State wildlife officials are optimistic about hunter prospects for the modern firearms deer season which opened Saturday, Oct. 12, across Washington.
Recent climate/weather trends favorable to both deer survival and noise abatement are the reasons for this positive expectation.
WDFW Game Program Manager Dave Ware said in a written statement on Wednesday, Oct. 9, that various populations of the three hunted deer species - mule, white-tailed and black-tailed - responded well to recent milder winter and temperate spring conditions.
Ware also points to another weather influence, September's rainfall, which will be a significant boon to hunters, silencing the crunchy dried leaf-fall and ground vegetation that often gives away a stalking gunner's presence.
Bucks in northern tier white-tailed and mule deer aggregations are especially abundant this fall, Ware said.
"Northeast Washington whitetail deer populations are continuing a fourth year of recovery after consecutive rough winters in 2007 and 2008," Ware said in the statement. "We saw minimal losses last winter, which should mean a good carry over of mature animals for this year's hunt."
In north central Washington pre-season mule deer surveys found the number of bucks in excellent contrast to female and young of the year animals at an overall ratio of 30 bucks per 100 antlerless.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed, but our Okanogan mule deer herd is looking really good," Ware said. "The dry conditions hunters had to deal with last year are also gone, and we expect harvest to increase."
From all outward appearances, numbers of the state's westside deer species are stable, Ware reported.
"Blacktail opportunities look best in southwestern Washington," Ware said. "But hunters shouldn't overlook the northern Puget Sound region. Deer densities aren't quite as high as they are farther south, but some really nice bucks come out of northwestern Washington."
INFO AIDS HELP FIND HUNTS
Hunters making last-minute preparations for hunting can find more district-by-district deer information on the department's website at dfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/.
Like many western states, Washington has an interactive mapping system at apps.wdfw.wa.gov/gohunt/ that can be used to help find desirable grounds.
The department also has a relatively new web-based system that pinpoints privately owned properties open to the public through its access facilitation program. Four types of opportunities comprise this effort including the department's Feel Free to Hunt, Register to Hunt, Hunt by Written Permission and Hunt by Reservation initiatives.
Go to wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/hunting_access/private_lands/ to explore possibilities for hunting private ground.
BE CAREFUL AND ETHICAL
The Eastern Washington general deer season runs to Oct. 20 or 25 depending on game management unit.
Western Washington's general deer season runs through Oct. 31 in all GMUs.
Unlike the seasons dedicated to archery or muzzleloader, during modern firearms seasons hunters may use any lawful hunting weapon from bow and arrow and blackpowder implements to modern center-fire, high-powered rifles and larger caliber handguns.
To partake of this season, hunters must specify they want the modern firearms transport tag even if they are going to hunt with a primitive weapon. This is in addition to their basic hunting license with deer as an option.
Hunters are reminded that not all deer are fair quarry and antler point restrictions set the minimum number of tines a buck must have to be a legal keeper govern in many GMUs. In a few GMUs it's legal for modern firearms hunters to shoot females and young deer.
All persons actively hunting big game in the modern firearms season or upland game birds any time must wear at least 400 square inches of blaze or hunter orange garb on their upper body.
"Hunters are trained to make sure they have safe shots," Ware said, adding that everyone benefits from wearing bright clothing in areas open to hunting.
The second important obligation hunters have is that of respecting private land ownership.
SOME DIVE SITE OCTOPI PROTECTED
A new fisheries regulation, took effect Oct. 6 banning the taking of octopus in the vicinity of several popular scuba diving sites in Washington's inland waters.
Outcry over the highly publicized, yet lawful killing in 2012 of a giant Pacific octopus at Seacrest Cove 3 dive site near West Seattle prompted review of management policy for the species. Though managers consider Puget Sound's giant Pacific population to be healthy, there were calls for ending octopus harvest.
Previously, personal use fishing regulations allowed the taking of one giant Pacific per day in a year-round season, except in Marine Area 12 encompassing Hood Canal.
Deception Pass is the closest underwater recreation area to Bellingham included in new regulations as an octopus protection area.
The popluar marine sites included in the protection order were Day's Island Wall, Les Davis Marine Park, Redondo Beach, Three Tree Point, Alki Beach Junk Yard and Seacrest Park Coves 1, 2 and 3.
The department lists the sites at wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/octopus/.
HYDRAULICS CODE REVAMPING
Public comment is invited until Nov. 15 on changes under consideration for the state's Hydraulics Code.
If you fish for personal use or recreation, are concerned about native wild fish or are a landowner or contractor or you have a direct interest in these laws, it is recommended you check into the code and its proposed changes.
Chapter 220-110 of the Washington Administrative Code encompasses regulations governing construction in and near aquatic environs that are adopted by the state fish and wildlife commission and administered by the fish and wildlife department's habitat and enforcement programs.
The first of six public meetings around the state is slated for 6-8 p.m. Oct. 17 at Mill Creek.
Department administrators say this is the first update of the main body of the hydraulics code since 1994.
The current hydraulics code is available at apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=220-110&full=true.
To view the proposed new rules or submit comments, visit wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/hpa/rulemaking/.
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 bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog.