Fish and Wildlife biologists put forth their best predictions or prospects for the upcoming hunting season.
Note: Remember, these are only prospects. Hunting and weather conditions will dictate the number of birds and animals available to hunters.
District 5: Grant and Adams counties
Grant County was again Washington’s second highest producing county in 2015, while Adams County continued to receive little harvest. Hunters bagged 17,619 quail in District 5 last year, 15,243 in Grant County and 2,376 in Adams County, which was a 25 percent increase compared to the previous five-year average for Grant County and an 18 percent increase compared to the previous five-year average for Adams County.
Traditional quail hunting areas on Fish and Wildlife lands in the Ephrata district include the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George, Lower Crab Creek between Corfu and the Columbia River, Gloyd Seeps between Stratford and Moses Lake, the Quincy unit near the town of Quincy and the Dry Falls unit at the south end of Banks Lake. Hunters will increase their odds greatly with a well-trained dog to either flush or point, and retrieve the birds.
Quail hunting is expected to be abundant this year.
Chukar and partridge
Hunters harvested 1,288 chukar in District 5 during the 2015 season, with 1,019 being taken in Grant County and 269 in Adams County. These were 123 percent and 400 percent increases in harvest rates for Grant and Adams Counties, respectively, when compared to the previous five-year averages.
Hunters harvested 386 gray partridge in District 5 last season, with 359 being taken in Grant County and 27 in Adams County. These were a 12 percent increase and an 83 percent decrease in harvest rates for Grant and Adams Counties when compared to the previous five-year averages.
The Ephrata District is not a popular destination for chukar and gray partridge hunters, but a few birds can be found. Most chukar hunting in the district occurs in the Coulee Corridor areas around Banks and Lenore Lakes, and also along the Columbia River breaks north of Vantage.
Chukar are challenging, but rewarding game birds to pursue. Gray partridge occur in low densities in the basin, but are rarely targeted by hunters. They are instead taken incidentally while hunting chukar, quail, or pheasant. Most gray partridge occur on private farm fields, particularly in the dryland wheat portions of Adams and, to a lesser degree, Grant counties. Chukar and gray partridge are resilient birds and thus likely fared well through the winter, which had very little snow cover.
Grant County was Washington’s top mourning dove producing county in 2015, with hunters bagging 21,745 birds. Hunters harvested 2,919 doves in Adams County, making the combined counties harvest 24,664 doves. Harvest rates increased compared to the previous five-year averages for both Grant County (38 percent increase) and Adams County (52 percent increase), which were likely due to doubling the season length.
This upcoming hunting season continues with the extension through October, and dove hunting is expected to be very good. Roost site hunting can be found along the north and west sides of Potholes Reservoir, the east side of Winchester Lake, and throughout the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex.
Bonus dove hunt
If a hunter can find a farmer with a pigeon problem, there may be mourning doves, rock doves (what we commonly call pigeons) and Eurasian collared doves in the area. Remember the collared dove is considered an invasive species, so there is no limit on these birds. Plus they are almost twice the size of mourning doves.
Some hunters consider pigeons to be unclean. The ones living on farmland are eating the same food as the mourning doves and collared doves.
Rock doves (pigeons) and Eurasian collared doves are not counted as part of the mourning dove limit.
The Game Management Units mentioned below cover most of the general Columbia Basin area. Hunters should consult the 2016 Big Game Hunting Pamphlet for exact boundaries.
GMU 272 includes 53,000 acres of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex (Gloyd Seeps, Banks Lake, Sun Lakes, Billy Clapp, and Quincy Lakes units), most of which is open to hunting.
There were 1,447 hunters who pursued deer in this GMU last season. Success rates were 25.7 percent for archery, 25.1 percent for modern firearm and 31.8 percent for muzzleloader. The success rate was 50.4% for multi-weapon hunters.
Antlerless permit success rates for youth and disabled hunters were 75 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
GMU 278 includes 36,000 acres of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex (Lower Crab Creek Unit), which is open to hunting. Harvest in this unit falls between 22 and 67 deer, with hunters harvesting approximately 60 deer in recent years.
Last year success rates in GMU 278 were 20.4 percent for archery, 26.3 percent for modern firearm and 40 percent for muzzleloader. The success rate was 41.5 percent for multi-weapon hunters.
GMU 284 is dominated by private property. During the 2015 season, success rates in GMU 284 were 34.8 percent for archery, 38.5 percent for modern firearm and 31.5 percent for muzzleloader, with a 50.0 percent success rate for multi-weapon hunters.
GMU 290 (Desert Unit) is a permit only unit, thus all hunting opportunities are issued through the public draw. Harvest success for bucks varies greatly by hunt choice. Much of the land within this unit, 41 percent, is managed by the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, thus public opportunity is widely available.
Elk are rare and therefore are not a management priority in District 5. Resident elk herds do not exist in GMUs 272, 278, or 290. These trends are not expected to change in the near future.
Next week: 2016 hunting prospects continued.