District biologists have provided hunting forecasts for their
district based on surveys and field work.
Counties: Asotin, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla
Paul Wik, District Wildlife Biologist
District 3 is located in southeastern Washington, bounded by the Snake River, Oregon, and Idaho and is comprised of 13 GMUs with a range of 145 – 186. Hydrologically, the district is comprised of the Wenaha River, Grande Ronde River, Tucannon River, Touchet River, and Asotin Creek, which are all tributaries of the Snake River.
The Blue Mountains are the major topographical feature, located south-centrally in the district along the Oregon border. The lands surrounding the Blue Mountains are comprised of private agricultural land, rangelands, and canyon lands. Elevations range from 300’ on the Columbia River at the Oregon State Line to 6,400’ in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.
Public land within the district is managed by the US Forest Service (Umatilla National Forest), WDFW, Washington DNR, BLM, and US Army Corps of Engineers. Most public lands are located within GMUs 157, 162, 166, 169, 172, 175, 181, and 186, although the USACE manages the shorelines of the Snake River.
The public lands tend to be at higher elevations with a shorter growing season, much less agriculture, and in general have a lower density of game animals such as deer and turkeys. Elk are predominantly located on public lands except in GMU 154, which is 99%+ private lands.
Very little to no public lands are located within GMUs 145, 149, 154, 163, and 178. Hunting within these GMUs requires access to private lands either through the Departments Access Program (Feel Free to Hunt, Hunting by Written Permission, etc) or direct landowner contact.
Big game in District 3 include elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, black bear, cougar, and to a small extent, moose and mountain goats. Elk occur predominantly in or near the forested areas on public lands, although small herds are located throughout the entire district. In recent years, the Blue Mountains elk herd is meeting population objectives and antlerless opportunities for modern firearm hunters, through special permits, have increased. In addition, recent studies have shown that yearling bull survival is high. This herd is managed under a spike only general season and the high yearling survival means that a good number of spikes are available for those willing to root them out. This can be rugged country with some difficulty getting to the elk.
Mule deer are the more common deer species and are located throughout the district. Higher densities of mule deer occur on private lands where rangelands and agricultural areas come together. White-tailed deer occur predominantly in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and along the riparian areas of the lower elevation rivers (Touchet, Mill Creek, and Tucannon).
Bears and cougars occur predominantly in the forested or shrub type habitats. Bears tend to be much more visible during the spring permit hunting season compared to the fall general season. Cougars tend to be harvested incidentally while deer and elk hunters are in the field, but it is becoming more common for hunters to target cougars during the winter using snow tracking and callback devices. Bighorn sheep hunting is severely limited due to diseases that cause pneumonia in 4 out of 5 herds, which is suppressing these populations.
Small game in District 3 includes Dusky (blue) and ruffed-grouse, ring-necked pheasant, California and mountain quail (mountain quail is closed to hunting), gray and chukar partridge, wild turkey (Rio Grande subspecies), a number of migratory game birds including numerous species of ducks and geese, American coots, Wilson’s (common) snipe, mourning doves, and snowshoe hares. Furbearers including coyotes, bobcats, and river otters are also open to small game hunting or trapping (non-body gripping traps).
Pheasant: Although the spring of 2012 was one of the wetter and cooler springs on record, temperatures moderated during the time that most game birds were hatching their clutches. It is expected that production should be good for the fall of 2012.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Pheasant - Statewide and by County
Waterfowl: Little waterfowl production occurs within District 3. Waterfowl harvest is dependent upon production in other parts of the state and Canadian provinces. Most waterfowl hunting occurs along the Snake River, with a majority of waterfowl being harvested in Walla Walla County. The USACE manages most of the shorelines along the Snake River, providing excellent access for waterfowl hunters. Goose hunting is popular in Walla Walla County, but requires access on private lands for ground decoys.
2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics
Big Game: Most big game season have remained consistent in the Blue Mountains, with the exception the cougar season. In the fall of 2012, cougar season will be open from Sept 1 – Dec 31 for all hunters and weapon types. Starting in January, harvest levels will be assessed by biological staff to determine whether harvest guidelines have been met. Starting on January 1, hunt areas (see Hunting Regulations pamphlet) that meet or exceed the harvest guideline may be closed until the next fall season which begins on September 1
For big game hunters in Washington State, drawing a special permit within the quality buck and bull categories is the ultimate opportunity. That maxim certainly applies to District 3 in the southeast corner of the state. My advice to most hunters who come here is to hunt the general deer, elk and/or turkey seasons opportunistically, but keep putting in for special permit hunts and accruing bonus points, so that someday you will draw on a quality elk or deer permit and already know the country for lining out your hunt.
District 3 - 2011 Game Harvest Statistics:
- Deer General Harvest
- Deer Special Permits Harvest
- Elk General Harvest
- Elk Special Permits Harvest
2011 Statewide Cougar Harvest Statistics
2011 Statewide Black Bear Harvest Statistics
One of the best pheasant-hunting districts in the state, District 3 produced 10,297 ringnecks for hunters in 2011. Walla Walla County was best of all, with a harvest of 5,813. Thatís down about 25 percent from 2010 and from the five-year average.
Although the harvest was down from 2010 in three of the four counties, District 3 quail hunters bagged 7,437 birds last season. Over 3,000 of those quail were taken in Walla Walla County. The districtís other three counties all produced 1,400 to 1,500 quail each.
Asotin County ranks near the top of the heap among the stateís best chukar-hunting spots, and it produced 2,356 of District 3ís 2,912 chukar last season. The chukar harvest here was up overall from both 2010 and the 2006-2010 average.
Gray (Hungarian) partridge populations here donít compare to chukar populations, but hunters harvested just under 1,900 of them in District 3 during the 2011 season. Asotin County topped the rest of the district with 746 birds.
Hunters bagged 1,631 forest grouse in District 3 during the 2011 season. County-by-county harvests ranged from 157 in Garfield County to 625 in Columbia County.
Deer hunters on hand for the 2011 general hunts in southeastern Washington took 2,203 deer, about 85 percent of them bucks. Modern firearms hunters harvested more than 1,800 of the deer from this district, with bow hunters taking 205, muzzleloader hunters taking 159 and multiple-weapons hunters harvesting 35. Muzzleloader hunters had the highest success rate (35.4 percent), archers the lowest (17.9 percent).
The top deer-producing units in District 3 last season were GMU 149 (Prescott) with 593 deer harvested, GMU 162 (Dayton) with 328, GMU 145 (Mayview) with 268 and GMU 154 (Blue Creek) with 261. In terms of hunter success, modern firearms hunters in the Mayview Unit had a 41.4 percent success rate during the 2011 general season, followed by a 35.8 percent success rate in the Peola Unit and a 33.1 percent rate in the Prescott Unit.
District 3 elk hunters harvested 206 elk during the 2011 general-season hunts. Eighty-two percent of those elk were bulls, and modern firearms hunters accounted for nearly 75 percent of the districtís elk harvest. GMU 162 (Dayton) and GMU 178 (Lick Creek) were the districtís top elk producers, with 52 and 37 elk, respectively. Twenty-three general bow season hunters in GMU 181 (Couse) harvested eight antlerless elk for an impressive 34.8 percent success rate.
This district also had a notable elk harvest by hunters with special permits. The permit harvest included 98 antlerless elk and 109 bulls.
The 2011 fall bear season in District 3 produced 68 black bear for just fewer than 4,100 hunters, a 5.6 percent hunter success rate. GMUs 154 (Blue Creek), 162 (Dayton) and 166 (Tucannon) accounted for 51 of the 68 bear harvested in the district.
Hunters harvested nine cougar in District 3 during the 2011 general cat season, including three each from the Dayton and Mountain View units.
Even though the harvest was down a little from 2010 and from the five-year average, Walla Walla County produced over 17,000 ducks during the 2011 waterfowl season. Hunters in Asotin, Columbia and Garfield counties combined for another 3,548 birds to bring the total District 3 duck harvest to 20,637.
Although the harvest was lower than that of 2011 and down from the five-year average throughout the district, goose hunters in District 3 managed to bag 2,349 Canada geese during the 2011 waterfowl season.