Tag Archives: hunting

Encounter With A Cougar

An Eastern Oregon bowhunter comes face to face with a lion during last year’s elk season.

By Dan Lyons

There is no way Dad is ever going to find me. If he can even make it up the steep, rugged ridge, it would surely take a host of others to find me, or my body. I hate that he will have a helpless feeling when I don’t respond to him hailing me on my handheld radio. He will be scared when I don’t show up at the truck and don’t come out of the woods.

My kids and my wife – he will have to call them and tell them I didn’t show up. They will be devastated. My friends, and hunting buddies too. They would all feel the pain that always accompanies loss and tragedy. So here I am, deciding at this instant between fight or flight, and having no idea of the outcome of either.

(TIM LAMBERT)

I’VE HUNTED AND been very passionate about it since I was 12. I love everything about hunting, though truth be known, I am not very good at it. I have killed a handful of decent mule deer bucks, a couple whitetail bucks and have a raghorn bull to my credit. Besides a muley that I paid big bucks for through an outfitter in Montana I have had very average success here in the great state of Oregon. Maybe my lack of success is due to the fact that I like the cold beer, the campfire, the relationships with my hunting buddies and the stories as much as I like the actual hunting.

Because it’s hard as hell to draw a good deer or elk tag in my state without waiting five years between opportunities, I figured it was time to try archery hunting. Most units in Oregon don’t require a draw for a bow tag, so you can buy both a deer and an elk tag over the counter. This is probably due to the fact that killing an animal with a bow and arrow is flat out hard. Despite the texts I receive each fall from smiling hunters holding up their bulls, the many stories I hear, and the videos that make it all look easy, it seems the cards are stacked against us trying to outsmart and outduel a cagey bull with a bow. Still, with no rifle tags on the horizon I decided to go for it and give archery hunting a try.

With no rifle tags on the horizon I decided to go for it and give archery hunting a try.

I basically broke the internet doing my research. I went into discussion forums, watched every YouTube video ever made and bought every Primos and Eastman’s hunting DVD in existence. I bought some calls, sprayed some elk piss on my boots, and was ready to rock.

My father has archery hunted for 25 years and although he’s come close many times, he has never been able to close the deal on a bull. But for sure, even at 73 he was fired up to get out there with me. He is the single best person I know and any time spent with him is a good time. Typically, I rifle hunt with six of my lifelong friends, so this trip had a different feel from the beginning, and I liked it. The plan was to leave Portland on Wednesday at noon, get over there, and hunt Thursday through Sunday and then get back to work and the family. A rancher friend rents a bunkhouse near our hunting area, so we hit the easy button and spent the $100 per night to not have to deal with a camp.

IT ALWAYS TICKS me off that most hunting articles never tell you where the author was, so I will tell you. We were hunting in Eastern Oregon, north of the town of John Day at the northern end of the Northside Unit and just south of the Middle Fork of the John Day River. This all went down on Sept. 15, 2017.

Thursday started and ended with results that I’ve become accustomed to. I walked for what felt like 10 miles over large mountains, through beautiful draws, and across what appeared to be perfect elk country, but besides a few does and fawns, we drove back to the ranch without seeing or hearing a single elk. I thought this time of year they bugled like crazy and all you had to do was locate, stalk, and get ’er done. I had, and have much to learn. A touch of whiskey, some great conversation and an early bedtime closed down Thursday and we were stoked to try a new area in the morning that I just knew, for sure, would hold some elk.

There was frost on Friday and it was flat out cold. After a long hot summer, it felt like the first touch of fall. My research had told me that when the temperature starts dropping, these cold mornings really fire the bulls up, so I was eager to get into the woods. They were going to be bugling, fighting, and chasing cows, making it way too easy for us. I was where I wanted to be, at the time I wanted to be there.

A slow, steady, and quiet hunt coupled with a few perfectly executed cow calls on my Hoochie Mama resulted in zero elk seen and zero elk heard, and from what I could tell, there had never been an elk in this area, ever. The only excitement came when a grouse flushed up 5 feet from me, which resulted in only a minor heart attack. Otherwise, it was back to the truck to regroup for an afternoon hunt.

Although still in decent shape, Dad is perfectly satisfied driving the truck around as the pick-up man, maybe walking up the draw and patiently waiting for his opportunity, and he is not beyond a midday nap. After a lifetime of hunting and experience, his passion for killing a bull has waned, but his passion for being out there and being with his son are still on point.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON BROUGHT some wind and some smoke began settling in the valley from a host of wildfires across the state. After seeing a few other hunters in the area, I figured it was time to go to my secret spot, one I was confident no other hunter possessed the required grit needed to get there. Although a difficult hunt that required a straight-up assault of a mountain, the top offered a thicket that I had actually seen elk in before. Of course, that was during deer season, but there had been a good bull in that group, so I figured this mountaintop thicket was what they were calling home. It was on.

I loaded my fanny pack and lined Dad out as to where I would be coming out. I told him I would check in on the radio when I got up there and that it would take three to four hours before I was out. He asked if I wanted to take the .380 pistol to scare off bears and cougars and, because I am a genius, I said no. “I don’t want that extra weight,” I thought.

The mountain was no match for me as my excitement and adrenaline got me to the top. I sat for about 15 minutes, sipped some water, and got myself rested and calm to still-hunt this perfect piece of country and stake my claim on a 330-inch-class bull with a whale tail, huge eye guards and massive antlers that reached to the sky. My cow call was going to be too much for him to resist and I imagined him running in and offering me a perfect broadside shot at 20 yards. In my new camo, although way too small for me, I blended into the landscape better even than the trees and bushes. My dreams were about to come true.

When the temperature starts dropping, these cold mornings really fire the bulls up, so I was eager to get into the woods.

It was hot and hard to be quiet. At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, I don’t think I was exactly walking without sound, but I entered the thicket and tiptoed toward my destiny. The trees swayed with the wind now and there was just enough smoke to slightly alter the air and visibility. I snuck into some windfalls. A few game trails crisscrossed the area and I could see a good 30 yards into this elky-looking patch of earth – a perfect spot to sit, work my cow call, and wait. It was playing out exactly as it had in my mind a million times. I backed into a bush, sat down, and blended in perfectly. I nocked an arrow and let the cow call sing its song and bring in my bull. On all the videos I’d watched, the bulls just came rolling in to the hunter, all the while signalling their excitement with loud shrieks of intent.

Nothing. No retorts to my cow call, no snapping of limbs from an approaching bull, no bugles. Nothing but the wind and the eerie calm of this elkless thicket. Thirty minutes was enough, or at least all that I could handle, so I moved my eyes right and carefully scanned my view to see if I could catch a bull sneaking in before I moved on. I scanned center, down in front of me, and slowly scanned left. This is when it all got very real, and it got real quick.

TO MY DIRECT left on the same trail I had walked up and at what I estimate to be 25 to 30 feet sat a cougar, or mountain lion. Whatever you choose to call it, I noticed this one was an adult, it was large, and it scared the absolute sh*t out of me. I’d seen prints, once, but never in my 44 years had I seen a cougar, and now one was standing a pounce away. I was in his domain and from the first instant I knew that he was in control.

Yet for the time being it had no idea I was there. It was sitting like a Labrador with his butt on the ground and both front feet planted firm out in front of him. He was broadside to me and had his eyes fixed up the draw. He no doubt smelled me, or had heard my incredible cow calling skills, or maybe he was out for an afternoon stroll, but either way he was right there and for a few seconds I was frozen. If he turned and continued on his trail, he would run directly into me. Time to make a choice. Only a decent-sized windfall separated us.

With a cougar tag in my wallet I drew my bow back, but because I was sitting, I couldn’t get high enough over the log or one of its large branches that separated me and Mr. Cougar. No shot. It was time to stand and see how this tale would unfold. My eyes didn’t leave the cat as I started to stand. I believed that when I stood he would see me and hightail it out of there and go back to being a ghost.

This is not what he did.

I stood, he squared me up and dropped down, with his belly hugging the ground and his chin maybe an inch off the ground. His eyes were green and they stared right at me. Besides his oddly twitching tail he was perfectly still. To me, he was ready to do what cougars do, which is pounce, grab, bite, rip and kill. It was a good old-fashioned stare-off for 10 seconds and I made the decision that it was time for me to take action versus wait and let him make the first move, which, in my mind meant him ripping my jugular vein out and dragging me to his lair. He was not leaving, he was not scared, and with one pounce I would be dealing with 150 pounds of asskicker and I didn’t see that ending well for me.

I drew my bow back and held the 20-yard pin below his chin. Without a 10-yard pin I had to guess more than I would have liked and due to a slight angle down to him, my only shot was his face or neck. While I want to believe I was holding steady I doubt that was the case. When I squeezed my release, the arrow left the bow and immediately the cat raised his body very slightly. He raised his right front paw and the arrow snuck under his right foot, under his body and skipped safely past his back legs with no contact. A clean miss.

Now I was in trouble.

He took three stealthy steps toward me, his chin still an inch off the ground. While his tail twitched maniacally, I recall very clearly that his body flat out did not move. Rather, this thing floated up the trail toward me, stealthy, quiet, and in control. He was ready to go and he appeared to me ready to kill.

I figured this mountaintop thicket was what they were calling home. It was on.

He took those three steps and stopped. He tucked his ears back, showed me his teeth and hissed like a house cat. He was fierce. It’s important to note that while I am calling him a he, I have no earthly clue if he was a he or a she. Either way, for the first time ever in my life I was scared. I assessed the situation quickly. I was 8 feet away from this son of a gun, holding a bow with no arrow, and absolutely nothing else to fend off this apex critter. With my options limited, I accepted the fact that I was going to, simply put, fist fight a cougar. The odds weren’t good, to say the least.

If I was going down, I was going down fighting, so I yanked an arrow from the quiver and held it in my hand. If he pounced, I could stab the arrow into him and then scream, kick, bite, punch, spit – whatever I could to make him not end me.

He held his ground, which bought me some time. I waved my arms. I yelled, “Get out of here!” three times. He didn’t twitch or move an inch. I pulled my mesh camo mask down from my face so he could see my eyes. He took another slight step toward me. As he showed me his teeth, I remember thinking, “I wonder what he last ate with those things?”

I nocked the arrow and was prepared to pull it back and get one into him on his advance. I just didn’t want to shoot again at this close range because if he pulled his Matrix trick again and dodged my arrow a second time, I felt he would for sure have no choice but to attack. I waited, and I stared back at him, ready for his pounce, and ready for a fight.

I DECIDED TO take a small step backwards. He returned the favor by taking one stealthy step toward me. I took another step back and he obliged again. I knew he was keeping me within a one-pounce distance. I took a third and arrived at a large pine tree. I stepped behind it quickly and peeked around it like you might when playing hide-and-go-seek and he remained in that position, ready to go. I got behind the tree to where he couldn’t see me and hoped like hell he would forget about me. I waited and carefully peered around the tree again. Still there.

I got behind the tree at an angle that he couldn’t see me, then backed up to try to create some space. I picked up a good 10 yards and then looked back toward my new friend. Still there, but now he was standing and no longer in that godforsaken horrible killer pouncing position. I continued to back up and was thankful I could create some space between us.

The angle I’d chosen didn’t allow him to see me, so I decided my time to fight was over and it was time for flight. I put my arrow back in the quiver, turned the other direction, and ran as fast as I possibly could up the trail. I had no idea at the time that the absolute last thing you do when you see a cougar is run. I jumped logs and sprinted uphill, and kept looking over my shoulder, sure he was chasing me. I got a decent distance away and stopped, turned around and again prepared to fight. Back down the trail the cougar was still there, staring at me, standing calmly. I imagine he was laughing at me; my heart was racing at 787 beats per minute, but I could tell his was not. I renocked an arrow. He flicked his huge tail twice, turned to his left and bounded down the canyon, away from me and into the abyss of my thicket. I noticed that his first bound was much longer than the distance that had separated us just moments earlier.

As he showed me his teeth, I remember thinking, “I wonder what he last ate with those things?”

With adrenaline still pouring through me I regrouped and again ran as fast as I could up the trail to the top of the mountain, where it opened up. I might have set a land speed record while doing so, but I remember clearly that I was not tired. My lungs did not burn. I was focused and I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Adrenaline had taken over and offered me some juice I had surely never felt before. I now believe the stories of mothers lifting cars to save their children. There is within us a superhuman element that, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t ever need to experience again.

ONCE I CALMED down and came off the adrenaline rush, I was shaking very badly. I don’t know if I was in shock, or just scared out of my mind, but I remember having to kind of wrap my arms around myself to stop the shaking. I gathered myself and called Dad on the radio.

“How about it, Dad, you down there?”

“Hey Dannyboy! You bet, just having a cold beer, and I found some cool rocks out for a walk.”

“Awesome, Dad, I will be down there in about 20.”

“Sounds good, son, I will have a cold beer waiting for you”

“Copy that, see you in a few”

As I stepped out of the woods he immediately asked, “What the hell happened to you?”

I guess my skin coloring was still somewhere back in my thicket.

We cracked a cold one and sat on the tailgate and I told him every detail of my story. In a way that only a father can, he made me feel comfortable, safe, and he calmed me down without even really trying. Since that day we have talked about it a few times and I can tell it bothered him. I just cannot imagine the pain it would have caused him if that son of a gun had attacked me. I am thankful for Dad every day and thankful for what he has taught me about hunting, and life.

I had no idea at the time that the absolute last thing you do when you see a cougar is run.

When I got home I sat my family down and told the story. My 11- and 9-year-olds were on the edge of their seat. It upset my daughter and my son is still pissed that I missed the one shot I had at the cougar. My wife was also scared, and appropriately did find some humor in it.

A quick google search told me that there has never been a reported cougar attack of a human in Oregon. The article said if you see one in the wild, you should look big, show it your eyes, and yell at it. It went on to say that no matter what, never run. Oops.

In the end it was an experience I guess I am thankful for. It is a hell of a story, one I will tell forever, and I did feel something I have never felt before. Was that cougar really going to attack me? I thought so, but maybe I just surprised him the same way he surprised me. The truth of the matter is, I will hunt that thicket again and I can’t wait to get back in there. When I do, I can promise you just a few things. First and foremost, I will be carrying my 7mm Mag and not a damn bow and arrow, and second, if I do get lucky enough to see a cougar again, I won’t run! NS

WA Commission To Look At Fee Proposals, Long-term Funding Plan

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission members will hear in the coming days how WDFW staffers want to balance a looming budget shortfall now estimated at $32.9 million as well as put the agency on a more stable financial footing in the future.

While anglers and hunters will focus on the proposed fee increases — 12 to 15 percent across-the-board hikes or a $10 surcharge — what’s notable is that sportsman dollars would become supplementary to a wider foundation of funding, a “transformative concept.”

“The goal is for 50% or more of the Department’s funding to come from a sustainable, reliable, broad?based revenue source. Currently approximately 18% of the Department’s spending is from the general fund,” reads a recommendation from WDFW’s draft long-term funding presentation to the citizen panel.

It came out of the multistakeholder Budget and Policy Advisory group and is described as a “first step” and “set of ideas” to build upon.

But as 2019-21 legislative proposals are drawn up, the agency’s $65.4 million request does lean more heavily on the General Fund than in the past — approximately two-thirds GF-S, one third user fees.

Figures posted for the commission meeting show that the one-time annual surcharge bowhunters, clam diggers and salmon moochers would pay if lawmakers approve next year would raise $20.3 million, the 15 percent hike $18.9 million and 12 percent $16.1 million.

With the failed Wild Futures Initiative in 2016-17, sportsmen bore the entire lift of the package, and coming out of the Great Recession in 2010 one top manager told me WDFW was “making a concerted effort to make itself less dependent on the General Fund.”

The agency’s funding issues are “structural” in that state appropriations, license revenues and ESA requirements are not keeping up with the costs. Last year, after giving it a $10 milllion bump from the General Fund instead of approving Wild Futures, the legislature ordered WDFW to undergo reviews and perform a zero-based budget analysis. It has also identified several million in cuts and efficiencies.

The $65.4 million would go towards maintaining and enhancing fishing and hunting, with $45.5 million from the General Fund, $16.4 million from the license-supported Wildlife Account and $3.6 from the Columbia River endorsement, which needs to be renewed by lawmakers.

After the proposed fee increases were revealed last month, a survey was posted online, and as of the end of July, 556 people had responded.

According to WDFW, 75 percent said that the agency should be supported by the General Fund and that “general taxes should contribute more.”

Other results showed:

• 48% were “very unlikely” to support a fee increase
• 43% prefer across-the-board fee increase while 47% prefer the surcharge
• 62% supportive if no fees, pursue GF-S request

The survey is still up, and you can also comment on them in person this Thursday in Olympia when the commission convenes. Public testimony will be taken during presentations on the proposed 2019-21 operating budget.

The meeting continues Friday with the potential for commission action later in the afternoon.

New ODFW Electronic Licensing System Launching For 2019 Will Save $2 Million/year, Agency says

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

ODFW will launch a new electronic licensing system (ELS) on Dec. 1, 2018 with the sale of 2019 licenses and tags.

(ODFW)

With the new system, hunters and anglers can choose to carry their documents electronically (on their smart phone or tablet) and tag fish and wildlife with a mobile app that will work even offline. Or, customers can continue to use paper documents, but will be able to print licenses and tags directly from home using regular paper.

Customers will also still have the option of purchasing licenses and tags at license sale agents (incl. ODFW offices), but no special paper or computer equipment will be needed by these businesses.

The new system is expected to save $2 million annually, thanks to the elimination of specialty paper and computer equipment and overall lower cost of the system.

“Customers have been asking for the ability to carry tags on their mobile phones and for a more mobile-friendly system,” said Curt Melcher, ODFW Director. “We’re pleased this new system will bring both cost savings and an improved customer experience for Oregon’s hunters and anglers.”

ODFW recently published a FAQ about the new system, which covers topics including how to protect paper tags from the elements and tag fish and wildlife electronically. Find the FAQ at, https://myodfw.com/articles/odfws-new-electronic-licensing-system-els and see below.

ODFW’s new Electronic Licensing System (ELS)

Frequently Asked Questions

ODFW’s new electronic licensing system (ELS) will allow customers to store their licenses, tags and validations online on their smart phone or tablet. Customers can also choose to carry paper documents, but will be able to purchase and print these documents from home using regular paper. The new system will also allow for electronic tagging of fish and game using an app that will work even when offline.

When will the new ELS system take effect?

The new system including a mobile app for smartphones and tablets will launch Dec. 1, 2018, when 2019 license sales begin. Some additional functionalities to the system will come later.

Will I still be able to buy licenses and tags at the store and at ODFW offices?

Yes, but stores and offices will not need special computer equipment or paper. They will use the Internet and regular printer paper.

Is the cost of tags and licenses changing due to the new system?

No. Also, customers who have been purchasing documents online or by mail/fax order and receiving them by mail will no longer need to pay a $2 shipping/handling fee because these documents can now be printed at home.

Why is ODFW doing this?

To provide better service to customers, reduce our operating costs and modernize our licensing system. Customers will be able to buy and print their documents directly from home, 24 hours a day, without waiting for them to be mailed like under the current system. Or, customers can choose to buy and immediately use an electronic document, keeping licenses/tags/validations on their smartphone instead of in their pockets. The move to the new system is expected to save $2 million per year, thanks to the elimination of specialty paper and computer equipment and overall lower cost of the system. The system will also allow ODFW and Oregon State Police to look up licensing information while in the field and offline, which is not possible under the current system.

Will the tags/validations I print hold up as well as the specialized paper from the old system?

Yes, with a little extra care, such as keeping them in a Ziploc/plastic bag or some other waterproof carrier.

How do I tag a big game animal or turkey in the new system?

It depends on which option you select at time of tag purchase:

Paper tag: Validate your tag by writing in ink the harvest date/time and Wildlife Management Unit where the harvest occurred. Place paper tag in a plastic bag to protect it from the elements and attach it to the carcass.

Electronic tag (cell phone or tablet): Validate your tag electronically with an app that will work even when offline. Then take the confirmation number from the app plus your name, ODFW ID, Date of Birth, harvest date and write it on anything that will stand up to the elements (like duct tape, trail ribbon or piece of paper in plastic bag), affix it to the animal like a traditional tag and keep it attached to the carcass in transport, as you would a paper tag.

Note that for other fish and wildlife requiring tagging (Western Ore. fee pheasant and salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, halibut), hunters and anglers who choose electronic tagging will only need to record their harvest in the app, which works when you are offline.

How do I record my salmon/steelhead/sturgeon/halibut (combined angling tag)?

Paper tag: Validate your angling tag or harvest card by writing in ink all required information like the species code, mark if hatchery or wild fish (for salmon and steelhead), the location code of where the fish was harvested, the month and the date.

Electronic tag: Use the app that will work even when offline and provide required information.

What happens if my phone dies and I can’t show my electronic license, tag or validation?

Just like today, hunters and anglers will be required to have and display a license and tag upon contact by ODFW or OSP. It will be the hunter or angler’s responsibility to ensure they always have enough battery or an external battery source to power their phone so they can validate their harvest and show their license or tag. Note that even when they are in the field and without cell reception, ODFW and OSP will also be able to see information about licenses/tags/validations you purchased and to check your confirmation number (which indicates you have electronically tagged your big game animal).

Big game hunters using the electronic tagging system must also put a piece of duct tape, trail ribbon or something on their animal (must include their name, DOB, ODFW ID #, confirmation number and harvest date) and keep it attached to the carcass.

How many copies of my paper big game tag, turkey tag, combined angling tag, hatchery harvest card/tag or fee pheasant tag can I have?

Each customer will be allowed to print one tag and it will be unlawful to make copies. Each reprinted tag is unique and only the most recent reprint from the system is valid.  OSP and ODFW staff will have the ability to scan the barcode on a printed tag to confirm it is valid. If you lose your tag and need a reprint, you will need to go to a license sales agent or ODFW office and pay $2 for a reprint.

Will I have to pin my location or provide a photo when I tag my fish or animal electronically?

Customers will have the option of either pinning the location of their harvest or providing the wildlife management unit or fishery location code. ODFW recognizes the potential sensitivity of personal hunting and fishing locations and will be evaluating options to address confidentiality issues associated with the new system. Photos will not be accepted through the ELS reporting system.

Will my information be moved from the current system to the new system?

If you have purchased an annual hunting or fishing license since 2016, have hunting preference points on file or have certifications or other statuses that remain in effect for an extended period of time (such as Pioneer status, disabilities permit, Northwest Goose permit, or license suspension) then your information will be migrated into the new system. Older customer information that does not meet these criteria will be archived in a separate system.

Will the new system use a Hunter/Angler ID like the current one?

The current Hunter/Angler ID will become the “ODFW ID” in the new system. Accounts that are moved into the new system will keep the existing Hunter/Angler ID number, but it will now be called the ODFW ID. Customers whose information did not migrate will need to create a new profile and will get a new ODFW ID.

Will my data be secure?

Yes, the new system will meet all data security requirements, including encryption of personally identifiable information in transit and at rest. Personally identifiable information and financial information will not be collected by or stored in the system that you will interact with to access your license and other products. The information will be stored, using full encryption for both in transit and at rest data, in a separate system that has no direct access point for the general public.

Have license sale agents been told about the new ELS and do they plan to continue to sell licenses?

Yes, ODFW has informed current license sales agent about the new ELS and will be in regular communication with them before and after the launch. It will be up to license sales agents to decide if they want to continue selling licenses. Many retailers have told us they prefer to use their own equipment, which the new system allows, so as not have to print using a special terminal or special paper. One of ODFW’s goals will be to ensure that license sales agents can still be found throughout the state.

Are other states using this type of electronic licensing?

Yes. Several states (including GA, FL, OH, AR) currently provide a paperless tag option. The vendor ODFW is using for the new system (JMT) also manages the license sales system for the states of Idaho and Washington.

ODFW regularly communicates with other state fish and wildlife agencies about best management practices for licensing systems and spoke with 22 other states before making a final decision on the new license sales system.

This online FAQ will be continually updated with new information about the ELS before the system launches on Dec. 1, 2018.

Here’s How Much WDFW’s Proposed Fee Increase Would Cost You

I’d pay between $13.75 and $17.57 more to fish, crab and hunt in Washington under a 12 to 15 percent fee-increase proposal, one of two that WDFW put out for comment this week.

The across-the-board hike would raise the price of my combination fishing license, deer tag, and Puget Sound Dungeness, two-pole and Columbia River endorsements from $132.55 a year to $146.30 to $150.12.

That’s according to a draft estimate matrix produced by WDFW staffers at my request.

It shows potential out-the-door prices that reflect increases to both the agency’s base license and 10 percent transaction fees, but not the $.50 to $2 outside vendor charge. That means prices vary from true 12 to 15 percent rises.

But the tally would still rise commensurately for hunters and anglers who buy even more licenses than I do, say deer + elk + bear + cougar + small game (from $117.50 to $131.36 to $134.83), Westside pheasant (from $84.50 to $94.40 to $96.88) and shellfish/seaweed (from $17.40 to $19.25 to $19.71).

CHINOOK ANGLERS TROLL POSSESSION BAR EARLIER THIS MONTH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THE EXERCISE IS BEING DRIVEN BY A LOOMING $30 MILLION 2019-21 budget shortfall that has WDFW considering patching it in part with sportsman dollars but also the state General Fund, if state lawmakers sign off on it next winter and spring.

WDFW’s second proposal would be less expensive, at least for some, a single $10 fee that each license buyer would pay once annually ($3 for those who only buy a temporary license).

That option would save me and the agency’s highest-spending customers a little money over the other.

But it would be a relatively higher hit for fishermen who just work the lakes for trout in spring or bass in summer, clammers who only head to ocean beaches to dig razors in winter, and hunters who only chase quail in fall.

Ten bucks works out to a 7.6 percent increase for me and 5 percent for the sportsman who buys $200 in licenses, endorsements and tags, but 34 percent for the guy or gal who only plunks at Green Lake.

I can tell you right now which option I’d prefer, but is that fair to those who use less of the resource than I do, and would it lead to some of them deciding to just not buy a license? Trout anglers are one of WDFW’s most numerous constituencies.

Either way, nothing is set in stone yet and WDFW’s running an opinion survey in the lead-up to next month’s Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, where a final decision on what sort of package to take to legislators will be made. If a percentage increase is chosen over the $10 option, the price matrix would be updated with new costs.

A HERD OF MULE DEER IN THE PRESCOTT GMU. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

THIS IS THE SECOND TIME IN TWO YEARS that WDFW has sought a license increase. The 2016 Wild Futures Initiative proposed 10 percent hunting and 17 to 20 percent fishing increases, along with new $17 to $11.50 catch cards for salmon, steelhead, halibut and sturgeon that were later reduced to $10 each.

It went down in flames in Olympia during last year’s legislative session, but lawmakers did provide a $10 million one-time dip into the General Fund to cover this biennium’s large budget shortfall.

They also gave the agency marching orders to review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis, come up with a long-term funding plan, and work more closely with stakeholders.

WDFW identified $3 million worth of cuts as well and those are scheduled to occur over the next year.

With those chores ticked off and the deadline for submitting 2019-21 budget proposals to the Fish and Wildlife Commission and then the Office of Financial Management approaching, earlier this week WDFW held an hour-long evening webinar on their predicament and increase proposals, available here.

Following his presentation, Policy Director Nate Pamplin took about a half hour’s worth of “good questions” from viewers.

The 60 to 65 who tuned in at any one time wondered why revenue from hunter and angler license sales is only holding steady or dropping over time — a major cause of the shortfall and similar to national trends — how WDFW can hope to increase participation when it seems opportunities are increasingly limited, whether selling off wildlife areas was an option, and what’s being done to bring in dollars from nonconsumptive users, among others.

On that last one, Pamplin pointed out to reporters earlier in the day that two-thirds of WDFW’s overall proposed $60 million ask of the legislature to fill the shortfall and increase some fishing and hunting ops, along with fund key conservation work, would be paid for through the General Fund, the other third by sportsmen. With Wild Futures, it all would have fallen on the wallets of sportsmen.

That is a different direction than just a few years ago but also a recognition that, say, producing salmon not only benefits anglers but also society as a whole through commercial and tribal fisheries that provide fillets for those who don’t venture out, as well as ecological benefits to the food web, Pamplin said.

Indeed, this week there’s grim news that another baby orca has died, part of a resident population that is in nutritional distress because their key feedstock, Puget Sound fall Chinook, is in decline.

Pamplin also wondered aloud about whether the time game wardens spend dealing with black bears getting into suburban residents’ garbage cans should really be paid for with hunter dollars, as it is now, or the General Fund?

LAST YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA STATIONED IN THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK CAPTURED AN IMAGE OF THIS WOLF. (NPS)

HONESTLY, $10, $13.75 AND $17.57 AREN’T A LOT FOR Ol’ Moneybags Walgamott. At the midpoint, it is about half what it cost to go out to a barbecue joint with my wife Tuesday night when we were both too lazy to cook, and around what I spent on used books later that evening.

Dinner was one and done, but I might read the books a second time, if they’re good.

The fishing and hunting licenses allow me to go over and over and over and fill my freezer.

(Well, theoretically if I was actually any good at catching salmon and chasing down deer.)

But while the fee increase might also help catch up to inflation since the last one in 2011, for those expressing opposition so far, that is not the point.

It is that the quality of Washington’s fishing and hunting experience is not $10 or 12 to 15 percent better than it was last year, that they don’t agree with WDFW’s direction on wolves and other predators, that the state may have lost the productive Skokomish River meat Chinook fishery — fueled by a WDFW hatchery, no less — for good, and any of a thousand other beefs with the agency and its management of the public’s fish, wildlife and wildlands that they’re already paying to fund but are unhappy with the current product.

Pamplin acknowledged as much that the increases are a tough sell, and that there are concerns WDFW could price sportsmen out of the market, a vicious loop for the budget.

Still, with potential cuts to hatchery operations, enforcement, wildlife conflict prevention, lands management and other programs, and over 100 jobs at stake if WDFW’s proposal falls flat again, he wants to hear what the public’s priorities are.

My thoughts don’t matter, but yours do. You can make your feelings known through WDFW’s survey.

And the Fish and Wildlife Commission is slated to talk about the proposal at its Aug. 10-11 meeting in Olympia before making a recommendation to lawmakers who draw up and vote on WDFW’s budget. Fee bills would also be subject to legislative hearings where you can have your say as well.

Correction: A miscalculation of increases proposed under the Wild Futures Initiative led to too-low estimates of select fishing license increases. Instead of 8 to 9%, those should have read 17 to 20%.

WDFW Outlines Budget Issues, Proposed ‘Modest’ Fee Increase

WDFW hopes to lean on the general public more to fill a potential $30 million shortfall in the next budget biennium, a fundamental shift from just a few years ago, but sportsmen may still be asked to pay a “modest” increase to chase Chinook, bucks and ducks under a proposal being unveiled today.

It’s part of an overall $60 million bid that also includes strategic investments to improve angling and hunting and is now up for discussion, with tonight offering the first chance for you to hear about it first hand as state managers hold a webinar starting at 7 p.m.

Briefing reporters this afternoon, WDFW Policy Director Nate Pamplin says there are two fee-increase options WDFW’s looking at currently.

One is a 12- to 15-percent across-the-board hike, the first since 2011, and the other is a $10 charge that license buyers would pay once a year ($3 for temporary permits).

Neither is a done deal and the Fish and Wildlife Commission must first determine whether to ask the state Legislature to pass it during the 2019 session.

If you’ve got a sense of deja vu all over again, it’s because, yes, we just went through this.

WDFW’S NATE PAMPLIN BRIEFS REPORTERS DURING A WEBINAR ON ITS BUDGET ISSUES.

Pamplin acknowledged that fee bills are tough sells, and that was definitely the case with former Director Jim Unsworth’s Wild Futures Initiative, which flamed out in 2017.

It proposed 10 percent hunting and 17 to 20 percent fishing increases, along with new $17 to $10 catch cards for salmon, steelhead, halibut and sturgeon.

Pamplin attributed that to “a real lack of trust in the department” but with lawmakers’ one-time $10 million bump that year instead of license increases came requirements that the agency review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan.

Essentially, the funding problem isn’t bloated management and too many IT staffers but long-term issues caused by revenues from sportsmen not keeping up with how much it costs to manage fish, wildlife and opportunities to pursue them, increasing legislative requirements, deep budget cuts in the years after the Great Recession and the looming expiration of the key Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.

“Your power bill goes up, our fish food bill goes up,” Pamplin said.

Three million dollars worth of cuts to fish stocking, habitat work and volunteer grant programs have also been identified and will occur in the coming months.

And WDFW created a budget and policy work group made up of influential members of the fishing and hunting communities — Ron Garner, Andy Marks, Rachel Voss, Mark Pidgeon — and other groups in Washington’s outdoor world, and for several months now they’ve been getting an eyeful about where and how license money comes from and what it’s used for.

“We lifted up the hood on our budget,” says Pamplin when asked what made this effort different from Wild Futures’ failure.

One thing that I learned when I took my own peak earlier this year was just how much of my fishing and hunting license money went to WDFW.

All of it.

Even so, adding to the price to go crabbing, troll for coho, and wander the Palouse for pheasants will see pushback, as it should because the product isn’t what it once was — habitat issues, decreased hatchery production, a booming state population are all impacting the quality and experience.

Pamplin said WDFW recognized those “optics” as well as concerns about pricing hunter and anglers out of the field and off the water.

ANOTHER SCREENGRAB FROM TODAY’S WEBINAR.

But what’s also different with WDFW’s request this time is that in 2017, the budget “solution” was entirely based on the wallets of the state’s sportsmen, as Pamplin told Northwestern Outdoors Radio host John Kruse, whereas this time only 33 percent is.

That’s because Pamplin et al hope that lawmakers will recognize that much of what WDFW does benefits that state as a whole and should be funded thusly.

That represents a shift from 2010, when one top manager told me at the time WDFW was “making a concerted effort to make itself less dependent on the General Fund” because it didn’t compete well with public health, prison and education.

Where it leaned heavily on us in the following years, the agency is now trying to broaden its funding base.

Pamplin said hunting and fishing produce $3.4 billion in economic activity annually in Washington, and based on current appropriations from it, a 350 percent return on investment to GF-S, the state General Fund.

Answering a Kruse question, Pamplin wondered out loud who should pay for the game warden who has to go out to the suburban house and deal with the bear eating out of the garbage cans? Right now, hunter dollars fund the work but he feels that the General Fund should instead.

As for what WDFW would do if it were to receive that $60 million package from the General Fund and license increases from legislators, Pamplin pointed to a mix of programs that could continue/not have to be cut and long-term investments it could focus on, including:

Wildlife conflict prevention and response ($4.4 million)
Shellfish enforcement and consumer protection ($2.5 million)
Land management ($2.7 million)
Hatchery operations and fisheries management ($9 million)
Hunting management, including hunter education ($3.2 million)
Recovery of at-risk species and prevention of invasive species ($3.5 million)
Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement program ($3.3 million)
Customer service support ($1.9 million)

 And:

Conservation investments in such programs as salmon recovery, watershed health, biodiversity, and conservation enforcement ($14.7 million)
Expanded fishing opportunities and hatchery improvements ($5.6 million)
Hunting enhancements, including improved law enforcement and access ($3.5 million)
Orca recovery (amount TBD)

If those were the carrots, there wasn’t much stick in Pamplin’s webinar.

But he did point to seven hatcheries at risk if no funding is found — a list that includes Reiter Ponds, Humptulips and Omak, among others — as well as the warmwater program, ensuring early winter steelhead programs are ESA compliant and rehabbing lakes and streams.

Along with tonight’s webinar, Pamplin says there will be a chance to make your feelings known through an upcoming public opinion survey.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is also slated to talk about the proposal at its Aug. 10-11 meeting in Olympia before making a recommendation to lawmakers who draw up and vote on WDFW budget bills.

Correction: A miscalculation of increases proposed under the Wild Futures Initiative led to too-low estimates of select fishing license increases. Instead of 8 to 9%, those should have read 17 to 20%.

Utah Senator Wants To Transfer Public Lands

A U.S. Senator from Utah called for public lands to be privatized in a speech detailing his three-part, long-term plan, a disturbing vision that shows attempts to wrestle prime hunting grounds and fisheries away from us must still be guarded against.

SENATOR MIKE LEE (R-UTAH). (U.S. CONGRESS)

Mike Lee, the state’s junior senator and who is among several who’ve been spoken to about the pending Supreme Court vacancy, said that national forests, Bureau of Land Management and other held-in-common terrains and treasures should be transferred out of the nation at large’s hands.

He says his “new Homestead Act” is a bid to make housing more affordable and would also open up land outside of national parks and monuments for development such as schools and research centers.

“This is not a fiefdom of kings or royal forests. It is a constitutional republic for all, not the select,” said Lee in the speech late last week before the Sutherland Institute, a conservative market policy think tank based in Salt Lake City.

His plan caught the skeptical eyes of Outdoor Life magazine as well as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which urged sportsmen to spread the word against it via hashtags such as #keepitpublic and #publiclandowner.

While there is debate over how the federal government should manage our myriad lands for multiple uses, there can hardly be any doubt about who can in fact enjoy them.

All of us.

Yet Lee claims — preposterously — they’re now “preserved for the enjoyment of the very few: For an upper-crust elite who want to transform the American West into so many picturesque tourist villages and uninhabited vistas.”

Yet essentially that would be what would happen if Lee’s grand vision were to take effect.

Rather than the building of noble universities in the woods and mesas, it’s far more likely we would see endless Aspens and Moabs and Bends, places that ironically Lee dismisses despite people there having found a way how to make a buck out of the plentiful recreation on public land that’s otherwise been ridden hard over the past century and a half.

Lee’s ideas follow those of fellow Utah politicians Bob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz, the latter of whom withdrew one transfer proposal after outcry from Northwest sportsmen and others and who eventually left the U.S. House of Representatives in spring 2017.

They’re typically promulgated through creative readings of legal documents, and law Lee cites from Utah’s enabling legislation that he feels requires the sale of federal land actually appears to focus on “agricultural public land,” which in the West tends to be in the river valleys, not straight public land, as he states in his speech.

While his plan is packaged as a gift to the common man, it’s not really.

Giving away national forests and BLM parcels is not going to make it magically rain and grow more grass for cattle to graze.

It’s not going to make trees on higher and drier pine mountainsides add board feet faster.

It’s not going to make the drive to real jobs any shorter, the cost of milk any cheaper or the price of gas go down for those who would take up his offer to move to cheap housing projects in fire country.

And it’s not going to bring back the boom times that were.

In fact, Lee’s supposed gift of “millions of acres of federal land to hard working families,” as he tweeted about the original Homestead Act, is as valuable as oceanfront property purchased in Arizona.

All the best of the West was claimed long, long ago, along with the marginal lands where it’s economically more and more difficult to make a living from the earth due to larger factors at play than federal management.

It’s likely the new owners of the national forests would quickly unload them. And who would end up with them?

Certainly not someone who would allow me on once-public lands without having to pay a steep fee, undoubtedly.

That’s unacceptable to me.

In Lee’s speech, he argues that the high percentage of public land we enjoy in the West is somehow unfair to us.

“How did it come to pass that the Land of the Free became a land of stunning inequality?” he asks. “Where nearly half of the land in the West—more than 600 million acres — is owned by the federal government, compared to just 5 percent of the land in the East?”

And that’s somehow a good thing for Easterners?

Not in my world view. It’s also what makes the West the Best.

Have a great Fourth of July, everyone, hopefully on my and your forever-public lands.

DOE’s Susewind Chosen As New WDFW Director

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission chose Kelly Susewind, of the Department of Ecology, as the new WDFW director.

KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

In a phone call immediately after the vote late this morning, Susewind told Commission Chair Brad Smith he was “very excited and very nervous.”

Susewind is something of an unknown and wildcard to Washington’s rank and file anglers and hunters, but the commission supported his appointment unanimously.

He has worked for the Department of Ecology for over two and a half decades, most recently as the director of administrative services and environmental policy.

According to a WDFW press release, he originally hails from the Grays Harbor area and went to Washington State University, where he earned a degree in geological engineering.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Washington at an agency whose effectiveness is critical to our ability to conserve fish and wildlife resources while providing outdoor recreation and commercial opportunities throughout the state,” Susewind said in the release. “The public has high expectations for WDFW, and I’m excited about being in a position to deliver the results they deserve.”

Pat Pattillo, who retired a few years ago from the agency after a long career in salmon management and who continues to keep a close eye on fisheries as well as advocates for sport angling, was very positive about the choice and the relative speed at which the process had moved along.

“I believe Kelly has the abilities to lead the department and communicate effectively with the many partners WDFW needs to be successful. Leadership from the top of the agency has been missing over the last two years and while capable managers for fish, wildlife, enforcement and habitat kept the wheels from falling off, it has been an agency without a head,” Pattillo said.

He said that Susewind will know whom he needs to establish relations with —  “the public, legislature, tribes and other management authorities.”

“It will take energy and, from what I’ve heard, he has that capability,” Pattillo said.

Rep. Brian Blake,  the South Coast Democrat in charge of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee which sees many WDFW-related bills, said Susewind had his “full support.”

“He is a lifelong hunter and I expect that he will be a force for positive change at DFW,” he said.

Fellow hunter Commissioner Jay Kehne of Omak nominated “Candidate P,” Susewind, for the position and was seconded by Vice Chair Larry Carpenter of Mount Vernon.

Susewind will oversee a staff of 1,800, land base of 1,400 square miles and harness a $437 million two-year budget to hold and conserve fisheries and hunting opportunities and provide scientific rationale for what it’s doing.

He also must deal with a potential $30 million budget shortfall in 2019-21 that could force the closure of the Omak and Naches trout hatcheries and other potential cuts unless the gap is filled by the legislature.

“He’s a good manager, great people skills and a real CEO type,” said Tom Nelson, co-host of a Seattle outdoors radio show on 710 ESPN.

Susewind’s soon-to-be old boss, DOE’s Maia Bellon, tweeted out her best wishes, “Congratulations, Kelly! Thank you for all the hard work and years of service at @ecologywa. We wish you all the best at @wdfw, and look forward to collaborating with you in your new role.”

When the Fish and Wildlife Commission put out its help wanted ad around four months ago, it said the next director would lead the agency through a “transformative” period.

“Obviously the Commission wants to take the department in an entirely new direction.  Change is very difficult, and taking over WDFW is nearly as complex as taking over a federal resource agency, with many of the same challenges,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “We welcome the new director and look forward to working with Mr. Susewind on conservation and recovery of our fisheries, growing participation in fishing and protecting the jobs in the sportfishing industry.”

Chair Smith said that “the appointment marks the beginning of a new era in the department’s history” and spoke highly of WDFW staff and what they could all accomplish together.

Susewind begins work Aug. 1 and will be paid an annual salary of $165,000.

Nineteen people applied for the position in the wake of Jim Unsworth’s resignation this past winter. That pool was cut to seven in April and then three last month.

One of the three, Joe Stohr, who has been acting director since Unsworth left,  sat at the end of the long table as the members of the citizen panel made their choice known. He was consoled by Smith after the vote, and after Smith phoned Susewind, Smith publicly added, “Joe, you have all of our respect.”

There will be some who will be unhappy that, once again, a new director is coming from outside the agency.

Commissioner Jay Holzmiller of Anatone likened the panel’s last selection to “a kid getting cocky on a bike.”

“We got our knees and elbows skinned up,” he said before casting his support for Susewind.

One of the primary reasons for Unsworth’s departure was his handling of Puget Sound salmon fishing issues. Some hoped that the new director would come from this world.

“On the fish side, I don’t believe anyone thinks salmonid biology is (Susewind’s) strong suit but he’s a real quick study,” said Nelson, who added, “I think Susewind is a strong choice and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

But there were many issues that came to a head during Unsworth’s term,  which also suffered from the bad luck of coinciding with sharply declining salmon runs due to the North Pacific’s “Blob,”  the pool of warm water that has crushed several years of returns.

Mark Pidgeon said that the Hunters Heritage Council and Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation were welcoming Susewind “with open arms.”

“We think that he will make an outstanding Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. We realize that he is taking over a department facing many crises and he will have many difficult tasks facing him.  Both our organizations look forward to working with him to build a better and brighter future for WDFW,” said Pidgeon.

Among Susewind’s immediate challenges will be that looming budget gap, and as a member of WDFW’s Budget Policy and Advisory Group helping the agency navigate those dangerous straits, Pidgeon advised the new top honcho to “open lines of communications, especially to the hunters and fishers.”

“These users have felt shut out. The best way to bring more money in the coffers is sell more licenses, talk with us and see what we want,” he said.

Pidgeon is also on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group.

“I want the new director to know he can call on me anytime.”

Wanda Clifford of the venerable Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, one of the state’s oldest sporting organizations, also extended that offer of help.

“We are very pleased with the hire of Kelly Susewind and look forward to working with with him. We would hope that Kelly will have a better understanding of the hunting community and the number of hunters that put time and funds into our statewide budget. We feel that in the past the thoughts, needs and suggestions  from the hunting community have not been respected when in reality a large part of the department’s budget comes from the purchase of license and tags, and as a user group are often put on the bottom.”

With INWC based in Spokane, from where it puts on the annual Big Horn Show, and in the corner of the state where most of Washington’s wolves roam, you can bet that the predators were on Clifford’s mind as well.

“We also would like to see our new director work on the large wolf issue that we face here on the east side of the state,” she said, and wished Susewind good luck.

Editor’s note: My apologies for misspellings, etc., pain in the butt to report breaking news and reaction by phone on a weekend.

Oregon Hunting Managers Look To Simplify Regs Pamphlet

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

ODFW is proposing some changes to big game hunting regulations beginning in 2019, the latest in a multi-year effort aimed at simplifying hunting and fishing regulations.

“Hunters tell us the regulations are too complicated, so we are making an effort to simplify whatever we can while still meeting the intent to conserve wildlife and ensure fair chase of game,” said Nick Myatt, ODFW Grande Ronde Watershed Manager, who is leading the effort for the agency.

ODFW will brief the Fish and Wildlife Commission on these changes during the June 8 meeting in Baker City and present final proposals to the Commission Sept. 14 in Bandon. Hunters and other interested parties are welcome to comment by testifying at these meetings or by emailing odfw.commission@state.or.us

A list of some of the major proposed changes follow. The full list is available at https://bit.ly/2spD7KJ

  • Standardize the minimum draw weight for bows at 40 pounds for all big game mammals, which will both simplify the regulation and remove barriers to archery hunting for youth and other smaller-framed hunters. (Currently, minimum draw weight is 50 pounds for elk, sheep and goat and 40 pounds for other big game.)
  • Eliminate the prohibition against decoys with moving parts when big game hunting. Staff believe the regulation is unnecessary and could be reducing cougar harvest.
  • Simplify requirements for legal muzzleloaders while maintaining the intent of a relatively short-range, primitive weapon.  The requirement for muzzleloaders to have an open ignition would be eliminated; the legal bullet regulation would be simplified to, “It is illegal to hunt with or possess sabots or saboted bullets;” and the prohibition on pelletized powder would be eliminated.
  • Change the SW Oregon first-come, first-served spring bear hunt to a controlled hunt consistent with all other spring bear hunts in Oregon.  This change simplifies regulations, may better distribute hunting pressure, and will allow hunters to purchase a point saver for spring bear.
  • Eliminate maximum party size limits for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bear hunts. ODFW believes party size is self-regulating and the regulation unnecessary.
  • Prohibit the import of deer, elk, or moose parts containing central nervous system tissue from any other state or province. (Currently Oregon only prohibits such imports from states/provinces with a known case of CWD. The change will simplify regulations and support Oregon’s efforts to prevent this disease from entering the state.)
  • Limit leftover tag purchases to people who have not already drawn a tag (will require legislative approval). This change would allow more people an opportunity to hunt each year.
  • Streamline limits on non-resident tags so deer, elk, pronghorn, and bear controlled hunts will all have a maximum of 5 percent non-resident tags (will require legislative approval).
  • While ODFW is not proposing allowing mechanical broadheads for big game archery hunters, due to interest in the topic, it will present the issue to the Commission for discussion at the meetings in Baker City and Bandon.

Several other regulations have been reworded to make them easier to understand, including the regulation prohibiting rifle hunting without a valid deer or elk tag during certain time periods and the proof of sex requirements. Other regulations deemed unnecessary or redundant have been proposed for elimination.

If the Commission approves the proposed changes in September, they will take effect for the 2019 hunting season. Changes requiring legislative approval will be considered as legislative concepts during the 2019 legislative session.

Record $1.02 Million Raised Through ODFW Raffle, Auction Tags; Money Goes To Access, Research Programs, Conservation Groups

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

ODFW’s 2018 auctions and raffles for 26 special Oregon big game hunting tags grossed a record $1,019,730 this year, breaking the previous record of $882,787 set in 2017. Winners of these tags can hunt during an extended season and in an expanded hunt area.

PATRICK WHEELER FROM HINES WITH A DEER TAKEN IN THE MALHEUR UNIT WITH HIS 2012 SE OREGON DEER RAFFLE TAG. (VIA ODFW)

A total of 145,105 raffle tickets were sold, grossing $380,730 and breaking previous records for raffle sales. Raffle winners were drawn at the Oregon Hunters Association state convention on May 12 at the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville. See the list of winners at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/auctions_raffles/raffle_winners.asp

The auction of 13 special big game tags grossed $639,000. The Governor’s combination deer/elk tag went for $78,000, breaking the previous record of $70,000 set in 2016. See the list of auction events and winning bids at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/auctions_raffles/current_auction_sales.asp

The funds raised for deer and elk tags sold at auctions and raffles go to ODFW’s Access and Habitat program, which opens millions of acres of private land to hunting access and improves wildlife habitat. Proceeds from the pronghorn, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat tags help fund research and management of those species.

The sportsmen conservation groups that sponsored the auctions at fund raising banquets of their organizations in the past few months also get to keep 10 percent of the auction proceeds ($63,900). Those groups include local, state and/or national chapters of the Wild Sheep Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Oregon Hunters Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, and National Wild Turkey Federation.

Idaho Commission OKs Issuing 1 Grizzly Bear Permit For Fall Hunt

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

Idaho Fish and Game commissioners on Thursday, May 10 approved a hunting season for grizzly bears in a portion of eastern Idaho with one tag offered.

WITH GRIZZLY BEARS IN THE GREATER YELLOWSTONE ECOSYSTEM — THIS ONE WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE PARK’S HAYDEN VALLEY — LONG SINCE RECOVERED, IDAHO FISH AND GAME MANAGERS WILL OFFER A SINGLE TAG TO HUNT ONE IN THE GEM STATE, THOUGH OFFICIALS CAUTION THE SEASON MAY BE CHALLENGED IN COURT, IN WHICH CASE THE TAGHOLDER’S MONEY WOULD BE REFUNDED. (NPS)

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population has met federal recovery criteria since the early 2000s. The state of Idaho and its professional wildlife managers played a key part in this population’s recovery, in partnership with other states, and federal, tribal and local governments. In 2017 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the population off of the Endangered Species Act list, and Idaho will continue to responsibly manage the population in coordination with Wyoming and Montana now that federal protections are lifted.

The conservation strategy for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly population includes hunting as a management tool when the population is more than 600 bears.

The 2017 population estimate is 718 grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone “demographic monitoring area” (DMA), which encompasses suitable grizzly habitat in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. The DMA includes all of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, but no hunting will occur in either national park. The population in the DMA has been stable over the last decade with annual population estimates in the monitoring area ranging between 694 and 757 grizzlies.

Idaho grizzly bear hunt

Fish and Game will offer one tag for the opportunity to hunt a grizzly bear in a controlled hunt, random drawing limited to Idaho residents. Application period will be June 15 through July 15. Resident hunters who applied for any other controlled hunt in 2018 may also apply for the grizzly bear hunt.

The hunt will run Sept. 1 through Nov. 15. No baiting or hound hunting will be allowed for the grizzly bear hunt. Grizzly bears, like bull moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, limit tags to successful hunters “once in a lifetime.”

Because actual implementation of the grizzly hunt may be subject to a pending lawsuit in federal court, hunters applying should beware that the hunt could be canceled, in which case the pre-paid tag fees would be refunded, but the controlled hunt application fees would not.

How is the number of bears available for harvest determined?

Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have agreed to manage the Yellowstone grizzly bear population in the DMA between 600 and 748 bears, which corresponds to the average population from 2002 to 2014. No hunting will occur if the population is below 600 bears in the DMA.

Scientists have determined how much mortality on male and female bears can occur while managing for a sustainable population. Hunting can occur if the measured and predicted annual grizzly mortality is less than the total allowable mortality in any given year. Hunting opportunity is determined by subtracting the known and predicted annual mortality from the total allowable mortality for the population.

Why a single tag?

Idaho, Montana and Wyoming allocate available hunting opportunity based on the proportion of land each state has within the DMA (excluding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks where no hunting is allowed).

Idaho has 8 percent of the land in the DMA, and in 2018, 8 percent of the total allowable mortality available for hunting represents one male bear.

Avoiding female bears

Fish and Game biologists will work with the person who receives the tag to ensure the hunter understands rules, hunt boundaries and how to distinguish male bears from females.

At any given time, roughly half the female bears will be with cubs or juvenile bears, none of which are legal to harvest under the rules of the hunt. That means about 75 percent of the unaccompanied adult bears are male, and the identification training provided by the department will help the hunter avoid harvesting a female bear.

History

Grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has recovered since being listed as endangered in the 1970s. The population has increased from less than 200 in the 1970s to the current 718 bears. Biologists saw consistent population growth (between 4.2 percent and 7.6 percent annually) from 1983 to 2002, then slower population growth (.3 percent to 2.2 percent) from 2002 to 2014. Biologists say the slowed growth rate and stable population in the monitoring area suggest the population is at, or near, the carrying capacity of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The Greater Yellowstone population met the recovery criteria outlined in a 1993 recovery plan by the early 2000s. State and federal agencies finalized a long-term conservation strategy in 2007, and the Yellowstone grizzlies were removed from federal protection that year.

In 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed legal challenges to delisting, finding that regulatory mechanisms were adequate to support the recovered Yellowstone population. But the court ordered the bears to go back on Endangered Species list until the Fish and Wildlife Service analyzed if a decline in whitebark pine threatened the bear population’s recovery.

The bears were delisted again in July, 2017, and Fish and Game proposed its grizzly hunting season in March, 2018. The proposal garnered more than 900 comments to Fish and Game’s website during the public comment period in April and early May. Comments greatly varied, but the majority favored moving forward with a grizzly hunt.