By Mike Maltais
As harvest figures are analyzed and numbers crunched in the wake of this year’s nine-day modern firearm general deer season from Oct. 11-19, local hunters have shifted their focus toward an abundance of antlerless permits in the three game management units (GMUs) – Pearrygin, Chiliwist and Alta – most affected by this summer’s Carlton Complex Fire.
Hunters have upwards of 1,900 permits to harvest antlerless deer in fire-ravaged GMUs to help mitigate potential winter losses that could occur if the combination of reduced winter range and harsh winter conditions becomes extreme. Permit hunters have through the end of the month to fill their tags, plus an additional 10 days at the end of November if more time is needed.
Every indicator used to evaluate local hunter success in the buck season points to better-than-average numbers of legal bucks taken, in spite of questionable conditions that made reliable predictions in some doubt.
Carcass counts at Thomson’s Custom Meats in Twisp, hides dropped off at Katie Russell’s skinning station on Highway 20, the Washington Department of Fish and Game’s (WDFW) check station at The Barn in Winthrop, and reports from hunters returning from the field all support the consensus that it was a better-than-average season in GMUs that comprise the greater Methow Valley.
Seth Thomson of Thomson’s Meats said carcasses hanging in the company’s cooler were nearly double the number recorded last year. That included one mule deer with a massive rack that Chris Thomson claims was “the biggest buck I’ve seen come out of this area in the past 25 years.”
The trophy buck was shot by 74-year-old Mel Souders of Marysville, who was hunting north of Winthrop in an area where two years ago he shot another big buck wearing a set of antlers only slightly smaller than this year’s prize.
Bent Kios of Seattle has been hunting in the Rendezvous area since 2006. This year he was with his son Leif and a friend when all three got their bucks – father and son a 3×3 and 5×5 pointer respectively, and another 5×5 for their companion.
Deer counts at the WDFW’s Winthrop check station, particularly toward the end of the season, reflected a buck harvest “slightly above the five-year average for the area,” said WDFW biologist Scott Fitkin. The numbers also pointed a level of hunting pressure about identical to 2013, a welcome surprise to game monitors who were concerned that the summer’s natural disasters would warn away a large influx of fall hunters.