County deer hunters looking for nearby places to stalk their black-tailed quarry will find the same access opportunities they've had in recent years when the general or modern firearm deer season begins Saturday, Oct. 12.
As has been the case for more than 20 years, roads entering most private timberlands will be gated, barring all motorized access, but hunters will find these non-vehicle accesses can provide a degree of exclusivity not normally found on driveable open logging roads.
Here's a rundown of major land ownerships and access conditions.
Sierra Pacific Industries has significant timber holdings in Whatcom County in the Bald Mountain, Coal Mountain, northeast Sumas Mountain and Canyon Lake areas.
In addition, the California-based forest products giant owns large forested tracts in the upper South Fork Nooksack and on Wickersham Mountain (Lyman Hill), Mount Josephine, and Grandy Creek areas, together with timber acreage in lower Finney Creek and the lower Illabot slopes, east of Rockport, in Skagit County.
Sierra Pacific allows public day-use entry on foot, horseback or mountain bike to hunt its Whatcom and Skagit properties but it does not allow overnight camping or fires of any kind on its holdings.
In October with wild-fire risks low many company gates may be open weekdays and Saturdays for industrial traffic. Under Sierra Pacific policies, motorists are not allowed and should not drive past any open gates since they risk, among other things, getting locked in.
There are locales where timber holding ownerships are interspersed, and in those areas, vehicles may be driven on some SPI roads.
When parking vehicles near gate barriers, operators should not block them or the driven portion of the roadway.
Longview Timber, LLC this past summer sold all its holdings in Whatcom and Skagit counties to the Weyerhaeuser Company. This includes timber land tracts in the Bowman and Blue Mountain areas, together with significant forested tracts in the Finney Block south of the Skagit River centering on Day Creek and the Cultus, Haystack and Bald mountain areas.
At this time there appear to have been no changes in access circumstances on the former Longview Timber properties, which previously had been open (unless posted otherwise) to the public for recreation, including hunting during state-sanctioned seasons. Entry, however, was limited to walk-in or ride-in methods via horseback or mountain bike.
Hunters and other visitors may enter Weyerhaeuser lands for day recreation trips, but overnight stays are not allowed nor are fires of any kind.
An announcement posted in Weyerhaeuser Company's website and on their recreation access information hotline specifies that its North Cascades Tree Farm currently is open only for non-motorized recreation.
Bloedel Timberlands and Seefeld Corporation, owners of timber tracts in Whatcom County, historically have allowed walk- or ride-in (mountain bike or horseback) day visits to many of their respective holdings.
Bloedel owns timber tracts in the north Blanchard Mountain, west Lake Samish and South Fork Nooksack areas. Seefeld Corporation, through its management agent International Forestry Consultants, owns and controls lands on the southwest side of Sumas Mountain and on the north end of Stewart Mountain east of Lake Whatcom.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources manages non-federal public forest lands throughout the state including significant holdings here in Whatcom County on Sumas, Red and Slide mountains as well as in the Van Zandt Dike and Middle Fork Nooksack Valley.
In Skagit County, state block holdings are found north of Hamilton, on Alger and Blanchard mountains, in the lower Baker River Valley and on the west and south sides of Cultus Mountain.
Hunters can expect many state forest roads providing access directly onto state-owned lands in Whatcom and Skagit counties to be open for the general deer season.
Even though the fire danger is low, hunters and other visitors to state forest lands should exercise care in the use of campfires, when smoking or operating gas powered equipment.
Hunters will find certain state forest roads gated if the routes cross intervening privately owned lands for which DNR does not have authority to allow motorized public access or there are other management issues that require restricting motor vehicle operations.
South Blanchard Mountain, Alger Mountain and the Christie Creek roads have been gated and closed to vehicular access because of past abuses such as garbage dumping, forest products theft, unrestrained vehicle operation off road and indiscriminate shooting.
Also, Blanchard Mountain is now in a state fish and wildlife department imposed firearms restriction area (west of Interstate 5) where it is unlawful to use high-powered rifles during the modern firearms deer season.
Roads on DNR-managed forest lands on Red Mountain, Slide Mountain, the Van Zandt Dike, Racehorse Creek and the Middle Fork Nooksack in Whatcom County and on the Harry Osborne State Forest in Skagit County will be open for motor vehicle travel.
Also all visitors to state forest lands are reminded that a Discover Pass must be purchased and conspicuously displayed on any motor vehicle operated on WDNR managed roads and lands.
All Washington State Parks and Recreation lands (state parks such as Larrabee and Rockport) are off-limits to hunting during any season.
On the Mount Baker Ranger District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Northwest Washington deer hunters will find the majority of forest roads open for the general season deer hunt despite the federal government shutdown.
However, information outlets such as the Glacier Public Service Center on the Mount Baker Highway and the Sedro-Woolley Ranger District office on the North Cascades Highway are closed.
Also Canyon Creek (FSR 31) and Glacier Creek (FSR 39) roads may not be repaired in time for the hunt.
Emergencies, including incidents involving theft of forest products and vandalism to national forest facilities, should reported via 911 at the nearest cellphone service area or available landline.
Any street-legal vehicle may be driven on currently open and non-gated forest roads, but unlicensed recreation machines are not permitted either on main and secondary roads nor anywhere off-road (including inactive logging spurs) on the national forest.
Some district roads including the Dillard Ridge and Sandy Creek routes are off-limits to vehicles entirely and are closed and gated year-round.
Hunting, in conformity with state regulations, by law, is allowed in many national recreation areas under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service including the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
It is unlawful to hunt or recover fallen game animals inside the boundaries of any national park.
BOW HILL OPENS
The 375-acre Bow Hill designated pheasant release site, a combination of forested areas with trails, a small pasture/wetland and new clear cut units in northwestern Skagit County, opened Saturday, Oct. 4 with birds afoot.
This year's new parking lot is on the south side of the side at 17471 Bow Hill Rd., about a mile west of Interstate 5 (exit 236). This will be the only hunter entry point for the area.
Parking is not available any longer on Ershig Road.
Marked safety zones cover the county road (Ershig and Bow Hill) margins as well as private property on the north and southeast sides of the acreage. The north/south pipeline swath is the area's eastern boundary and birds may not be pursued beyond it.
Hunters are reminded they must carry and use only non-toxic shot and wear at least 400 inches of blaze or hunter orange exterior garb on their upper body. Pheasant hunting is legal between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and on week days the even/odd entry system governs the first two hours of the morning.
STURGEON SEASON CANCELLED
Lower Columbia River personal use sturgeon fishers went to town on their early 2013 opportunity, catching an estimated 1,942 whites before its closed in mid-June. That equates to 96 percent of this year's agreed-to overall quota.
Oregon and Washington technical conferees agreed this past week that the remaining catch allocation is not sufficient to allow the fall retention fishery, slated to begin Oct. 19 to go ahead, so it's been cancelled.
With continued declines in the numbers of whites, sturgeon anglers aren't likely to see another opportunity to keep fish for at least a year and a half.
Washington fishery managers, by direction of the fish and wildlife commission, have already imposed a full Western Washington closure (applying to the Columbia below Bonneville, the ocean coast, greater Puget Sound plus all their freshwater tribs) for sturgeon in 2014.
FLY FISHERS HOLD FUNDRAISER FOR CONSERVATION
The Fourth Corner Fly Fishers will hold their 20th annual conservation auction and banquet 6-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club on Meridian Street in Bellingham.
This celebration, the main club fundraiser of the year, fortifies the group's special fund enabling it to carry on a variety of fishing conservation and education projects each year.
With its ever-growing community involvement the club, now 80 members strong, wishes to extend an open invitation to all who want to attend the dinner and support its activities, said Frank Koterba, a club coordinator for the auction.
Dinner tickets are $35 for the first one and $30 thereafter for spouses and children. Drawing tickets for each of the main raffles are $10 each.
The four key raffle prizes are:
? a two-night stay at Sun Mountain Lodge
? a special package from Zazen Salon Spa
? a special catered dinner for 10 at a local winery
? a guided float trip on a local Northwest river offered by Confluence Fly Shop
Winners do not need to be present for the four drawings for these items.
Besides the raffles, a lengthy list of additional donated new goods and services will be auctioned off throughout the evening including fly fishing related gear, guided trips on area rivers and off the coast, a chili feed for 15 persons, wine and cheese tasting or sunset cruises aboard the Lady Ann, art work and photography, cooking opportunities with Chef Koterba and more.
And to further add to the auction bill, the club will continue to accept donations of new goods or services through Saturday, Oct. 19. They need not be fishing or fly fishing related either.
Proceeds from this fundraiser, as mentioned, go to the club's conservation fund which over the years has provided monetary support for an impressive list of accomplishments.
Founded in the early 1970's, the club almost immediately launched an effort in concert with the then Washington Department of Game to supplement summer-run steelhead in the South Fork of the Nooksack.
The extensive project involved first improving the in-stream habitat in sections of four lower-basin creeks for the sea-run rainbows followed by a second phase involving supplementation of the fish populations returning to the creek by the placement of small devices called Vibert boxes in gravels of each stream.
These special containers were designed to be filled with loose gravel interspersed with a small number of fertilized steelhead eggs. The eggs would incubate, hatch and then the tiny fry would swim out through openings when they were fully developed.
Early on the club also was the driving force in development of the fly fishing management regimen for Squalicum Lake. They also have collected creel census information to help evaluate the lake's stocking program and continue to help maintain the public access there.
In its history, the group's members also spearheaded and carried out riparian restoration work on the small namesake creek of the Nessett Farm in the South Fork Valley. With the permission of the Nessett family, club members invested a number of springs and falls setting out and managing stream side plantings to transform the creeks banks to protect spawning coho salmon and winter-run steelhead.
Fourth Corner Fly Fishers later stepped up when the Mount Baker Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service sought partners to build the Boyd Creek Interpretive Trail on the North Fork Nooksack east of Glacier.
Members lent considerable time and skills to the construction of the entire elevated wooden boardwalk and viewing platforms along the creek.
The fully accessible gravel approach trail and boardwalk with its illustrated interpretive panels offer visitors of any ability the opportunity to glimpse native fishes spawning in the small tributary together with helpful explanations of the complexities of Boyd Creek's aquatic ecology.
Club members also went outside the reaches of the Nooksack to assist the Forest Service in repairing damage to Little Deer Creek in the Stillagaumish Basin when a large clay-bank slide threatened its summer steelhead. These are the run of sporting trout immortalized, in part, in the writings of Zane Gray and later Rodrick Haig-Brown as well as the photography and writings of nationally recognized Fourth Corner Fly Fishers member Ralph Wahl of Bellingham.
More recently the club has undertaken a multi-year riparian restoration effort on a reach of Ten Mile Creek in cooperation with the teachers and students of Ten-Mile Elementary School in the Meridian School District.
The group also has done similar habitat restoration work in the headwaters of the Samish River with the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group.
Besides these field endeavors the group supports Western Washington University's fly fishing education program and has set up a scholarship for students engaging in its coursework.
The Fourth Corner Fly Fishers also has reached out cooperatively to a diverse group of other fisheries and conservation groups including the Coastal Conservation Association, the Wild Fish Conservancy, Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and the Native Fish Society.
Now in its fifth decade, many of its passionate and dedicated founding members are no longer active or have passed away, however, one, Wayne McLemore is still active and is helping to document the group's history.
Besides donations to its auction, the Fly Fishers accept monetary contributions directly to their conservation fund. Here are some contacts for the group:
? To make a donation to the auction, contact any of these members: Dan Coombs (email@example.com or 360 398-1637), Mike Riber (firstname.lastname@example.org or 360 671-8171) or Frank Koterba (email@example.com or 360 647 9715)
? To attend a monthly meeting: Matt Roelofs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
? To buy tickets to the conservation dinner: Frank Koterba (email@example.com)
? To inquire about membership in the club: Nathan Weston (firstname.lastname@example.org)
? To learn about outings and activities, log onto the Fourth Corner Fly Fishers Web page: http://4thcornerfly.com/index.php.
Besides its many fishing outings, project work parties and fly-tying classes, the club regularly meets for dinner and a program each fourth Thursday evening of month at 6 p.m. except November and December at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. A dinner chair reservation is needed.