Mule deer, elk hunting reduced due to high winter mortality rates; special hunt permits allocated


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Tim Waters (206) 775-1311, ext. 119
LONGVIEW -- Mule deer hunting in some parts of eastern Washington will be curtailed or substantially reduced this year because severe winter conditions took a heavy toll on herds.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on Saturday voted not to issue buck deer permits in 61 hunts. Nearly all the areas are on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains.

Commissioners also voted not to issue elk permits in seven hunting areas where animals were hard hit by harsh winter weather.

Besides eliminating hunts in areas where winter mortality rates were high, commissioners also allocated buck deer and bull elk special permits statewide among archery, modern firearm and muzzleloader hunters.

The issue of how to fairly allocate those permits among modern firearm, muzzleloader and archery hunters drew much public testimony.

After much debate, commissioners voted to adopt a citizen's task force recommendation that permits be divvied up among hunters based on the number of hunters in each user group and last year's success rates in bagging a buck deer or branch antlered bull elk.

Complete permit information will be available statewide on Wednesday (April 23) at all Department of Fish and Wildlife offices and at hunting license dealers. The information will also be available on the Internet at

Applications for special permits are due May 2.

In early March, wildlife biologists reported that mule deer populations on the eastern slopes of the Cascades had experienced large mortality rates because of deep snow and extended periods of freezing temperatures.

As a result, the biologists said they would recommend to commissioners that no buck or doe hunting permits be issued for many areas. The overwhelming number of the areas are identified in the department's hunting pamphlet as the 200 and 300 series game management units.

Biologists said that while precise mortality rates are unavailable, some herds are believed to have lost extremely large numbers of animals. In Chelan County alone, bad weather may have claimed up to 60 percent of the mule deer fawns.

Some elk herds that inhabit the same areas experienced significant losses, according to biologists. However, elk are able to withstand severe winter conditions far better than mule deer.

In other actions, commissioners set moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunting permit quotas, and voted to raffle four permits for four, big game species again next year.

This year marks the first year such a raffle has been held to provide additional hunter opportunities and raise money for deer, elk, bighorn sheep and moose conservation programs.

Persons with disabilities who need to receive this information in an alternative format or who need reasonable accommodations to participate in WDFW-sponsored public meetings or other activities may contact Dolores Noyes by phone (360-902-2349), TTY (360-902-2207), or email ( For more information, see