Tag Archives: hunting

WDFW Director Looks For Public Budget Support, Assures Sportsmen He’s ‘Adding To, Not Changing Our Base’

WDFW’s new director Kelly Susewind fielded more than three dozen questions about salmon, hatcheries, sea lions, orcas, wolves, increasing fishing and hunting opportunities, and more during an hour-and-a-half-long webinar last night.

The “digital open house” provided a glimpse into Susewind’s priorities and goals as the head of the agency overseeing fish and wildlife management in the state, how he hopes to patch glaring budget holes, and lead WDFW into the future.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND (LEFT) TOOK QUESTIONS DURING A ONE-HOUR, 37-MINUTE WEBINAR ON THE AGENCY AND ITS FUTURE. MOST WERE SUBMITTED BY THE PUBLIC AND READ BY AGENCY POLICY DIRECTOR NATE PAMPLIN. (WDFW)

And in seeking to get the wider public on board with his agency’s mission, he assured its most loyal customers they weren’t being abandoned for greener pastures.

With a $67 million budget boost proposed this coming legislative session — 75 percent from the General Fund, 25 percent from a license fee hike — it was part of an outreach effort to build across-the-board support for the agency’s myriad and sometimes seemingly at-odds objectives.

Susewind himself has already hosted five open houses in Spokane, Ephrata, Selah, Montesano and Ridgefield, with a sixth scheduled for Issaquah next month, but Wednesday’s webinar allowed him to take the message statewide and beyond.

“We need to become known, trusted and valued by 6 million people,” he said, speaking to the number of Washington residents who are not already intimately or closely familiar with WDFW, people who aren’t sportsmen, hikers, bikers or other recreationalists.

“I pause there for a second,” he added, “because as I’ve told people that that’s where I really want to head, some of our traditional users have expressed concern and are fearful that I’m stepping away from our traditional core users — the outdoor enthusiasts, the hunters, fishers — and that’s not the case at all. I want to reassure folks that I’m talking about adding to our base, not changing our base.”

Joining him was WDFW Policy Director Nate Pamplin who read off questions as they came in.

Most did sound like they were coming from the agency’s regular customers — hunters, anglers, commercial fishermen — or those who watch its moves very closely, and in general they followed the hot-button issues of the day.

Many grouped around salmon — producing more of them for fishing and orcas; dealing with sea lions eating too many; improving wild runs; gillnets; North of Falcon transparency.

With the lack of Chinook identified as a key reason southern resident killer whales are starving in Washington waters, several questions focused around what can be done to increase fish numbers, which would also benefit angling.

Susewind said that a new hatchery is being mulled for the Deschutes system near Olympia, with production boosts elsewhere.

“I don’t think we can recover salmon or maintain salmon over the long term without intelligent use of hatcheries, and I think that means higher production levels than we are at now,” he said.

Tens of millions more used to be released in Puget Sound — 55 million by the state in 1989 alone — and elsewhere in the past, but those have tailed off as Endangered Species Act listings and hatchery reforms came into play to try and recover wild returns.

As he’s quickly added in the past, Susewind said that doesn’t mean going back to the Johnny Appleseed days of indiscriminately releasing them everywhere.

Early next month the state Fish and Wildlife Commission will be briefed on “what is possible towards a time frame of implementing the increase of approximately 50 million additional smolts at hatchery facilities.”

Boosting production will require a “substantial investment,” Pamplin noted, adding that the 2019 budget request into Governor Jay Inslee includes a “pretty assertive ask” towards that.

And it would also come with a responsibility to not damage wild returns.

(WDFW)

Responding to “somewhat of a loaded question” about his thoughts on getting nonselective gillnets out of the water, Susewind said, “I’ll get out on a limb here: I think there’s a place for gillnets. Right now, as we increase production to feed killer whales, as we increase production to provide opportunities, we need a good way of making sure those fish don’t end up on the spawning grounds, and gillnets are one of the ways to manage that.”

Asked if using a stenographer to increase transparency during the state-tribal North of Falcon salmon season meetings was possible, Susewind said all kinds of ideas — Facebook feed, better social media presence — are being considered.

“We recognize it’s not a satisfying process in terms of transparency,” he said.

In supporting being able to manage federally protected pinnipeds on both the Columbia and Puget Sound, Susewind said that data is showing that there’s a real problem in that the millions of dollars being spent on salmon recovery are essentially being spent on feeding sea lions.

He talked about some of the other problems the agency has, saying that it needed to improve its communications with the public, and with a personal aside he acknowledged how hard it is to decipher the regulations pamphlets.

While pointing out the complexity of the regs is actually a function of WDFW trying to eke as much opportunity as possible out of what’s available, Susewind said he was befuddled when he picked up the fishing rules for the first time in a long time.

“I found it was too difficult to go through to quickly go out fishing. You have to want to go and do it in advance, and I think we can improve on it,” he said.

Earlier this year WDFW did roll out a mobile app and it sounds like more may be coming.

Asked how he planned to increase hunting and fishing opportunities to keep the sports viable, Susewind emphasized the importance of habitat. As for better access, he called the Farm Bill a “great onramp,” with provisions especially helpful in Eastern Washington, and pointed to a key recent deal with Green Diamond that led to a drift boat put-in on the upper Wynoochee.

Asked why, if killing wolves leads to more livestock depredations, WDFW lethally removes pack members, Susewind said that in his on-the-job research he’s found that the science wasn’t as clear as that, actually.

He said that pragmatically it does reduce short-term depredations and felt that it changes pack behavior in the long run.

In response to another question on the wild canids, he said that WDFW was going to recover wolves in Washington using the 2011 management plan and in a way that was compatible with traditional land uses.

A couple ideas from the online audience perked up Susewind’s and Pamplin’s ears for further investigation — an annual halibut limit instead of set fishing days, a family hunting license package.

Questions so specific as to stump both honchoes — what’s being done to improve fish habitat on the Snoqualmie River, for example —  saw them advise that those be emailed in so they could be routed to the right field staffer or — as with the above case — the member attend the upcoming meeting at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery so biologist Jenni Whitney could answer it.

Asked if one day Washington hunters might be able to hunt cougars with hounds, which was outlawed by a citizen initiative, Susewind essentially said he doubted it, but noted that the state House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will be holding a work session on the wild cats next week.

He fielded questions on increasing youth involvement; where to find information on preventing bear and wolf conflicts; global warming; what’s being done to prevent whale watching boats from pursuing orcas; if recreational crabbing could begin at the same time tribal seasons did; his thoughts on hoof disease in elk and fish farming; and his favorite places to fish and hunt (the Humptulips and Westport growing up, and brushy, wet Western Washington, though “there’s something to be said about the Methow too.”)

PAMPLIN POSES A QUESTION TO SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

Pamplin took an opportunity to pitch a softball, asking a “myth busting” question whether license fees go to WDFW or the General Fund.

“It is a myth that hunting and fishing license fees go into the General Fund to build whatever –roads … They are specific to the agency and specific to hunting and fishing opportunities,” Susewind replied.

Part of the agency’s 2019 budget request is a 15 percent increase on licenses.

Susewind explained that the Great Recession of 10 years ago led to big cuts from the General Fund and that WDFW’s “heavy reliance” on user fees hasn’t kept pace with rising costs.

“We need to get a dedicated fund,” he said.

But in the meanwhile, WDFW needs more from the General Fund, Susewind added.

As the webinar wound to a close, one of the final questions — perhaps from a late-arriving member of the public — was, what were his top priorities as director.

With not even four months on the job, and the legislative session, budget and North of Falcon looming, just getting up to speed on everything was Susewind’s first reply.

But he said his single top priority was to “make us more relevant to the broader population.”

“We need to get a lot more people enthused and engaged and supporting the mission of the agency,” Susewind said. “The other 6 million people need to know that natural resources don’t just come naturally; it takes a lot of work to preserve and enhance natural resources, and that’s going to take all of us.”

Even as Washington sportsmen will step up and buy licenses next year, and the year after, and the one after that — grudgingly and otherwise, regardless of whether a fee hike passes — Susewind said another of his priorities is for the public to see that WDFW is managed well.

“They need to know we are efficient in how we operate and we are a good investment,” he said.

Susewind and crew have a big job ahead of them that will require more than a half-dozen open houses and the internet, but it’s a start.

WDFW Director Holding Live Webinar Tonight To Talk Fish, Wildlife, Future

Weren’t able to make this month’s five WDFW open houses across the state with new Director Kelly Susewind?

He’s hosting the digital version of one tonight.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

Washington hunters, anglers and other residents will be able to hear directly from Susewind on his fish and wildlife management goals and the long-term needs of the state’s critters and maintaining and improving sporting opportunities during an online webinar.

It comes as the director approaches the end of his fourth month in the hot seat and with the agency hoping that next year lawmakers in Olympia will approve boosting its budget by around $60 million to negate a large shortfall due to long-term structural funding issues as well as to enhance hunting and fishing and enhance conservation measures.

About 75 percent of it would come from the state General Fund, the rest from a 15 percent across-the-board increase on license fees, with some caps on hikes.

That will be a heavy lift, but after last year’s proposed increase died and was replaced with a one-time $10 million bump, WDFW was subsequently independently audited for inefficiencies and staffers also identified $2 million in cuts.

Challenges with recovering orcas and other ESA-listed species as well as a changing climate’s effects on fish and wildlife will only make the agency’s job tougher in the future.

Susewind’s in-person open houses saw him doing a lot of “listening” in Spokane and fielding “some tough questions” in Selah.

Here’s a link to the online event, which begins at 6:30 p.m.

More information is also available here.

But even if you miss tonight’s webinar, there are still two more chances to hear from Susewind and WDFW.

The whole thing will be posted tomorrow, and you can catch up to the director and his minions at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery on Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Cougar Hunt Closing In Oregon’s Coast/North Cascades Zone

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Cougar hunting is now closed through Dec. 31, 2018 in Zone A (Coast/North Cascades), which includes the entire Oregon Coast and much of northwest Oregon (see Zone Status and map).

AN ODFW MAP SHOWS ZONE A, WHICH IS CLOSING THROUGH THE END OF 2018 AND WILL REOPEN JAN. 1, 2019. (ODFW)

Total mortality in the Zone has reached the quota of 180, a number which includes all cougars killed by hunters or due to damage and public safety issues. While hunting is now closed, landowners experiencing damage or public safety issues may continue to take cougars in Zone A.

Cougar hunting in Zone A will reopen on Jan. 1, 2019.

New Report Paints Rough Future For Northwest Fish, Wildlife

A new report paints a rough go of it for fish, shellfish and wildlife in the Northwest.

Released over the recent long holiday weekend, the federal Fourth National Climate Assessment looks at economic and other impacts that warming and drying could have on our region by the end of this century.

It projects that Washington salmon habitat will be reduced by 22 percent under a scenario that includes continued high emissions of greenhouse gases.

A SCREEN GRAB FROM A USGS VIDEO SHOWS A SOCKEYE SUFFERING FROM LESIONS SWIMMING AROUND DRANO LAKE IN AN ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE THE HOT WATERS OF THE MAINSTEM COLUMBIA RIVER DURING A DEADLY EARLY SUMMER 2015 HEATWAVE. (USGS)

“This habitat loss corresponds to more than $3 billion in economic losses due to reductions in salmon populations and decreases in cold-water angling opportunities,” the report states.

Higher fall and winter flows and less and warmer water in spring and summer will impact Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink and chum salmon spawning, hatchery production and reintroduction efforts.

“Recreational razor clamming on the coast is also expected to decline due to cumulative effects of ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, higher temperatures, and habitat degradation,” it adds.

A 2016 bloom affecting Washington’s South Coast led to a 25 percent increase in the number of local families in need of food bank help due to the importance of digging dollars, the report states.

It says that deer and elk may actually thrive due to less winterkill and improving habitat because of increased wildfires, but could also be impacted by “increases in disease and disease-carrying insects and pests.”

“If deer and elk populations increase, the pressures they place on plant ecosystems (including riparian systems) may benefit from management beyond traditional harvest levels,” it states.

With droughts and more drying hitting key wetland areas, “Further management of waterfowl habitat is projected to be important to maintain past hunting levels,” the report adds.

At its heart for the region, the assessment states that what we saw in 2015 due to the Blob — very low snowpack, early meltout, high summer temperatures, large wildfires — could be a prelude of what is to come.

“Low summer stream levels and warm waters, which amplified a naturally occurring fish disease, resulted in widespread fish die-offs across the region, including hundreds of thousands of sockeye salmon in the Columbia and Snake River Basins. And for the first time ever, Oregon implemented a statewide daily fishing curtailment beginning in July 2015 to limit added stress on the fish from fishing,” the report reminds readers.

In the ocean, that summer saw “the largest harmful algal bloom recorded” and it hyperlinks to a 2016 paper that lists cool-water species such as subarctic copepods, krill, Dungeness, mussels, salmon and groundfish as Blob losers while tropical copepods, market squid, California rockfish and tuna were winners because of the warm waters.

“This is worrisome because the [2013-15 warm water anomaly] may be a harbinger of things to come. As [sea surface temperatures] continue to rise with increasing global temperatures, many of the same scenarios observed during the WWA may be repeated, with dramatic ecological and economic consequences,” that paper in Oceanography states.

Required by Congress to be produced at regular intervals, this fourth climate assessment was worked on by 13 federal agencies with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the lead.

As for what to do to head off the changes, the report states:

“Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.”

Considering Adding An E-Bike To Your Hunting, Fishing Arsenal?

THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY RAD POWER BIKES

By Dan Nelson, Customer Experience Specialist at Rad Power Bikes of Seattle

While much of the use of electric bicycles is geared towards changing the game in urban transportation, we’ve found that there are plenty of uses for those among us looking to get off the beaten path.

E-BIKES CAN PROVIDE NORTHWEST HUNTERS AND ANGLERS FASTER ACCESS BEHIND LOCKED GATES, BUT DO CHECK WITH LANDOWNERS FOR THEIR POLICIES AS THEY VARY BY OWNERSHIP AND JURISDICTION, EVEN BETWEEN WILDLIFE AREAS IN WASHINGTON’S CASE. (RAD POWER BIKES)

Whether you’re interested in nature, an RVer looking for an alternative to a bulky tow-behind, or a hunter or angler needing assistance in getting to your secluded spot, there are countless outdoor enthusiasts that can expand and revolutionize their experiences by adding an electric bicycle to their arsenal of outdoor equipment.

Background on Ebikes The electric bicycle industry has seen a rapid expansion recently because ebikes amplify the benefits of a standard pedal bicycle by also offering the assistance of a powerful, quiet, and efficient electric motor, without significant drawbacks.

Federal regulations allow an electric bicycle to be classified as a traditional bicycle rather than a motorized vehicle as long as its motor is under 750 watts and its assisted speed does not exceed 20 mph, allowing them to be used in many of the same places as standard bicycles.

The addition of a powerful and easy to use motor allows riders to not only breeze up hills, but also to extend their rides further to areas that may otherwise be inaccessible with other alternative modes of transportation.

Motor technologies have been improving significantly, which is great for people riding in the outdoors as they are likely to be pushing them to the limits more often than riders on pavement.

The most common types of motors on ebikes are either rear hub mounted motors, which offer the greatest ease of use and maintenance, and mid-drive motors, which are harder to use and require more maintenance but offer greater efficiency and power.

The options for motor assistance are typically in the form of a throttle, which will fully engage the motor with a twist or the press of a button, or varying levels of pedal assist, which allow the rider to cycle through levels based on how much effort they’re looking to put in.

All of our models are outfitted with a twist throttle and five levels of pedal assistance. This gives all the power to the rider, whether they’re looking to zip up and down the beach with the throttle alone, or they’re instead using the motor to compliment their own pedaling to go for a long ride through the woods on the path less traveled.

Hunters & Anglers The ability to get themselves and their gear through the woods quickly, quietly, and with as little effort as possible, are all very important and luckily, also areas that ebikes excel at.

Most ebikes max out at 20 mph assisted speed, to conform with federal regulations, so doing scouting runs or getting to and from hunting stands and fishing holes can be done much more quickly than on foot.

These speedy passages are also quite stealthy due to the quiet nature of electric motors, which will help hunters avoid frightening wildlife or giving them knowledge of their presence.

A further benefit to help decrease their chance of being noticed is the lack of a scented trail left both by your walking and continued presence. The rubber tires of an ebike leave much less of a human footprint than walking and the lack of effort required will also save you from sweating, further assisting in blending in.

While there are other options that offer similar benefits, ebikes may have a leg up by their regulatory classification being that of a bicycle under federal regulations, meaning that they may be usable in many places where comparable alternatives aren’t allowed to go.

Legality This leads to a difficult topic that has been evolving regarding electric bikes, where should they be allowed?

While the laws pertaining to electric bike legality in cities, on roads, and on bike paths, have been more and more finely tuned recently, whether or not electric bikes are allowed or should be allowed in parks wilderness, and recreation areas that prohibit motorized vehicles is a topic of debate. These rules are rather convoluted and far from all encompassing, so it is highly recommended to check with your local authorities themselves to get their perspective.

The argument is typically centered around congestion and the increased wear and tear that electric bikes would offer trails. Perhaps it is wishful thinking but an alternate perspective is that increasing the number of people that are able to enjoy the outdoors, and in turn creating more stewards of nature, could play an important role in helping to preserve our natural spaces. This could potentially lead to greater advocacy and funding by people whom would otherwise be indifferent.

Conclusion Electric bikes are a great option to help experience the outdoors in a whole new way!

Rad Power Bikes is filled with outdoor lovers, myself included being raised by park rangers turned scientists, so finding ways to help others experience the wonders that the outdoors have to offer, and creating more stewards for mother nature, is something that we take a lot of pride in.

Check out the community photos collection on our website to see what you’re missing, or share your own so that your favorite spot can be appreciated by others as well. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsmen or somebody that rarely leaves the pavement, we’d love to see where ebikes take you!

Note: Seattle-based Rad Power Bikes is offering between $300 and $400 off their 2018 ebike models this holiday season.

The sale will launch on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday at their Ballard and Vancouver, B.C. showrooms, then take place nationally online on Cyber Monday.

Because Rad Power Bikes already has wholesale prices through their consumer-direct approach, this is their only sale of the year.

Stores open at 9am PT on Black Friday, and the following Saturday and Sunday. For Cyber Monday, purchase at www.radpowerbikes.com starting at 12:01am PT. For updates, visit: https://www.radpowerbikes.com/pages/black-friday-cyber-monday

 

‘Slow’ Season For NE WA Late Whitetail Rifle Hunters

“It was just slow.”

That’s the report of a deer check station staffer/local hunter coming out of Northeast Washington’s late whitetail rifle season, which wrapped up yesterday.

Annemarie Prince says 96 hunters came through WDFW’s Deer Park game check on Sunday, Nov. 18, with 16 bucks for a 16.6 percent success rate, figures well down from Nov. 19, 2017’s 124 with 43 for a 34.7 percent success rate.

“There were a couple nice deer, but nothing, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Not many spikes, mainly three-by-threes, four-by-fours,” says Prince, the agency’s Colville-based district wildlife biologist.

DATA FROM THE FINAL SUNDAY OF W.D.F.W.’S 2018 DEER PARK CHECK STATION SHOWS A DECLINE OVER LAST YEAR’S FIGURES FOR THE WHITETAIL RIFLE SEASON. NOW RETIRED WDFW DISTRICT WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST DANA BASE INSPECTS A BUCK DURING 2017’S LAST SUNDAY OF THE HUNT. (WDFW)

She didn’t know why the numbers were down at the voluntary pull-off along U.S. 395 between Colville and Spokane, but noted that climatically it’s been a “very dry” fall.

“It was nice to be in that weather, but it was not great for hunting,” she says.

Others had more ideas. As the Nov. 10-19 season kicked off, Hunting Washington members were reporting a declining deer population in the state’s upper righthand corner, with plenty of focus on mountain lions and wolves. The open area is home to 10 known packs.

Famed salmon and steelhead angler Buzz Ramsey of Klickitat and his friend Bill Harris were among those who headed into the woods north of Spokane early last week with high hopes following the duo’s success last November, but they came out on Sunday without any fresh venison.

Hunting fairly high in an area that still had some snow from a preseason dusting, Ramsey says he didn’t really see many deer, just a nice but off-limits muley buck and a pair of spooky whitetail does.

He says that a party of longtime hunters they talked to, including an 86-year-old who’d told them he’d been hunting the area since he was 12, didn’t have any deer hanging either, but bucks were turning up at night on their cameras.

A MONTAGE OF PREDATOR TRACKS IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON SNOW LAST WEEK. (BILL HARRIS)

All the wolf and mountain lion tracks that Ramsey, Harris and others spotted led Ramsey to wonder if perhaps predator activity hadn’t impacted when the rut occurs, but WDFW’s Prince doesn’t believe that to be the case.

“The hunters on the landscape are a much larger group of ‘predators’ than wild predators. And if they (hunters) haven’t moved the rut, the true predators aren’t going to,” she says.

THE SAME HILLSIDE THAT IN 2017 YIELDED A LATE WHITETAIL BUCK FOR HUNTING PARTNER BILL HARRIS ONLY SAW ONE DEER MAKE AN APPEARANCE WHILE THEY WATCHED IT, ACCORDING TO BUZZ RAMSEY. HE SAID THERE WERE PLENTY OF WOLF AND COUGAR TRACKS IN THE SNOW, THOUGH. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Prince, who just so happens to count herself among those two-legged predators — “I did see a buck that should have been a dead buck” — points to an ongoing state study and work by former district wildlife biologist Steve Zender that suggests nothing’s changing in terms of rut timing.

She says that he found whitetails conceived fawns between Nov. 12 and Dec. 2.

The plurality of that breeding activity, 39 percent, occurred Nov. 19-25, with 31 percent between Nov. 26-Dec. 2 and 30 percent between Nov. 12-18.

The 2017 rifle hunt ended on the 19th, the same day as the final one the Deer Park check station was open, so perhaps that and heavier snows had something to do with the higher hunter numbers and deer kill.

The joint WDFW-University of Washington Predator-Prey Project, launched in early 2017 and slated to run through 2021, should help flesh out ungulate, cougar and wolf trends and dynamics in Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.

This year’s deer prospects weren’t stellar but weren’t awful either.

Before this season started, Prince told me that a survey here found 32 bucks per 100 does, “statistically the same” as the longterm average since 2007.

In her and assistant wildlife biologist Ben Turnock’s hunting forecast, they reported that last year’s fawn numbers — this year’s spikes — were also back up after 2016’s “new low” that followed 2015’s blue-tongue outbreak, drought conditions and very large harvest, though were still tied for second worst since at least 2001.

RAMSEY REPORTS COMING ACROSS THIS PRETTY NICE STAND SHELTER SET UP IN THE WOODS OF NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Back at the check station, Prince says she also heard from hunters who reported they didn’t see any deer while others saw lots of nocturnal activity on their trail cameras.

Two parties that she believes hunted the same plot of state land up a particular road came through with very different observations.

The first had harvested a pair of spikes and reported seeing “so many deer,” while the second said they “didn’t see anything” outside of the one they killed.

With those and other mixed signals, Prince says she’ll be interested to see what the final harvest data for this year shows.

Even though the 2018 rifle hunt is now officially in the books, muzzleloaders can head out in the Selkirk Unit (GMU 113) for whitetails starting tomorrow, Nov. 21, and bowhunters get their last cracks at flagtails in the Kelly Hill, Douglas, 49 Degrees North, Huckleberry and Mt. Spokane Units (GMUs 105, 108, 117, 121 and 124) beginning next Sunday, Nov. 25.

Deadline to report your 2018 hunts is Jan. 10, 2019, to be eligible for the incentive permit, or Jan. 31 to avoid the $10 late fee.

Inaugural Ridgefield NWR Veterans Waterfowl Hunt A Success

THE FOLLOWING IS A STORY FROM THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

From an ADA-accessible blind at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Sal Trujillo watched as the first rays of sun peeked above the surrounding hills. Flocks of mallards, pintails and tundra swans soon filled the sky.

IRAQ WAR VETERAN SAL TRUJILLO PEERS OUT FROM A BLIND DURING THE INAUGURAL RIDGEFIELD NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE VETERANS WATERFOWL HUNT HELD LAST WEEKEND. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

Trujillo and 10 other U.S. military veterans celebrated Veterans Day with their first waterfowl hunt as a part of the inaugural Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Veterans’ Waterfowl Hunt.

GEESE WING OVER THE VANCOUVER-AREA N.W.R. WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY SET ASIDE MORE THAN 50 YEARS AGO FOR DUSKY GOOSE HABITAT FOLLOWING THE CATASTROPHIC LOSS OF THE SPECIES’ ALASKAN BREEDING GROUNDS IN AN EARTHQUAKE. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

“Getting veterans into the outdoors is so important,” said Trujillo, who started fishing five years ago through a Fallen Outdoors/Community Military Appreciation Committee of SW Washington fishing event for veterans. Trujillo has since bought his own boat and takes other veterans fishing. After his successful day in the field at Ridgefield NWR, he hopes to do the same with waterfowl hunting.

DECOYS SIT ON SHEETWATER AT RIDGEFIELD. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

“The outdoors allows veterans to focus on something new, and clear our minds from daily life. This is a great opportunity to learn something new and make new friends. Plus, we’ll eat what we harvest,” said Trujillo, who served five years in the Army 101st Airborne, including a deployment in Iraq.

JENNIFER AND DOUG HAWKINS, WHO ARE BOTH ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY AT JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, POSE WITH A MIXED BAG OF BIRDS ON A GLORIOUS SUNNY SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON WEEKEND. THE SERVICE’S BRENT LAWRENCE REPORTED JENNIFER HAD NEVER HUNTED WATERFOWL BEFORE, BUT PROVED TO “A DEAD-EYE SHOOTER. SHE SLAYED THEM.” (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

The hunt highlighted many of priorities laid out by Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, including increasing hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities on public lands, while also focusing on a commitment to the recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters to support the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

SAL TRUJILLO AND HIS GUIDE FOR THE DAY, RICHARD HANNAN, A RETIRED USFWS REGIONAL DIRECTOR AND ACTIVE MEMBER OF WASHINGTON WATERFOWL ASSOCIATION, SHOW OFF THEIR HARVEST. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has increased hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities on public lands these veterans served to protect,” said Robyn Thorson, Pacific Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We can’t think of a better way than to honor these veterans on Veterans Day than by introducing them to waterfowl hunting and this fantastic urban National Wildlife Refuge. We hope today is the first in a long tradition of waterfowl hunts that expand to include more veterans over the years.”

DOUG HAWKINS ADJUSTS JENNIFER HAWKINS’ WEIGHTY WATERFOWL STRAP FOLLOWING THE HUNT. SHE LIMITED WITH SEVEN WHILE DOUG BAGGED FOUR OTHERS. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

The Lower Columbia Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association played an essential role in organizing the event, including coordinating guides and holding a special dinner for the veterans. Additional partners included Ridgefield American Legion Post 44, Fallen Outdoors, Community Military Appreciation Committee of SW Washington, Heroes Northwest, Cabela’s, Gerber Knives, Stein Distributing, Larry Hoff, Rose Real Estate and Evergreen Home Loans.

CINDY LESCALLEET WHO ALONG WITH HER HUSBAND DAVE (BACKGROUND) RUNS THE CHECK STATION EXPLAINS WITH HER HANDS HOW THE ANGLE OF THE TAIL FEATHERS OF THE DUCK IN THE FOREGROUND IDENTIFIES IT AS A PINTAIL. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

Richard Hannan, retired Assistant Regional Director for the Service’s Pacific Region and member of the Washington Waterfowl Association, guided Trujillo during his hunt. Hannan’s discussions with the veteran brought back a flood of memories.

RIDGEFIELD ALSO SERVES AS A WAYSTATION FOR PROTECTED SPECIES SUCH AS TRUMPETER SWANS AND IS HOME FOR RARE COLUMBIAN WHITETAIL DEER. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

“I choked up a little when Sal shot his first duck and (my Chesapeake Bay retriever) Daisy brought it back to him,” Hannon said. “It reminded me of taking my dad hunting and introducing him to the outdoors I love, and that he never had the chance to experience because of the demands of the uniform (as a 30-year Navy veteran) and family.

DONNA PRIGMORE, OREGON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BRIGADIER GENERAL, SPEAKS WITH SAM DAVIS OF RIDGEFIELD AMERICAN LEGION POST 44 DURING A DINNER FOR THE HUNTERS, THEIR FAMILIES AND GUIDES AFTER THEIR DAY AFIELD. (BRENT LAWRENCE, USFWS)

“Sal mentioned more than once how sometimes he and many other vets go to some dark places in their heads as a result of their service to our nation. By going outdoors he and others are able to push those thoughts away and heal. I think we created some great memories. I know it did for me.”

Trying To Foul Hook Downed Fowl, Something Bassy Bites Instead For Basin Duck Hunter

Everybody knows that Washington’s Columbia Basin is a great spot for duck hunting and it’s widely regarded as tops for bass fishing, but it isn’t often that Northwest sportsmen get to enjoy both pursuits at once.

KYLE VANDERWAAL AND THE FRUITS OF A COLUMBIA BASIN BLAST-AND-CAST LAST WEEKEND. (KYLE VANDERWAAL VIA GARY LUNDQUIST)

Waterfowling heats up in midfall as northern flights begin to arrive but largies and smallies become much more lethargic as lakes cool down with the onset of winter.

That’s the theory, anyway, and you just know that for every theory there’s that one guy gunning to poke a hole in it.

Enter Mr. Kyle Vanderwaal.

He’s a hardcore duck and goose hunter, if reports from family friend Gary Lundquist are any indication, and last weekend he found himself in the basin chasing mallards.

Despite blue skies hunting was pretty good that day, but apparently Vanderwaal downed one bird over water that was a bit deeper than his chest waders allowed him to wade.

Sans Bowser, it was time to implement plan C — casting.

Out came a fishing rod strung up with a No. 9 Shad Rap, a 31/2-inch plug sporting a pair of trebles, on the business end.

Perfect for hooking far-fallen fowl.

Also fish.

As Vanderwaal attempted to snag his greenhead, a green bass bit instead.

In the hook-and-bullet world, a cast and blast is an outing where you might fish for steelhead in the morning and head into the breaks for chukar in the afternoon, so this was more of a blast and cast or blast then cast.

Anyway, a photo snapped shortly afterwards shows the young hunter smiling with the day’s, er, catch — five drakes and a roughly 2-pound largemouth.

“The bass was released :)” reports Lundquist.

The same can not be said, however, of Vanderwaal’s ducks.

Idaho Fish And Game Boss To Retire After 8 Years At Helm, 42 In Wildlife Management

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore on Nov. 6 announced he will retire from the department in Jan. 2019 after a 42-year career in fish and wildlife management. Moore has served as director since 2011, and intends to remain until his replacement has been selected by the Fish and Game Commission and is in place.

RETIRING IDFG DIRECTOR VIRGIL MOORE DURING A 2015 UPLAND BIRD HUNTING TRIP. (IDFG)

“It has been an honor to serve Idahoans, the governor and the Fish and Game commission as director the last eight years, and as a state employee for over 42 years,” Moore said. “Working together, Fish and Game and our wildlife resources are in excellent shape and ready to be handed off to new leadership.”

During his tenure as director, Moore oversaw the federal delisting and state management of wolves, and development of several new species management plans, including for elk and wolverine.  He also  played a key role in development of Governor Otter’s sage grouse plan that helped prevent federal listing, and Moore recently inked an important access agreement with Idaho Department of Lands to ensure continued sportsmen’s access while meeting the fiduciary responsibilities of endowment lands.

Moore’s career in wildlife management start after he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and education in 1973 from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s degree in zoology from Idaho State University in 1977.

During his career in wildlife management, he also served as director of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, deputy director for Idaho Fish and Game, fisheries bureau chief for Idaho Fish and Game, and numerous other positions for the department’s fisheries and information and education bureaus. Moore also recently ended a one-year term as President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Moore intends to remain in Idaho and spend time with his wife of 47 years, Becky Moore, and continue hunting, fishing and camping with their two adult children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Moore’s position is open for applications, and information about the position can be found here. 

Water Flowing Again Into A Top Public Basin Duck Hunting Area

A popular and productive public-land Columbia Basin duck hunting area is filling up with water for the first time in several years, good news as the best part of the waterfowl season arrives.

WATER FLOWS INTO PONDS AT THE WINCHESTER REGULATED ACCESS AREA EARLIER THIS WEEK. (BRIAN HECK, DUCKS UNLIMITED)

The recently completed project at WDFW’s Winchester Regulated Access Area unclogged an inlet from the nearby wasteway west of Potholes Reservoir and water is now flowing into the ponds there.

(CHAD EIDSON, WDFW)

“This will be the first time in three or four years that we’ll have a good amount of water,” says the agency’s Sean Dougherty in Ephrata.

The area opened in the early 2000s and provided good hunting but gradually the channel that fed water into the ponds silted up, and during 2016’s opener it was completely dry.

(BRIAN HECK, DUCKS UNLIMITED)

Dougherty says that funds were secured last year, including from state duck stamp moneys, to fix the problem.

After coordinating with the Bureau of Reclamation and the local irrigation district and with help from Ducks Unlimited, which provided “technical support and project management,” he says, water has begun flowing in again.

The area primarily attracts mallards as well as other puddlers as the migration and season goes on, but some geese fly in as well, and access is first come, first served.

“It’s really competitive to get a spot,” says Dougherty. “I would encourage you to be there at 4 a.m.”

That’s when vehicles can begin parking here, and the first five parties of up to four hunters each head out to set up their decoy spreads.

FLOODING IN CELL, OR POND, A. (CHAD EIDSON, WDFW)

The area is only open Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, with the other days off limits to rest the birds.

It’s also next to a game reserve, which helps keep ducks in the area too.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS CURRENT PARKING AND BLIND LOCATIONS FOR THE WINCHESTER REGULATED ACCESS AREA. (WDFW)

Dougherty doesn’t want to make any promises about how many greenheads you might down if you set up here, but says it’s one of the best public hunts, with an average of three ducks a gun in the past.

And with more water here this fall, the ponds might also remain as open water longer, though with their shallow depths, ambitious hunters can still bust through the ice later on.

DUCKS SIT ON A POND AT THE WINCHESTER REGULATED ACCESS AREA. (CHAD EIDSON, WDFW)

Editor’s note: This blog initially contained an outdated WDFW map of access to the Winchester Regulated Access Area. It has subsequently been updated with a new one from regional lands manager Rich Finger. Also, blinds are not assigned and the area is free roam.