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OUTDOORS: Rifle deer hunters take to the field Saturday

State biologists seeking buck incisors

RIFLE-TOTING DEER hunters decked out in camouflage and fluorescent orange will add to the fall foliage mix around the state Saturday, the first day of modern firearm general deer season in multiple hunting districts around the state.

Here on the North Olympic Peninsula, there are two hunting districts. District 15 is comprised of East Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason counties, and District 16 includes all of Clallam County and vast sections of west Jefferson County.

District 16 also includes a couple of Game Management Units (621-Olympic and 624-Coyle) that extend into District 15 in east Jefferson County, so be sure you know which district you are hunting in before taking the shot.

A rise in harvested bucks was documented by state Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2019, continuing a rise seen since a generally poor 2017 hunting season around the state.

Hunters bagged 1,115 bucks (1,000 recreational and 115 tribal) in 2019, a rise of nearly 200 bucks over 2018, when 967 bucks were harvested, 867 in recreational hunting and another 115 by tribal hunters.

Another 124 antlerless deer (78 recreational and 46 by tribal hunters) were taken in 2019.

Only 872 total deer were harvested in District 16 (775/97) back in 2017.

Highly productive buck harvest was seen in Dickey GMU 602 and Pysht GMU 603, with more than 200 bucks taken in each GMU in 2019. Hunters bagged less than 100 deer in Sol Duc (607), Goodman (612), Clearwater (615) and Hoko (601).

District 15 saw a decline in deer harvest in 2019 (1,612 total) when compared to 2018 (1,813).

Olympic GMU 621 and Coyle GMU 624 each totaled harvests nearly 300 bucks in 2019.

Statewide, the 2019 buck harvest during all general seasons — rifle, archery, muzzleloader, was 27,588 deer, including 11,470 black-tails, 8,590 mule deer and 7,528 whitetails, up from 27,529 total deer in 2018 and 25,914 in 2017.

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.

Prospects for all of the state’s hunting districts are available on the WDFW website.

Deer tooth research

Hunters skillful or lucky enough to harvest a black-tail buck can assist the state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists in researching the relationship between antler points and the age of these male deer.

The department is looking for middle incisor teeth from a buck’s lower jaw. Hunters are asked to scrape the tooth root free of tissue.

A how-to video is available on YouTube.

Warning: Video may be too graphic for some viewers.

Hunters can then fill out a form at tinyurl.com/PDN-DeerTeeth, which asks some general questions about the deer, where it was harvested and during what general season.

Hunters can tape the tooth to a piece of paper and include their WILD ID number to receive information on the age of the deer from Fish and Wildlife.

Write “hand sort only” on the envelope and mail the tooth to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: Wildlife Program Tooth Collection, Natural Resources Building, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

La Niña winter?

The first snow of the season fell on Hurricane Ridge earlier this week, a sight sure to bring a smile to those who enjoy skiing, snowboarding and the occasional tubing session atop our area ski resort. It could be the first snowfall of an abundant La Niña weather cycle this winter.

Typically La Niña winters have a greater chance of being cooler and wetter than normal. NOAA scientists confirmed its arrival in late summer and said last week it was getting stronger.

Quilcene’s Ward Norden tracks weather and climate and said this winter could be a doozy.

“This La Niña is by far the most powerful I have seen in 30-plus years of observation,” Norden said. “Not only is it unusually intense all the way across the Pacific at the equator, but it now extends all the way down the central Pacific along the Chilean coast. … This may be an interesting winter unlike any seen in the last century here in the Pacific Northwest, and I wonder if Southern California will get any rain before January, ushering in a truly catastrophic drought.”

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].

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