LONG BEACH, Wash. - Washington's modern firearm general deer hunting season is opened.

With participation expected to at least match last year's 147,000-hunter turnout, the general deer season is the state's most popular hunting season.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife deer and elk manager Jerry Nelson says that last winter's relatively mild conditions and lush spring vegetation may have helped deer across the state, but drier-than- normal summer weather was hard on some deer populations.

"Despite the drought, Eastern Washington's whitetails and mule deer are still abundant," Nelson said. "Western Washington's blacktails have shown a slight decline in recent years due to habitat changes and possibly hair-loss syndrome."

Nelson reminds deer hunters that two Game Management Units in Kittitas and Yakima counties of the state's southcentral region - MU 329 Quilomene and GMU 371 Alkali - are closed for the general modern firearm deer season, although they were incorrectly listed in the WDFW "Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules' pamphlet as among the 300-series units open for mule deer. Those units will be open in November for special-hunt permit holders only.

WDFW's errata sheet on that and other pamphlet errors is available on the WDFW Web site at (http://www.wa.gov/wdfw/do/jun03/jun0303a.htm) or at WDFW regional offices.

Nelson cautions deer hunters to follow public and private land, road, trail and campground access restrictions and campfire restrictions. Wildfires are still burning in Okanogan County, for example, and many closures are in effect there. Current closure status can be checked at (http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/oka/) .

All Washington deer hunters are required to report their hunting activity no later than Jan. 31, 2004, either by calling 1(877) 945-3492 or by filing electronically at (http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov)

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