WASHINGTON

Deer Forecast 2004 -- WEST

Outdoor Life Online Editor

There should be an average deer hunt in Washington this fall, since the fourth mild winter in a row has allowed more deer to survive. Jerry Nelson, deer and elk section manager, says mule deer numbers have been slowly building since 1996-97 and are about as good as they can get. He says the habitat is occupied, but habitat is slowly disappearing as civilization encroaches. Additionally, timber practices, which have been so important in producing crucial deer habitat, are inadequate, keeping deer herds at lower levels than desired.

Like Oregon, this state has three deer subspecies. Nelson says that blacktails, which live west of the Cascade Mountains to the coast, have the most stable populations but are suffering from the hair loss experienced by Oregon's blacktails. Research is being done, but there are no solutions or predictions for the future. Nelson says this could be an early indicator of a profound epidemic that might come, but no one is certain.

As is true of mule deer herds, whitetail herds are apt to fluctuate because of weather, but good numbers of whitetails still inhabit the northeast, chiefly in Stevens, Spokane and Pend Oreille counties. Mule deer hunters can expect to do best in Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties.