There are five days left to act for hunters intent on seeking a Washington controlled hunt permit for big game.
The deadline for successfully completing an application is midnight Thursday, May 22, and there may be a lot of work to do before then.
This is the fifth year of Washington's expanded limited-entry hunt system that now offers 26 different categories of fall permit drawing pools into which hunters may toss their hats. Would-be entrants may apply for as many different drawings as their pocketbook, licensing, age and/or training qualify them for.
Among this range of special hunt groups are eight focusing on deer, seven for elk, six for moose, four for bighorn sheep together with one each for mountain goat and fall turkeys. Within each species' collection of options are drawing categories designated for master hunters, seniors, youth and disabled persons.
Each pool or category managers have arrayed scores of numbered hunt unit opportunities (either existing GMUs, elk or deer areas that are composites of portions of GMUs or combined GMU or special hunt areas such as mountain goat or bighorn sheep that are specially designed to focus very limited hunting effort on specific populations of those animals.
Some hunts have just one or two permits up for grabs while others have scores and hundreds to be awarded.
Besides these aforementioned categories, special hunt drawings also can and do carry a weaponry limitation, that is to say a specific hunt or hunts may only be open to tag holders of either the archery, muzzleloader or modern rifle persuasion, but not all.
Lest you look and are disappointed, there are no longer permit hunts for cougar in the fall and the drawing for the issuance of black bear permits now only occurs for the spring hunts. Also the lottery that issued the coveted multiple seasons permits has come and gone.
For wild turkeys there will be both limited entry and general or open hunts this fall.
Though you may have already ruled out a special hunt this fall for other reasons, there's still a valid reason to go through the effort to apply. By filling in a specific 'ghost' number for a hunt that you may want to do in the future but not now, you will earn a valuable preference point or points that will improve your odds in out-year lotteries for that species and hunt.
Waiting to the eleventh hour of the last day is not advisable given the number of choices, the homework required and the need to submit a separate application for each drawing.
Another practical rationale for not waiting to the final moments is that in the last days and certainly hours of the entry period a rush of procrastinators taxes capacities of the state system's telephone and Internet application portals denying hunters access to actually making a submittal.
A silver lining in this storm of paper and electronic work to vie for a special permit is that all the $7.10 regular and $13.70 'quality' e-application fees derived from this effort go into a special fund earmarked for the department's Private Lands Access Program, which is designed to cooperatively open more fee-title land to the public for hunting.
The first step for all special permit seekers regardless of their familiarity with past year's opportunities is to get a copy of the 2014 Washington Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet. They can be had at any fishing and hunting license dealer or an e-version is available to view at or download from the department's Web portal: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
With the latest rules brochure in hand with all its essential information such as hunt choice numbers, most would-be applicants then need to immediately buy their hunting license before going any further.
Persons applying for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat drawings need not heed this step. Since there are so few of these tags and they cost more, entrants for them may wait until the drawing results to buy their license and newly won permit.
Also, if successful youth permit applicants turn age 16 before they acquire their license and transport tag they must pay the full adult rate to redeem their permit.
Another key pre-requisite for deer and elk hunt applicants is to make sure to coordinate their transport tag choice with the weapon mandated for their targeted special hunt.
For example, license buyers should not select for a modern rifle deer transport tag 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 90 in the big game hunting pamphlet for a complete list of special hunt drawing categories by species. It includes all available choice categories or drawing pools plus qualifications, if any, which would-be applicants must meet.
Consult each big species' section of the pamphlet for the lists of hunts offered in each special permit category and by weapons choice. You'll also find the rendering of the odds of being drawn and the average number of preference points required to make the cut.
When a hunter has all the necessary licenses and tags in hand and knowledge of the breadth of choices, it's time to learn the details.
HITTING THE BOOKS
Putting in extra time with resource materials, especially for beginners, is critical to a satisfactory outcome.
Determining the metes and bounds (borders) of a special hunt area is a key element in making sure where you want to hunt is where your permit says you may. This especially goes for locales where the majority of land is privately owned and you must have permission to enter.
It's strongly suggested that deer, elk, moose and turkey permit applicants look closely at how much privately owned land there is in each special hunt units and areas. If you don't already have permission to go onto private property that may dominate a hunt area, holding a special permit may be of little value and no advantage.
Each game management unit or special hunt area that are actively hunted or explicitly closed by order are described in writing toward the back of the big game pamphlet starting on page 100. Don't rely just on large-scale maps to guess the detail of boundaries, you may end up hunting well over the line.
DeLorme's Atlases, other gazetteer-type reference maps folios and U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps will help applicants zero in on boundaries of special-hunt areas as well as provide valuable insight into land ownership patterns.
When you've decided on the permit hunts for which you want to try, you can then buy the appropriate e-application for each drawing you wish to enter, either as an individual (single hunter app), a 'quality' type permit hunt, or as a group or partnering hunters.
Those purchases can be done on-line, by telephone or over the counter at any fishing and hunting license dealer (see column one on page 89 of the regulations).
From here on, the 2014 application process remains much the same as it has been in the past.
IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES
As mentioned, if a limited-entry hunt this fall in Washington is not in the cards, but years thereafter are a possibility, it's quite worthwhile to take the time to file a 'deliberately non-selectable' application for one or more hunts or species you're interested in.
Washington's controlled hunt drawings, like those in many other states, are governed by a favor-weighted selection process designed to improve the odds for applicants who in previous years were not selected. Every year they are not drawn, while in active contention in a specific hunt pool, hunters earn so-called preference points.
Persons deliberately applying with a so-called 'ghost' or point option choice hunt number are removed from contention, but in submitting such, they accrue a preference point to add to their total for that specific drawing category.
You'll find ghost hunt choice numbers on page 89. When those drawings occur, 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.
TOSSING YOUR HAT(S)
Washington no longer takes hardcopy, snail mail or verbal phone call submittals for special hunt drawing applications. All drawing entries must be filed either via a special toll-free telephone number 1-877-945-3492 or on-line at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.
Prepping for the call or on-line interactions is key to ensuring you get your name in the correct cyber hopper(s) for the permit(s) you're seeking.
The references on page 88-89 tell you exactly what information you'll need. Having those numbers written down in an organized fashion especially helps in the phone process.
Make sure you explicitly follow the additional steps required of leaders and members in the 'party' or group option, as well.
A final critical step that will ensure, you're in contention, whether you apply individually or in a hunting group, is to be sure to write down the confirmation number at the end of each application transaction you make.
If you do not get confirmation numbers for each submittal it means they didn't go through and you must call a special telephone number, 360 902-2464, to get the matter corrected
WAITING FOR RESULTS
Another old-school element that's gone by the board is the old postcard notification for successful drawing applicants.
All applicants must log on to the fish and wildlife department Web portal at the end of June to find out whether or not they were successful in getting a deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose or fall turkey special permit.
Your last name, WILD number and date of birth are required to make this cyber inquiry.
All successful drawing entrants will receive their special permit or permits in the mail by the middle of July.
In most cases, hunters will be allowed if they draw two permits for a species in two different categories 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).
As mentioned, 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.
PSA MEETS WEDNESDAY
The Bellingham PSA Chapter's regular monthly gathering Wednesday, May 21, has a dual item agenda.
There will be a guest speaker and presentation open to all at 7 p.m. but earlier meeting discussions, also open to all starting at around 6:30 p. m., will review final plans for the chapter's July salmon derby.
Everyone, PSA member and non-member alike, is invited to attend both meetings. Volunteers to help with derby related preparations would especially 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's salmon derby this year is set for July 11-13. Some 500 tickets will be up for sale on-line 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.