The proposed bill will go to a vote tomorrow.
Deer hunters in eastern Washington could see a big change when the 2019 whitetail season kicks off, as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has proposed eliminating the issuance of antlerless deer permits in Game Management Units 101 through 121.
Tomorrow's Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Spokane will address the proposal and officials will vote on it.
Antlerless permits were already tricky to begin with, as modern rifle hunters were only just allowed to apply for a permit this year. Prior to that, youth, disabled and elderly hunters could harvest antlerless whitetail with a rifle. Bowhunters and blackpowder hunters could purchase deer tags, too.
"We've heard feedback from hunters and they are concerned about the whitetail deer population, and this is one way we can address that concern," Annemarie Prince, WDFW's District 1 biologist, told the Spokesman-Review.
Wildlife officials not only heard complaints from hunters, but they noticed a decrease in harvested deer at check stations this past deer hunting season.
The area experienced a bluetongue outbreak in 2015, as well as brutal winter weather in 2016 and 2017. In an effort to continue the recovery of the population, the state also plans to reduce the number of issued permits.
The state issued 630 permits in the 2018-19 season. It will issue about 200 during the 2019-20 license year, in what Prince called a "drastic step." Additionally, under this pending bill, the harvest of antlerless deer would be prohibited for all hunters.
"It might be shocking to some people, but they should be happy to know that the department is listening to them," said Matt Mimnaugh, a board member of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.
We'll keep you updated here at Wide Open Spaces as this story continues to progress.