Pushback Against Commission Spring Bear Vote Grows More Strident

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission poked a slumbering bruin with their vote that put the 2022 spring black bear season on hold for at least one season.

“Demand action now,” urged longtime Evergreen State hunting champion and rabble-rouser Dave Workman. “As Lee Iacocca used to say, ‘Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.'”


The North Bend resident’s remarks amount to a far more strident tone than other hunters’ responses so far to the citizen panel’s controversial decision in mid-November – launching a Change.org campaign and a budding bid to use the citizen panel’s petition process to amend or repeal the vote.

Between Workman and pieces this week from the more nationally oriented Outdoor Life and MeatEater, they also represent a building engagement and pushback on the issue from the consumptive side of the equation.

Pointing to the pending start of the legislature, Workman, who has written the monthly On Target column for Northwest Sportsman magazine since early 2009 and got his start at Fishing & Hunting News during its heydecades, said it was time for sportsmen to make themselves “a nuisance” with the people who represent them in the legislature.

“Flood the legislative offices with phone calls, emails and letters. Call them every day. Hell, call them every hour. Tie up the legislative hotline, get known in Olympia. 2022 is an election year. Some are in swing districts,” he said.

He recalls how, as the guy who came up with the idea for the state’s Sportsman’s Rights Coalition, one year he and others were able to get 2,500-plus hunters and anglers “with a pretty good grouch on” on the steps of Washington’s capitol building.

Workman also said to remind senators and representatives how much money hunters and anglers directly contribute to Washington state fish and wildlife management, a full third and a critical leverage point that some are trying to diminish the importance of.

While Workman openly admits it’s been nigh on 40 years since he bought a bear tag of any sort, it’s the principle of the matter that has him torqued.

“Spring bear hunting is a tradition. It is a good management tool to reduce damage to trees and predation on fawns and calves,” he said.

A WDFW presentation today shows that black bears were the second strongest cause of mortality for 125 elk calves collared in the Blue Mountains this past May, killing at least nine and accounting for a minimum of 12 percent of calf deaths by predation, with another four taken down by either bears or cougars.

Cougars alone accounted for 70 percent of calf deaths, or 54 young wapiti.

Critically, commissioners’ 4-4 vote on the spring bear hunt was largely fueled by emotional and theoretical arguments that disregarded WDFW’s professional biologists and agency director Kelly Susewind’s judgment that the limited-entry “hunts do not impair or cause a concern for the bear population.”

It has come under intense directed opposition, with an overwhelming majority of public commenters at a late October commission meeting calling for its end or asking that a decision be delayed for more information. For sure, hunters also provided input, but were far outgunned.

November 19’s decisive fourth no was cast by the chair who couched his tabling vote as a chance for WDFW to “confirm the accuracy of our information and cover our bases in the assault on this hunt.”

A story in today’s Spokane Spokesman-Review suggests that the Change.org petition, which now has over 12,000 signatures, is “unlikely to affect any change.” It’s directed at Governor Jay Inslee, who has been known to follow through on similar campaigns – but from the pro-predator side.

Then there’s the process-oriented commission petitioning process launched by bear hunter and author Doug Boze, who found himself “disgusted, blindsided and frustrated with the vote.”

Workman, maybe best known these days for his strident writings and appearance in support of the Second Amendment (he’s the editor-in-chief of The Gun Mag, a publication of Bellevue’s Second Amendment Foundation) and conservative causes, can’t be considered to be a fan of petitioning the commission.

“It creates the impression, or is at least designed to, that the users are part of the process, that they are following a process, when what they are really doing is being flim-flammed,” he said.

A better option, Workman believes, is for sportsmen to “DEMAND [emphasis his] that state lawmakers boot these people out.”

That’s a long shot given the politics of the governor’s mansion, which appoints commissioners, the state Senate, which confirms them, and the Senate Agriculture, Water Natural Resources & Parks Committee, which can call members in for a chat prior to a recommendation to the upper chamber of the legislature.

“I don’t give a rip if it can’t be done. Do it anyway,” Workman said.

Marching orders, if there are any from the hunting side.