The former hunt has actually been in the refuge plan for years but now USFWS is looking to move forward with it, while the latter comes with a nontoxic caveat.
Turnbull turkey gunners would be required to use lead-free shot, a wrinkle in this latest nationwide expansion of hunting opportunities that has the Sportsmen’s Alliance up in arms.
“The proposed lead ban on refuges kicks open the barn door to banning lead ammunition and tackle on all federal land, including national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, national preserves, and other areas,” said Todd Adkins, the organization’s vice president of government affairs, in a press release last week. “It provides a legal basis for radical animal rights and environmental groups to sue the federal government to force additional lead bans. In effect, President Biden is handing extremists a howitzer to fire at the federal government until the use of lead in ammunition and tackle for hunting and fishing is banned everywhere.”
Whether or not that comes to pass remains to be seen, but lead shot has long been banned for hunting waterfowl on NWRs and all other public and private lands nationwide, a regulation that went into effect in the early 1990s. And lead is also banned for all upland birds at Washington pheasant release sites.
Turnbull, which is located southwest of Spokane near Cheney, has hosted a special permit elk hunt for over a decade and those drawn for it can use lead bullets, but they are also asked to remove gut piles from the refuge. Scavengers can become sick from ingesting lead fragments.
The elk hunt is meant to reduce herd numbers and impacts to native vegetation like aspens. Turkeys aren’t native to Turnbull or the Northwest, but it’s “possible” that this new fall hunt on the refuge “may have beneficial effects for native wildlife species that depend on this food source, but such effects would be minor due to the small number of turkeys that would be harvested,” according to USFWS.
But it’s mostly being proposed to provide a recreational opportunity and manage turkey numbers.
Hunting would occur on the 1,883-acre Long Lake Unit off Mullinix Road, and be managed under WDFW’s Hunting By Reservation Only program. Two parties of up to four hunters each would be allowed during every two-day hunting period, say, a Saturday-Sunday or Wednesday-Thursday.
Fall turkey hunting in this part of Washington allows a take of two beardless birds and two of either sex.
An estimated 280 hunters are expected to take 70 turkeys, USFWS’s proposal states.
According to Turnbull NWR manager Lisa Wilson, a spring gobbler hunt is not in the cards due to possible disturbance to nesting waterfowl.
Baskett Slough, which is located west of Salem near Dallas, has hosted a by-reservation-only two-day youth waterfowl hunt since the 2018-19 season as part of a 2011 management plan that also allowed the goose hunt but which has yet to be implemented.
While the Willamette Valley is rich with geese through the year, it is very light on public land. Similar to Turnbull, the Baskett Slough goose hunt would provide a good recreational hunting opportunity while helping ODFW manage Canada geese, a population that is above management objective and can cause agricultural damage.
If approved, hunting would be open on 1,059 acres of crop fields and wetlands on ODFW’s September schedule, typically two full midmonth weekends and the workweek between them. Harvest is estimated at 1,125 Canadas.
Hunters would need to check in at the refuge office for blind selection an hour and a half before legal hunting hours, and parties would be limited to three. Free roam hunting would be allowed.
“Given the small amount and season of the expected take, the hunt as designed will not adversely affect the refuge’s ability to sustain optimum population levels for meeting other refuge objectives, specifically maintaining wintering populations of migratory waterfowl, and maintaining enough wildlife to provide for wildlife viewing enjoyment,” USFWS states.
To comment on the Baskett Slough NWR proposal, email HuntFishRuleComments@fws.gov using the subject line “Baskett Slough NWR,” mail them to Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, 26208 Finley Refuge Rd., Corvallis, OR 97333, fax them to (541) 757-4450 or call (541) 757-7236.
To comment on the Turnbull NWR proposal, email HuntFishRuleComments@fws.gov using the subject line “Turnbull NWR,” mail them to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Refuge Manager, Turnbull NWR, 26010 S. Smith Road, Cheney, WA 99004, fax them to (509) 235-4723 (Attn: Turnbull Hunt Plan), or call (509) 235-4723.