The late general archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer and elk have begun in selected areas around the state.
For the next 11 to 20 days, under gender and antler-point restrictions, muzzleloaders have mainly black-tailed options in game management units west of the Cascades, with white-tailed and mule deer options in the Northeast and near the Tri-Cities.
Last-chance muzzleloader elk stalking will focus on some Northeast and Southwest GMUs.
Archers may hunt through mid- to late-December in a greater number of GMUs throughout the state. Included are several Region 2 units in the Okanogan, and as some dryland wheat/shrub steppe lands east of the Columbia breaks.
Season lengths and other rules vary depending on whether hunts focus on mule deer or white-tailed deer.
Late bow hunts for elk center on small groups of Northeast and Yakima GMUs, but west of the Cascades opportunities are spread around for Washington tag-holders.
LATE LOCAL OPTIONS
In Whatcom and Skagit counties, while the west slope Cascades foothills and mountain GMUs are now closed for deer, muzzleloaders have the run of lowland GMUs 407 (North Sound) and 410 (Islands). Archers have three GMUs on which to wait for their deer: the 407 (North Sound), 410 (Islands) and 437 (Sauk).
Elk-bent muzzleloaders have GMU 448 (Stillaguamish) as their closest late hunt option, while bowhunters may stalk the 407 (North Sound) and 448 (Stillaguamish) GMUs for elk.
One opportunity often overlooked here, though it can be time-consuming to set up, is a lowland late western Whatcom County hunt for deer.
With the most liberal "any deer" bag rule in play in GMU 407 and a deceptively robust black-tailed population from which to choose, chances of success in the late bow or blackpowder stanza are quite good.
The key is finding agricultural or woodlot lands along streams, where deer conceal themselves in cover near winter or residual summer crops or food-bearing pastures.
One thing going for deer hunters in these venues is that usually farmers and growers want the deer population pared back a bit. But these landowners also have to be confident that hunters they allow on their property are responsible and behave safely and ethically.
If arrangements can be made, these options work well for patient hunters willing to sit in a blind or tree stand near where there is plenty of evidence of deer comings and goings between field and woods. If close to home, they work very nicely as day or even several-hour hunts.
It's best to arrange these opportunities well in advance of fall hunts - during the summer - since scouting, introductions, access negotiations and blind building are required. These processes are not easy or fast.
With a limited-entry (by permit) hunt management strategy predominating on the North Cascades elk herd, successful late elk hunts here also require in-depth scouting and time to set up access. Bands of elk in open lowland GMUs usually are on the periphery of these areas.
Led by dominant older females well-versed in their home territories, these small groups can spend some of their time in neighboring closed units or, if on open ground, can easily scurry across boundaries into off-limits territory if pressed.
They also can be highly sedentary, occupying small chunks of thickly vegetated turf where they are least disturbed and therefore out of sight most of the time.
In GMU 407, boundary bands can be found along the eastern base of Stewart Mountain as well as the southwest toe of the Van Zandt Dike in the South Fork Nooksack valley.
In GMU 448 occasionally small elk bands are found south of Darrington, but the most likely December range for elk in the sprawling Stillaguamish unit is on its south side off the U.S. Highway 2 elk corridor.
Five new "any bull' GMUs were added to the Northeast archery slate this year as that herd slowly grows and spreads out. Much of this range north of Spokane is privately owned so permission is required to get onto any elk-bearing ground.
First-half options for late archery and muzzleloader elk in Region 2 and 3 are now closed.
The last day to hunt westside Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk with either primitive weapon - mainly in valley bottom agriculture areas and the margins of core herd ranges - is Saturday, Dec. 15.
The last day for any general eastside late elk hunt is Saturday, Dec. 8.
Mule and white-tailed deer focused late hunts with blackpowder firearms east of the Cascades come to an end either Friday, Nov. 30, or Saturday, Dec. 8.
Eastside archers have a selection of hunts ending as late as Dec. 8 in mule deer oriented units and Dec. 15 for white-tailed harboring GMUs.
To hunt in these primitive-weapons dedicated seasons, would-be stalkers first must buy a valid 2012-13 Washington big game hunting license with deer and/or elk as an option.
Transport tags specifications for late deer or late elk must carry the designation "archery" or "muzzleloader" and possessors of these general documents must adhere to all regulations governing their weaponry choice.
While all general deer tags have the run of the state, elk tag-holders must elect to hunt either in Eastern or Western Washington.
Several other classes of deer or elk permit holders also may hunt during these late general seasons.
Multi-season tags allow their bearers effectively to hunt from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 in any general archery or muzzleloader unit season including the modern firearms hunts. Their season ends when they bag their animal. They must always employ the weaponry appropriate for the current season and unit.
Controlled or special hunt permits also may be valid during the late general seasons, as are certain Master Hunter Program permits.
NEXT RAZOR DIG GREENLIGHTED
The next razor clam dig - a six-day slate of evening digs starting Monday, Nov. 26 - has been approved by state health officials.
WDFW shellfish managers say that given this November's rough weather trend, diggers will likely face wind and rain.
The mid- razor clam zone known as the Twin Harbors beach management sector, which is between Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, will be open all six days with the southernmost Long Beach sector open the last three days. Mocrocks and Copalis beaches will be open Friday and Saturday only.
Kalaloch Beach in the Olympic National Park Coastal Strip remains closed to digging.
The late afternoon-evening minus tide sequence on this opening starts on day one with a 5:16 p.m. slack ebb, with a 34- to 36-minute progression of the low tide each successive night.
After this, two more tentative Pacific Ocean beach openings are left on the fall 2012 calendar.
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.