Cadres of forest bird gunners and bow stalkers for deer join black bear and cougar hunters in the field Saturday with traditional Sept. 1 openings for resident Canada geese, native forest grouse, mourning doves and archery deer.
With the specialty options out of the way, Saturday also is the now-routine start of lunch bucket fisheries for salmon in Puget Sound rivers.
A BEAD ON BIRDS
Because of tight timelines, hunters looking to sample September bird hunts will need to carefully organize their schedules.
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Mourning doves are perhaps the most compelling opportunity for early birders. The 15-day opening is in-tended to allow hunters a last swipe before the fleet-winged migrants hit the road for Baja and points south.
Wet, rainy weather often chases them out of the Okanogan early, so it’s advisable to get to the Omak/Bridgeport area over the Labor Day weekend. Hunters can push visits to Othello and Yakima wild dove haunts back to the last weekend of the hunt and still have a chance. Look for water, cereal grains and a roosting place and doves will surely be on hand.
The early goose opportunity for resident Canadas, as these stay-at-home honkers are called, is a good tune-up for the main season. Hunters will find these birds to be far more creatures of habit than their migra-tory cousins and thus quick to become wary.
The first and longest September honker opening started today in Willapa Bay waters in Pacific County. Resident Canadas will be fair-game in Whatcom County and most other Western Washington locales for six days beginning Sept 8.
And don’t blink if a grain-fattened “Great Basin” is a target. Both eastside goose management areas open for just two days, Sept. 8-9.
A more leisurely approach can be taken for forest grouse. Their four-month legal availability ends Dec. 31, though the hunt for blue grouse effectively shuts down when fall snows hit the higher elevations.
NOCK ARROWS NOW
Amid the heat and dust of September, hunters with a bow take to forest and field across the state today for the three huntable species of the cervid clan.
West of the Cascades, in most of the units that are open, black-tailed deer will be fair-game for all 30 days of the early archery hunt. In Eastern Washington white-taileds have a similar one-month term as targets. Archers may kill does and bucks of either species.
As usual, archers will have to pay attention to the point count on antler beams, in most areas bucks must have at least two or three points to be legal game.
Only the more vulnerable mule deer populations have a truncated season in some 100 and 200 game man-agement units during the first half (Sept. 1-15) of which, mule deer females are not quarry.
Besides access to prime private property deer haunts, at this time of year, wildfires are the most trouble-some issue confronting archery hunters.
At present, there are only two major fires burning in Washington, both in the north central region, (the mid-Lake Chelan area and Omak Lake on the Colville Reservation). At present, neither will be much of a bother for archery deer hunters.
Elsewhere in the West, wildfires currently are reported in the Nez Perce, Clearwater and Sawtooth na-tional forests of Idaho. Montana also has two big burns, both classified as wild-land fires, which are being contained, but not suppressed.
Bowhunters are advised to regularly check on the status of wildfire hazards on the interagency website (inciweb.org) or with western state fish and wildlife agency websites that update fire conditions and clo-sures.Virtually all states do not refund money for hunting opportunities lost because of fire closures, so having a September fallback option is a must.
Upcoming on the September hunting calendar is the annual high buck hunt in wilderness (non-park) areas of the North and Central Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula. It starts Sept. 15.
Also elk become fair-game for early archers in selected areas starting Sept. 8. LOOK SOUTH FOR HUMPIES
While chinook become keepers today in the Nooksack River and have been the source of angler concen-tration in the Samish for a week or so, pink salmon here are off the local hook and line dance card.
Both the Nooksack and Skagit are expected to see poor returns of the diminutive salmon, called humpies.In both cases, the pre-season forecasts for these stocks are well below 50 percent of the needed spawning escapement.
A little more than 18,000 pinks were expected to return to the Nooksack this year, 37,000 fish below the minimum escapement goal of 55,000 fish.
The Skagit’s humpy run was forecast to come in at 90,000 fish, less than a third of the minimum 330,000 spawners for which the management plan calls.
Besides the marine fishery, the upside for pinks will come in rivers from the Stillagaumish River south into Puget Sound.
Forecasts are for more than 1.3 million humpies to return to the Green River and the Snohomish is ex-pected to see 3/4 of a million. Fishable returns also are expected in the Puyallup River.
Anglers may keep chinook in the lower Nooksack and Samish now, but Skagit anglers must wait its coho to return before fishing will perk up there.