District biologists have provided hunting forecasts for their
district based on surveys and field work.
Counties: Yakima and Kittitas
Jeff Bernatowicz, District Wildlife Biologist
District 8 is located in the south central Washington. Game Management Units (GMUs) in District 8 include 328, 329, 330, 334, 335, 336, 340, 342, 346, 352, 356, 360, 364, 368, 371 and part of 372. Hunters can choose a variety of habitats ranging from lowland shrub steppe and farmland to high elevation alpine wilderness.
District 8 is dominated by large blocks of public land and abundant hunting opportunity. The District is probably best known for elk. The Yakima elk herd is one of the largest in the state with over 12,000 animals roaming over 900,000 acres of public land. There are over 5,000 elk in the Colockum herd which in habitat mostly public land north of Ellensburg.
There is also plenty of upland bird hunting opportunity in District 8. Yakima County is near the top of the list in harvest of many bird species; ranking #1 for quail, #2 for dove, #3 for both duck and chukar, #4 for pheasant and #5 for goose. Bird hunters wanting to wander over large areas with low hunter densities have many areas to choose from. Along the breaks of the Columbia, the Yakima Training Center owns 327,000 acres south of I-90 while WDFW manages another 154,000 acres north of the interstate. West of the Yakima River, hunters can roam the 105,000 acre Wenas Wildlife Area. A motivated upland bird hunter with a good dog could find grouse, chukar, huns, quail, and pheasant in the same day.
Turkey’s are a relative newcomer to the District. Birds were first introduced over 30 years ago, but populations remained low. In the late 1990’s, a more extensive effort was made to augment existing pockets of birds. Post augmentation, the spring harvest has increased from 60 in 2001 to 413 in 2010. The populations in GMU 335 have become large enough to allow for a fall permit season. The turkey densities may never reach those found in Northeast Washington, but many hunters are finding decent hunting 4-5 hours closer to home.
District 8 is also home to over 70% of the bighorn sheep in the state of Washington. While it is still difficult to draw a permit to hunt, bighorns can certainly add enjoyment to a hunting trip. Rams are in rut mid-October through November when many hunters are traveling through the area. There are robust population of bighorns that can often be easily viewed along highways 821 (Yakima River Canyon), 12 (between junction with Hwy 410 and Wild Rose Campground) and 410 (Clemans Mountain, north of the junction with Hwy 12).
Pheasant: There are few wild pheasant outside of the Yakama Nation (YN). YN surveys found pheasant populations were up over 2011, but still below average. The hatch has been good the last few years, but idle land is being converted to crops as grain prices have increased, reducing the amount of pheasant habitat. For information on hunting YN and their surveys, see ynwildlife.org.
Outside of YN, about 2300 roosters will be released in District 8. Sunnyside Wildlife Area receives the majority of birds. Byron Ponds has been eliminated as a release site. Nontoxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Pheasant - Statewide and by County
Quail: Quail can be found in most non-timbered portions of the district. The best habitat and highest number of quail can be found in the lower Yakima Valley. This is evident in the harvest statistics as Yakima County leads the state in quail harvest with an average of 25,000 birds over the last 5 years.
In Kittitas County, the average quail harvest is only 3,000. Relatively mild winters and good spring moisture has resulted in high populations of quail. Annual counts conducted by the Yakama Nation (YN) found record numbers of quail, up 144% from 2011. There have been observations of large broods of early and late hatch birds.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Quail - Statewide and by County
WDFW owns various parcels along the Yakima River that hold good numbers of quail that are part of the Sunnyside Wildlife Area. YN runs an excellent hunting program and has great quail hunting opportunity. For information on hunting YN and their surveys, see ynwildlife.org.
Gray Partridge: Relatively mild winters and good spring moisture has resulted in rapidly increasing hun populations. Huns are often overlooked and the average harvest is only about 500 birds in the district. There is plenty of public land with good hunting opportunity in the district.
WDFW-managed Wenas, L.T. Murray and Colockum Wildlife areas all have decent populations of birds. Huns can also be found on the Cowiche unit of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The Yakima Training Center (YTC) owns over 300,000 acres of potential hun habitat. Large coveys of birds have been noted on YTC the last few years. YTC used to be a very popular spot for upland bird hunters. Decreased access due to military training and increased rules has limited the number of YTC upland bird hunters the last 5 years. In 2012, access to YTC is expected to be greatly improved. Hunter must still go through a brief orientation, pay a $20 fee, and register their firearms with YTC. For more information on the orientation and rules on YTC, call 509-577-3208 or 3209.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Gray Partridge - Statewide and by County
Chukar: Relatively mild winters and good spring moisture has resulted in rapidly increasing chukar populations. It appears that populations might be reaching peaks of the 9-10 year cycles. There is plenty of public land with good hunting opportunity in the district.
WDFW managed Wenas, L.T. Murray and Colockum Wildlife areas all have decent populations of chukar. Chukar can also be found on east portions of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The Yakima Training Center (YTC) owns over 300,000 acres of potential chukar habitat. YTC used to be one of the premier areas for chukar hunters. Decreased access due to military training and increased rules has limited the number of YTC upland bird hunters the last 5 years. In 2012, access to YTC is expected to be greatly improved. Hunters must still go through a brief orientation, pay a $20 fee, and register their firearms with YTC. For more information on the orientation and rules on YTC, call 509-577-3208 or 3209.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Chukar - Statewide and by County
Forest Grouse: Harvest has been very low in recent years. In 2011, harvest within the district was 0.22 birds per day. A colder than average spring and early summer might have hurt brood production in higher elevations. Many “grouse” hunters drive roads morning and evening, especially when the season first opens.
Research suggests brood hens and young are the most vulnerable in early September. Long term harvesting of successful breeding females may suppress populations in areas where open road densities are high. Hunters serious about finding grouse should look for areas with low densities of open roads and hike.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Forest Grouse - Statewide and by County
Wild Turkeys: Turkey populations are doing fairly well in the northern portion of the district. In this district there is a spring general season for bearded turkeys; and new this year is a permit only fall season in GMU 335 for either sex. Most of the harvest comes from GMU’s 328, 329, and 335. The best populations are on private lands in the lower elevations of GMU 335.
Waterfowl: Local production looks good in 2012. The number of mallards banded per day at the Sunnyside Wildlife Area was the highest recorded and 3 times higher than 2011. Over 80% of the mallards captured for banding were young of the year. The USFWS is predicting record numbers of ducks across North America. Yakima County has averaged over 29,000 ducks harvested the last 5 years, which is 3rd best in the state. The best hunting is in the lower Yakima Valley.
Public hunting can be found on the Sunnyside Wildlife Area and Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. The Yakama Nation (YN) runs a hunting program and has great duck hunting opportunity. The YN managed Satus Wildlife Area often averages over 4 birds per hunter opening weekend. For information on hunting YN, see ynwildlife.org.
Band returns suggest many locally produced ducks are staying in the Yakima Valley, so expect good early season hunting. Late season hunting can be difficult. Most ponds and side sloughs often freeze over around Thanksgiving. When there are long periods of cold weather, the vast majority of ducks roost in the Lower Toppenish Reserve during legal shooting hours. Even if the Yakima River stays ice-free, few birds are flying around areas with public access. For late season hunting, watch for significant changes in weather. If there is a quick thaw and rain, “new” ducks enter the valley and a week or so of good hunting can be had before the birds find the safety of private land and the reserves.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics
Dove: Trapping/banding indicated high survival of 2011 birds and good 2012 production. The 2012 catch per day during banding was the highest recorded. Yakima County ranks 2nd in the state for Dove harvest. The best success is in the lower Yakima Valley.
Good public hunting can be found on the Sunnyside Wildlife Area and Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. Read the refuge regulations carefully as not all TNWR units are open to dove hunting. The Yakama Nation (YN) runs an excellent hunting program and good dove hunting opportunity. YN grows wheat on portions of their Satus Wildlife Area. For information on hunting YN, see ynwildlife.org.
Even with good numbers of birds in August, hunting success will depend on the weather pattern. Warm weather is needed to keep the majority of birds from migrating out of the valley.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Dove - Statewide and by County
Deer: Deer hunting in District 8 has been the worst in the state for a number of years. The average success the last 5 years has been 8% compared to a statewide 23-25% success. The 2010 and 2011 harvests were the lowest in recent history. There have been mild winters and decent fawn production, but lice, causing hair-slip disease, seems to be keeping populations down.
There are some signs the population might be starting to increase, but don’t expect great hunting. Hunter numbers have declined with the deer population. Many of the remaining modern firearm hunters are probably setting up camp and claiming their favorite spot for elk season. If you are looking for relatively low hunter densities, consider the higher elevations of District 8. Hunter success is typically highest in GMU’s 335 and 342, but so are hunter numbers.
District 8 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Deer General Harvest
- Deer Special Permits Harvest
Elk: This district is the best in the state for elk hunting. However with that distinction comes relatively high hunter densities. Opening weekend is usually crowded. However, a recent trend has been for hunters to pull up camp and head home before the second weekend. If you are looking for a higher quality experience, considered hunting the last 2-3 days of the season. Surveys in spring 2012 showed increased elk populations and production. Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, bull harvest is expected to increase in 2012. Both the Yakima and Colockum herds are above objective and antlerless opportunity is being increased.
For big game hunters in eastern Washington State, drawing a special permit in the quality bull category is the ultimate opportunity. That certainly applies to District 8 in the south-central part of the state where the majority of quality bull permits are available. Our advice to most hunters who come here is to hunt the general elk season opportunistically for spikes, but keep putting in for special permit hunts and accruing bonus points, so that someday you will draw a quality elk permit and already know the country for lining out your hunt.
District 8 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Elk General Harvest
- Elk Special Permits Harvest
Yakima County hunters took 5,155 ringnecks in 2010 and Kittitas County hunters added 720, for a district total of 5,875.† All those numbers are 28 to 45 percent below the 2010 harvest and the five-year average harvest.
Although the 2011 Yakima County quail harvest was down by 17 percent from 2010 and 24 percent from the five-year average, hunters bagged a very impressive 20,716 quail, tops in the state by far. Kittitas County quail hunters added another 2,142 birds, for a District 8 total quail harvest of 22,858.
Hunters bagged 3,673 chukar and 850 gray partridge in District 8 last season. The 2,583 chukar bagged in Yakima County was double the harvest of 2010.
The harvest of blue ruffed and spruce grouse was down 50 percent or more from 2010 and from the five-year average, as hunters took 3,850 forest grouse in District89 last year.
Deer hunters in south-central Washington harvested 797 deer, all of them bucks, during the general season of 2011. Despite a harvest success rate of only 7 percent, modern firearms hunters accounted for 576 (72 percent) of the deer taken in District 8. The districtís 323 multiple-weapons hunters had a 13.3 percent success rate, best of all weapons types.
Of the districtís 14 game management unites, GMU 335 (Teanaway) was the most productive for deer hunters, giving up 209 bucks, more than 26 percent of the district total. Modern firearms hunters in the Teanaway Unit enjoyed an 11.1 percent success rate, just behind the 11.4 percent rate for rifle hunters in GMU 342 (Umtanum).
The 14 game management units within District 8 produced a harvest of 1,062 elk for hunters during the 2011 general season. Bulls comprised 57 percent of that harvest. Modern firearms hunters accounted for half the harvest, archers 33 percent and muzzleloader hunters 15 percent. The top three units in terms of harvest totals (each with over 125 animals) were GMU 368 (Cowiche), GMU 346 (Little Naches) and GMU 328 (Naneum).
This is another district where special permit holders contributed significantly to the elk harvest. In fact, permit hunters harvested 644 elk, nearly half as many as were taken during the general season.
The total bear harvest in District 8 game management units in 2011 was 86. Twenty-seven of those animals were taken from GMU 326 (Naneum) and 24 came from GMU 335 (Teanaway).
The District 8 general-season cougar harvest during the 2011 general season was 6, one each from six different game management units.
The duck harvest in Yakima County held steady in 2011, making it the third-best duck-hunting county in Washington, with a harvest of 30,820 birds. Kittitas County hunters took another 5,407 ducks to bring the District 8 total to 36,227.
The goose harvest was up in Kittitas County, down in Yakima County during the 2011 season, as district hunters took a total of 2,713 geese.