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Northwest Sportsman Magazine

What’s Hunting In Washington (Nov. 2012)

This is a big weekend for Washington elk hunters.

Riflemen will be afield on either side of the Cascades, hoping to bag that Yakima or Blues spike, or St. Helens or Olypen branch bull. Then late buck gets going.

Meanwhile, waterfowl seasons are building towards their winter climax in the North Sound, Coast and Columbia Basin, and pheasants are having a good year across parts of Eastern Washington.

And don’t forget bears — they’re open through the 15th of the month and a friend of Northwest Sportsman bagged a very, shall we say, well-insulated bruin last weekend.

For more ideas, read on straight from WDFW’s November Weekender report!

NORTH SOUND

November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a typical late-October lull in activity, hunting usually improves in mid-November. That’s when the numbers of migrating birds pick up along with wet and windy weather, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

Goose hunting resumes Nov. 3 in Skagit and Snohomish counties (Goose Management Area 1). However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) run continuously through Jan. 29. The duck hunting season is open throughout the month and continues on through Jan. 27.

Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website for information on the rules and requirements.

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

November brings a variety of hunting opportunities, including those for deer, elk and waterfowl.

The modern firearm season for elk is open Nov. 3-14, and the late modern firearm season for deer runs Nov. 15-18. Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 21, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 22.

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, field reports indicate there are higher numbers of dabbling ducks on the coastal bays this year, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“Those ducks should stick to the bays early in the month, but as we get more and more rain they will move farther inland,” he said.

As for geese, the numbers of birds have yet to climb, Kraege said.

“We have yet to see the numbers of geese we typically see in Pacific County and other parts of southwest Washington,” he said. “It appears migration is delayed. I would expect the number of geese to increase throughout the month.”

The statewide season for ducks, coots and snipe resumed Oct. 20 while goose-hunting reopens Nov. 3 in Goose Management Area 3. Hunting in Goose Management Area 2B (Pacific County) will be open Saturdays and Wednesdays only from Nov. 3-Jan. 19.

Hunters may also pursue pheasant, quail and bobwhite through Nov. 30. The statewide forest grouse hunting season continues through Dec. 31.

SOUTHWEST

November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, whether for waterfowl, upland game birds or big game. Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2012 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

Elk hunters with modern firearms will take the field Nov. 3-14, less than a week after the close of the early season for black-tailed deer. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that begins Nov. 21 in selected game management units (GMUs) around the region.

MUZZLELOADER HUNTS ARE ON HOLD FOR THE MOMENT IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AS RIFLEMEN PREPARE TO TAKE THE FIELD, BUT EARLIER THIS SEASON TRACEY LEAVELL BAGGED THIS COW IN LEWIS COUNTY. IT WAS HIS FIRST SEASON HUNTING BLACKPOWDER. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Last year, hunters harvested 966 bulls and 294 anterless elk in District 10 (Lewis, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties), one of the top-producing areas of the state. Lowland areas including GMU 520 (Winston), 550 (Coweeman), 530 (Ryderwood) and 506 (Willapa Hills) are expected to be good bets again this year.

Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife manager, reminds elk hunters of several rules adopted in 2010 that remain in effect in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). In all three areas, taking antlerless elk is prohibited during modern firearms and muzzleloader seasons. In addition, a three-point antler restriction has been adopted for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas.

Hunters using modern firearms will get another chance to take a deer, during the popular late-buck season that runs Nov. 15-18 in selected GMUs. Archers will get their shot starting Nov. 21, with the muzzleloader season opening the next day.

Eric Holman, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said late-season deer hunters can expect far better conditions than in the early season, when wildfire dangers prompted widespread access closures.

“Now rain is falling, the gates to the forestlands are open and the deer are going into rut,” Holman said. “Those conditions make the late season the best time to get a deer.”

The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting remains open through next March. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Meanwhile, locally produced mallards and wood ducks are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters throughout the region. Duck hunting should improve greatly toward the end of November, when migratory birds are expected to start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in record numbers.

Goose hunting opens Nov. 3 in Goose Management Area 3 (which includes Lewis and Skamania counties) and Nov. 10 for authorized hunters in Goose Management Area 2A (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties). Be sure to check the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet for regulations, particularly the special rules for Area 2A.

As for upland game, seasons remain open as listed in the pamphlet for forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, and cottontail and snowshoe rabbit.

BUNNIE WALL AND HUNTER WALL POSE WITH PHEASANTS SHOT BY BUNNIE AND HUSBAND GARY AT THE WOODLAND RELEASE SITE. THE WALLS LIVE IN TOUTLE; BUNNIE WAS SHOOTING A 20-GAUGE. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

EASTERN

The modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunting run Oct. 27 through Nov. 4 in select game management units throughout the region. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season, although that hunt is under a spike bull only rule.  Elk are traditionally much fewer and farther between in the central and northeast districts of the region where any bull or any elk, depending on unit, is legal to harvest. Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units runs Nov. 25-Dec. 8. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 10-19 in northeast Game Management Units (GMU) 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.

The later deer hunt is usually the most productive since it coincides with the rut or breeding season when bucks are less wary, said WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers.

“They’re on the move more then but also more focused on searching for does, so they are more vulnerable to hunters in the woods,” he said.

Deer hunter check stations will be conducted the last weekend of the hunt, Nov. 17-18, to help provide information about success rates and deer body condition.

Late archery and muzzleloader deer hunting is also available in select units starting Nov. 20 or 25, depending on unit. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Black bear hunting continues in most of the region’s units through Nov. 15.The Selkirk Mountain ecosystem in the northeast district includes some state and federally protected grizzly bears, so black bear hunters are advised to clearly identify species.

WDFW’s website includes a Bear Identification Program, including a video and interactive test.

All big and small game hunters in the northeast district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round) are reminded to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected as an endangered species under state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 68 of the hunting rules pamphlet.

Upland game bird hunting seasons continue through the year, with pheasants joining the suite of fair game species on Oct. 20. Quail, chukar and gray partridge seasons have been open since Oct. 6.

WDFW upland game bird specialist Joey McCanna reports good numbers of wild pheasants in the central and southeast districts of the region, where many private landowners allow hunting through various WDFW access programs. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

WDFW Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman notes bird hunting has been good and hunters have been enjoying beautiful fall colors along the Tucannon River and throughout the wildlife area in Columbia County. More snow this month and next will likely improve conditions for both bird hunting and late season archers, muzzleloaders, or special permit holders after elk or deer.

Waterfowl hunting season also continues, with the best of it still ahead when migrants come through the region from Canada.  Most northeast district duck hunting concentrates on the Pend Oreille River, mostly for diving ducks such as goldeneyes. Canada geese are also available on major water bodies such as Lake Roosevelt, the Pend Oreille River, and large farm fields in valley bottoms. Spokane and Lincoln counties are within goose management area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season; the rest of the region is within goose management area 5 which is open daily.  In the southeast district, most waterfowl hunting opens later, in December and January.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW’s Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports. For hunting rules, see the 2012 regulation pamphlets.

NORTH CENTRAL

Waterfowl hunting action should start to heat up in the Columbia Basin of this region in November if temperatures start to cool down and bring migrant ducks and geese from the north.

WDFW Columbia Basin district wildlife biologist Rich Finger of Soap Lake expects the month will bring large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks. Goose hunting will improve in November, too, when early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverner’s) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields near Moses Lake and the Columbia River.

“Select areas to hunt based on the species you want to target,” Finger said. “Diving ducks – like canvasbacks, redheads and scaup – are hunted along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool. They forage over beds of submerged aquatic vegetation such as pondweeds and milfoil. American wigeon will associate with diving ducks because they are ‘kleptoparasites’ – meaning they wait for the diving ducks or coots to bring up a bill-full of vegetation, and then quickly rush in to steal their meal.”

Finger says dabbling ducks are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields attract mallards and pintail and shallow wetlands attract teal, wigeon, and gadwall. Canada geese also feed primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

“Just be sure to request permission from private landowners before hunting ag fields,” Finger said. More information about both private and public land access for waterfowl hunting in the Basin is available in Finger’s District 5 Hunting Prospects .

Modern firearm elk hunting season opened Oct. 27 and runs through Nov. 4 in some game management units and through Nov. 15 in others. The Mission Game Management Unit (GMU 251) in Chelan County traditionally has the highest elk harvest in the region. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 is under a “true spike” regulation to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd. Some late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting is also available through Nov. 15 in a few units. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet for all details.

Upland game bird hunting began last month and continues through the year. Columbia Basin hunters are reportedly seeing a fair number of pheasants and quail and harvesting a few chukars. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

Late archery deer hunting seasons run Nov. 21 – Dec. 15 for any white-tailed deer in some units, and Nov. 21 – 30 or Nov. 21 – Dec. 8 for mule deer in other units. See all details, including antler point restrictions on mule deer, in the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW’s Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports.

SOUTHCENTRAL

November is prime time for hunting in central Washington, whether for waterfowl, upland game birds, or big game. Wildfires that scorched thousands of acres in the region have been contained, posing few obstacles to hunting in the weeks ahead.

“The only caution I would give is to stay out of burnt forested areas,” said Ted Clausing, regional WDFW wildlife manager. “Some of those trees are just waiting for a whisper of a wind to fall down.”

KATIE CRAIG OF YAKIMA SHOWS OFF HER FIRST ELK, A SPIKE TAKEN ON OPENING DAY IN THE COWICHE UNIT. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2012 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

November begins with hunters already in the field, stalking elk with modern firearms, archery equipment and muzzleloaders in various game management units (GMU) around the region. Archers will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during a late season that runs Nov. 21-Dec. 8 in designated GMUs and Elk Area 3681.

Jeff Bernatowicz, a WDFW wildlife biologist, said this year’s bull harvest is expected to increase in District 8, since both the Yakima and Colockum herds are above population objectives and hunting opportunities for antlerless elk have been increased.

“This district is the best in the state for elk hunting,” Bernatowicz said. “Opening weekend can be crowded, so the best hunting experiences often occur during the last few days of the season when a lot of hunters pull up camp and head home.”

BRETT CARLILE, COOWNER OF THE WOODINVILLE WHISKEY COMPANY, STARTED HIS DAY OUT HUNTING COLOCKUM ELK, BUT WAS HAPPY TO HARVEST ONE VERY FAT BEAR. "I COULDN’T PASS HIM UP. HE WAS A BIG OLD BOY, TAPED OVER 6 FEET AND WAS EASILY 300 POUNDS. ALL OF HIS TEETH WERE WORN DOWN REALLY BAD, INCLUDING HIS CANINES. THIS OLD BOY WAS ABOUT READY FOR HIS WINTER NAP, HE HAD 4 INCHES OF FAT ALL OVER HIS BODY." (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Late-season hunting opportunities for deer will get under way Nov. 20 for muzzleloaders in GMUs 379, 381 and 382 for archers Nov. 21 in several GMUs. Bear hunting ends Nov. 15 statewide.

For more information about these hunts, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet available online and at license vendors around the state.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons continue throughout the region for geese, ducks, coots, snipe, California quail, chukar, forest grouse, pheasant, gray partridge, cottontail and snowshoe rabbit.

Duck hunting got off to a good start this year, and will likely get even better once the winter freeze starts to drive northern birds into the Columbia Basin. A record 48.6 million ducks were counted on the breeding grounds in Canada and the midwestern United States last spring, many of which should start showing up in late November.

Mesa Lake, along with the small ponds and lakes on WDFW’s Windmill Ranch and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch, can provide good hunting for ducks and geese. The Snake and Columbia Rivers and associated water bodies can hold tens of thousands of ducks when the weather gets below freezing.

Hunters planning to hunt waterfowl should check the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for information about seasons in specific management areas before heading out.

For pheasants, Windmill Ranch and Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch in northern Franklin County are also good bets. Each hunting area has two parking areas with a maximum of five vehicles per lot and has Register to Hunt boxes on site. Hunters might also consider buying a hunting permit for the Yakama Reservation near Toppenish for the excellent waterfowl and upland game hunting opportunities that it provides.

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