Hunting matters becoming more prominent

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 12, 2014 

Things hunting will appear with greater frequency from now on in many outdoors calendars.

With the season's start just 20 days off, preliminary scouting trips for bruin hunters will check on the state of berry crops and perhaps even get a glimpse of potential August quarry.

Big game pursuers are checking on and collecting their various special permits from Washington or other states and starting to make other final arrangements for fall trips.

Hunters who also have a chance have a few more days to buy raffle tickets for Washington's final set of lottery-doled special and combination big game hunts.

And another July task for activist-type hunters is to check on the progress and opine on future hunting opportunities or perhaps even write a bit of hunting regulation themselves.

SUBMIT A PROPOSAL

Coming to a close this week (Friday, July 18) are the interactive periods in which licensed hunters and other interested citizens have opportunities to comment on the environmental review of the proposed six-year (2015-2021) comprehensive game management plan, as well as submit proposed changes in hunting regulations for the upcoming three-year period.

Both the previous six-year GMP, as well as the draft future game management plan, can be downloaded or read online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/game/2015/. A link to the online survey gathering opinions on the assessment of the elements of the draft game management plan is also available as well.

The second input-gathering process with direct effects on next year's hunting is accessible via the Web portal at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/seasonsetting/.

Submitters can take both a survey on their opinions concerning the general elements of the coming hunting seasons package as well as make concrete recommendations for altering the hunt rules by adding to, modifying existing or deleting a regulation or opportunity altogether.

For the record I took the opportunity and time to submit a proposed rule change concerning forest grouse in 2015-17 hunting regulations.

The interactive form page did not take long to understand nor was it time consuming to fill out.

As a proponent, you're asked for your name, where you hail from and if you have hunted and fished in Washington.

You'll then pick the pertinent species and the geographic coverage of your proposed amendment - in my instance, I choose a statewide application.

The next step, which threw me at first, is to put in the current regulation that's your focus.

In my case, this entry turned out to be a quick recitation of the current September 1 to December 31 forest grouse season and its bag and possession limits.

Submitters are then asked to decide if they are in agreement the rule and want no change or want to enter a counter or alternative proposal.

I suggested an alternative to the existing season which would open hunting to forest grouse from Sept. 1 to the closing date of waterfowl hunting season in late January. This would add from 25-31 days to each year's hunt during a great time, the leaves off period.

There are likely other considerations but in general current hunting effort is not thought to have a major or inordinate impact on ruffed, blue or spruce grouse populations. Also this opening does not extend into the breeding season.

Without scientific assessment going into this, I further recommended a roll-back of the bag and possession limits to three birds (each day) and nine total (larder and field), respectively. The current four bird daily take is a relatively new rule and the three grouse bag was an institution for decades before.

The limit reductions, in the absence of statistical assessment, in practice should come close making the proposal 'harvest neutral.' The season will add further opportunity for the more sportsmanlike 'boot/dog' pursuit of forest grouse without the significant potential of harvest increases that would need to be evaluated.

To put some burden for having a broader understanding of the practical implications of making public policy and rules, proponents are asked to write down a list of interested third parties, stakeholders that is, as well as who among them are likely to come out in support of the change and who will oppose it.

After about fifteen minutes of thoughtful writing (you are limited to a fixed number of words in each box), I clicked a button and submitted my proposal for consideration.

It has a unique identifier and can be tracked through this fall's process of public scrutiny, professional evaluation and maybe consideration for adoption by the fish and wildlife commission.

With some luck, favorable reviews and support, I may be hunting grouse in January 2016.

I urge everyone with ideas for worthwhile, practical and beneficial changes to hunting regulations to take advantage of this easy mode for getting your ideas heard and possibly even made into the hunting law of the land.

AND THE WINNERS ARE...

For a number of years now the fish and wildlife department has not mailed out notices to successful applicants for limited entry hunt drawings. Entries were made in late spring and the drawings done in early June.

Information concerning those results is now exclusively obtainable through an on-line portal at

https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wa/specialhuntlookup.

Additionally, if you want your accumulated preference point totals in each drawing category, you must email an inquiry to wildthing @dfw.wa.gov with your full name, and WILD Identification Number.

ONE LAST CHANCE

Tuesday, July 15 sees the close of the ticket window for any of a variety of raffled big game singleton and combo species permits that will be good in Washington this fall.

Thirteen of these ticket draw offerings are put up by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and two are big game tag raffles offered by private landowners or groups as authorized by the fish and wildlife commission. Sales of tickets for the third private sector offering, a Rocky Mountain bighorn ram tag presented by the Washington Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, closed Monday, July 7.

At $6 each with no limit on numbers purchased hunters may buy chances in drawings for, in most cases, extra deer and elk as well as singleton moose and/or mountain goat tags that are good for this fall's hunts.

Tickets for the state's bighorn sheep raffled permit drawing are $11.50 each, while chances for the three- and four-game species card selections are $17 and $22.50, respectively.

Under a general Washington rule, hunters of bighorns, mountain goat or moose may take only one specimen in their hunting 'careers.' But if a raffle ticket belonging to them is picked, Washington's overarching 'one-per-lifetime' harvest rule concerning these three species is waived. That makes hunters who were successful in past years eligible, via these raffles, for a unique second chance at a Washington specialty species.

Besides the aforementioned hooved quarry, some of the 'multiple choice' raffles contain options that include among their selections tags for black bear, cougar and/or turkey.

Each raffle permit comes with a broad opportunity in which to exercise tags (hunting allowed from the first of September to the end of December). Options involving cougar, black bear and/or turkey, if chosen by winners, may be used through late winter and during spring hunts next calendar year.

Among this year's raffle permit packages are four that have a selection of big game species found in their respective regions of the state. The Northeast Washington Big Game raffle ticket winner, for instance, may pick three species to hunt from a list of six found in game management units north of Spokane. Except for the moose option there, all tags awarded in this raffle option are for additional animals over and above general season tags.

Eight of the raffles are focused on a single species, the deer and elk ones as additional hunting tags, the specialties (goat, sheep and moose), a one-animal only chance.

All of these raffle drawings are done by computer and the lucky ticket holders will be notified by mid-August so selections, if required, can be made before permit seasons open the fist of September.

More details concerning big game raffle permit options can be found on pages 86 and 87 of the 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Pamphlet or on line at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/permits/raffles/. The on-line information portal has an additional information element - running ticket sales tallies for each lottery - so you can decide if the odds are worth the investment.

Since Washington gambling law forbids wire sales (on-line or by telephone) of chits for games of chance, these raffle permit hunt tickets can only be purchased over-the-counter at a fishing and hunting license dealer. A license vendor list for Whatcom County is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/.

The department by rule invests the single species ticket sale proceeds for management of on those individual species. The multi-species permit income bolsters the coffers for general wildlife management.

QUICK NOTES

The lower Columbia River personal salmon season has been extended in the summer chinook and sockeye categories through Thursday, July 31.

Only hatchery or adipose clipped kings together and reds regardless of marking may be kept. Wild kings and all other salmon species, if landed, must be released. Hatchery steelhead may figure into the harvest as well.

No matter what the pairing of keepers, anglers are allowed to take home just two adult fish per day.

This emergency open applies to Columbia waters below Bonneville Dam.

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.

BAKER LAKE SOCKEYE FISHING BY THE NUMBERS

AS OF JULY 12

Reservoir full pool: 727.7 feet above sea level.

Current lake level trend: raising, now at 725.90 f. a. s. l.

Expected 2014 run-size: 35,377 sockeye (to PSE Concrete trap)

Total trapped sockeye to date: 2,736 fish

Transferred to Baker Lake: 486 fish

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