The deadline for entering Washington's 2013 drawing for spring black bear special hunt permits is Thursday, Feb. 28.
Instituted to achieve specific management objectives rather than provide a general season opportunity, these limited-entry hunts in specific areas have defined numbers of participants and require each participant hunter to have a special permit awarded by lottery.
This year's early season bear hunt lineup again consists of eight game management units in the Blue Mountains (southeast Region 1), six GMUs in the northeast part of the state (Region 1), all on the east side of the Cascades, in addition to five composite (specially designed) hunt areas in Western Washington.
This year's westside offerings continue the experimental return to the use of hunting as a means of reducing second-growth timber stand damage focusing on - and limited to - private and state forest lands. This sublist consists of two hunt areas in North Puget Sound (Region 4) (North Skagit and Monroe), one on the coast north of Grays Harbor (Region 6) (Copalis), one on the northwest side of Mount Rainier (outside the park) (Kapowsin) and one on the south side of the Capitol Forest west of Centralia (Lincoln).
Each hunt area (choice) has its own permit allocation with the numbers ranging from a low of four permits good for the Couse area in the Blue Mountains to 150 permits being meted out for the Kapowsin spring black bear hunt area.
The far-east series of spring bear hunts was originally designed to equalize gender proportions in the overall annual harvest in those black bear management areas. The five Western Washington hunts, as mentioned, target specific bruin sub-populations in locales where some bears claw the lower trunks of young conifers to get the new second-growth trees to "bleed" sap on which the bears can feed, especially in the spring.
DATES AND LIMITS
All of these hunts occur within the calendar period of Monday, April 1, to Saturday, June 15, and have opening dates of either Monday, April 1, or Monday, April 15.
Varying by area or unit, hunt durations are either 47 or 76 days in length. Closing dates are either Friday, May 31, or Saturday, June 15.
Washington hunting regulations allow hunters to kill two black bear in a license year (April 1 to March 31) and a black bear killed in the spring on a special permit counts toward the annual limit.
There is an additional caveat to the bag rule that limits hunters to taking only one bruin per year in Eastern Washington.
Post-season reporting on hunting activities on these and other special permits as well as general season tags is mandatory.
FIRST GET ACCESS PERMISSION
State wildlife managers have one pre-drawing entry submission recommendation for would-be westside area hunters: Check with private forest owners before applying.
All five westside hunt areas include privately held timberlands within their boundaries and those companies generally restrict public access (especially by motor vehicle) to their property.
Hancock Forest Management (for the Kapowsin Tree Farm) and Rayonier (for corporate lands in the Copalis hunt area) require black bear hunters to purchase access permits to enter their lands while several other companies make specific arrangements for hunters to gain access to their holdings through locked entry point gates.
Applicants should decide up-front whether they want to pay an additional fee for this spring venture or try for a hunt in an area where there is fee-free private or publicly owned land available.
THE ODDS ARE ...
Another pre-application consideration is the demand for these permits.
As with all matters of chance, you may want to figure in the odds of getting drawn when choosing from, and settling on, hunt choices.
Keep in mind that preference points salted away can improve chances. To accrue a point without actually competing for a permit, use the black bear ghost hunt number 7999.
Last year, at both ends of the spectrum, entrants picking the westside's Kapowsin hunt with its 150 permits had the best chance (one selected out of every 3.2 applicants) while those opting for the southeast's Tucannon hunt with its five permits had the longest odds at one selected for every 75.2 entries submitted.
Besides last year's permit quantity and numbers applications, each hunt's average needed preference points are listed.
MORE RULES BY WHICH TO HUNT
Except for the limited-entry characteristic, spring hunts for black bear are governed by virtually the same framework of rules as the fall general seasons.
Besides the special hunt permit, participants must have a valid basic Washington hunting license listing black bear as a take option together with a valid in-year black bear transport tag.
Spring hunt drawing applicants must have actually acquired their 2013 black bear transport tag before they may apply.
As with the fall general bruin season, any lawful hunting weapon (modern handgun/rifle/shotgun, bow and arrow or blackpowder firearm) is allowed.
However, both baiting and the use of dogs are expressly forbidden by state statute (RCW 77.15.245).
Spring bear hunters succeeding in their quest also are required to submit a pre-molar tooth and also file, whether successful or not, an annual report of their black bear hunting activity.
Though it does not carry the force of regulation, black bear hunters, as an ethical consideration, are asked to not kill black bear sows that have cubs in tow. Hunters are urged to hold their fire until they confirm that their intended quarry does not have a small cub or cubs scuttling along behind them.
In northeast Washington especially there is also the proviso that bruin hunters positively identify their intended target as a black bear, not a grizzly bear. Experts warn that mere color and size alone are not foolproof keys to accurate identification.
Washington grizzlies are designated as endangered under both Washington state and federal laws and both jurisdictions have stiff potential penalties for even mistakenly killing them.
ID profiles showing all the distinguishing characteristics are available for review in Washington's hunting regulations pamphlet and Washington now has an online study and bear ID test that will hone accuracy skills. Log on to it at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/bear/index.html.
While several regions of Washington (North Cascades and Pasayten) lie within grizzly bear recovery zones and are only suspected of harboring remnant populations, the Selkirk Mountains in the northeast corner of the state are in a recovery zone with a confirmed griz population.
HOW TO APPLY FOR A BEAR HUNT
Instructions for submitting a special permit drawing application (including for a spring black bear permit) are found on pages 84-85 of the 2012 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet.
For the listing of spring 2013 black bear hunt areas, including the all-important hunt choice numbers, check out page 63 in the 2012 pamphlet.
Hardcopies of the master rules booklet are available at the counter of any Washington fishing and hunting license dealer or they can be viewed and/or downloaded from the state fish and wildlife's hunting regulations web portal at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
With mail notifications of drawing luck now a thing of the past, hunters must check online for results and also make sure their current email address is on file at WDFW.
OTHER CHANCE OPPORTUNTIES
Coming in April is another Washington drawing that awards 9,500 special deer and elk multi-season permits. The deadline for entering this drawing pool is Sunday, March 31. Details are on page 80 in the big game regulation pamphlets.
The state Fish and Wildlife Department also awards its regular array of deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep and fall turkey special hunt permits in lotteries held later in June. The application period for these drawings is Thursday, April 18, to Saturday, May 18, with details on pages 84-85 of the big game regulations pamphlet.
Special combined or regional multi-species or multi-season big game permits also are raffled annually in Washington. Details for this chance to win a unique hunt are found on pages 81-83 of the big game regulations pamphlet.
OTHER SPRING BEAR HUNTS
These four Northwest states and one province also have spring black bear hunting opportunities both by permit and direct quota-driven tag sales.
Several also require the passing of an online grizzly/black bear identification test before you can buy a black bear hunting license. In Washington, this test is still optional.
- Oregon spring black bear hunts start in April and are governed either by random drawing permit issuance or a capped permit (4,400) sales (Southwest Oregon only).
- Idaho - open and controlled spring black bear hunts occur in April and May. Hunters may use bait and hounds with certain permits. Online details are at: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/docs/rules/bgBear.pdf
- Montana selected management units are open for spring black bear hunting, but dogs and bait are banned.
- Wyoming has open harvest quota driven black bear hunts from April to June with opportunities for nonresidents.
- British Columbia has open spring opportunities for black bear in its nine management regions. By provincial law non-resident alien hunters must register and apply for a hunting license and must be accompanied by a registered guide.
WINTER-RUN HATCHERY WATCH
Editor's note: With restrictions now in place prohibiting inter-basin transfers of hatchery winter-run steelhead eggs to make up deficits if a hatchery does not get its needed spawners, it is more important than ever for enough adult fish to reach their artificial spawning destinations.
As of Thursday, Feb. 14, these are the numbers, reported by installation, of adult hatchery winter-run steelhead trapped as well as eggs already taken and other details:
Maritime Heritage Center Hatchery (Whatcom Creek): three adults reported, no eggs taken.
Kendall Creek Hatchery (North Fork Nooksack River): 62 adults, 92,000 eggs taken (target 165,000 egg take).
Marblemount Hatchery (Cascade River) (Skagit): 185 adults, 263,000 eggs taken (target 275,000 egg take).
Whitehorse Hatchery (North Fork Stillaguamish River): 165 adults, 227,890 eggs taken.
Tokul Creek Hatchery (Snoqualmie River) (Snohomish): 701 adults, 657,373 eggs taken.
Soos Creek Hatchery (Green River): 107 adults, 144,000 eggs taken.
Dungeness Hatchery (Dungeness River): 58 adults, 43,000 eggs taken.
Bogachiel Hatchery (Bogachiel River) (Quillayute): 2,273 adults, 306,000 eggs taken.
Humptulips Hatchery (Humptulips River): 895 adults, 229,750 eggs taken.
Forks Creek Hatchery (Willapa River): 663 adults, 200,000 eggs taken.
Cowlitz Hatchery (Cowlitz River): 876 adults, no eggs reported taken.
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.belinghamherald.com/outdoors.