Looking outside as I wrote this, sunny blue skies prevailed over the South Sound. Temperatures were above 80. It was a typical summer day.
It was a day to be spent wading a cooling river in pursuit of rainbow trout, or maybe the Sound in hopes of hooking a coho salmon. It was a day to be spent with the kids making one last trip to the pool before the start of school. It was a day to be spent walking a trail underneath a cooling canopy of Douglas fir and Western cedar trees.
It was hard, I admit, to think of hunting.
And yet, here were are, on the eve of an assortment of hunting seasons.
Beginning Monday, many outdoorsmen and women will have to decide whether to shelve their fishing gear and pick up their bows, rifles or shotguns. If they do opt to head afield, there are a multitude of options awaiting them.
Bow hunters will head out for the early archery deer season for black-tailed, white-tailed and mule deer.
Also opening Monday will be the general cougar season, some portions of the state for black bear hunts, as well as seasons for small game such as rabbits, bobcats and foxes.
Bird hunters will also be heading into the field, in pursuit of — among others — morning doves, forest grouse, Canada geese (in Management Area 2B) and crows (yes, it is legal to hunt crows in the state).
On Tuesday, elk hunters will get their season under way, as the early archery season will open up in a number of game management units on both sides of the state.
While these seasons might not have the cache of the big-game modern firearm and waterfowl seasons to come later in the fall, like the opening of the school year, they are among the early signs that fall is near.
And despite recent weather feeling more like summer than fall, thousands of Washingtonians will be out in the field come Monday.
There were, for example, about 20,000 hunters who took part in the deer archery season last year, many of whom took part in the early season. Another 15,000 hunters took part in the elk archery season.
These people, and the others to come later in the year, not only continue the heritage of hunting that predates the arrival of Europeans, they provide a financial boost to the state. A 2011 report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that almost 220,000 hunters spent $356 million in the state on items such as equipment, clothing, lodging, magazines and club memberships. The report also said the average trip expenditure was $64 a day in 2011.
Those expenditures help support more than 5,600 jobs, including people behind the gun counter at Sportco or Cabela’s, folks such as Great Northwest Archery owner Doug Hyder, the waitress serving up coffee and a hot breakfast at a small-town diner in Eastern Washington and the guy who butchers your deer into steaks, roasts and sausage.
But that will not be top of mind for the vast majority of the folks who will don their camo clothes, their best arrows, the latest nontoxic shot and all the accoutrements hunters need.
Instead, it will be about a parent spending a day teaching their young hunter how to swing a shotgun while trying to bring down a morning dove. It will be about longtime friends heading to their favorite hunting grounds hoping to get close enough to a trophy deer or elk to let loose an arrow.
There will be long-standing traditions honored for yet another season, and perhaps some new traditions will be forged around a hunting campfire (if they’re allowed in your favorite place).
To sure, there will be those who want to double dip. Perhaps chasing deer in the highlands come morning, then stopping by a favorite river on the way home in hopes of landing a fresh steelhead or chinook salmon. You really can’t blame them. This is a great time to be in Washington.