An exhaustive list of what you can shoot at on WDFW’s Feel Free To Hunt-enrolled private properties would include: Big game; small game; upland birds; other legal open game.
A very short list of what you can’t shoot at on FFTH lands: The damn FFTH sign and other nongame targets.
WDFW is reporting “some issues” in far Eastern Washington’s Region 1 where some folks apparently have been plinking on lands that farmers and ranchers have generously and freely opened to hunters, for hunting, putting the ground at risk of closure to the sporting public or at least further restrictions.
“Unless you have specific permission in advance, activities that aren’t acceptable on private hunting properties include: target shooting and sighting in your firearm, starting camping or cook fires, and driving off-road,” an agency blog post reminds.
Over 100 parcels are available through the Feel Free To Hunt program, mostly east of the Columbia River, and their sizes range from a few acres on up to at least 17,500, in the case of one sprawling property in western Walla Walla County. A total of 545,485 acres were enrolled last year, according to spokeswoman Staci Lehman.
The least restrictive private-lands access option, hunters can literally walk onto FFTH lands without needing to get any special permission whatsoever and hunt whatever landowners allow. Some do prohibit placement of blinds or treestands, don’t allow scouting, and require hunters to close gates.
In total, nearly 1.8 million acres of private land were enrolled statewide last year. That represents an area larger than Grant County and almost as big as Chelan County.
Funding for the program comes from Pittman Robertson Act excise taxes, which pays for WDFW staffing, while qualifying landowners can receive monies from the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Voluntary Public Access–Habitat Incentive Program and other sources.
No doubt that many of us, including yours truly, have done a little shooting where in retrospect we shouldn’t have, so let this be a reminder that Feel Free To Hunt lands are only available for hunting, not target shooting.