Pheasant hunters willing to donate time to stock birds this fall at Whatcom Wildlife Area hunting venues will meet Friday, Sept. 7, at 4 p.m. at the area's headquarters on Lake Terrell Road to go over plans and schedule dates for release activities.
For about two months, teams of volunteers will meet three times a week (usually one weekday plus Friday and Saturday afternoon/evenings) at the headquarters compound at Lake Terrell proper. There they'll gather up, transport and release birds on the three upland field units, Lake Terrell, BP Cherry Point and Alcoa/Intalco Works, which are designated as official release sites for public hunting of pheasants.
Whatcom Wildlife Area Manager Richard Kessler said he has a good number of veteran pheasant wranglers returning this fall, but encourages any upland hunting enthusiasts who have not done this before but would like to contribute to the cause to attend. About 15 dates need to be filled.
Kessler anticipates that he will be able to team first-timers with veteran releasers each week so they can easily learn such things as how to handle the birds and navigate the field routes to the release points in each area.
Also this year, younger pheasant hunters to down to age 14 will be able to enroll in the volunteer cadre, so family teams can be organized, said Kessler.
For more information about volunteering for pheasant release duty and the meeting, call Kessler at 360-384-4723.
Pheasant hunting begins the weekend of Sept. 22-23 with the youth (age 15 and under) hunting weekend. Following the young guns inaugural, senior hunters (age 65 and older) get five days in the field to themselves, Sept. 24-28.
The general Western Washington pheasant hunt, open to all Western Washington pheasant permit holders, begins Saturday, Sept. 29. This season ends at all Whatcom Wildlife Area release sites Friday, Nov. 30.
AREA DUCK HUNTERS DINE
The Bellingham Chapter of Ducks Unlimited holds its annual fundraiser dinner and auction Thursday, Sept. 6, at the Bellwether Hotel on the Port of Bellingham's Squalicum Harbor waterfront.
Would-be bidders can look over the array of items in the silent and live auctions beginning at 5 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:45 p.m., followed by bidding until 10 p.m.
Singles dinner/auction tickets are $50, couples are $80 and greenwings (youth) are $20 each.
They can be purchased locally at Dave's Sports Shop in Lynden, and in Bellingham at Mayberry Sporting Goods on Cornwall Avenue and Yeager's Sporting Goods on Northwest Avenue.
Bellingham DU banquet chits also can be bought online until Wednesday, Sept. 5, at http://www.ducks.org/washington/events/27978/bellingham-du-annual-dinner or for ultra-last-minute buys you can call Les Hyatt at 360-815-2739.
Whether you hunt ducks and geese in Puget Sound marshes, motor over the hump to the Columbia Basin or perhaps venture even further afield to states of the Midwest or Canadian prairie provinces, chances are good that on public and even private lands, Ducks Unlimited has been involved at some point in the acquisition, restoration or enhancement of those wetlands.
DU's historical investment locally includes projects in Western Whatcom County at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Lake Terrell and in Skagit County on state land of the Skagit Wildlife Area.
CRAB REPORTING STARTS MONDAY NIGHT
Except for local waters that close at the end of September to personal use gathering of crab, all other inland Washington marine areas close to crabbing at midnight Monday, Sept. 3, so managers can do summer non-treaty personal use catch tallies to determine which areas may have sufficient allocation percentages remaining to allow fall/winter openings.
While holders of summer crab catch record cards may get a jump on the rest by mailing today, the WDFW Internet reporting portal goes up Monday, Sept. 3, and will stay online for four weeks.
Dungeness crabbers here must switch to their winter catch record card on the next opening date - Thursday, Sept. 6 - but still have to report their summer catches.
WDFW must get reports from everyone who bought a 2012 Puget Sound Dungeness Crab Endorsement.
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE
Controlled or low-intensity burns have been scheduled for September and October by the state fish and wildlife department for some of its holdings on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County and Sherman Creek Wildlife Area in Ferry County.
These deliberate fires are intended to diminish fuel (dried materials such as limbs, mature shrubs and grasses) that has built up to dangerous quantities on the ground.
Besides turning heavy fibrous debris on the landscape to ash, these burns reinvigorate ground cover by promoting the growth of new young plants favored by a variety of wildlife, including big game browsers and many bird species. Such fires also trigger some pine tree species to release their seeds.
A department spokesperson said rural communities in the two locales will be notified when the burns are ignited and signs will be put along roads advising motorists of the source of the smoke and the presence of firefighting equipment.
Local heavy equipment contractors have been hired to cut fire breaks and manage perimeters at each burn site and state and federal land managers experienced in handling fires will be called in to assist and advise on project management.
Prescribed burns are timed to periods in the fall and spring when significant dew occurs at night and during prolonged periods of lower daytime temperatures and calm winds.
Opportunities for hunters and fishers jump substantially in the ninth month of the year and they all set the stage for October and November main events with deer, elk and waterfowl.
In the Sept. lineup are the following personal use fisheries:
? Main Nooksack River for salmon. Opened Saturday, Sept. 1. From the Lummi Nation Boundary near Marine Drive upstream to the river bank marker behind the FFA high school barn near the school bus facility at Deming. Four salmon per day including up to two fin-clipped chinook and two additional coho. All wild (non-clipped) chinook must be released in September. Gamefish (trout and steelhead) open as well. Night closure and anti-snagging rules apply. See pages 37-38 in Fish Washington rules pamphlet.
? Lower Skagit River for salmon. Opened Saturday, Sept. 1. First of two section openings. From the mouths of the forks upstream to Gilligan Creek. Two salmon per day, but all chinook and chum must be released. Gamefish (trout, native char and steelhead) open as well. Night closure and anti-snagging rules apply. See page 39 in Fish Washington rules pamphlet.
? Lower Stillaguamish River for salmon. Opened Saturday, Sept. 1. From the mouths of main channel and sloughs upstream to the forks at Arlington. Two coho only. Catch and release for gamefish including trout except for hatchery steelhead. Night closure and anti-snagging rules apply.
Bird hunts starting up Sept. 1 include:
Forest grouse: Of the five or so main grouse species native to Washington, ruffeds and blues (now called sootys or duskys) of the forest varieties are the most numerous and often bagged.
Occasionally, fall hunters along the northern tier of the state, especially in the far northeast corner, will bag an occasional Franklin's or spruce grouse.
Closed to the taking are the desert grouse species - the sharp-tailed and sage - as well as their alpine cousins, the white-tailed and rock ptarmigan.
Despite the somewhat limited menu, the apparent robustness of the two forest grouse species more than makes up for the non-availability of the others, so much so that the department has continued the raised bag limit of four grouse (aggregate bag) per day.
Generally, ruffeds or drummers occur at lower elevations on the west slope of the Cascades, perhaps up to 2,500 ft. elevation in heavily forested areas. Sootys, also known as hooters or grunters, are the most prevalent higher elevation forest grouse, often found up to 4,500 ft. in mountain hemlock zone clearcuts and second growth timber.
The 2012 forest grouse runs through Friday, Dec. 31.
Mourning dove: Fleet-winged, shirt-tail cousins of the native band-tailed pigeon, mourning doves are most numerous in the Central Washington corridor from the Okanogan south to the Yakima area. This is where most hunting takes place.
Being seed eaters, these native doves are often associated with farmlands that produce grain crops, and, unlike band-tailed pigeons, which clear out at the first sign of inclement weather, mourning doves can be found year-round in the temperate Puget Sound basin including during the September hunt.
By far though, as the season tips off, the most popular mourning dove hotspots are in the Brewster, Othello and lower Yakima River valley areas. Weather plays a key role in hunter success. Daily flights from roost to field and then to water can be fairly brief periods and you'd best be a great snap shooter.
The daily limit on wild mourning doves is 10 with the season running through Thursday, Sept. 30. A valid Washington small game hunting license with a state bird stamp is required to hunt native doves in their seasons.
Terrestrial game hunts that also began Saturday, Sept. 1 included:
Small game: Hunts for lesser game-classified animals, such as several species of the rabbit family as well as bobcat, lowland red fox and raccoon.
Hunters must have a Washington 2012-13 small game hunting license and, except for bobcats, are not required to have any other documentation or perform any other pre- or post- hunt procedure.
Except for rabbits, there are no daily limits. But of snowshoe hares and cottontail rabbits, hunters may kill up to five per day, aggregate or all one species.
All bagged bobcat hides must be presented at an end-of-the-season appointment for sealing by a fish and wildlife officer.
Foxes may not be hunted in north Puget Sound basin game management units 407 and 410, nor may they be hunted inside the boundaries of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan, Wenatchee or Gifford Pinchot national forests. That is to protect the high-elevation dwelling native Cascade red fox, about which little is known.
Black bear: The last two black bear management units to open this fall are the northeast and southeast corners of the state. The Northeastern A BBMU, including game management units 101-121 and 204, and the Blue Mountains BBMU, consisting of GMUs 145-155 and 162-186, opened Sept. 1.
Cougar: Early general hunts, sans dogs, began Sept. 1 in many game management areas around the state under harvest guidelines tailored to individual or small groups of contiguous GMUs. Quota-driven closures will occur by unit when the number of cats allowed for each harvest is reached.
Within 72 hours of a kill, cougar baggers must notify WDFW and get an appointment to seal their pelt. The cougar must be presented to authorities in such a manner that its gender can be determined and samples (including a tooth) can be taken.
Also, would-be cougar hunters must verify that their intended hunt area is open before venturing out anytime between now and final closing in March. Cougar unit hunt areas and other rules are found on pages 60-61 of the 2012 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations Pamphlet.
Early archery deer: Opened Sept. 1 in selected game management units around the state and will continue with varying closure dates through the end of the month. Quarry include black-tailed deer in Western Washington and mule and white-tailed deer east of the Cascades.
Generally, although not always, bow hunters may kill either sex of deer; however, nowadays significant restrictions on males mandate the taking of older bucks (with a minimum of three antler points) only.
Hunters selecting for an archery tag may hunt only with legal archery tackle and only during dedicated archery seasons.
All game management units in Whatcom County are open for this archery option until the last week in September. The late archery stanza starts in late November and lasts into or until the end of December.
Early archery elk: Opens Tuesday, Sept. 4, in selected game management units on both sides of the Cascades for initial elk opportunities that will run through Sunday, Sept. 16. The quarry includes both sexes of elk with similar age-focused minimum antler point restrictions for some hunts, either on young so-called spike bulls or older, mature branch-antlered bulls.
Besides selecting for an archery-endorsed elk tag, elk-hunting archers must further opt for either a Western Washington or Eastern Washington regionally delineated tag that will restrict them to hunting on one side or the other of the Cascade Mountains throughout the fall of 2012.
Closest to Bellingham, only game management unit 407 is open. The late archery elk opportunity occurs in late November and December.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoor.