Tag Archives: hunting

Inslee Proposes Fish-Hunt Fee Increase, Bringing Columbia Endorsement Back

Governor Inslee is proposing to increase Washington fishing and hunting licenses and bring back the Columbia River endorsement to partially fill gaping holes in WDFW’s budget, surprising agency officials.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE GIVES HIS 2019 STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH EARLIER THIS YEAR. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

The supplementary budget from the two-term governor running for reelection also includes $15.6 million from the General Fund to mostly meet WDFW’s big ask of $26 million in tax dollars, a decision fish and wildlife managers made after seeing their two previous fee hikes flame out.

“That was news to us that the Governor’s Office was planning to use a fee bill,” said Nate Pamplin, WDFW Director of Budget and Governmental Affairs, this rainy morning.

Still, he and Director Kelly Susewind were optimistic that Inslee’s proposed overall $23.8 million budget bump would help get them through the current two-year biennium.

“In general, we’re seeing the budget conversation shift from if this work should continue, to how this work should be funded—which is a positive sign,” Susewind wrote in an all-staff email on Thursday.

The release of the governor’s budget ahead of the short, 60-day legislative session beginning in mid-January is said to “set the tone” for counter proposals from the House and Senate, which must approve any license hikes before they go into effect.

It’s now up to the governor’s Office of Financial Management to submit a fee bill, but WDFW brass believes it will be the same or similar to the 15 percent across-the-board package introduced during this year’s long session.

That one had widespread support until a Fish and Wildlife Commission vote in March on Columbia River salmon reforms  backlashed things.

OFM is also expected to reintroduce a bill to reestablish the Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement, which was not extended last session by lawmakers. It helps fund fisheries and monitoring, primarily in the upper river, that is required to hold seasons over the numerous Endangered Species Act-listed stocks in the region.

Pamplin called those two pieces “a significant chunk of the budget proposal” from the Democratic governor who now has majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Before they fell by the wayside last session, it was estimated that a 15 percent fee increase would bring in $14.3 million every two years, the CRSSE $3 million every biennium.

If passed this session, they would pay for “at-risk” hatchery production and fisheries, hunting and wildlife work, customer service, and the aforementioned Columbia seasons, and “emergent” needs such as WDFW’s Fish Washington app. Commercial crabbers would be tapped to pay more as efforts ramp up to prevent offshore whale entanglements.

A mix of fee and General Fund moneys would help cover other  emergent needs such as monitoring Puget Sound and Skagit-Sauk salmon and wild steelhead fisheries, respectively, and a large cost of living increase OKed last session by lawmakers, who didn’t identify where that funding would come from.

There’s also $924,000 from the General Fund for pinniped management on the Columbia, where the state and others have applied to remove hundreds of California and Steller sea lions, and $573,000 to submit a report by next December on how to “develop alternative gear methods for the commercial gill net fishery and a draft a plan to reduce the number of commercial gill net licenses” on the big river.

Interestingly, while Inslee sent WDFW a letter in late September to come up with more ways to nonlethally manage wolves in Northeast Washington’s troubled Kettle Range — the scene of dozens of cattle depredations and the removal of two full packs over the years — and the agency recently sent him a “suite of activities for additional capacity,” the governor’s budget doesn’t fund those options.

It does, however, “preserve current levels of service from law enforcement officers and wildlife conflict specialists,” with dollars coming from the General Fund.

There’s also money for continuing a Lake Washington predator study. Initial results from this spring suggested yellow perch might be having a larger impact on Chinook and other smolt survival, at least at the Gasworks Park chokepoint, than bass, which have been targeted by lawmakers to increase king salmon abundance to benefit orcas.

And Inslee’s Capital Budget proposal includes $2.9 million to continue renovations on Soos Creek Hatchery on the Duwamish-Green River, $1 million for master planning for orca recovery and boosts appropriations for Forks Creek and shifting production at Eells Springs Hatcheries.

WDFW had gone into the 2019 legislative session facing a $31 million shortfall this year and next because license revenues and funding haven’t been able to keep up with growing costs, heaped-on responsibilities from lawmakers or new issues cropping up. The agency’s General Fund contributions were also cut sharply during the Great Recession and have yet to fully return to previous levels — even as the state’s economy booms. Washington state natural resource agencies suck the hindmost tit in this state, given less than 1 percent of General Fund revenues.

With the death of the fee and CRSSE bills earlier this year, lawmakers gave WDFW $24 million in General Fund money instead, leaving a temporary $7 million gap — that then immediately ballooned back out to $20 million due to unfunded mandates such as the COLA for wardens, biologists and others.

Afterwards, with the failure of 2017’s and 2019’s fee bills staring them down, WDFW honchos took the tack that since much of their work also benefits the state as a whole, they wouldn’t take another run at increasing the price of licenses and instead submitted the $26 million General Fund request, a large ask they acknowledged.

The Governor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on why it decided to take another stab at a fee bill. The last one was approved in 2011.

Inslee’s proposal does set up issues for WDFW budgeting down the road.

“The good news is that our work is funded through the balance of the biennium,” Director Susewind told staff. “Our challenge is the Governor’s Budget appropriates more expenditure authority for the State Wildlife Account in out-biennia than the recreational fee bill would generate, leaving us a gap that we would need to resolve in 2021. We’ll work with the Legislature to try to avoid that outcome and see if we can convert the appropriations to be backed by revenue and thus sustain the work into the future.”

Washington’s 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 13 and is scheduled to adjourn March 12. Any fee and CRSSE bills must be approved by both chambers and be signed by the governor who proposed them.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated how much was proposed in the budget for pinniped management. The correct figure is $924,000, not $924 million.

18 WDFW Fish, Wildlife, Recreation Acquisition Proposals Out For Comment

Washington land managers have their eyes on nearly 7,000 acres across the state for fish and wildlife habitat, angling, hunting and other recreational uses and are asking for comment on them.

The 18 proposals range from padding wildlife areas and purchasing inholdings in Eastern Washington to conserving and restoring Puget Sound estuaries to strategic partnerships with counties and improved access to salmon streams.

ATTENDEES AT THE DEDICATION OF THE 4-O RANCH UNIT OF THE CHIEF JOSEPH WILDLIFE AREA IN MAY 2017 LOOK TOWARDS A 770-ACRE PARCEL OWNED BY THE 4-0 CATTLE COMPANY THAT WDFW WOULD NOW LIKE TO PURCHASE. OWNERS TYPICALLY APPROACH THE STATE ABOUT BUYING THEIR LAND; WDFW WHICH IS REQUIRED TO ONLY PAY MARKET VALUE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“Our goal is to protect land and water for people and wildlife throughout the state while preserving natural and cultural heritage,” said WDFW lands manager Cynthia Wilkerson in a press release.

They’re all far from done deals. Public input over the next three weeks will help determine which will move forward to be competitively ranked against other agencies’, cities’, counties’ and organizations’ proposals. Funding would be sought through state and federal grants for recreation, habitat and endangered species.

WDFW’s 2020 wish list is more than twice as long as last year’s and it’s notable for several proposals.

A 420-acre property in the lower Methow valley would not only protect “crucial sagebrush steppe habitat” for mule deer and other species, but help “(cultivate) a critical partnership with Okanogan County.”

That county is one of the last best places to do big things in terms of wildlife habitat, but local commissioners and residents have also bristled about state land buys and their impacts to tax rolls.

Buying the ground on top of a bench above the tiny town of Methow would allow WDFW to “partner with the county and facilitate their access to additional rock sources for public works projects.”

The project has the support of Okanogan County, the agency notes.

(WDFW)

Other big acquisitions include a quartet in extreme Southeast Washington.

The largest is 1,650 acres on Harlow Ridge, which includes a series of flats and timbered draws between upper South Fork Asotin and George Creeks west of Anatone.

Adjacent to the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area, it would protect elk winter range and calving areas, as well as “rare and imperiled remnant prairie habitats and endemic plants.”

“Department staff have been responding to elk damage in the Cloverland area and the purchase of this property would help to alleviate damage issues by providing alternate forage,” WDFW adds.

It has support from the Asotin County Sportsmen’s Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The 643-acre Green Gulch buy would link sections of the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area on the west side of the divide between Hells Canyon and Joseph Creek, “providing connectivity for mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and other species” and “a great deal of recreational opportunity such as, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird watching.”

RMEF, the sportsmen’s association and the Asotin County Lands Committee all support it.

The pro-hunting and -elk organization also gives the thumbs up to adding another 770 acres to the spectacular 4-O Wildlife Area, purchased in chunks earlier this decade from rancher Mike Odom. If approved it would bring the unit along and above the Grande Ronde River to 11,234 acres, or 17.5 square miles.

A bit further west is a 720-acre patch that butts up against the Umatilla National Forest and which WDFW would like to add to the Grouse Flats Wildlife Area.

“The property is heavily used by elk, deer, bears, cougars, and wolves with many non-game species present. Numerous springs, wetlands, and Bear Creek on the property will continue to provide quality riparian habitat that should improve over time in public ownership,” WDFW states.

Recent pics from a site evaluation show it might need some cleaning up. RMEF supports the buy.

(WDFW)

In Yakima County is a 1,105-acre parcel on the west side of Wenas Lake that WDFW is looking at for as a habitat conservation easement and Wenas Wildlife Area headquarters.

It’s supported by birders and a conservancy.

In Grays Harbor, the agency would like to add as much as 416 acres in three parcels to the Davis Creek Wildlife Area, a former dairy farm, along the Chehalis River just downstream of Oakville. It has support from Ducks Unlimited and would protect the floodplain.

WDFW would also like to resecure access to popular Chapman Lake in western Spokane County following the closure of a resort with the only launch in 2011, as well as acqiure surrounding uplands. The lake is noted for kokanee and largemouth fishing, and the parklike lands and ponds above it look gamey.

“The intent is to purchase road access and a small lakefront footprint with exsisting grant funds and pursue funding for a land exchange or purchase of the remaining property in this section,” the agency explains.

Supporters include county commissioners and at least one local fly fishing club.

Another key access proposal is on the lower Samish River, up which plentiful hatchery fall Chinook return but getting to them can be difficult. Last year, anglers built a freelance boardwalk out of pallets to get to good spots — but which were also laid down on private land and had to be removed.

(WDFW)

Buying the 109-acre property “will contribute significantly to improving fishing access that is in high demand,” according to WDFW.

A levee does bisect the land and is marked with signs barring access, so conversations would need to occur with the local diking district, according to Skagit Wildlife Manager Belinda Rotton.

Still, she’s excited about the proposal, as it could help expand waterfowl hunting opportunities and access to harvestable salmon.

“When we heard it was available, ‘Oh my goodness,’ this will be a good property for us,” she said.

Skagit County supports the proposal.

Other proposals target the Union River and Discovery Bay estuaries, land surrounding a holding pool for summer steelhead on the East Fork Lewis River, a Skamania County bat cave, a 50-acre addition to the Ebey Island Wildlife Area, 2.5 acres around the Modrow Bridge launch on the Kalama, an acre at the old Peshastin Mill for a parking lot for a trail, and inholdings or parcels adjacent to the Rendezvous Wildlife Area of the upper Methow Valley and Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area west of Ephrata.

Following public review, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind would sign off on a list of projects for seeking funding. Typical sources include the state Capital Budget disbursed through the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office and from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s various granting mechanisms, including for endangered species.

WDFW owns and/or manages more than a million acres across Washington for fish, wildlife and recreation.

Comments are being taken from today till Jan. 3. Send them via email to lands@dfw.wa.gov or via the Post Office to Real Estate Services, PO Box 43158, Olympia, WA 98504.

WDFW’s Susewind To Hold Monday Evening Webinar On Agency Policies, Budget Issues, Etc.

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

Kelly Susewind, director of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will host an online, virtual open house on Monday, Dec. 16 to give the public a chance to ask questions and gain information about department policies and direction.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND. (WDFW)

“This is a chance to hear from those who aren’t always able to attend our in-person events and meetings,” said Susewind. “Getting this feedback is incredibly helpful. We learn about what’s on people’s minds and how we can enhance their lives through our work while participants get answers to the things that matter most to them.”

Director Susewind will be joined by wildlife, fish, law enforcement, and habitat leadership. He and his staff will kick off the online event with a brief update on the upcoming legislative season and department budget challenges, current conservation efforts, partner collaborations, efforts to enhance public service, and the department’s work to develop a strategic plan.

The online webinar starts at 6:30 p.m. The public can go to https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2019121004 during the event to watch and submit questions. After the event, the digital open house video will remain available for viewing from the agency’s website, wdfw.wa.gov.

2020 ODFW Fish, Hunt Reg Books Out; Changes Detailed

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

The 2020 Sport Fishing and Big Game Hunting Regulations are now available in stores and ODFW offices and online at http://www.eregulations.com/

Changes from 2019 are listed in the What’s New section under the table of contents and are identified by yellow highlighted text throughout the regulations.

There are few major changes to the sport fishing regulations, but one is that in 2020, recreational crabbers will be required to mark all floating surface buoys with the owner’s full name or business name and at least one of the following: phone number, permanent address, ODFW Angler ID number, or a boat identification number, such as Oregon boat registration number. Find more information here.

As part of efforts to improve protections for mature spawning-size sturgeon, seasonal Columbia River no-fishing sanctuaries for these fish have been expanded and closure time extended.

Finally, anglers who purchase a two-rod validation will be able to use two rods in the Sandy River and Snake River below Brownlee Dam.

OREGON CRABBERS WILL NOW HAVE TO MARK THEIR BUOYS WITH THEIR NAME AND ANOTHER PIECE OF IDENTIFICATION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Big game hunters face more significant changes, as improvements to the regulations come into effect for 2020. A multi-year effort has been underway to improve and simplify big game regulations to make them more consistent, simpler where possible, and in tune with current populations and issues.

This year more than ever, hunters who apply for controlled hunts need to carefully check their hunt number. Many controlled hunts have been consolidated into larger areas and/or have longer seasons and boundaries of many controlled hunts were expanded or made simpler. Maps for these hunts will be available on MyODFW.com in 2020.

Hunters should note that hunts that were formally called “centerfire” seasons or commonly referred to as “rifle” seasons, are now “Any Legal Weapon Seasons.” This change was made to make it more clear to hunters that they are not limited to only using a rifle for these hunts; it is legal for hunters to use any legal shotgun, bow, muzzleloader, or handgun. For example, most hunters with a Western Oregon Deer tag typically hunt with a rifle, but if they prefer they can use this tag to hunt the season with a bow instead of hunting the regular archery season.

New for 2020, hunters with access to private land in areas of chronic elk damage can choose the new General Season Antlerless Elk Damage tag as their elk hunt. This new hunt is meant to address chronic elk damage and address increasing private land elk populations.

Several elk seasons east of the Cascades will shift from general season to controlled hunts in 2020 to improve bull ratios and hunt quality. This means hunters will need to apply to hunt Rocky Mtn elk season in the Hood-White River-Maupin-Biggs-Columbia Basin units and in units on the eastern flank of the Cascades (formerly in Cascade elk general season).

Western Oregon general season buck deer hunters will be able to take a spike in the 2020 season as the new bag limit is “any buck with visible antler.” There are sufficient bucks in the population to support increased harvest and the change may also help the buck deer population by allowing hunters to remove deer in poorer condition and the bucks genetically inclined to remain spikes.

Finally, due to a printing error, the Biggs Maupin unit is colored as black and appears to be closed to hunting during general archery season. The unit is not closed and the online version has been corrected.

For more information on the changes to 2020 big game hunting regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/articles/whats-new-2020-changes-big-game-regulations

Editor’s note: This press release has been updated in the second to last paragraph after ODFW subsequently provided the correct unit that was inadvertently colored black in the hunting regs.

New WDFW Region 4 Director Named: Brendan Brokes

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

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind has named Brendan Brokes Regional Director of the North Puget Sound Region based in Mill Creek. He began his new job Nov. 11, overseeing all WDFW work in King, Skagit, Snohomish, Island, San Juan and Whatcom counties.

BRENDAN BROKES. (WDFW)

“I’m excited to have Brendan in this role,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Brendan brings deep understanding of the region and existing knowledge about our programs, which will be an asset as he addresses the complex issues unique to Puget Sound, the North Cascades, and some of our state’s fastest growing communities.”

Brokes has worked as the Habitat Program manager in this region since 2015 directing habitat restoration, development reviews and shoreline protection efforts. Brokes has worked for WDFW since 2001, serving as the assistant regional habitat program manager from 2005-2015.

BRENDAN BROKES WILL MANAGE FISHING, HUNTING AND HABITAT WORK IN WASHINGTON’S REGION 4, WHICH STRETCHES FROM THE UNTRAMMELED HEIGHTS OF THE CASCADES TO HIGHLY DEVELOPED SEATTLE AND ITS SUBURBS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT, ALL)

Before arriving at WDFW, Brokes worked at Mount Rainier National Park as a researcher and biological technician in aquatic ecology. He also worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service monitoring foreign commercial fisheries compliance.

“This region is rich with incredible partners and opportunities,” said Brokes. “I’m looking forward to working collaboratively on southern resident killer whale and salmon recovery, elk management, wildlife coordination with Canada, and the chance to engage the public in recreation and stewardship opportunities.”

Brokes holds a master’s degree in fisheries science from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., and has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1987.

WDFW regional directors act on behalf of the WDFW director to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.

Washington’s Rifle Deer Season Wrapping Up

Washington’s 2019 general rifle deer season is just about a wrap, with only hours worth of hunting time left in the state’s northeast corner for whitetails.

As hunters filtered out of Stevens and other counties up there this past Sunday, some encountered a game warden check station on Miles-Creston Road near the intersection with Highway 2, in northern Lincoln County.

WASHINGTON GAME WARDENS CHECK HUNTERS NEAR THE SMALL TOWN OF CRESTON WEST OF SPOKANE ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2019. (WDFW)

According to WDFW, fish and wildlife officers chatted with 179 hunters as well as anglers in 117 rigs, and sportsmen were bringing quite an array of game home.

“We checked 35 white-tailed bucks (mostly shot in Stevens County), nine turkeys, two cougars, seven grouse, and assorted fish (trout and kokanee) from Lake Roosevelt,” reported Capt. Dan Rahn in Spokane.

While the late modern firearms whitetail hunt ends half an hour after sunset today in Game Management Units 105 through 124, turkey, cougar and grouse seasons there run through the end of the year, while fishing is open year-round on the bulk of the Upper Columbia impoundment.

WDFW biologists in these parts also ran their usual last-Sunday-of-season check station in Deer Park, though you might read the results while keeping in mind how many days of hunting were still available as hunters passed through.

This year, with two days of season left, district bio Annemarie Prince in Colville says that 99 hunters with 26 bucks were tallied.

That’s an uptick from 2018 when the count was 96 with 16, but when hunters had one more day in hand, and less than 2017, when it was 124 with 43 and no time left on the clock.

“Overall, hunters seemed happy with the season and we had some really nice whitetails come through,” says Prince, who notched her tag. “Most hunters at least saw does and fawns even if they never found a buck to harvest.”

Back at that Highway 2 game check, WDFW reported that officers had to give out 22 warnings, “mostly for improperly notched tags, no evidence of species/sex, and transporting fish/wildlife without written statements.”

But at least one violation may get someone in hotter water.

“One cougar was checked that was harvested without a valid cougar tag. The cougar was seized, and charges will be referred to the prosecutor’s office,” Rahn reported.

Meanwhile, the late blacktail hunt in Western Washington closed Sunday evening.

Next up are late general archery and muzzleloaders opportunities that begin tomorrow and in following days and weeks.

So far this deer season, judging by pics and stories on Hunting-Washington.com and a similar Facebook page, a fair number of riflemen tagged out in November, including with some pretty nice bucks as well as great firsts.

Prince was gunshy about making a prediction for how final harvest stats will shape up in her district, and while it won’t be for months that we do see hard numbers, I’m going to go out on a bit of limb and forecast that this year’s statewide kill will end up above last season’s admittedly modest take.

(Amy, go ahead and start on our crow recipe now, should still be on the counter.)

Wolves A Topic As WDFW Director Appears On TVW

While Washington hunters’ and anglers’ kids were out trick-or-treating last night, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind was on TVW’s Inside Olympia, speaking on agency hot-button items of the day — if not the past decade.

Budget; wolves; salmon production, fishing seasons and orca recovery; sea lion management; and Columbia gillnetting.

WDFW DIRECTOR KELLY SUSEWIND (RIGHT) APPEARED ON INSIDE OLYMPIA WITH HOST AUSTIN JENKINS TO TALK ABOUT VARIOUS FISH AND WILDLIFE ISSUES. (TVW)

Given Governor Jay Inslee’s recent letter to WDFW on wolves and its response, and a court hearing today with two environmental groups, host Austin Jenkins dedicated a full third of his near-hour-long show to the subject of Canis lupus in Washington.

Watching it this morning, my ears perked up when the subject of wolf hunting came up for several minutes.

“It’s a legitimate hunting activity.”
–WDFW Director Kelly Susewind

That topic is among the boxes, per se, folks can check off as an important one to them in the agency’s extended scoping survey as it begins planning for postrecovery wolf management.

In the interest of sharing with fellow hunters where WDFW’s at with the issue, here’s how the conversation went down, based on a corrected transcript:

Austin Jenkins: In a kind of post-protected status environment, can you imagine a management plan that allows for the hunting of wolves?

Kelly Susewind: It’s certainly on the table. It’s a controversial issue. I don’t know if we’ll get there or not — that will be the outcome of our processes — but it certainly needs to be on the table. It’s been an activity that occurs in other states when they’ve reached the recovery stage.

AJ: And why does it need to be on the table? Is that a management question?

KS: Well, I guess it doesn’t have to be. To me it’s a process question, it’s good governance. We’re going into this with an open mind; we have no preconceived notions of what a postdelisting plan looks like. And so I want virtually everything on the table. Let’s give it a thorough vetting with a broad public base. Let’s understand where the citizens want to be on this issue.

We could manage with or without a hunting season. I think as you get the bigger numbers, there’s just the realities of what it’s going to take to manage, and we have to manage: It’s an apex predator. It’s wonderful that we’re getting to recovery; we have to manage in a way where they can coexist with humans.

A WASHINGTON HUNTER TAKES A LOOK AT A MOUNTAINSIDE AS HIS SHADOW STRETCHES OUT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

AJ: I think people can, and even if somebody who doesn’t hunt themselves might, understand hunting fowl, they might understand hunting deer and elk, because clearly when you hunt those animals you’re getting meat and you can eat them and there’s sort of this reason for, you know, getting your own food source. Hunting wolves doesn’t necessarily have that correlation, so what would be the purpose for hunting wolves other than somebody doesn’t like them and wants a tag to go kill them, or the sport of it, or perhaps because it’s a way to augment population control to the extent the agency wants and needs to do that?

KS: I would hope it would be the latter two. We don’t want folks out there killing wolves because they don’t like wolves. It’s a legitimate hunting activity. It’s not for protein, as you said, but hopefully — not hopefully, it has to be if we allow it — it has to be done as a part of management control, population control. 

From that perspective, there are a lot of folks out there who would like to enjoy going out and pursuing. It would be a challenge, to say the least. To do this from the ground in the way that we hunt in this state would be a challenge for folks. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, we again no preconceived notion of how that turns out.

Certainly there’s less of an appetite for hunting that’s not associated with food, with gathering protein, so it’s tougher in general. Then you bring in the passion people have for wolves. We’re a long ways from getting to a hunting season, I think.

TWO WOLVES ROAM ACROSS A SNOWY EASTERN WASHINGTON LANDSCAPE. (UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON)

Since they were delisted in the early years of this decade wolves have been hunted in northeastern Washington by the Colville and Spokane Tribes, both on and off reservation, and now year-round with no limit on how many can be taken.

State managers have never worried that tribal hunting seasons would be a conservation concern either in that well-wolfed corner of Washington, or beyond.

Then again, there’s not much they — or even the fiercest of pro-wolfers — can do about it, as the tribes are sovereign nations and can manage wildlife how they want.

As for whether state hunters will one day be able to pursue wolves, there’s a two-part answer to that.

The technical process — the road map to a hunt — is easy.

It needs to be part of the environmental impact statement that will be developed out of this fall’s scoping process. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has to approve the plan with that element, downlist the status of wolves from state endangered to game species as they meet the recovery goals, and then set regulations and seasons.

The more difficult part is that wolf hunts are a “magnitudes bigger issue” than wolf-livestock conflict, which itself is huge.

There will be titanic headwinds and icy waters to steer through.

One avenue may be mediation between the sides — hunters, wolf lovers and other interested instate parties — just like how the disparate interests on WDFW’s Wolf Advisory Group came together to agree on nonlethal preventative work and lethal protocols for removing wolves that attack cattle, sheep and other domestic animals.

Yet even as the idea is now percolating, as it were, it may also be on that stove for quite some time.

“We’re a long ways from getting to a hunting season, I think.”
–Susewind

Meanwhile, the scoping period that will help shape the draft environmental impact statement for how to manage wolves postrecovery continues through 5 p.m., Nov. 15.

It would behoove us hunters to register our thoughts formally. The time it takes to leave yet another comment on a Facebook wolf post isn’t much longer than it takes to fill out the seven-field questionnaire.

Go here.

The Late Shift: Last 5 Days Of Wash. Rifle Mule Deer Season Yields Big, Meaningful Buck

By Dave Anderson

I’ve always wanted to hunt the end of Washington’s general rifle season for mule deer, so we made it happen this year and decided to hunt the final five days. Weather can be hit and miss this time of year, but after looking at the forecast a few days before taking off, I knew we made the right call.

We hooked up the trailer Thursday afternoon and headed east. After getting set up we came up with the game plan for Friday. We decided to hunt up high at my usual starting point. That morning we saw a few tracks in the 5,600-foot range, but never laid eyes on any legal bucks.

(DAVE ANDERSON)

Therefore, we decided to come down midday and hunted low for the afternoon and early evening hunt. The deer were far more plentiful in the lower elevations versus up high.

We covered a lot of miles over the next few days, seeing a lot of does and several small, nonlegal bucks. This was a promising sign for future seasons, especially if we have a mild winter and no major fires.

(DAVE ANDERSON)

The excitement came on Monday. I heard a shot come from a location where I knew my father-in-law Maury was. Several minutes after I heard the shot, I received a text that said “Buck Down!”

The text that immediately followed read, “The biggest deer I’ve ever shot!”

MAURY KINCANNON BAGGED THIS NICE MULE DEER ON THE SECOND TO LAST DAY OF SEASON WHILE HUNTING WITH SON-IN-LAW DAVE ANDERSON. (DAVE ANDERSON)

My father-in-law introduced me to this area about six years ago and we go back every year. He drew the Pearrygin Quality Buck tag last season and was able to harvest a smaller four-point deer using that tag.

While it wasn’t the typical deer you would consider harvesting during a quality hunt, he was still pleased that he was able to at least fill the tag and put meat on the table.

(DAVE ANDERSON)

So when I laid eyes on the buck he got on Monday, the first thing I said was, “You just filled your tag with a buck that deserves that quality tag you had last year!”

There was a lot of celebrating and high fives, then we caped out the buck to get it ready for the taxidermist and packed it off the hill.

My father-in-law harvested this deer in a drainage that meant a lot to him. It was the exact same location his father and he had missed a large 4×4 years and years ago.

I was so happy for him and loved being a part of this special moment.

The last day of the season, my friend Kiley and I put our boots back on the ground and covered lots of ground and drainages looking for deer. I came across a total of 12 small, nonlegal bucks (all 2x2s and spikes) and a pile of does, but never anything I could legally harvest.

I covered more ground than I ever have and found lots of tracks and good sign. I cannot wait to get back over to hunt next year. Although my tag was not notched this year on our Eastern Washington hunt, my heart is completely full seeing Maury take his largest buck to date.

(DAVE ANDERSON)

Second Weekend Of 2019 Washington Rifle Deer Season

Can’t say the lucky list includes yours truly, despite giving it a good go in conditions that ranged from hail to flurries to steady drizzle to fog to tree-tipping winds, but some Washington hunters who persevered in weather that made the second weekend of rifle season and last four days for muleys a challenge tagged out.

MAURY KINCANNON BAGGED THIS NICE MULE DEER ON THE SECOND TO LAST DAY OF SEASON WHILE HUNTING WITH SON-IN-LAW DAVE ANDERSON. (HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

This is going to be an abbreviated report, but in the state’s northeastern corner, Saturday’s rain may have played a role in lower check station stats from Chewelah, according to district wildlife biologist Annemarie Prince.

She reported 23 hunters with two whitetail bucks there, down from 38 with six bucks and five does in 2018, when antlerless flagtails could be harvested by youth and disabled hunters.

To the west at Deer Park, 62 hunters came in with eight whitetail and four mule deer bucks.

Statistically, that’s actually an improvement over the first weekend  and last year’s second.

This year’s first weekend saw 92 hunters with 12 bucks at Deer Park, while 2018’s second saw 81 hunters checked 14 whitetails but only seven bucks. It’s also comparable to 2017, when 75 hunters had 16 bucks, along with 10 does.

In the Okanogan, for the first time in more than 20 years there was no check station set up for the second weekend.

It was a victim of a combination of factors including “illness, wedding at the (Red Barn) Saturday, scheduling conflict Sunday,” according to district wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin in Winthrop.

“Anecdotal reports suggest the hunting was pretty good at the end of the season, though,” he added.

A good number of bucks have been posted to Hunting-Washington.com and the various Facebook pages dedicated to the pursuit of antlered and other critters in the bounds of the Evergreen State.

Rifle mule deer season is now closed, while whitetail season continues through this Friday, Oct. 25, before picking up again Nov. 9-19 for the rut hunt.

On the Westside, blacktails are open through Halloween, with numerous units also open for a late hunt in mid-November.

Reminder: Hunter Pink OKed For Washington’s Rifle Deer, Elk Seasons

Well, I can’t say I saw any Washington rifle deer hunters dudded up in pink on the mountain I wandered around last weekend, but WDFW is reminding sportsmen that starting this season, the color is another option to orange.

“And, if one grandfather in pink inspires his granddaughter to explore the outdoors, that is a great supplementary outcome!”said Jen Syrowitz of Washington Outdoor Women, in a press release.

Essentially, earlier this year the state Legislature passed a bill allowing fluorescent hunter pink to be worn during modern firearm seasons for deer and elk, and various other hunts, and then the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted rules that implemented the change, per WDFW.

Several other states now also allow pink in place of orange, but you’ll still need to wear at least 400 square inches of it above your waist and visible from all sides, according to agency Hunter Ed director David Whipple.

“We’re excited to add this new option for our hunters,” he said in the press release. “Many hunters, regardless of gender or age, are looking forward to wearing fluorescent hunter pink.”

WDFW is also asking for pics of sportsmen who don the color.

For more on hunter orange and hunter pink rules, etc., go here.