Fall means hunting, and the prospects are good in the Okanogan region, according to the state Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Here’s an overview offered by WDFW.
• Quail and partridge: Three-and-a-half months of hunting began Oct. 1 for quail and chukar and gray or Hungarian partridge.
“In the Okanogan district, quail production has been very good so harvest opportunities should be, too,” WDFW said in its hunting preview. “Quail can be found at lower elevations throughout the district, including the Indian Dan, Chiliwist, and Sinlahekin Wildlife Areas. In general, gray partridge populations are widely distributed and patchy throughout the district’s shrub steppe habitats, but appear to be increasing in number and distribution over time. Birds are seen frequently on the Indian Dan, Chiliwist, and Methow Wildlife Areas. Scattered groups of chukars are found in the steeper rocky areas in lower elevations, with the steep hills along the Similkameen River in the north part of the Okanogan Valley holding good numbers.”
• Waterfowl: Duck and goose hunting begins Oct. 15 and the north central region’s Columbia Basin is second to none in the state for opportunities and hunter success, WDFW said. Early season duck species that occur in abundance during opening weekend include mallard, gadwall, wigeon, and green-winged teal. Migration (which peaks in November) will bring the best waterfowl hunting, as large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks arrive from northern breeding grounds. December typically provides the peak of mallards, ringnecks, and canvasbacks, while other dabbling and diving species continue their journey south.
Goose hunting will typically improve in November, when early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverner’s) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields within feeding distance from Moses Lake and the Columbia River, WDFW said.
The Okanogan District offers comparatively modest waterfowl hunting opportunities with the largest concentrations of birds occur at the mouth of the Okanogan River and on the Columbia River.
• Modern firearm deer: Deer hunting with modern firearms begins Oct. 15. Okanogan County is prized for its mule deer hunting, although white-tailed deer are abundant, too, WDFW said. Despite massive wildfires in 2014 and 2015, deer populations are doing fine, thanks to greater-than-normal fall green-up and mild winters. Post-season sex ratios in December of 2015 remained good at 16 bucks per 100 does.
Game Management Units (GMU) 204, 224, 233, 239 and 242 are currently being managed in the short-term for stable to slightly decreasing deer populations in response to the landscape’s reduced ability to support deer in the wake of the fires. Huge tracts of critical winter shrub forage were burned, so managing browsing pressure is important to winter range recovery and the long-term health of the herd.
• Pheasant: Pheasant hunting season opens Oct. 22 and Grant County is consistently Washington’s top pheasant producing county.
• Modern firearm elk: Oct. 29 is the start of modern firearm elk hunting. Elk are present primarily along the southern and central portions of Chelan County as an extension of the Colockum herd further to the south. Hunters typically average a 5 percent success rate throughout the Chelan district. Elk are few and far between in Okanogan County, particularly west of the Okanogan River. In GMU 204, where the majority of the district’s limited harvest occurs, elk are a bit more abundant and on the increase, but still generally occur only in small groups scattered over the landscape.