By Mike Maltais
If you were one of the fortunate nimrods who got a legal buck during the nine-day modern firearm deer season last week, then it was a successful season. If you happened to be in an area where bucks were scarce, then less so.
The hot spot, at least during the latter part of the season, appeared to be in the Chewuch drainage and points north, according to sources close to the action.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists Scott Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen checked 252 hunters and 78 deer at the deer check station at the Barn in Winthrop.
“The total number of hunters checked is almost identical to last year,” said Fitkin. “However, the number of deer checked this year is up noticeably, indicating a significant increase in hunter success despite the mild weather.”
“Forty-four percent of the checked bucks were in the 4-years-old or greater age category as compared to 30 percent in 2012,” Fitkin added. “These check station numbers suggest late permit hunters should look forward to excellent hunting opportunity.”
After a slow opening weekend in the Boulder Creek area, Lance Rider and sons Chris and Sonny ended the season with two bucks.
Rider, co-owner of The Outdoorsman in Winthrop, said the Boulder Creek area “was like a city all season because hunters couldn’t get into the campgrounds.”
Yet during the final weekend, Sonny Rider, a trooper with the Washington State Patrol in Wenatchee, got a nice three-by-four, and brother Chris’ big four-by-five pointer dressed out at 198 pounds at Thomson’s Custom Meats in Twisp.
The warm October days that accompanied the season found many of the buck carcasses in Thompson’s cooler in short order.
“I haven’t seen this many large, older trophy bucks in the last 25 years,” said Chris Thomson as he swung open the door of his cooler to reveal a large number of big-bodied deer.
At the Antlers Saloon in Twisp, what started out as a poor showing of small racks opening day ended with 70 photos of many big sets of antlers at season’s end.
Katie Russell, who offers free deer skinning at her facilities just north of the Twisp city limits, lost count of the carcasses that came her way.
“There were at least 50,” said Russell.
Russell said she took in more hides during the first three days of this season than during the entire season last fall.
Whatever happened during the final days of the season seemed to pay off for many who stuck it out.
“Maybe it was the cold nights,” said Rider, who also speculated about the changing moon. “Some hunters said they thought it was the start of early rut. Who knows?”