A slightly shorter late whitetail rifle hunt and no antler restrictions on bucks; an end to true spike restrictions for archers in the Colockum and Teanaway; fewer bull antlerless moose permits in the Colville area; opening the 4-O Wildlife Area to general season deer and elk hunters; standardizing fall bear season statewide.
Those are some of the major 2021-23 Washington hunting season proposals up for public input over the next 20 days.
But there are many others in the mix as state big and small game managers prepare to send their final recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration next month and a final decision in April.
This comment period follows up on an initial survey of hunters and others last summer that saw 2,700 register their opinions, according to WDFW
“That feedback really helped us to better understand the public’s priorities. This second round of input will help us fine-tune our recommendation for the upcoming 2021-2023 hunting seasons,” said Anis Aoude, the agency’s Game Division manager in a press release.
What might be the toughest call for commissioners, again, is how to manage whitetail hunting in Northeast Washington.
In the early 2010s they agreed to requests to restrict buck harvest in two key units to four-point-or-better, but that fell by the wayside after three seasons and harvest shot up as part of what was overall a stellar deer season.
Now, with some hunters pushing for it again, WDFW had WSU survey they field, per se. That found a plurality of support for continued any-buck rules but also 64 percent support cumulatively for two-, three- or four-point minimums (with exemptions for youth, senior and disabled hunters), as well as widespread dissatisfaction with the number of mature animals available on the landscape.
Following this summer’s comment period, it appears that whitetail managers have now landed on cutting two days out of the coveted November rut hunt instead of instituting antler restrictions.
“We considered several options and believe the shortened nine-day season with hard calendar dates of November 11-19 is the most amenable because it is the smallest change from status quo,” WDFW writes.
Still, it sounds as if this will be a continuing conversation.
“We need to gather more input from hunters before we consider other options that represent a substantial change from status quo,” the agency states.
To weigh in on this and any of the other proposals, go here.
Public comment is being taken through Thursday, March 4, and in all likelihood during the late March and April commission meetings ahead of the citizen panel’s decision.
Editor’s note: WDFW made an error in the description for a proposed moose permit reduction in the Colville area’s GMUs 117 and 121 that was referenced in the lead paragraph. As posted by WDFW, it reads bull moose permits might be reduced, but the agency says the proposal would reduce antlerless moose tags. “The actual error was in the rulemaking documentation CR-102 but because the website is required to match CR-102 we can’t just change the wording and move on,” said a spokeswoman.