The entry deadline for Washington's 2013 controlled hunt lotteries is midnight Wednesday, May 22.
Individual and party applicants have 27 drawing pools from which to choose, and may enter as many drawings as their licensing and age or training qualify them for.
Among the special hunt categories are eight for deer, seven for elk, six for moose, four for bighorn sheep and one each for mountain goat and fall turkey permit seekers. Secondarily, pool categories also allocate these special permissions to master hunters, seniors, youth and disabled people.
This application period also serves hunters seeking cougar permits.
Given the number of choices, the homework required and the need to submit a separate application for each, hunters should not leave this task to the last minute. A rush can tax the capacity of the system's phone and Internet application portals, denying hunters access.
All the $7.10 regular and $13.70 "quality" e-application fees go into a fund earmarked for the department's Private Lands Access Program, designed to open more fee-title land to the public for hunting.
The first step for all special permit seekers is to get a copy of the 2013 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet. They are available from any fishing and hunting license dealer; an e-version is available on the department's Web site.
Armed with the latest rules brochure and all its essential information such as hunt choice numbers, most applicants must immediately buy a hunting license before going any further. Only people applying for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat drawings need not heed this step. Only when drawn for one of these tags do they need to buy their license.
Also, if successful youth permit applicants turn 16 before they acquire their license and transport tag they must pay the full adult rate to redeem their permit.
Deer and elk hunt applicants must also coordinate their transport tag choice with the weapon mandated for their intended hunt.
For example, license buyers should not select for a modern rifle deer transport tag and then apply for an archery deer special hunt permit. Picking an eastside muzzleloader elk transport tag and applying for a special muzzleloader hunt in Western Washington won't work, either.
Besides licensing, a familiarity with all the hunt categories will be helpful.
Look to page 88 in the big game hunting pamphlet for a complete list of special hunt categories by species. It includes all available choices and qualifications for applicants.
Consult each species' section of the pamphlet for hunts offered in each special permit category and by weapons choice.
When a hunter has all licenses and tags in hand and knows his or her choices, it's time to study specific options.
HIT THE BOOKS
DeLorme's Atlases, other gazetteer reference map folios and U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps will help applicants zero in on the boundaries of special hunt areas as well as provide insight into land ownership.
It's strongly suggested that deer, elk, moose, turkey and cougar permit applicants look closely at how much privately owned land there is in each special hunt units and areas. If you don't have permission to go onto private property that may dominate a hunt area, holding a special permit for it is of little value.
When you've decided which permit hunts to try for, you can buy the appropriate e-application for each drawing you wish to enter, either as a single hunter, a quality type, or for a group.
Those purchases can be done online, by telephone or over the counter at any fishing and hunting license dealer (see column one on page 87 of the regulations).
SHORTENING FUTURE ODDS
If a limited-entry hunt this fall in Washington is not in the cards, it may still be worthwhile to file a "deliberately non-selectable" application for one or more hunts or species.
Washington's controlled hunt drawings are governed by a selection process designed to improve the odds for applicants who in previous years were not selected. Every year they are not drawn in a particular pool, hunters earn preference points.
People deliberately applying with a so-called ghost hunt number are removed from contention, but accrue a preference point to add to their total for that specific drawing category.
You'll find ghost hunt choice numbers on page 87. Similar non-selectable applications can be made in future years for multi-season permits for deer and elk as well as spring black bear drawings.
MAKING CHOICES KNOWN
Washington does not take hardcopy/snail mail special hunt drawing applications. All drawing entries must be filed either via a toll-free telephone number, 877-945-3492, or online at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.
Prepping for the call or online interactions is key to ensuring you get your name in the correct cyber hopper(s) for the permit(s) you seek.
The references on page 87 tell you what information you'll need. Having those numbers written down in an organized fashion especially helps in the phone process.
Make sure you follow the additional steps required of leaders and members in the "party" option, as well.
Whether you apply individually or in a hunting group, write down the confirmation number at the end of each application transaction. If you do not get confirmation numbers for each submittal, it means they didn't go through.
WAITING FOR RESULTS
Another element that's gone by the board is the old postcard notification for successful drawing results.
All applicants must log on to the fish and wildlife department Web portal at the end of June to find out whether they are getting a deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose, cougar or fall turkey special permit.
Your last name, WILD number and birth date are required to make this cyber inquiry.
All successful drawing entrants will receive their special permit or permits in the mail by mid-July.
Usuallly, hunters who draw two permits for a species in two different categories will be allowed to hunt on both permits. But they must stop once they harvest their animal unless the other permit is good for a "second animal" (mainly for deer).
There is a grace period for claiming specialty permits for which you have been selected. Upon its expiration, unclaimed permits will be offered to alternates.
SLIDE MOUNTAIN GATED
The Washington Department of Natural Resources has closed and locked the gate at the bottom of the Slide Mountain/Racehorse Creek road system off the North Fork Road, southeast of Kendall.
WDNR Baker District Manager Steve Jennison said the lockout of motor vehicles was prompted by the extensive access-aided littering in the area. Active logging sides on the road system this spring and firewood theft are additional reasons for closing the gate.
In a recent clean-up at a large gravel pit in the area, volunteers from a local mountain biking club collected and removed a dumpster load of trash from the pit itself, Jennison said. Most of this garbage appears to have come from irresponsible target-shooters.
Jennison said the unregulated shooting is spreading litter along the road - especially at former log-yarding landings and at the ends of short spurs - faster than the department can clean it up.
Most shooters aren't removing their brass and shotgun shell hulls and are leaving behind a host of household items that have been used as targets.
New regulations governing recreation on state-managed forestlands restrict activities such as off-road vehicle use, construction of mountain biking trails and other recreational pursuits that damage timber, land, water and wildlife habitat or that impose added costs on the agency.
As a long-time resident of this area who has spent his life both on and off the job in the woods here, Jennison said he is disappointed at having to bar vehicular access to state lands, but that the misuse of public lands cannot be allowed to continue.
Jennison said several other state forest locales in the county, such as the Van Zandt Dike, are showing signs of unacceptable public wear and tear and also might have to be gated.
Jennison said the Slide Mountain/Racehorse gate could be reopened by mid-summer once logging is finished. However, if the wildfire hazard increases this summer, the area's roads could remain off limits until the dry season passes.
PSA MEETS WEDNESDAY
The Bellingham PSA Chapter's regular monthly gathering Wednesday, May 15, has a two-item agenda.
The evening's 7 p.m. program speaker will be river guide Scotty Landis, who will reveal his tactics for plying Northwest Washington streams for steelhead and chinook in June and July.
Both the Skykomish and the Skagit have such early fisheries.
The earlier meeting discussion, open to all starting at 6 p.m., will review final plans for the chapter's July salmon derby.
All PSA members and non-members are invited to attend both meetings. Volunteers to help with derby related preparations would be welcomed.
Bellingham PSA meets the third Wednesday of each month at Nicki's Bella Marina Restaurant on South Harbor Loop Drive off Coho Way and Roeder Avenue at old Squalicum Harbor. Attendees can order dinner during the meeting.
The Bellingham PSA salmon derby this year is set for July 12-14. Some 500 tickets will be up for sale online beginning Saturday, June 1.
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/outdoors.