Last-chance deer hunt starts Thursday

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 9, 2013 

The modern firearm late deer season opens Thursday, Nov. 14, for four days in selected Western Washington game management units.

This opportunity has a limited scope, with the westside's black-tailed deer being the main attraction, however there is an 11-day over-arching option for white-tailed bucks that started Saturday, Nov. 9, in seven Northeast Washington game management units.

All other areas of the state are closed to firearms.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers say that, though brief in duration, this November opportunity often yields up to one-third of the total annual Western Washington taking of deer.

CLOSE TO HOME

With all other North Cascade foothills game management units closed, GMU 407 - encompassing the western third of the county west of State Route 9 - will be open to hunt.

The next closest options with overland access include GMUs 420 (Whidbey), 421 (Camano), 454 (Issaquah) and 466 (Stampede). In addition, the big islands in the San Juan and Skagit counties (GMUs 411-417 and 419) will be open.

In three of the units (407, 454 and 466) modern riflers and handgunners may shoot any buck. However, in the island hunting zones including Camano, Whidbey, Cypress, Guemes and all of the San Juan Islands, any deer is the acceptable legal standard for hunters.

Besides the Region 4 units, an extensive list of GMUs in WDFW's Western Washington regions (5 and 6) also will be open for deer hunters.

Hunters should take notice of both local- and state-imposed limitations on permissible hunting weaponry. A partial listing of firearms restrictions is found on page 81 of the WDFW hunting regulations pamphlet.

LAST OF THE HUNTS

Following the November late main event for deer, bow and musket hunters will take to selected game management units around the state for their late seasons, which will last into December.

Locally, muzzleloaders will have access to the 407 and 410 GMUs, while the closest option for Whatcom archers in the late hunt will be GMU 437 (Sauk) in neighboring Skagit and Snohomish counties.

WHEN FINISHED, TELL ALL

By law, Washington big game hunters are required to make annual reports of activity for each deer, elk, black bear or turkey transport tag they buy.

There is a timely reporting incentive for big game hunters who make their reports by Jan. 10. A total of nine special deer or elk permits will be awarded to persons whose names are drawn from the pool of early-bird reporters.

For more details concerning these reports, see page 17 of the 2013 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983, writes a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his outdoors blogs and contact him at bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog/index.html.

WHATCOM/SKAGIT OPTIONS

There are several extensive available foothills timberland venues within GMU 407 in Whatcom County, including:

? Sumas Mountain (east of Everson/Nooksack) has a mix of state and private forest lands and major road entries at Coal Creek (east side off State Route 542) and Paradise Road (north side off South Pass Road). Other entries around the mountain cross private lands.

? Red Mountain (northeast of Kendall) is mainly a block of state forest lands with a major road entry west of Maple Falls (off State Route 542). Limestone quarry lands on the east and northwest sides are privately owned, and the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department has some holdings on Red's lower northeast flanks that are off-limits to hunting.

? Stewart Mountain (east of Lake Whatcom) is largely privately owned timberlands with some state holdings interspersed. Most of its industrial road entries are gated, so walk-in hunting is the norm. Some of these accesses are on smaller private parcels owned by third parties that do not allow any trespassing.

? Van Zandt Dike (a north-south trending ridge bounding the lower South Fork Nooksack) is a predominantly state-owned block of forest lands with a main road entrance at the ridge's south end off Mosquito Lake Road. It is substantially logged and heavily visited.

? Galbraith/Entwhistle (southeast of Bellingham) has higher elevation interior locales and combination of smaller private/state timber holdings. Again, access from public roads or highways is affected by the private holdings.

? Blanchard/Chuckanuts (south of Bellingham) has a combination of state and private timberlands mixed with designated park holdings, including Larrabee State Park and Whatcom County parks and significant smaller private parcels. Expect hikers on the Pacific Northwest Trail on Blanchard. Parking is limited at accesses to Bloedel Timberland holdings in the Mud Creek drainage. Hunting access also is possible via a state road off Barrel Springs Road.

? Alger Mountain (northeast of Burlington) is another predominantly state-owned forest block with the main entrance off Skaarup Road in Skagit County. Because of significant abuses of these lands and indiscriminate, unsafe shooting by some persons, the main access is gated. Another walk-in option across private land is available off State Route 9 on the southeast side of the mountain.

? Devil's Mountain (southeast of Mount Vernon) is another mix of state and private timberlands with entries that are often gated. Walk-in, day-use hunting is the norm here. Key accesses are off Amick Road to the north and State Route 536 on the south side.

? Pilchuck Tree Farm (south of Mount Vernon) consists of managed timber tracts wholely owned by Pacific Denkman Co. There is a considerable amount of alternative recreational activity here on the road/trail system, which could affect hunting.

As always be sure to check with the landowner before crossing property to get to public land or private industrial forest lands for which tacit permission to enter has been given.

OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Hunters bound for the Olympic Peninsula will want to focus on lower elevation private lands in eastern Clallam County, where any deer may be killed. In addition, state-owned blocks in the foothills areas of GMU 621 have a good abundance of black-tailed bucks. To the south and east, managers suggest focusing on Green Diamond lands on the south side of the peninsula as well as state forest holdings on the Tahuya Peninsula.

SOUTHWEST

Black-tailed deer numbers are stronger in interior locales of Southwest Washington, with GMUs 648 (Wynoochee), 651 (Satsop), 660 (Minot Peak) and 663 (Capitol Peak) tabbed to provide the best hunting. Both the previous general elk and modern rifle deer seasons have driven animals deep into cover so patience is required to outwait bucks. Hunters also should familiarize themselves with requirements for gaining access to Weyerhauser, Rayonier and other private timber company holdings. Some require access permits, for which a fee is charged.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Several things to remember and abide by:

? Use of center-fire and rim-fire rifles is not allowed when hunting deer west of I-5 in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Legal weaponry for big game in this restriction area includes selected handguns, crossbows, conforming bows and arrows, shotguns and muzzleloaders.

? Always obtain permission to venture onto and hunt privately owned land. It's not necessary to contact major timberland holders (Sierra Pacific, Longview Timber and Bloedel Timberlands), which have announced and posted policies allowing non-motorized, day-use entry onto their property.

? It is not legal to trespass on private property for the purpose of pursuing wounded or retrieving fallen game. Know the boundaries of the lands on which you have permission to hunt.

? A Discover Pass is needed to visit and park a motor vehicle on all state forest lands. Display it conspicuously.

? Whatcom County has 21 delineated geographic areas where the discharge of firearms is not allowed.

? A San Juan County ordinance requires all hunters to carry written permissions from the owner when hunting on private property held.

? It's not legal to discharge firearms inside any municipal boundaries.

? Neither firearms nor hunting are not allowed on any city, county, state or federal park lands.

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