Deer Hunting in Washington

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  • B
  • 105,000

    Est. Whitetail Population

  • 150,000 (includes whitetails, mule deer, and blacktails)

    No. Licenses Sold Annually

  • $45.40

    Resident hunting license and deer permit

  • $434.80

    Non-resident hunting license and deer permit

  • 200 3/8"

    Taken by James Cartwright in Stevens County in 1992 and currently ranked No. 13 of all time.

    Record B&C Typical Stat

  • 24

    Total B&C Typical Entries

  • 242 4/8"

    Taken by an unknown hunter in an unknown county in 1946 and currently ranked 193rd.

    Record B&C Non-Typical Stat

  • 40

    Record B&C Non-Typical Entries

Washington isn’t known for whitetails, but it has a few. Image by Tim Irwin

Season Dates (2021):

Deer season dates are complex and vary based on location. Still, archery season is September 1-19 or September 1-24. Most gun hunters will go afield October 16-26 or October 16-29. The late general season is November 6-19. The disabled general season is October 23-26. Youth season is October 16-26, October 23-26, or October 23-29. Please check the state DNR’s website to confirm season dates.

The Grade: B

Washington is home to blacktails, mule deer, and whitetail deer and offers a total deer population estimated at 360,000. Its expanding whitetail numbers are mainly distributed throughout the eastern third of the state, with the highest density in the northeast along the river bottoms, farmland, and timbered hills in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Lincoln counties. Whitetails typically compose about 35% of the total deer harvest statewide with the vast majority of that occurring on public ground.

The complexity of Washington’s unit systems, deer seasons, and hunting regs don’t bode well for its Antler Nation grade, though. Historically it received an A, but we recently dropped its score to a B. The drop is mostly attributable to convoluted policies and rules but also steep nonresident license fees and a limited whitetail range. Not to mention declining harvests.

“Several management zones have experienced declining harvest trends in the last few years,” said Kyle Garrison, ungulate specialist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, presumably due to environmental conditions such as winter conditions or drought. “WDFW has responded to these trends by reducing antlerless special permit opportunities in some zones to encourage population recovery. Overall, WDFW anticipates similar overall harvest levels of deer throughout the state, but environmental conditions (e.g., continued drought) may negatively impact populations and concomitant harvest trends.”

Antler Nation Knowledge:

If you want a Western-style whitetail hunt, it’s hard to pass on the Evergreen State. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works diligently with private landowners to open private lands to public access. Go here to find enrolled tracts. There are also dozens of wildlife areas open to hunt, and these offer solid opportunities for deer hunters. Preliminary reports from agency biologists predict great public-land whitetail hunting in 2021.

“Public land in white-tailed management zones is often limited, but federal, state, and publicly-accessible (often via permit) private timberlands in northeast Washington are good starting areas for pursuing white-tailed deer in Washington,” Garrison said. “As with most big-game hunting, a successful hunter is usually a prepared hunter. Time spent scouting, including gaining access to private land, almost always pays dividends when pursuing white-tailed deer. For area-specific suggestions on where to focus scouting and hunting efforts, check out the WDFW hunting prospects, usually published in August.