Fishing for fall Chinook salmon continues through Oct. 15 on the mainstem Columbia River within the stretches from Priest Rapids Dam to Rock Island Dam.
The Upper Columbia River steelhead fishing above Priest Rapids Dam is very unlikely to happen this season because of low projected run sizes.
Upper Columbia River steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Under WDFW’s permit, a run-size of 9,550 total steelhead (including 1,300 wild) are needed at Priest Rapids just to open retention fisheries.
WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist Ryan Fortier says anglers in the region’s high country usually have good success on small fishing waters open through October. Check out the possibilities at Fish Washington’s High Lakes .
Year-round-open Rocky Ford Creek in Grant County is usually a good bet this month for catch-and-release fly-fishing only opportunities.
While you’re out on the water you can also try your luck through Oct. 31 to catch thousands of tagged trout lurking in more than 100 statewide lakes. Anglers who catch a tagged fish can win over 800 donated prizes totaling around $37,000. Lakes with tagged trout are Beehive Reservoir and Wapato in Chelan County; Jameson in Douglas County; Corral, Deep and Rainbow/Vic Meyers in Grant County (these three lakes close on Sept. 30); Alta, Conconully Lake and Reservoir, Pearrygin, Spectacle and Wannacut in Okanogan County. Visit the 2022 Trout Derby page for details.
Hunters have numerous opportunities for chukar within north central Washington due to the large amount of chukar habitat that falls under public ownership. The breaks of the Columbia River in District 7 provide some of the best chukar habitat, along with areas adjacent to Banks Lake and Moses Coulee. On the Chelan County side of the Columbia River, BLM, USFS, DNR, and WDFW all own lands that provide great chukar hunting opportunities, such as the Chelan Butte and Swakane Wildlife Area Units. Chukar also occur in abundance on the north shore of Lake Chelan in the rocky exposed grassland habitats below the Grade Creek Road. Hunters harvest more chukar in this district than any other in the state. District 7 also offers some of the best quail and gray partridge hunting in the state, particularly in Douglas County.
Duck (except scaup) 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. Grant County is consistently Washington’s top duck-harvest county. Check the regulations pamphlet to see which days may be closed for goose harvest in specific management areas.
Goose hunters in mid-October could focus a little more on white-fronted geese around Moses Lake, Winchester Lake, and along the Winchester Wasteway; in typical years there are 200-500 white-fronted geese for the first few weeks of the waterfowl season.
One of the more popular waterfowl hunting areas in the Columbia Basin district is Potholes Reservoir. Winchester Lake is another good spot but gets even more pressure. Three Regulated Access Areas in this district are also popular hunting destinations.
Local waterfowl production was low in Douglas County in 2022, so hunting early in the season may prove challenging this year. Later in the season, however, migrants from the north account for the majority of waterfowl in the area, so hunters may experience greater success in District 7 in the late fall and winter. The Columbia River is the primary site for waterfowl hunting in Douglas County. One particularly productive site on the Columbia is the Bridgeport Bar Unit, where ducks form large rafts on the Brewster Pool. Northern Douglas County also has a concentration of small lands and ponds that hold waterfowl. As in most years, the success of the season depends on the timing of migration through the area.
The Okanogan district offers comparatively modest waterfowl hunting opportunities, with the largest concentrations of birds found at the mouth of the Okanogan River and on the Columbia River. River levels are running around average or a little below normal.
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 also abundant, particularly in Game Management Units (GMUs) 204 and 215. Surveys from the last couple of years show improvement in post-season fawn: doe ratios suggest deer numbers are growing slowly.
The highest densities of mule deer can be found in the western two-thirds of Okanogan County. White-tailed deer, meanwhile, grow more abundant as you move east. Overall, total general season harvest and success rates are anticipated to be similar to last year and around the five-year average.
In Chelan County, another popular mule deer hunting destination, October will see more mule deer coming down from the high country, particularly towards the end of the month. As always, this migration will be accelerated if there is significant snowfall in the mountains. GMUs 247 (Entiat) and 250 (Swakane) offer extensive mule deer winter range and are always popular and productive areas for hunting during the modern firearm season. However, hunters should note that mule deer will still be widespread at mid and even high elevations throughout most of Chelan County in October, with migration beginning in earnest at the end of the month.
Douglas County is another great mule deer hunting area, and productivity remains consistent there. While there are some places in Douglas County that offer excellent hunting opportunity to the public, such as Big Bend Wildlife Area in the northeast, the county is dominated by private lands. This means hunters in Douglas County need to pay attention to ownership boundaries and are best served by securing permission to access private properties of interest in advance of the hunting season Learn more about private lands hunting access at our website.
The Columbia Basin’s GMUs also produce good mule deer hunting opportunity, with most deer harvest in GMUs 272 (Beezley) and 284 (Ritzville). Given the modest escapement of bucks in 2017 and likely good recruitment of fawns, hunters should expect an average year for mule deer hunting throughout Grant and Adams counties.
The regular pheasant hunting season opens Oct. 24, and Grant County is consistently Washington’s top pheasant-harvest county. Winter and spring precipitation levels were about average, and reports from the field are painting an optimistic picture for the upcoming hunting season.
The largest wild populations of pheasants on WDFW lands in the Columbia Basin district are within the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Mixed bags of wild and released birds are also likely to be had in lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy, and Dry Falls units.
Farm-raised roosters are periodically released at sites across the region and are the best bet in the Okanogan and Chelan/Douglas districts, where wild bird habitat is scarcer. See details at Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program.
Modern firearm elk
Modern firearm elk hunting begins Oct. 29. Elk occur primarily along the southern boundary of Chelan County as an extension of the Colockum herd further to the south. Most of the elk harvested in District 7 come out of GMU 251 (Mission), which holds the most elk by far but also has a true spike bull restriction in place. GMU 249 sees the second most elk harvested and has a spike bull restriction. General season elk hunter success tends to be quite low in Chelan County. Elk are few and far between in Okanogan County. Even in GMU 204, where the majority of the district’s limited harvest occurs, elk generally occur only in small groups scattered over the landscape.
This month the Columbia Basin is full of fall migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water birds, including sandhill cranes. The network of rural roads through Grant County around Potholes Reservoir provides easy viewing from vehicles. WDFW’s Columbia Basin Wildlife Area and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Columbia National Wildlife Refuge provide more access for viewing.
For those who enjoy backyard bird feeding, influxes of seed-eating birds, that may have spent the summer further north, may descend on your offerings for a day or two or perhaps through the fall and winter. Watch for goldfinches, pine siskins, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and many other birds.
Both white-tailed and mule deer bucks are in the “rut” or breeding mode from late October thru November. Wildlife biologists say that can mean they’re moving across the landscape with less than their usual wariness, challenging each other and looking for does – including near roadways, and not just at dawn or dusk. Deer viewing may be excellent, but motorists traveling through deer country – which is virtually all of the region – should be alert, aware and prepared for possible collisions with these animals. See Tips for Driving in Deer Country in “Living With Deer” information.
With daylight hours shrinking fast, the chances for other low-light roadside wildlife encounters increase, too. Black bears in particular are tough to spot in the growing dimness as they roam farther and wider in search of food, including closer to roads. Bears are instinctively trying to fatten up as much as they can before going into winter dens later this fall.
While bighorn sheep from the Swakane Herd are readily visible year-round from US-97A in Chelan County, this is particularly true in the fall. While traveling this highway between Wenatchee and Chelan, motorists are strongly encouraged to keep an eye out for bighorn sheep on the road or roadside to avoid collisions with these animals.
People traveling up and down Lake Chelan have a chance of seeing mountain goats on both the north and south shores year-round, but this likelihood increases in the fall and winter as goats make their way down from their high alpine summer range and closer to the lakeshore. Mountain goat populations on either side of Lake Chelan have been declining in recent years, and biologists request that people report all mountain goat sightings, whether seen from a boat or on land, at this online form. While the first part of the form, “About the Encounter” likely won’t be applicable to goats observed at Lake Chelan, recording the number of goats observed and choosing as precise a location as possible on the map will be very helpful for biologists, especially as they gear up for an aerial capture effort to take place on both sides of Lake Chelan in late January/early February 2023. Biologists hope to collar 10 mountain goats from each lakeshore in an effort to learn more about these herds, with the ultimate goal of restoring healthy and robust mountain goat populations here.
WDFW officials remind all wildlife enthusiasts – both homeowners and recreationists in bear country – to avoid attracting bears by keeping any possible source of food out of their reach. That includes wild bird seed and suet, pet food, garbage, compost piles, and unpicked fruit or vegetables in orchards and gardens. Learn more at Living with Black Bears.
Wild Washington Live!
With school back in swing, now is the perfect time to check out our new 3rd grade lesson bundle, “State of Salmon.” This Next Generation Science Standards encourage students to put on their scientist, engineer, and social scientist caps while they explore salmonid species and discover how WDFW raises healthy salmon in hatcheries. This lesson bundle pairs excellent with new and existing Salmon in the Classroom programs. Check it out today!
Share your outdoor adventures for a chance to win outdoor gear!
Send us your best #LifeOutdoorsWA photos of how you spend time outdoors! Your photos may be featured on WDFW’s Facebook and Instagram to celebrate the variety of ways people enjoy outdoor lifestyles and to inspire others to spend time in nature.
Enter our monthly photo contest for a chance to win a Cabela’s gift card! Each month has a new theme and a new winner.
Share your outdoor adventures for a chance to win outdoor gear!
Send us your best photos of how you spend time outdoors! Your photos may be featured on WDFW’s Facebook and Instagram to celebrate the variety of ways people enjoy outdoor lifestyles and to inspire others to spend time in nature.
Enter our monthly photo contest for a chance to win a Cabela’s gift card! Each month has a new theme and a new winner.
Submit pictures of you, your friends, or family participating in the month’s featured outdoor recreation theme on WDFW’s website.
When submitting your photo, select #LifeOutdoorsWA in the category section. In the description area, tell us a little about your experience.
On the last Friday of the month, a winner will be selected and featured on WDFW’s Facebook and Instagram. Winners will also be contacted via email to receive their prize.
When sharing your photos on social media, be sure to use #LifeOutdoorsWA!
Backyard wildlife activities
Learn how to landscape for wildlife: Vegetation is key to attracting a variety of wildlife. Native plants provide the food, shelter, and nesting habitat for songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife. You can use this extra time at home to map out how you’d like your property to look and figure out which plants would thrive where you live. Visit the Washington Native Plant Society’s website for resources.
Add a water source to your yard: Put in a birdbath, garden pond, or other source of water outside your home. A safe place to bathe and drink will act as a magnet to many animals. You can make a simple birdbath with things you probably already have. Visit the Audubon’s website for an easy do-it-yourself bird bath using an old cake pan or flower-pot tray.
Build a bird house or nest box: Add bird houses to your property, or better yet, try to leave snags (dead trees) if they don’t pose any risk. Cavity-nesting birds have been especially impacted by urban development. A bird house of the proper dimensions can substitute for snags where these birds used to nest. There are lots of easy instructions online to build your own bird house or nest box. Visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Backyard Birding webpage for resources.
Keep your cats and wild birds safe: Domestic cats can make great pets, but when they are allowed to roam outdoors, there can be serious consequences to local wildlife. Cats kill about 2.4 billion birds every year in the U.S. alone. Visit the American Bird Conservancy website for information on their Cats Indoors Program and learn how to keep pet cats and wild birds safe. You may even consider an outdoor enclosure for your cat.
Make a window cling to protect birds: Up to a billion birds die each year from flying into glass. You can help prevent that from happening at your house by making your own window clings using recycled plastic and puffy fabric paint. Check out this tutorial video from the Audubon Society.
Report bat observations: Have you seen a bat flying during the day or in freezing weather? These could be signs of a serious disease called white-nose syndrome. Please report your observations online or call 360-902-2515. White-nose syndrome does not pose a threat to humans, pets, or other wildlife.
As the weather heats up and more folks head outdoors for late summer and early fall activities, it is wise to #RecreateResponsibly for potential hazards and dangers.
Here are more tips on staying safe right now:
Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be home. Travel with a buddy when possible.
Always carry survival gear with you. The 10 Essentials include clothing, shelter, and food in case you must spend the night outside.
Have a reliable map and compass skills to traverse snow-covered trails. These can be challenging to follow, particularly in backcountry areas.
While electronic locators and communication can be helpful, they cannot be always be relied upon while in the backcountry.
While we might be focusing on bats for Halloween, September to November is when our 15 Washington bat species are preparing for winter. Hoary bats are heading south where many will winter in California and Mexico. Some year-round resident species, like little brown bats will move to higher elevation or seek out cool, safe places nearby to hibernate. Silver-haired bats and California Myotis are two species that remain active in Washington year-round.
We lack information about winter hibernating bats in Washington because they tend to hibernate alone or in small groups, and research has been limited. Its important to not disturb bats while hibernating, so if you encounter any please quietly and quickly leave and report it to WDFW. You can help us learn more by using the WDFW bat colony reporting tool if you find a winter hibernating roost (known as a hibernaculum).
Did you find bats in your building structures this summer? While bats are not rodents and do not gnaw or destroy infrastructure, they have messy guano (feces) and for some, having bats living outside buildings is better. Late autumn is the perfect time to exclude bats safety and humanely from your structures. Review these instructions on how to check that they are gone, create one-way doors, and seal up holes.
White-nose syndrome, a fungus that only affects hibernating bats, is dangerous for local bats during this time. Reports estimate the disease has killed between 5 to 7 million bats, such as little brown bats in Eastern North American since it was first discovered in 2006. The disease was first confirmed in Washington in 2016.
There are two important steps you can take to help local bats thrive:
Report winter bat roosts to WDFW.
Stay out of areas where you could disturb hibernating bats.
Brock Hoenes is the North Central Region (Region 2) Director. Brock started his career with WDFW in 2008 and has held positions with the department including ungulate section manager, assistant district wildlife biologist, district wildlife biologist, statewide WDFW elk specialist, and deer and elk section manager.
Prior to moving to Washington, Hoenes worked for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit on a variety of research projects focused on mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, cougars, black bears, and pronghorn. Hoenes received his B.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his M.S. in Wildlife Sciences from New Mexico State University.