatchee Distinct is centered at the heart of Washington State. From the Crest of the Cascade Range to the shrub-steppe of the Columbia Basin, District 7 offers an incredibly diverse range of habitats and hunting opportunities.
Douglas County on the east side of the district is a plateau of shrub-steppe and farm lands. It is primarily privately owned yet offers incredible opportunities to hunt a variety of species. Hunters seeking pheasant, quail, doves, gray partridge, chukar and mule deer will find ample areas to hunt across the county.
Chelan County descends from the Cascade Crest in the west to the Columbia River along its eastern boundary. A series of five dominant NW to SE oriented mountain ranges create the terrain in the County; ranging from over 8,000 feet in elevation to below 1,000 ft. in roughly 40 miles. Home to some of the best mule deer hunting in the state, Chelan County is a destination for many hunters. With its large public land base, the county offers almost unlimited opportunity to find a place of your own. Four of the State’s six high deer hunt wilderness areas are in Chelan County, as well as three bighorn sheep herds and an increasing mountain goat population.
Pheasant: The Wenatchee District is not generally thought of as a destination pheasant hunting area in the state, but local hunters harvested from 1,500 to 3,000 birds each year since 2001. And while it might appear that Douglas County has more appropriate pheasant habitat, on average both Douglas and Chelan Counties produce roughly the same numbers of pheasants each year.
The same conditions that have benefitted for other upland species over the past year, good fall forage and a relatively mild winter have helped pheasants as well. Pheasants are robust birds and able to handle tough conditions, and we should see their numbers increase if we can string a few more years of better conditions together. Hunter numbers have declined lately and that may be a factor in the decline of harvest. Success rates of those hunting have been quite good over the past few years, indicating that there are birds available for those putting in the time.
Hunters should concentrate on areas of good to heavy cover, especially once the season is under way. Pheasants are often added to the bag in District 7 when a pursuing other species such as quail. Look to farm areas with diverse cover types and ask for permission to hunt. Small coulees and drainages within wheat growing areas are great places to find pheasants. Hunters interested in hunting pheasant release sites on the Chelan Butte WMA and the Colockum WMA should birds should visit the WDFW hunting web site for more information. The Swakane WMA release site is currently closed while vegetation recovers from the impacts of a recent wildfire. See the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Pheasant - Statewide and by County
Quail: Conditions going into the 2011 winter should have allowed for better over winter survival of quail in Chelan and Douglas Counties. Fall green-up often provides a burst of forage, allowing birds to enter winter in better condition. That said, quail numbers have been low in the district for several years. Even in protected urban areas and orchard habitats, quail numbers have shown declines. With quail, a rebound can happen quickly, so given the fact that we had good fall and summer conditions, and a relatively mild winter, especially in Douglas County, we may see numbers on the upswing.
Public lands can be tough places to find larger coveys well into the season. Seek out those areas without easy access and spend some time seeking permissions from landowners.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Quail - Statewide and by County
Gray Partridge: Within the district, gray partridge are hunted almost exclusively in Douglas County. They occur at low density and coveys are dispersed across larger areas. Look to farmed areas with wheat stubble and grass cover types and ask for permissions from landowners. Covering a wide range of cover types is the best way to locate coveys. While most gray partridge are taken hunting other species, with a little focus and dedication, you can be successful while focusing on huns. Visit to our GoHunt application on the WDFW web site and find areas in the County enrolled in our hunting access program. Snow depths were light over the past winter, indicating that over winter survival may have been good and gray partridge numbers stable.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Gray Partridge - Statewide and by County
Chukar: Opportunities for chukar hunting are numerous within the district due to the large amount of habitat that falls under public ownership. The breaks of the Columbia River provide the majority of the Chukar habitat, along with areas adjacent to Banks Lake and Moses Coulee. On the Chelan County side of the Columbia River, BLM, USFS, WADNR and WDFW all control lands that provide chukar hunting opportunities. Along the Douglas County beaks, almost all the appropriate chukar habitat falls under private ownership, and permissions must be acquired.
Harvest of chukar has been declining since 2006, but then again so has the number of hunters and the number of days spent chukar hunting. Since 2001, the reported number of days spent per hunter has declined from 4.1 to 3.3, yet the ratio of chukars harvested per days hunted has started to increase, indicating that birds are on hills if hunters are willing to chase them.
Chukar hunting falls into two distinct seasons; without snow and with snow. While trying to negotiate chukar habitat with snow and ice on the ground can be hazardous, there is no doubt that birds become concentrated following the accumulation of snow. We should be seeing an increase in chukar numbers in the district, helped along by fall forage productivity and relatively mild winter snow conditions at lower elevations.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Chukar - Statewide and by County
Forest Grouse: Four species of forest grouse occupy the Wenatchee District; sooty grouse, dusky grouse, spruce grouse and ruffed grouse. Sooty and dusky grouse are what most all hunters call blue grouse. The distribution of sooty grouse falls primarily on the west side of the Cascades while the dusky grouse is an east side species. Some overlap occurs on both sides of the Cascade Crest, however, obvious differences between the two species are very slight, and bag limits do not change between species.
There are a few areas in Douglas County where forest grouse are regularly found, however, their densities are relatively low and few hunters concentrate on them specifically. The majority of harvest is incidental during other hunting.
Within Chelan County, forest grouse occupy habitat dominated by coniferous and riparian forests. Dry shrub-steppe habitats at lower elevations generally don’t hold these species; however, ruffed grouse can be found in healthy riparian forests and aspen stands at the margin of timbered habitat, and blue grouse will use timbered stringers that extend down into the shrub-steppe. Spruce grouse are restricted to higher elevation conifer forests; usually above the distribution of ponderosa pine.
The forest grouse harvest, as with other game birds, tends to be predominantly juveniles. This is especially true in the first month of the season when juvenile birds and females compose a higher percentage of the harvest; as they are still together moving as a brood and before birds move into wintering habitats.
The 2009 hunting season appeared to be a good grouse year across the Pacific Northwest, with the trends in Oregon tracking those in Washington, and suggesting that environmental conditions play a big role in the regulation of forest grouse numbers. Since 2009 our harvest in the Wenatchee District has declined, and we anticipate similar numbers for 2012.
Hunters interested in forest grouse will improve their chances by searching out areas where fewer hunters concentrate Popular road systems can provide early season hunting, however, due to the numbers of hunters and the vulnerability of hatch-year birds, they often dry up quickly. Chelan County has a relatively limited road system within grouse habitat, and dedicated hunters know where they are, so, hunters can increase the productive length of their season by hunting areas on foot away from roads and the bulk of the other hunters.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Forest Grouse - Statewide and by County
Dove: Hunting success is expected to be similar to the past several seasons within the district. Hunter numbers have been stable over the past few years with harvest numbers on a slight decline. Success rates were increasing over the past few seasons, but took a dip again last year.
Hunters should secure hunting opportunities by contacting growers and getting permission. Look to areas near wetlands with roosting cover and near food later in the season. The amount and distribution of CRP fields (Conservation Reserve Program) has increased in Douglas over the past few years, with new seed mixes providing more diverse forage within stands. Scouting for these habitats can be a productive way to find new unexploited hunting areas.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Dove - Statewide and by County
Waterfowl: Local production of waterfowl is up from previous years based on annual surveys. Hunters should have good opportunities in traditional areas, and where permission to access ponds/lakes can be secured. Hunting along the Columbia River is usually consistent but dictated by local weather patterns. As in most years, the success of the season depends on the timing of migration through the area. This year indicators point to good opportunities during the fall migration.
Local production by Canada goose has increased recently, leading to the re-establishment of the September season. In 2012, the season dates are September 14–15. Regular season hunting harvest has been declining, with numbers since 2002 normally under 2,000 geese harvested, and since 2008, under 1,500. Expect a season similar to 2011.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics
Turkey: Turkey densities in the district are relatively sparse but populations appear to be stable in Chelan County and may be increasing in the northern portions of Douglas County. Hunters should expect population numbers, and harvest success very similar to 2011.
In Chelan County the number of turkey the landscape can support is based primarily on the amount and availability of wintering habitat under typical snow depths. When winter snow depths reach 20 inches or more, wild turkeys have a difficult time making it through the winter. In areas where turkey can utilize ranches, barn yards and farms as a source of winter forage, they can show significant survival over winter. Chelan County is limited in its availability of such habitat, and as such, the number of turkeys in the county seems to remain at a stable level.
Hunters should look to several of the more consistent turkey producing areas for hunting opportunities. The Stemilt Basin outside of Wenatchee, canyons off the Wenatchee River from the Columbia River and west through the town of Plain have low densities of turkeys. All of these areas are dominated by private lands and hunters need to get permissions prior to scouting or hunting.
In the upper portion of the Stemilt Basin there are opportunities on publicly owned lands that hold low numbers of turkey. In addition, the Colockum WMA south of Wenatchee, in Kittitas County (administered out of WDFW’s Region 3 office in Yakima) offers opportunity for turkey hunting on public land. Access to hunting on the Colockum WMA is limited to rough terrain on primitive roads; therefore, hunters will need to plan ahead.
Deer: Mule deer hunting is the bread and butter of the Wenatchee District. While the district does support a few white-tailed deer, it is mule deer that dominate the attention from hunters. Chelan County has become a destination hunt for many mule deer enthusiasts across Washington, with late season limited entry permits being highly prized. Within the district a hunter has the opportunity to pursue deer across a range of habitats; in high alpine basins along the crest of the Cascades or across expanses of sagebrush in Douglas County.
2012 should be a great opportunity year for harvesting adult bucks in Chelan County. Our management goal of a minimum of 25 bucks per 100 does post season was met in all our survey areas, along with retaining a high ratio of adult bucks in the population. Across Population Management Unit 26 (Chelan County) the post season ratio was 28.8 bucks per 100 does, with a range from 26.7 to 30.5. Juveniles composed 38 percent of the bucks and fawn ratios were high. Winter conditions in PMU 26 were reasonable, with snow levels across most of the winter range at low to normal levels. Snows did arrive slightly later than normal and snow levels at the lowest elevations (below 3000 feet) were light. All these factors point to a good recruitment of yearling and adult bucks into the next hunting season.
Population Management Unit 23 (Douglas County) is a consistent producer of mule deer opportunity, and conditions should be similar in 2012. Unlike Chelan County, Douglas County is dominated by private lands, and as such, access to those private lands dictates the amount of impact a hunting season has on the population. PMU 23 is composed of relatively open habitat with an established road network. These factors make deer more vulnerable than in the rugged closed canopy mountainous terrain of the Cascades.
By putting some limits on access, private lands function to regulate the total harvest. Management objectives for PMU 23 are 15 bucks per 100 does post season, and we are meeting those objectives across the area. Due to the vulnerability of bucks to hunter harvest, the post season numbers in Douglas County are weighted more heavily toward juveniles, indicating that legal bucks have a tougher time surviving the hunting season.
Our general firearms seasons seem to have been unseasonably warm and dry over the past few years, making deer hunting tough. The Chelan County mule deer herd is migratory, spending winters on the breaks along the Columbia River, but dispersing into the large expanse of the Cascades during summer.
As early as mid-September, deer start responding to changes in vegetation by moving downward in elevation and occupying north facing slopes where conditions are cooler and wetter, and forage is of better quality. From mid September through the onset of winter, deer are responding to changes in the quality of the available forage and utilize those areas that best meet their needs. By mid November bucks are in a rut condition and focused on breeding, however, before that time (during our October general season) they are focused on food and security.
If we were to observe a typical hillside of mule deer habitat in the Cascades over the growing season and through the fall, we would see it change from bright green in the spring and summer to light green to yellow, to orange, to red, to brown, then to bare branches. While we are seeing changes in color, mule deer are perceiving changes in forage quality. The summer forage that support deer and give them the opportunity to produce young and grow antlers does not retain its high quality all year, so as it changes, so do the habitats that deer occupy.
Eventually deer make the transition from summer forage to winter range forage. This takes time, and as they move slowly onto lower quality forage, the composition of their digestive system is changing as well in order take advantage of a lower quality diet. Deer are forced onto lower quality ranges during winter and have adapted to those seasonal changes, but that is not where most deer are residing during October.
While hunting on winter range is appealing because hunters can see long distances, the majority of deer will still be in areas of better quality forage and higher security. Most deer will be in thick cover where the food is better and they are better protected; these are usually the brushy north facing slopes or at elevations much higher than typical open mule deer winter range.
Douglas County offers a similar but different situation for deer hunters. Because of the private lands issue, hunters have less opportunity to freely pursue deer across habitats. The drier nature of shrub-steppe habitat dictates that deer use those areas where forage quality remains higher longer while balancing the need for security. Large expanses of sagebrush, while not providing the best forage, can give the security deer need as well. In the broken coulee county, topography becomes security and riparian vegetation provides food resources. Deer in these areas often become expert at living in small secure habitat pockets where they meet their needs and avoid hunters.
District 7 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Deer General Harvest
- Deer Special Permits Harvest
Elk: Almost the entire harvest of elk in the Wenatchee District comes from Chelan County; as the Chelan distribution of elk is part of the Colockum herd centered to the south in Region 3. A few scattered elk do get harvested from Douglas County, however, that harvest is not consistent from year to year or from GMU to GMU. Liberal harvest seasons have been put in place in Douglas County to keep elk from becoming established in the farming dominated landscape. As a result, when a small group of elk become established in the county, they are often found and many harvested together in the same year.
In Chelan County the majority of the elk harvested are taken form GMUs 251 (Mission), 245 (Chiwawa) and 249 (Alpine), with minor numbers harvested from the other GMUs. The distribution of the Colockum elk herd north into Chelan County means that management objectives for the herd are applied to portions of the Wenatchee District as well. As a result, GMU 251 is under a “true spike” antler restriction similar to the main Colockum heard.
Elk can and do get into trouble with local orchard growers in the county, the result being several management tools put into place to affect to alleviate damage. Antlerless permit seasons in Chelan County were established to control numbers of elk causing problems. These are primarily focused on the growing areas of the Stemilt Basin south of Wenatchee and adjacent to the Colockum WMA. In the Peshastin area a September antlerless hunt is being used to keep pressure on elk in that orchard dominated portion of the county. The common aspect of these hunts is the focus on private lands. Gaining permission for access is usually necessary if hunters hope to be successful.
Elk in GUMs 245and 249 occur at low density and in small dispersed bands. Local hunters that live and work the area are often the hunters that prove to be successful in harvesting these elk. There are some private lands harboring elk in GMU 245, but much of the hunting can and is done on public lands. Elk hunting in GMU 249 consists of all public land and is within the USFS Alpine Lakes Wilderness. While the GMU offers an opportunity for an over the counter archery tag for a branch-antlered bull, elk are at very low density and occupy extremely rugged terrain that does not allow the use motorized vehicles.
Game Management Unit 251 offers elk opportunity throughout the majority of the unit; however, elk density is not very high. General seasons fall under antler restrictions that make harvesting spike elk more challenging. Harvest occurs across the GMU; however, the majority of the elk hunting occurs between Blewett Pass to the west, the city of Wenatchee to the east, and the mountainous and timbered habitat south of State Highway 2. The Mission unit does have a significant amount of private lands and hunters are urged to make sure they know where they are when hunting elk in the area.
District 7 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Elk General Harvest
- Elk Special Permits Harvest
Bear: The bear hunting opportunity in the Wenatchee District should be similar to 2011, as a result of a relatively wet spring that helped with production of forage species. District 7 does not offer spring bear hunting, therefore, all the harvest is focused on the fall season when bears are actively foraging in preparation for winter hibernation.
During productive years bears find the foods they need within their traditional home ranges, making them less vulnerable to hunting harvest. In those years when traditional fall food species (such as huckleberries) fail, bears are forced to make forays outside normal ranges to find food and accumulate the weight they need before entering dens. Under these conditions we often see an increase in the incidental bear harvest because bears make themselves available as they search for food.
The vast majority of bears harvested in the district are taken during open deer and elk seasons. Dedicated bear hunters will often hunt early in the season when bears are foraging on predictable annual berry crops and can be located more easily. The incidental harvest that occurs during open deer and elk seasons is much more dependent on bear behavior and how widely they will have to travel for food.
Since 2001 the harvest of black bears has averaged roughly 65% males and 35% females, with roughly 4,900 hunters participating each year. While success relative to effort fluctuates from year to year, it is on an increasing trend since 2005 and points to a good upcoming season.
2011 Statewide Black Bear Harvest Statistics
Cougar: The opportunity to a harvest cougar in the Wenatchee District has expanded under the new season structure for 2012. In Chelan County there are now four (4) Hunt Areas, which were created by combining existing GMUs. Within each of these new hunt areas, a harvest guideline has been established based on cougar population biology. These new harvest guidelines increase the number of cougar that can be harvested in the county and across the state, while maintaining the integrity of the population.
A two part season was established, allowing harvest during big game seasons under an early cougar season, and a later season for more focused pursuit of cougar when conditions make hunting easier. If the harvest guideline is reached early, then a decision will be made about opening the late season each year. Based on our harvest history in Chelan County, there is a great opportunity to increase the length of and participation in this hunt. Cougar hunting in Douglas County will remain part of the Columbia Basin’s management objective, with no harvest guidelines or restrictions established for that Hunt Area at this time.
Bighorn sheep and Mountain Goats: A small number of limited entry permits are issued for these species each year. For 2012, there are five (5) California bighorn limited entry drawing permits issued for Chelan County. In addition to drawing permits, three (3) auction and raffle tags are offered through the state that may be used across multiple hunt units. Three (3) mountain goat tags were issued for the Wenatchee District under limited entry drawings this year. Hunters selected under these drawing are encouraged to contact district staff for additional information. All hunters harvesting a bighorn sheep in the State of Washington are required to have the horn set plugged by WDFW.
2011 Statewide Cougar Harvest Statistics
2011 Big Horn Sheep Special Permit Harvest Statistics
2011 Mountain Goat Special Permit Harvest Statistics
District 7 upland and small game harvest, and hunter participation from 2006 through 2011.
Washington Department of Natural Resources
713 Bowers Road
Ellensburg, WA 98926-9301
Public Lands Information Available
U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
915 N. Walla Walla
Wenatchee, WA 98801
Public Lands Information Available
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Headquarters
215 Melody Lane
Wenatchee, WA 98801
Public Lands Information Available
Chelan Ranger District Entiat Ranger District Wenatchee River Ranger District
428 W. Woodin Avenue 2108 Entiat Way 600 Sherbourne
Chelan, WA 98816 Entiat, WA 98822 Leavenworth, WA 98826
(509) 682-4900 (509) 784-4700 (509) 548-2550
Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce
300 S. Columbia St.
PO Box 850
Wenatchee, WA 98801
Local Business Information Available
The harvest was up from 2010 in Douglas County, down in Chelan County, as District 7 pheasant hunters bagged 793 birds during the 2011season. Both counties, though, saw a pheasant harvest that was below the 2006-2010 five-year average.,
Quail hunters in District 7 bagged 13,169 birds during the 2011 season, down somewhat from the previous year and considerably below the five-year average harvest.
Hunters took 2,201 chukar and 411 gray partridge in district 7 last year. The chukar harvest was down a little from 2010 and only about half the five-year average.
Chelan is by far the better forest grouse producer of the two counties in District 7, and hunters there bagged 2,237 grouse there during the 2011 season. Thatís well below both the five-year average and the 2010 harvest. The grouse harvest in Douglas County was 181 birds, up nearly 30 percent from 2010.
Hunters harvested 1,282 deer during the 2011 general seasons in the 14 game management units that comprise District 7, 95 percent of them bucks. Of the 66 antlerless deer taken here, 63 were harvested by archers, three by multiple-weapons hunters. Modern firearms hunters accounted for about 75 percent of the districtís general-season harvest, but had the lowest success rate, 14.5 percent. Muzzleloader hunters did nearly twice as well, garnering a 27.2 percent success rate.
Game Management Unit 250 (Swakane) produced the most deer in the district, 176, followed by GMU 248 (Big Bend) with 156 and GMU 247 (Entiat) with 154. Hunter success for general season modern firearms hunters was 26.2 percent in the Big Bend Unit and 25.2 percent in GMU 262 (Withrow).
There were also a number of special permit hunts in District 7 last year, and permit hunters harvested 272 deer, about 58 percent of them antlerless.
General-season hunters harvested 83 elk in District 7 last year, about 65 percent of them bulls. Elk were harvested in only five of the districtís 14 game management units, and most of them came from GMU 251 (Mission). Of the 65 elk taken from the Mission Unit, 38 were bulls.
Hunters harvested 78 black bear from the units within the boundaries of district 7 during 2011. GMU 245 (Chiwawa) produced 19 of those animals, and GMU 251 (Mission) produced 27.
Hunters harvested nine cougar from the units within District 7 during the 2011 general season, four of them from GMU 250 (Swakane) and three from GMU 266 (Badger).
Waterfowl hunters in Chelan and Douglas counties harvested 14,528 ducks†† during the 2011 season, reflecting a small increase over the previous season. About 8,740 of those ducks came from Douglas County, 5,790 from Chelan County.
Goose hunters harvested 480 geese in Chelan County, 602 in Douglas County during the 2011 waterfowl season.