Fall hunting seasons set to start

Fall arrives Tuesday for early archery general deer, and dove and grouse hunters in Eastern Washington.

Archery hunters in the Blue Mountain units in southeastern Washington should expect to find numbers and conditions similar to past years, although an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorraghic Disease has taken its toll on the whitetail population in the Touchet River drainage, said Pat Fowler, southeast region wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Early archery general deer season is open in Eastern Washington for the next three weeks. Hunters should find deer primarily in the lowlands and foothills, he said.

"Overall, archery hunters can expect some pretty good hunting," Fowler said. "The deer population overall is holding pretty steady right now."

Harvest statistics showed a healthy age range in the bucks that were taken, and the buck-to-doe ratio following the hunting season also was good, he said.

Overall, archers during the general archery season in 2008 statewide harvested 4,897 deer for a success ratio of about 22.9 percent, according to state harvest data.

Still, archery season traditionally doesn't attract large numbers of big game hunters.

Between 1,000 to 1,200 archers are expected to turn out in the four-county southeast region, Fowler said.

Hunters in the early season are reminded to be careful with campfires because of dry conditions. And they also need to be mindful of property boundaries to avoid trespassing on private lands, Fowler said.

Mourning dove season, for the second straight year, runs through the end of September, while forest grouse season extends until Dec. 31.

Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission last year extended the dove season by 15 days to a full month, primarily because of an increase in the 10-year breeding population index in the state.

Game managers said they did not believe the longer season would result in a larger harvest, in part because hunting pressure typically drops off after the first week of the season. And a cold front or two during the month also motivates some doves to migrate.

That prediction appeared to hold true, according to 2008 Fish and Wildlife harvest statistics. There were 54,103 doves harvested statewide last year.

In comparison, hunters killed an average of 71,737 birds per year during the 2003-2007 seasons.

The highest number of doves harvested in the state last year again was in Grant County, with 15,028, followed by Yakima County with 11,340.

The harvest last year of forest grouse -- which include blue, ruffed and spruce grouse -- was 101,685, down from the average of 117,686 from 2003-2007, according to Fish and Wildlife statistics.

The highest number taken last year was in Okanogan County, with 16,401, followed by Stevens County in the northeast with 12,102.