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Originally published Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 8:03 PM

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Good weather makes for bad hunting start

There are a number of issues working against deer hunters when the statewide general firearm hunting season opens this Saturday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Reel Time Northwest

Seattle native and lifelong angler Mark Yuasa blogs on fishing in the Pacific Northwest.

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There are a number of issues working against deer hunters when the statewide general firearm hunting season opens this Saturday.

"Right now we're dealing with some of the most extreme fire potential in the woods, and access in wildlife areas is pretty tight because of the situation," said Mick Cope, a state Fish and Wildlife game manager.

Hunters and others are reminded campfires, smoking, target shooting and operating off-road motor vehicles are prohibited in most areas. Details: http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/sep1812b/">http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/sep1812b/.

Another dire situation is sunny and dry weather means brush and leaves will be crackling as hunters trek into the woods. Being quiet is a key for a successful hunt.

"We're really hoping to get a change in the weather pattern, but it looks like that isn't going to happen in the immediate future." said Jerry Nelson, a state Fish and Wildlife deer game manager. "A good dose of rain will improve conditions, and until then it will be tough to hunt."

The mild winter last year and a wetter than normal spring was a boon for deer populations.

Some of the early archery and muzzleloader seasons opened last month, but Nelson says it's to soon to know how those panned out.

"Last season we saw an average deer hunting season with nothing unusual occurring," Nelson said. "Success rates were running in the 22 to 26 percent range depending on which weapon group you were hunting."

Here is an outlook and recap from last year's deer seasons by state Fish and Wildlife game managers:

The northeast area of the state provides the best opportunity for white tail deer. Last year, 14,448 hunters during the general season harvested 3,008 deer for a 20.8 percent success rate.

In the northeast, the Huckleberry Game Management Unit (GMU) produced the most deer, but better success came from Kelly Hill, Douglas, Aladdin and Selkirk, which ranged from 25.8 to 29.7 percent.

In north central Washington the outlook is decent for adult bucks in Chelan County. Last year in Douglas and Chelan counties, 6,639 hunters had 962 deer.

Okanogan County is a popular draw for mule deer, and has the largest herd. The outlook should be better than last year where 10,050 hunters had 1,393 deer.

In Spokane, Lincoln and Whitman counties, a mild winter and high forage from a wetter spring has created a stable deer population. Last year, 12,699 hunters took home 3,914 deer for a 30.8 percent success rate.

In southeast Washington, 7,152 hunters bagged 1,804 deer for a 25.2 percent success rate, and about 85 percent were bucks. In Adams and Grant counties, game managers expect the success rate to be around 25 percent, which is on par with the long term average and higher than last year's 23 percent.

Most hunters west of the Cascade Range will target the Vail and White River Tree Farms. This region is part of Puyallup, White River, Mashel, Deschutes and Skookumchuck GMUs.

These areas are primarily made up of commercial and state timberlands, which offer the best hunting. Last year it generated 7,816 hunters who got 1,246 deer for a 16 percent success rate.

In southwest region the Washougal, Mossyrock, Coweeman, Ryderwood, Klickitat and Battle Ground areas are the primary spots for blacktail deer. Last year, 9,653 hunters had 1,415 deer for a 15.3 percent success rate.

Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties are some of the top western region places for black tail deer. These areas last year produced 11,809 hunters with 1,748 deer for a 14.8 percent success rate.

In Puget Sound the best areas for black tail deer are Snoqualmie GMU and a broad range of Snohomish County. The Skagit and Whatcom lowland valleys last year saw 4,234 hunters with 1,004 deer for a 26.6 percent success rate

In Olympic Peninsula region, the black tail deer population is down although the Clallam and Jefferson County areas saw a success rate of 20.8 percent. In Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, hunting success has been good, and last year saw a 17 percent success rate by 4,870 hunters who took 830 deer.

Depending on the region the general firearm deer hunting season ends Oct. 21, Oct. 26 or Oct. 31.

The statewide duck-hunting season opens Oct. 13-17 and Oct. 20-Jan. 27. Again the downside is unseasonably nice weather will likely hinder opening day success, but the long-term winter outlook should be excellent once the storms return.

Coastal razor clams

Razor clam enthusiasts can make plans to head to coastal beaches as state Fish and Wildlife approved a series of digs. Digging will be open Saturday and Oct. 14 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; Oct. 15 at Long Beach and Twin Harbors; and Oct. 16-18 at Twin Harbors only.

Diggers must keep the first 15 clams dug, and each digger's clams must be kept in separate containers.

Digging is expected to be excellent this fall, winter and spring.

"The razor clam populations are up overall, and on some beaches they're up considerably," said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager. "We'll see a lot more digging opportunities on all the beaches (except for Kalaloch) than we've seen in a long time."

More digs will be announced later this month.

Public comments are still being taken on the upcoming fall, winter and spring seasons through Oct. 9. Details: http://wdfw.wa.gov.

Notes

• The first tentative coastal razor clam digs are set to start Oct. 13. State Fish and Wildlife will make the final approval Monday. Dates are: Oct. 13 (plus-0.3 feet at 5:41 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; Oct. 14, (-0.5 at 6:26 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; Oct. 15 (-1.1 at 7:11 p.m.) at Long Beach and Twin Harbors; and Oct. 16 (-1.5 at 7:57 p.m.), Oct. 17 (-1.6 at 8:44 p.m.) and Oct. 18 (-1.4 at 9:34 p.m.) at Twin Harbors only.

Public comments are still being taken on the upcoming fall, winter and spring seasons through Oct. 9. Email to razorclams@dfw.wa.gov or mail to RazorClams, 48 Devonshire Rd., Montesano, WA. 98563. Details: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/seasons_set.html.

• The Flagship Maritime's next USCG-approved Captain's License Training Class for an OUPV license starts Monday in Tacoma. The majority of students are fishermen seeking their OUPV/6-pack captains licenses. The classes are held Mondays to Thursday for four-week from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and ends Oct. 25 at the newly expansive Flagship Maritime LLC Facility, 821 Dock Street, PMB 2-10 on the Tacoma waterfront. Tuition includes 56 hours of classroom instruction, all required materials, student workbooks, charts, and reference books are included, plus the four required Coast Guard exams, which will be administered during the classes. Details: 253-227-2003 or email info@flagshipmaritimetraining.com.

• The Northwest Knife Collectors Show is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 6, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Red Lion Hotel, 510 Kelso Drive in Kelso. Buy, trade and sell knives, and there will be awards for custom knife makers, raffles, forging and grinding, demonstrations and displays. Cost is $5. Details: 425-827-1644 or www.nwkc.org.

• The Westport Boat Basin Salmon Derby is open through Oct. 31. Anglers fish the inner-marina piers targeting returning net-pen hatchery fish. The "derby within the derby" is Oct. 6-7. Details: www.experiencewestport.com.

• The Edmonds Chapter of Trout Unlimited BBQ Dinner and Live Auction is 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.) Oct. 13 during the general meeting at the South Snohomish County Senior Center, 220 Railroad Avenue in Edmonds. The event will be catered by Larry's Smokehouse. Tickets are $10 for members or $15 for nonmembers. Details: 206-354-0877.

• The Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Snoqualmie Tribe are hosting the "Run with the Kokanee" 5K and 10K fun-runs 9 a.m. Oct. 20 at Lake Sammamish State Park. The event is part of a community effort to restore the Lake Sammamish kokanee population. Details: www.tu-bi.org and register at www.tinyurl.com/runwiththekokanee.

• The new 1.4-mile East Tiger Summit Mountain Bike Trail in Tiger Mountain State Forest is now open. The trail closes for the season on Oct. 15 and the closing date may be adjusted depending on trail conditions. The trailhead is located at the summit of Highway 18. Details: http://wp.me/pv3z7-3aR.

• The Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited's Kokanee Work Group needs volunteers to report spawning kokanee salmon this fall in creeks feeding into Lake Sammamish. Volunteers will survey creek sections once a week during the spawning season from October through January. Details: www.tu-bi.org.

• The Northshore Trout Unlimited meeting is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE in Shoreline. Details: http://northshoretu.blogspot.com.

• The Issaquah Alps Trails Club holds weekly hikes and meets in downtown Issaquah. Details: www.issaquahalps.org.

• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and trail conditions. Details: www.wta.org.

• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.

• The Western Bass Club meets every third Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Kennydale Hall in Renton. Details: www.westernbassclub.comor www.nickbarrfishing.com.

• The new nonprofit Cascade Musky Association is looking for members. Cost is $25 or $35 for a couple/family membership. Details: www.cascademuskyassociation.com or www.wafish.com.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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