2012 Washington Upland Bird Forecast

Grab the orange vest and your favorite scatter gun because WDFW has just released its 2012 Upland Bird Forecasts. Conveniently, the state has been broken into regions and prospects compiled for ringnecks to band-tailed pigeon and chukar to mourning dove. All that’s left to do is make some decisions on where!

NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN'S OWN BRIAN LULL KICKED HIS UPLAND SEASON OFF WITH THIS NICE GROUSE. (BRIAN LULL)

(THE FOLLOWING ARE EXCERPTS FROM WDFW’S 2012 HUNTING PROSPECTS)

District 1
Counties: Ferry, Pend Oreille & Stevens
Dana Base, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 1, in the northeastern corner of Washington, is comprised of seven game management units (GMUs), including GMU 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 117 and 121. The topography is dominated by four mountain ranges that run generally north and south, the Kettle, Huckleberry, Calispell and Selkirk ranges. There are broad valleys between these ranges that are drained by the Kettle, Columbia, Colville and Pend Oreille rivers, all part of the Columbia River watershed.

The spring of 2012 within District 1 set records for cool temperatures and precipitation, so survival of nest broods of gallinaceous game birds, including forest grouse, turkeys and quail was likely very low. Therefore, the fall hunting season for these birds is expected to be below average.

District 2
Counties: Spokane, Lincoln, & Whitman
Howard Ferguson & Michael Atamian, District Wildlife Biologists

Summary

District 2 is located in the eastern part of Washington bordering Idaho.  Counties included in District 2 are Lincoln, Whitman, and Spokane. Game Management Units (GMUs) in District 2 include 124, 127, 130, 133, 136, 139, & 142.  Hunters can choose from a variety of habitats ranging from mixed conifer forest to shrub-steppe to agricultural lands.

Pheasant: Prospects look similar to last year, with wet spring weather leading to low chick production.  District 2 is almost all private land; hunters will need to takes some time “knocking on doors” to get access to the better sites.  We have enrolled over thirty new cooperators in our hunter access program this year in southeast Washington; the locations are mapped on the GoHunt website. We will also be releasing game farm produced roosters once again this fall at the traditional release sites, which are also mapped on the GoHunt website and the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program. 2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Pheasant – Statewide and by County

Quail: Prospects look similar to last year, with poor spring weather for broods and the population still recovering from the back to back hard winters of 2007 through 2009.  Access can be a problem, especially with most of the good quail habitat occurring in and around towns. 2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Quail – Statewide and by County

Gray Partridge: Like quail, populations may be down due to poor spring weather although some good brood numbers have been seen in Whitman and Lincoln counties.  Again access can be difficult with most birds seen in and adjacent to agricultural fields. 2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Gray Partridge – Statewide and by County

Chukar: There are very few chukar in District 2, they are predominantly found along the breaks of the Snake River.  Like quail and partridge, chukar populations may be down due to poor spring weather.  Terrain is steep and rocky with limited public access from above. 2011 Statewide Small Game Harvest Statistics: Chukar – Statewide and by County

Forest Grouse: Numbers appear to be down in District 2, but it’s still possible to shoot one opportunistically in the forested portions of the district.

District 3
Counties: Asotin, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla
Paul Wik, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 3 is located in southeastern Washington, bounded by the Snake River, Oregon, and Idaho and is comprised of 13 GMUs with a range of 145 – 186.  Hydrologically, the district is comprised of the Wenaha River, Grande Ronde River, Tucannon River, Touchet River, and Asotin Creek, which are all tributaries of the Snake River.

Pheasant:  Although the spring of 2012 was one of the wetter and cooler springs on record, temperatures moderated during the time that most game birds were hatching their clutches.  It is expected that production should be good for the fall of 2012.

Quail
Although the harvest was down from 2010 in three of the four counties, District 3 quail hunters bagged 7,437 birds last season. Over 3,000 of those quail were taken in Walla Walla County. The district’s other three counties all produced 1,400 to 1,500 quail each.

Partridge
Asotin County ranks near the top of the heap among the state’s best chukar-hunting spots, and it produced 2,356 of District 3’s 2,912 chukar last season. The chukar harvest here was up overall from both 2010 and the 2006-2010 average.

Gray (Hungarian) partridge populations here don’t compare to chukar populations, but hunters harvested just under 1,900 of them in District 3 during the 2011 season. Asotin County topped the rest of the district with 746 birds.

Forest Grouse
Hunters bagged 1,631 forest grouse in District 3 during the 2011 season. County-by-county harvests ranged from 157 in Garfield County to 625 in Columbia County.

District 4
Counties: Benton and Franklin
Mike Livingston, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 4 is located in the south central part of the state in Benton and Franklin Counties and administratively is part of WDFW’s Region 3.

It lies within the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion with the primary native vegetation being shrub steppe. The District includes three major watersheds drained by the Yakima, Snake and ultimately the Columbia River. In Benton County large west-east trending ridges, including the Horse Heaven Hills and Rattlesnake Hills, add to the topographic diversity of the district. The eastern Franklin County landscape includes Palouse Prairie with rolling hills and is the southernmost extent of the channeled scablands. Deep canyons associated with the Palouse River form the eastern boundary of the district.

Pheasant: This year’s growing season was preceded by a mild and dry winter and early spring. Then we received above average rainfall in May and June, which led to abundant cover and insects. Observations of broods in July and early August indicated good reproduction for the season. Hunters should focus hunting efforts in dense weedy and grassy areas adjacent to wetlands, streams and irrigation waterways. Best pheasant habitat in the District is in north Franklin County on and surrounding WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area, Mesa Lake Wildlife Area and the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. All three hunting areas have two parking areas. Hunters are required to park and register at the designated parking areas. Windmill and Bailie have a maximum of 5 vehicles per lot. There is currently no limit to the number of vehicles at the Mesa Lake Wildlife Area parking lots. Go here for Information and maps for these Wildlife Areas).

Other habitat areas include the USFWS’s Hanford Reach National Monument’s Ringold and Wahluke Units and Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge along the Columbia near the town of Paterson

In order to supplement wild ring-necked pheasant numbers, 1200 pen-raised pheasants will be released in the District in fall 2012. Release sites include the Army Corp of Engineers Big Flat and Lost Island Habitat Management Units (HMUs) located in Franklin County along the Snake River. And, new for 2012 is the Toothacker HMU in Benton County southeast of Kennewick along the Columbia River; information for these HMUs is available here.

Special Note: Starting in 2012, WDFW will no longer be releasing pheasants at the Ringold Unit of the Hanford Reach National Monument due to US Fish and Wildlife Service policy.

Quail:  Numerous California quail broods have been observed in the District and given the ample cover and insects it should be another good season. Best quail habitat in District 4 is similar to those listed above for pheasant.  In addition, anywhere along the water bodies where riparian and herbaceous vegetation intersect will provide quail habitat.  An ideal setting is where Russian olives or willows are adjacent to black greasewood or sagebrush.

District 5
Counties:Adams and Grant
Rich Finger, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 5 is located in heart of the state in Grant and Adams Counties and administratively is part of WDFW’s Region 2.

The Ephrata District offers a variety of hunting opportunities but is most renowned for waterfowl hunting throughout Grant and western Adams counties and mule deer hunting within the Desert Unit (GMU 290).  Grant County is ranked #1, among 39 Washington State counties, for total harvest of dove, duck, goose, pheasant, and snipe; it is second to Yakima County for quail harvest.

Pheasant:
Common upland bird species in the Ephrata District include quail, pheasant, chukar, and gray partridge. The largest wild populations of pheasants on WDFW lands in the Ephrata District are likely to be found within the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Mixed bags of wild and released birds are also likely to be had in lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, Quincy, and Dry Falls units.  For wild birds, dense thickets of Russian olive and cattail associated with Frenchmen and Winchester Wasteways and ponds are likely to hold pheasants.  Hunters will increase their odds greatly with a well trained dog to both flush and retrieve the birds in dense cover.  Pheasants are strong runners, so moving quickly and quietly can improve the odds of getting a close shot.

Many hunters feel that pheasant release sites are the only areas where they can successfully harvest pheasants.  However, in 2011, 2,850 pheasants were released in Grant County while total pheasant harvest was 13,245.  Thus, released birds would have made up, at most, 22% of the total harvest.

Expect similar numbers of wild pheasants as observed during the 2011 season.  An early “green-up” was lacking last year but the winter temperatures were not extreme and lacked long periods of snow crust that can result in low overwinter survival.  Spring conditions were fair but heavy summer rains were experienced during June and July 2012 which may have resulted in some brood mortality.  Most hunters who invest considerable effort and cover a lot of ground will cross paths with a few wild birds and can increase their chances for a productive hunt by selecting non-toxic shot and diversifying the bag with waterfowl.  Hunters may also choose to seek out pheasant release sites, see the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program for details.  Non-toxic shot is required at all pheasant release sites.

Quail:
Traditional quail hunting areas on WDFW 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 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.

Large coveys are difficult to find by mid-season on public lands and successful hunters will attempt to identify multiple coveys to pursue throughout the season.  Riparian areas will offer the best hunting and hunters can increase their chances by securing access to private lands where pressure can be considerably lower.  If pressure is high, some coveys can be found settling into shrub cover a considerable distance from heavily hunted areas.  Hunters with wide ranging pointing breeds can be most successful at targeting these coveys.  Quail hunting is expected to be good this year.  Winter temperatures were not far from the norm and the area lacked long periods of snow crust that can result in low overwinter survival.  Summer conditions were only fair for brood survival due to several significant rainfall events during June and July.

Chukar
Most chukar hunting in the Ephrata District occurs in the Coulee Corridor areas around Banks and Lenore Lakes and along the Columbia River breaks north of Vantage. The chukar is a challenging but rewarding game bird to pursue.  Though the Ephrata District has some chukar hunting opportunity, there are much better areas of the state to focus one’s efforts.

Gray (Hungarian) partridge occur in low densities in the basin but are rarely targeted by hunters, instead taken incidentally while hunting chukar, quail, or pheasant.  Most gray partridge will 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.  Winter of 2011 was relatively mild and snow depth and crusting was minimal.  Spring and summer conditions were less favorable with June and July rains likely having an impact on brood survival.


Upland bird harvest trends for the Ephrata District based on 5-year running averages.

District 6
Counties: Okanogan
Scot Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen, District Wildlife Biologists

Summary

District 6 abuts the Canadian border in north-central Washington and encompasses 10 Game Management Units (GMUs 203-242). The western two-thirds of the district, stretching from the Okanogan River to the Pacific Crest, lies on the east slope of the Cascade Range and is dominated by mountainous terrain that generally gets more rugged as you move from east to west.  Vegetation in this portion of the district ranges from desert/shrub-steppe at the lowest elevations through various types of conifer forests, culminating in alpine tundra on the higher peaks that top out at almost 9,000 feet. More than three-quarters of the land base in this portion of the county is in public ownership, offering extensive hunting access.  Game is plentiful and dispersed throughout the area for most of the year, concentrating in the lower elevations in winter when deep snows cover much of the landscape.

Pheasant:
Pheasants are at low densities throughout the district, with most wild production occurring on private land. Hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access private land. Prospects may be similar to last year due to spring rains that affected chick survival. Game farm-produced roosters will once again be released at traditional release sites this fall.  These sites are mapped on the Go Hunt website. Hunters are reminded that nontoxic shot is required for ALL upland bird hunting on ALL pheasant release sites STATEWIDE.

Quail, Gray Partridge, and Chukar:
Populations of these upland bird species appear to be similar to last year throughout Okanogan County.  A mild winter most likely increased adult survival but spring rains appear to have negatively affected early brood productivity; however, later broods appear to be more successful.  Quail can be found in the shrub-steppe habitats at lower elevations throughout the district; the Indian Dan, Chiliwist, and the Sinlahekin Wildlife Areas are good places to start.  Gray partridge populations are scattered and patchy within the district’s shrub steppe habitats.  The Indian Dan and Chiliwist Wildlife Areas are good places to find partridges.  Scattered groups of chukar partridges are found in the steeper rocky areas throughout the shrub-steppe habitats in the district. The steep hills along the Similkameen River in the north part of the Okanogan Valley hold good chukar populations.

Forest Grouse:
The Okanogan supports strong populations of ruffed, dusky (blue) and spruce grouse, which are found throughout the forested areas of the district.  Ruffed grouse are generally associated with deciduous tree cover at lower to middle elevations, particularly in riparian habitats.  Dusky (blue) grouse are found in the mid to upper elevation conifer forests, often on ridge tops.  Spruce grouse are located in higher elevation conifer forests throughout the district.  Dusky (blue) and Spruce grouse populations continue to remain below historical norms within the boundaries of the 175,000-acre Tripod Fire, which burned in 2006 (GMU 224 and the east side of 218); numbers are higher outside of the burn.  In general, forest grouse prospects should be good and similar to last year, although spring rains may have negatively affected chick survival in isolated locations.

District 7
Counties: Chelan and Douglas
David Volsen, District Wildlife Biologist
Jon Gallie, Assistant District Biologist

Summary
Split in two by the Columbia River and composed of Chelan and Douglas counties, the Wenatchee Distinct is centered at the heart of Washington State.  From the Crest of the Cascade Range to the shrub-steppe of the Columbia Basin, District 7 offers an incredibly diverse range of habitats and hunting opportunities.

Pheasant:
The Wenatchee District is not generally thought of as a destination pheasant hunting area in the state, but local hunters harvested from 1,500 to 3,000 birds each year since 2001.  And while it might appear that Douglas County has more appropriate pheasant habitat, on average both Douglas and Chelan Counties produce roughly the same numbers of pheasants each year.

The same conditions that have benefitted for other upland species over the past year, good fall forage and a relatively mild winter have helped pheasants as well.  Pheasants are robust birds and able to handle tough conditions, and we should see their numbers increase if we can string a few more years of better conditions together.  Hunter numbers have declined lately and that may be a factor in the decline of harvest.  Success rates of those hunting have been quite good over the past few years, indicating that there are birds available for those putting in the time.

Hunters should concentrate on areas of good to heavy cover, especially once the season is under way.  Pheasants are often added to the bag in District 7 when a pursuing other species such as quail.  Look to farm areas with diverse cover types and ask for permission to hunt.  Small coulees and drainages within wheat growing areas are great places to find pheasants.  Hunters interested in hunting pheasant release sites on the Chelan Butte WMA and the Colockum WMA should birds should visit the WDFW hunting web site for more information.  The Swakane WMA release site is currently closed while vegetation recovers from the impacts of a recent wildfire.  See the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program.

Quail:
Conditions going into the 2011 winter should have allowed for better over winter survival of quail in Chelan and Douglas Counties.  Fall green-up often provides a burst of forage, allowing birds to enter winter in better condition.  That said, quail numbers have been low in the district for several years.  Even in protected urban areas and orchard habitats, quail numbers have shown declines.  With quail, a rebound can happen quickly, so given the fact that we had good fall and summer conditions, and a relatively mild winter, especially in Douglas County, we may see numbers on the upswing.

Public lands can be tough places to find larger coveys well into the season.  Seek out those areas without easy access and spend some time seeking permissions from landowners.

Gray Partridge:
Within the district, gray partridge are hunted almost exclusively in Douglas County.  They occur at low density and coveys are dispersed across larger areas.  Look to farmed areas with wheat stubble and grass cover types and ask for permissions from landowners.  Covering a wide range of cover types is the best way to locate coveys.  While most gray partridge are taken hunting other species, with a little focus and dedication, you can be successful while focusing on huns.  Visit to our GoHunt application on the WDFW web site and find areas in the County enrolled in our hunting access program.  Snow depths were light over the past winter, indicating that over winter survival may have been good and gray partridge numbers stable.

Chukar:
Opportunities for chukar hunting are numerous within the district due to the large amount of habitat that falls under public ownership.  The breaks of the Columbia River provide the majority of the Chukar habitat, along with areas adjacent to Banks Lake and Moses Coulee.  On the Chelan County side of the Columbia River, BLM, USFS, WADNR and WDFW all control lands that provide chukar hunting opportunities.  Along the Douglas County beaks, almost all the appropriate chukar habitat falls under private ownership, and permissions must be acquired.

Harvest of chukar has been declining since 2006, but then again so has the number of hunters and the number of days spent chukar hunting.  Since 2001, the reported number of days spent per hunter has declined from 4.1 to 3.3, yet the ratio of chukars harvested per days hunted has started to increase, indicating that birds are on hills if hunters are willing to chase them.

Chukar hunting falls into two distinct seasons; without snow and with snow.  While trying to negotiate chukar habitat with snow and ice on the ground can be hazardous, there is no doubt that birds become concentrated following the accumulation of snow.  We should be seeing an increase in chukar numbers in the district, helped along by fall forage productivity and relatively mild winter snow conditions at lower elevations.

Forest Grouse:
Four species of forest grouse occupy the Wenatchee District; sooty grouse, dusky grouse, spruce grouse and ruffed grouse.  Sooty and dusky grouse are what most all hunters call blue grouse.  The distribution of sooty grouse falls primarily on the west side of the Cascades while the dusky grouse is an east side species.  Some overlap occurs on both sides of the Cascade Crest, however, obvious differences between the two species are very slight, and bag limits do not change between species.

There are a few areas in Douglas County where forest grouse are regularly found, however, their densities are relatively low and few hunters concentrate on them specifically.  The majority of harvest is incidental during other hunting.

Within Chelan County, forest grouse occupy habitat dominated by coniferous and riparian forests.  Dry shrub-steppe habitats at lower elevations generally don’t hold these species; however, ruffed grouse can be found in healthy riparian forests and aspen stands at the margin of timbered habitat, and blue grouse will use timbered stringers that extend down into the shrub-steppe.  Spruce grouse are restricted to higher elevation conifer forests; usually above the distribution of ponderosa pine.

The forest grouse harvest, as with other game birds, tends to be predominantly juveniles.  This is especially true in the first month of the season when juvenile birds and females compose a higher percentage of the harvest; as they are still together moving as a brood and before birds move into wintering habitats.

Hunters interested in forest grouse will improve their chances by searching out areas where fewer hunters concentrate  Popular road systems can provide early season hunting, however, due to the numbers of hunters and the vulnerability of hatch-year birds, they often dry up quickly.  Chelan County has a relatively limited road system within grouse habitat, and dedicated hunters know where they are, so, hunters can increase the productive length of their season by hunting areas on foot away from roads and the bulk of the other hunters.

Dove:
Hunting success is expected to be similar to the past several seasons within the district.  Hunter numbers have been stable over the past few years with harvest numbers on a slight decline.  Success rates were increasing over the past few seasons, but took a dip again last year.

Hunters should secure hunting opportunities by contacting growers and getting permission.  Look to areas near wetlands with roosting cover and near food later in the season.  The amount and distribution of CRP fields (Conservation Reserve Program) has increased in Douglas over the past few years, with new seed mixes providing more diverse forage within stands.  Scouting for these habitats can be a productive way to find new unexploited hunting areas.

District 8
Counties: Yakima and Kittitas
Jeff Bernatowicz, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 8 is located in the south central Washington.  Game Management Units (GMUs) in District 8 include 328, 329, 330, 334, 335, 336, 340, 342, 346, 352, 356, 360, 364, 368, 371 and part of 372. Hunters can choose a variety of habitats ranging from lowland shrub steppe and farmland to high elevation alpine wilderness.

Pheasant:
There are few wild pheasant outside of the Yakama Nation (YN).  YN surveys found pheasant populations were up over 2011, but still below average. The hatch has been good the last few years, but idle land is being converted to crops as grain prices have increased, reducing the amount of pheasant habitat.  For information on hunting YN and their surveys, see ynwildlife.org.

Outside of YN, about 2300 roosters will be released in District 8.  Sunnyside Wildlife Area receives the majority of birds.  Byron Ponds has been eliminated as a release site.  Nontoxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.

Quail:
Quail can be found in most non-timbered portions of the district.  The best habitat and highest number of quail can be found in the lower Yakima Valley. This is evident in the harvest statistics as Yakima County leads the state in quail harvest with an average of 25,000 birds over the last 5 years.

In Kittitas County, the average quail harvest is only 3,000.  Relatively mild winters and good spring moisture has resulted in high populations of quail.  Annual counts conducted by the Yakama Nation (YN) found record numbers of quail, up 144% from 2011.  There have been observations of large broods of early and late hatch birds.

WDFW owns various parcels along the Yakima River that hold good numbers of quail that are part of the Sunnyside Wildlife Area.  YN runs an excellent hunting program and has great quail hunting opportunity. For information on hunting YN and their surveys, see ynwildlife.org.

Gray Partridge:
Relatively mild winters and good spring moisture has resulted in rapidly increasing hun populations.  Huns are often overlooked and the average harvest is only about 500 birds in the district. There is plenty of public land with good hunting opportunity in the district.

WDFW-managed Wenas, L.T. Murray and Colockum Wildlife areas all have decent populations of birds.  Huns can also be found on the Cowiche unit of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The Yakima Training Center (YTC) owns over 300,000 acres of potential hun habitat.  Large coveys of birds have been noted on YTC the last few years.  YTC used to be a very popular spot for upland bird hunters.  Decreased access due to military training and increased rules has limited the number of YTC upland bird hunters the last 5 years.  In 2012, access to YTC is expected to be greatly improved. Hunter must still go through a brief orientation, pay a $20 fee, and register their firearms with YTC.  For more information on the orientation and rules on YTC, call 509-577-3208 or 3209.

Chukar:
Relatively mild winters and good spring moisture has resulted in rapidly increasing chukar populations. It appears that populations might be reaching peaks of the 9-10 year cycles. There is plenty of public land with good hunting opportunity in the district.

WDFW managed Wenas, L.T. Murray and Colockum Wildlife areas all have decent populations of chukar.  Chukar can also be found on east portions of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The Yakima Training Center (YTC) owns over 300,000 acres of potential chukar habitat. YTC used to be one of the premier areas for chukar hunters.  Decreased access due to military training and increased rules has limited the number of YTC upland bird hunters the last 5 years.  In 2012, access to YTC is expected to be greatly improved. Hunters must still go through a brief orientation, pay a $20 fee, and register their firearms with YTC.  For more information on the orientation and rules on YTC, call 509-577-3208 or 3209.

Forest Grouse:
Harvest has been very low in recent years. In 2011, harvest within the district was 0.22 birds per day.  A colder than average spring and early summer might have hurt brood production in higher elevations.  Many “grouse” hunters drive roads morning and evening, especially when the season first opens.

Research suggests brood hens and young are the most vulnerable in early September.  Long term harvesting of successful breeding females may suppress populations in areas where open road densities are high.  Hunters serious about finding grouse should look for areas with low densities of open roads and hike.

District 9
Counties: Skamania, Clark and Klickitat
David Anderson and Eric Holman, District Wildlife Biologists

Summary

District Nine is located in the southwest/central part of Washington and is the only district in the state that includes significant amounts of both west and east-side habitats.  Game Management Units (GMUs) in District 9 include 554, 564, 568, 560, 572, 574, 578, 388 and 382.  Hunters can choose a variety of habitats including areas covered by west and east side season dates and permit regulations.

Pheasant:
District 9 has very little wild production of pheasants. Essentially all hunting opportunities are associated with pen-raised birds and the formalized release sites in Klickitat County (Eastern Washington Pheasant Release Sites) and Clark County (Western Washington Pheasant Release Sites).

Quail, Gray Partridge, and Chukar:
Spring conditions have not been favorable in 2012 for upland bird populations in Klickitat County.  Fall hunting prospects should be poor to moderate based on reports from landowners.  Most hunting is located on private lands in eastern Klickitat County, which is dominated by hunt clubs with limited access. Prospective hunters should seek permission in advance of the season to access upland bird hunting areas.

Forest Grouse:
Grouse numbers should be low in 2012 due to an abnormally wet and cold spring and early summer.  Prospective hunters should focus on brushy riparian zones or overgrown abandoned logging roads for the best chance at success.

District 10
Counties: Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum
Pat Miller, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 10 is located in southwestern Washington and includes Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.  This wide area includes maritime rolling hills in Wahkiakum County to Cascade peaks in Lewis County.  A high percentage of this district is in private ownership, which presents a variety of access options and challenges.  The recent trend is for private forest land to become more limited to public access and in some cases not open at all or leased for hunting seasons to a limited number of participants.  Contacting the landowner is the first step in understanding their programs and how it might impact your hunting.

Upland Birds:
Upland birds are impacted by spring conditions during the hatch which directly affect chick survival.  If we have a wet rainy spring, like we did in 2012, the young do not have a high survival rate.  Pheasants will be released at locations throughout the district, please consult our webpage for details.

Forest Grouse:
This district supports significant forest grouse populations and is one of the top producers for western Washington.  However, grouse numbers are likely lower this year with the prolonged wet conditions we experienced in May and early June.

District 11
Counties: Pierce and Thurston
Michelle Tirhi, District Biologist

Summary

The core Game Management Units (GMUs) that comprise District 11 are Puyallup (GMU 652), White River (GMU 653), Mashel (GMU 654), Deschutes (GMU 666), and Skookumchuck (GMU 667).  Land ownership in the District includes private residential and private agricultural (e.g. GMUs 652 and 666), and both private and public industrial timber lands (e.g. GMUs 653, 654, and 667).  The eastern portion of GMU 653 contains higher-elevation alpine conditions bordering Mount Rainier National Park.

Pheasant:
Game-farm produced pheasants will be released this fall on sites which are mapped on Go Hunt website and in the Western Washington pheasant program booklet.  The release program utilizes state (Scatter Creek and Skookumchuck) and federal (Joint Base Lewis McChord) managed lands.  There are special access processes in place for JBLM, so please visit their web site.  Note that non-toxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites, statewide.

Quail:
There are relatively few quail in District 11 with most opportunity in the Key Peninsula, Pierce County and southeast portions of Thurston County.  However, access maybe limited.

Forest Grouse:
Ruffed and sooty (formerly classified as blue) grouse are present throughout the public and private forest lands in District 11.  The prospects for harvesting sooty grouse go up with increasing elevation.  Hunters can expect the greatest success along trails and ridgelines above 2,000-3,000 feet and within Pacific silver fir and noble fir forest stands. The best hunting will be near fruiting shrublands such as huckleberry, grouse whortleberry, elderberry, and other species.

District 12
Counties: King County
Chris Anderson, District Biologist

Summary

District 12 is comprised of five Game Management Units (GMUs) including GMU 454 (Issaquah), 460 (Snoqualmie), 466 (Stampede), 485 (Green River, open to appropriate deer and elk permit holders only), and 490 Cedar River, (currently closed to hunting). Land ownership in the district is a checkerboard of private, state, and federal holdings. The densest private (urban and suburban) developments are found in the Issaquah (GMU 454) unit, while private agricultural holdings are primarily located in the northwestern part of the Snoqualmie (GMU 460) unit.

Pheasant:
Game-farm produced pheasants will be released this fall on sites which are mapped on the Go Hunt website and in the Western Washington pheasant program booklet.  Nontoxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites. Note: Hunting hours during the pheasant season, September 22 through November 30, will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for pheasant and waterfowl hunters. After November 30, hunting hours listed in the migratory waterfowl and upland game seasons pamphlet will apply. The units affected by this change include: Stillwater, Cherry Valley, and Crescent Lake. In addition, the Cherry Valley Unit will be closed for construction work during the youth and senior pheasant hunt. Pheasants that would have been released at the Cherry Valley Unit will be released on the Crescent Lake and Stillwater units.

Forest Grouse:
Ruffed and sooty (blue) grouse are present throughout the public and private forests of District 12. Persistent cold, wet weather experienced throughout the spring combined with anecdotal observations collected this summer suggest grouse populations are likely lower than previous years and hunters should expect fewer birds. However, forest management in much of District 12 remains favorable for grouse.  Hunters looking to harvest ruffed grouse should focus on elevations below 2,500 feet, early seral forests (5-25 years old) with ample berry crops present in the understory, and riparian forest habitats.  Sooty grouse hunters can expect the greatest success along trails and ridgelines above 2,000 feet and within Pacific silver fir and noble fir forest stands with abundant huckleberries.

District 13
Counties: Island and Snohomish
Ruth Milner, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 13 includes GMU 448, 450, and parts of GMU 407 Snohomish County.  Whidbey Island is also part of District 13 and is part of GMU 410.

Pheasant:
For pheasant and waterfowl hunters, there are 2 access sites on the east side of the Ebey Island Unit of the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area. The first access site is under State Highway 2 on the north east side of the property. The second access site is just off of Homeacres Road just off of Highway 2. Access is currently being developed for the west side of the property. While other pheasant release sites on the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area are going back to the 8am to 4pm hunting hours during the Western Washington pheasant hunting season, the Ebey Island Unit is not. Access to the Ebey Island Unit will correspond with the normal regulated hunting hours.

Grouse:
Ruffed grouse is the common species in District 13, and blue grouse may be found at higher elevations.  A cold, wet spring, may have negatively affected chick survival this spring.  Hunters should look for mixed conifer and hardwood areas, especially in riparian areas, for the most likely place to find grouse.

District 14
Counties: Skagit and Whatcom
Chris Danilson, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

The core Game Management Units (GMUs) that comprise District 14 are the Nooksack (GMU 418), Diablo (426) and Sauk (GMU 437). Portions of GMUs 407, 448 and 450 are also within the district. Land ownership in the District includes private residential and private agricultural in the lowlands (e.g. GMU 407 and the Nooksack and Skagit River valleys). Private industrial timber lands and lands managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources predominate the lower elevation foothills, while most higher-elevation forest lands are in public ownership (i.e. U.S. Forest Service and North Cascades National Park)

Pheasant:
Game-farm produced pheasants will be released this fall on sites which are mapped on Go Hunt website and in the Western Washington pheasant program booklet. Pheasant release sites in Whatcom County include the Lake Terrell Wildlife Area, and the Intalco and British Petroleum release sites. District 14 personnel hope to finalize agreements that will bring a new release site on line in time for the 2012 season. Non-toxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.

Quail:
There are relatively few quail in District 14 and most are in developed environments not suitable for hunting.

Forest Grouse:
Ruffed and sooty (formerly classified as blue) grouse are present throughout the public and private forest lands in District 14. Cool wet spring weather may have adversely affected brood production somewhat this season. If so, this would be the second consecutive year of severe spring weather taking a toll on grouse numbers, effectively reducing harvest success rates in District 14.

The prospects for harvesting sooty grouse go up with increasing elevation. Hunters can expect the greatest success along trails and ridgelines above 2,000-3,000 feet and within Pacific silver fir and noble fir forest stands with huckleberry, grouse whortleberry and other species. Because both species utilize gravel, grouse vulnerability, and consequently hunting success, is often highest along abandoned or low traffic forest roads, particularly in the early morning hours.

Hunters targeting ruffed grouse should focus on elevations below 2,500’, particularly in riparian forest habitats, early seral forests (5-25 years old), and deciduous-conifer mixed forest types.

District 15
Counties: Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson (East)
Jeff Skriletz, District Wildlife Biologist

Summary

District 15 is located along the east side of the Olympic Peninsula.  The district covers Mason, Kitsap and the portion of Jefferson County that lies east of Discovery Bay.  The Game Management units are quite diverse, with GMU 621 (Olympic) and GMU 636 (Skokomish) bordering the Olympic National Park and offering quite a bit of hunting opportunity on National Forest lands.  Game Management Units 651 (Satsop) and 633 (Mason) are comprised of mostly commercial timber lands, private property and some Department of Natural Resources parcels.

Pheasant:
Pheasant numbers should be similar to last year’s at this district’s three release sites. Nontoxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites.   More information is available at the WDFW GoHunt site and the Western Washington Pheasant Release brochure.

Quail:
District 15 contains the largest population of mountain quail in the state. Although frustratingly unpredictable, they are most likely to be found in two- to six-year-old clearcuts and tall stands of Scot’s Broom throughout Mason and Kitsap Counties. Their tendency to run rather than fly or hold for a pointing dog makes them an especially challenging upland game bird.

Forest Grouse:
Hunting on the Olympic National Forest can prove highly successful for a combination of blue and ruffed grouse. The Skokomish Valley is another popular grouse location. However, numbers of young birds district-wide may be down again this year due to another late, wet spring.

District 16
Counties: Callam and Jefferson (West)
Anita McMillan, District Wildlife Biologists

Summary

District 16 consists of all of Clallam County and the western portion of Jefferson County on the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington.  The core Game Management Units (GMUs) that comprise District 16 are the northern portions of Olympic (GMU 621) and Coyle (GMU 624) on the east side of Olympic National Park (ONP), Pysht (GMU 603) and Sol Duc (GMU 607) on the north side of ONP, and Hoko (GMU 601), Dickey (GMU 602), Goodman (GMU 612), and Clearwater (GMU 615) on the eastern side of ONP.

Pheasant:
Within District 16, game farm-produced pheasants will be released this fall at the Dungeness Recreation Area County Park located in GMU 624.  Due to changes in management direction from Clallam County Parks and Recreation, hunting pheasants at this site will end after the 2012 season. WDFW staff are actively seeking to locate another suitable release site within the district.  Please contact district biologists if you have any suggestions.  The pheasant hunting season is from October 6th – November 30th.  The season opens later than most release sites to reduce conflicts with other recreational users at the park.  Pheasant hunting is only allowed on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.  The park is approximately 150 acres in size and pheasants are released on all hunting days.  A total of 900 pheasants are proposed to be released during this last 2012 hunting season.  Hunters need a western Washington pheasant license to hunt pheasants. Note that non-toxic shot is required on all pheasant release sites, statewide.

Quail:
There is a fair abundance of California (Valley) quail in the eastern portion of District 16.
They are quite common in the Dungeness Valley but hunting opportunities are very limited.  Most of the quail are in populated developed areas that are not suitable for hunting.

Forest Grouse:
Hunting within any of the forest lands throughout District 16 should offer good opportunities for harvesting grouse.  The harvest of grouse in Clallam County usually rivals any other county within Region 6.  The county has the second highest average forest grouse harvest in Region 6.  On average, 4,419 forest grouse were harvested each year in Clallam County during the 2007 – 2011 seasons.  The cool wet spring weather may have adversely affected brood production somewhat this season. If so, this would be the second consecutive year of severe spring weather taking a toll on grouse numbers, effectively reducing harvest success rates in District 16.

Most of the grouse observed this summer have been on narrow spur roads with considerable canopy cover, where there is low to no vehicular traffic. Ruffed and sooty (formerly classified as blue) grouse are present throughout the public and private forest lands in District 16. The prospects for harvesting sooty grouse go up with increasing elevation. Hunters can expect the greatest success along trails and ridgelines above 2,000-3,000 feet within timber stands with huckleberry, grouse whortleberry, and other forage plants. Hunters targeting ruffed grouse should focus on elevations below 2,500’, particularly in riparian forest habitats, early seral forests (5-25 years old), and deciduous-conifer mixed forest types.

Prime forest grouse hunting may be found on DNR and U.S. Forest Service lands within the district.  A WDFW Enforcement Officer stationed on the west side of the District reports that it has been an excellent berry season.  He has been seeing significant numbers of ruffed grouse and an occasional sooty grouse in the western GMU’s.

Band-tailed Pigeon:
Band-tailed pigeons were quite abundant in the district in years past.  Local hunters reported seeing “clouds of them” in drainages, such as McDonald Creek, on the east side of the District back in the 1950’s.

They have been observed in good numbers throughout the District this summer.  They are most prevalent in the district along marine estuaries, shorelines and along open forest roads where they are foraging on berries.  Hunters are encouraged to search for areas with elderberry and cascara shrubs present.  Band-tail pigeons often congregate around food sources.

The reported harvest of band-tails in this District is relatively low, but the resource is available throughout the District in good numbers.  WDFW Enforcement Officers remind hunters that they must have all required hunting licenses, along with the special migratory bird authorization with band-tailed pigeons harvest card.  It is mandatory to report all harvest to improve management of the species.

District 17
Counties: Grays Harbor and Pacific
Brock Hoenes and Warren Michaelis, District Wildlife Biologists

Summary

District 17 is located on the southwestern portion of the Olympic mountain range south to the Columbia River.  The district covers all of Gray’s Harbor and Pacific counties.  Within this area Game Management Units (GMU’s) range from sub-alpine habitat (portions of GMU 618, 638, and 648 adjacent to Olympic National Park) to coastal lowlands adjacent to saltwater.

Pheasant: Pheasant release hunting will be discontinued at the Raymond airport during 2012. Pheasant hunting at the Chinook wildlife area at times can be good.

Few changes in season length and daily bag limits are anticipated for 2012.  In 2012 the Raymond pheasant release program at the Raymond airport will be discontinued. Additional road closures will be in place for the 2012 hunting season. Contact the appropriate timber company for road closure status.

Quail:
Quail in Gray’s Harbor and Pacific counties occur in low numbers. Some quail were harvested in Pacific County in areas along valley bottoms.

Forest Grouse:
Grouse harvest has been higher in Gray’s Harbor County the past few years.  Areas with high numbers of salal berries can be choice areas to hunt.  Recent cool and wet springs the past two years has led to reduced brood production.  Both blue and ruffed grouse can be harvested in District 17.

Band-tailed Pigeon:
Band-tailed pigeon hunting can be exceptionally good in areas with red elderberry, which are typically most abundant in 5–10 year old clearcuts.  Often times, band-tailed pigeons congregate in high numbers in these clearcuts.  The band-tailed pigeon season is only 9 days this year.

Quail
Although the harvest was down from 2010 in three of the four counties, District 3 quail hunters bagged 7,437 birds last season. Over 3,000 of those quail were taken in Walla Walla County. The district’s other three counties all produced 1,400 to 1,500 quail each.

Partridge
Asotin County ranks near the top of the heap among the state’s best chukar-hunting spots, and it produced 2,356 of District 3’s 2,912 chukar last season. The chukar harvest here was up overall from both 2010 and the 2006-2010 average.

Gray (Hungarian) partridge populations here don’t compare to chukar populations, but hunters harvested just under 1,900 of them in District 3 during the 2011 season. Asotin County topped the rest of the district with 746 birds.

Forest Grouse
Hunters bagged 1,631 forest grouse in District 3 during the 2011 season. County-by-county harvests ranged from 157 in Garfield County to 625 in Columbia County.

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