Blaze pink may be coming to a Washington deer and elk season near you soon.
A bill that would add that color as a second option to orange, which riflemen and some other hunters must swaddle themselves in partially while afield, had a public hearing in Olympia this afternoon.
Prime sponsor Sen. Lynda Wilson, a Clark County Republican, recalled to fellow senators how she’d first heard that pink can be so much brighter to see in the woods than orange, and added that it might also help bring in more female hunters and revenues for conservation.
“The gear is out there,” she said while testifying before the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee in a pink camo vest.
The idea behind SB 5148 has been around for several years now.
Other states that have OKed blaze pink include Wisconsin, which was first to do so, Colorado, Louisiana and New York in 2016; Virginia in 2017; and Wyoming and Illinois in 2018.
But Montana lawmakers balked two years ago, and Treasure State hunter Jessica Gray wrote that as a recruiting tool, it was “insulting.”
Back in Olympia, Tom Echols of the Hunters Heritage Council said his organization strongly supported Wilson’s bill.
“While hunter pink is fashionable … that’s not the reason. It’s purely for safety. There is evidence that pink is superior to orange in the field,” Echols said.
In also supporting the bill, David Whipple, WDFW’s Hunter Ed division manager, pointed out that hunting accidents have decreased drastically since states began requiring hunters to wear hunter orange.
“We’re supportive of anything that opens additional doors to hunters as long as it’s safe,” he said.
Essentially, the bill would require the Fish and Wildlife Commission to add pink to the hunts where orange must be worn — during modern firearm deer and elk seasons, overlapping archery and muzzleloader seasons, anyone hunting bears, grouse, etc., in areas where rifle seasons are occurring, and upland bird and game seasons.
Others cosponsoring Wilson’s bill include Sens. Randi Becker (R), Phil Fortunato (R), Guy Palumbo (D), Shelly Short (R), Dean Takko (D), Keith Wagoner (R) and Judy Warnick (R).
Sen. Warnick, who said her husband is a hunter, asked Wilson if sportsmen would have the choice to still wear orange, and Wilson responded that they would.
Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, the Democratic chair of AWNRP, appeared ready to fast track the bill out of the committee.
Also during today’s public hearing, members heard about SB 5320, which would create a program for training dogs for nonlethal pursuit of predators by vetted houndsmen to protect stock and public safety.
Representatives from the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, Washington Farm Bureau, WDFW, Conservation Northwest and even Humane Society of the United States spoke in favor of it.
There was less support, however, for reestablishing a pilot hound hunting program for cougars in six Eastside counties and one on the Westside.
“A good idea then, a good idea now,” Tom Davis of the Farm Bureau termed SB 5100.
Hunting lions was banned by a statewide initiative but a limited hunt was reinstated by lawmakers and extended twice before expiring in 2011.
WDFW was neutral, with the agency’s Mick Cope telling senators that boot hunting seasons in the affected counties — Chelan, Ferry, Klickitat, Mason, Okanogan, Pend Oreille and Stevens — would have to be looked at.