The weather has been beautiful in the Northwest, but the buck sightings have been slim
Across the Northwest, fall colors are in full effect and the sounds of shotguns can be heard as duck and upland seasons begin to open. Mid-October brought beautiful weather but it hasn’t brought many buck sightings. If you believe in the October lull, we’re in it.
I took advantage of Montana’s last week of archery season by reserving a hunting opportunity on one of the state’s many block management areas. I enjoyed a beautiful evening watching pheasants, a curious porcupine, and a couple dozen whitetail does and fawns feed in a field. The does ventured out into the field about three hours before dark. From my location, I was able to glass a large area and never saw a buck. My husband had similar hunting experiences the past few days. He enjoyed mornings watching turkeys and whitetail does and spikes below his treestand, with zero adult buck sightings. Even the typically more visible mule deer bucks seem to have disappeared.
Unlike Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, which faced wicked winters, the coastal states had it easier, which is good news for hunters. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife says deer and elk populations had a normal winter and thanks to a cold, wet spring, they had excellent spring forage conditions. However, some areas of Oregon are currently facing drought conditions. In these areas, deer will likely be more concentrated around water sources.
Washington’s wildlife also enjoyed a mild winter and wet spring. The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife releases very detailed annual prospects that give hunters information about opportunities in each district and game management unit. Statewide the department doesn’t note any significant changes in deer numbers. So, if you’ve consistently hunted an area, you can likely expect similar population numbers.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Wildlife management agencies say cases of chronic wasting disease are growing across the Northwest. Agencies are responding with new regulations and recommendations. Check the latest regulations for the area you plan to hunt. With rifle season openers occurring this week in many areas, they’re imploring hunters to get elk, deer, and moose tested.
CWD has yet to turn up in Oregon or Washington, but with cases increasing in neighboring states, agencies are concerned. Oregon has set up check stations that require hunters to stop. If you don’t encounter a check station, ODFW encourages hunters to set up an appointment for testing.
Washington enacted new carcass transportation regulations in 2022. If you get your elk or deer tested you can be entered for a drawing for a free multi-season deer tag.
Idaho has also set up some transportation regulations for elk, deer or moose. Testing is mandatory in CWD Management Zones.
In Montana, Fish Wildlife & Parks is performing CWD surveillance in specific areas known as Priority Surveillance Areas. In these areas, FWP is making a concerted effort to gather more samples.
With rifle seasons and late October quickly approaching, I expect to spot more bucks on the hoof and in trucks sooner rather than later.
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