Outdoors

Youth, senior hunts signal bird season’s arrival

Exclusive for young bird hunters, day two of a preseason weekend dawned this morning that is set aside by the fish and wildlife commission for them to pursue a variety of feathered quarry around the state.

Come Monday, Sept. 23 another dedicated hunt — this time a five-day stint — begins solely for pheasant hunters age 65 and older.

As this sequence of special hunts winds up Friday evening Sept. 26, the two-plus month general season for pheasants west of the Cascades starts the following day Saturday, Sept, 27.

LOTS OF LOCAL HUNTING OPTIONS

The youth hunting weekend is open to all licensed hunters under the age of 16 that are accompanied by a responsible adult, age 18 or older, who may not hunt.

The breadth of Northwest Washington’s bird hunting grounds, especially for ducks and geese on both public and private (with permission) land, is open to young hunters. Considerable action here, especially for released pheasants, will focus on several popular state fish and wildlife department venues in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

These locales include the:

•  Lake Terrell Unit (Whatcom W. A.) — best for pheasants and waterfowl. It’s located west of Ferndale.



•  Alcoa Intalco Unit (Whatcom W. A.) — best for pheasants, some waterfowl. It’s located west of Ferndale.



•  Nooksack Unit (Whatcom W. A.) — for waterfowling only. It’s located west, northwest of Bellingham.



•  Samish Unit (Skagit W. A.) — predominantly for pheasants. It’s located west of Edison.



•  Headquarters Unit (Skagit W. A.) — best for waterfowl only. It’s located west of Conway on Fir Island.



•  Smith Farm/Leque Island Unit (Skagit W. A.) — for waterfowl only. It’s located west of Stanwood.



Ring-neck pheasant quarry for the Saturday and Sunday youth upland bird hunts were released only on the Lake Terrell and Alcoa-Intalco units of Whatcom Wildlife Area as well as the Samish Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area.

Besides pheasants, for the youth hunt, forest grouse, doves (both the native mourning and deleterious Eurasian collared species) and band-tailed pigeons (with special written authorization) with their seasons already open plus waterfowl (coot, ducks and geese) are fair game. Quail and partridge game species are huntable by young guns in Eastern Washington, but those two species are off-limits west of the Cascades, as are the species common snipe all over.

Of course for the bulk of those species, natural production is the order of the day, but pheasant populations are fortified with birds bred and raised by the fish and wildlife department.

Manager Richard Kessler of the Whatcom Wildlife Area, who oversees pheasant stocking, said that two releases (Friday and Saturday evenings) were done at the aforementioned sites for the youth hunt. There may be a release Sunday evening for the senior stanza otherwise more birds will be put out Tuesday evening to tide over elder hunters through Friday, Sept. 26.

At that point, regular Friday, Saturday and mid-week plantings will commence for the general season.

MORE BIRD LIBERATORS NEEDED

Kessler reports he still has open pheasant release dates in October and November that he must fill to make sure all designated release sites are properly stocked as scheduled during the Saturday, Sept. 27 to Sunday, Nov. 30 season in Western Washington.

Experience is preferable. If you’ve packed up birds on a state truck, driven an itinerary of release points and let birds go at each in the past, Kessler could really use your assistance for one or two evenings without much prep or training.

However, previous labors along these lines are not an absolute requisite. You’ll need to dedicate an extra afternoon/evening working beside several veteran bird releasers to learn the ropes. As mentioned, the work is done after the 4 p. m. closing time up to three times a week.

To volunteer for pheasant releases, call Kessler at 360 739-3404.

SENIORS TO STALK PHEASANTS

Perhaps a pace or two behind their younger counterparts but every bit as enthusiastic and focused on bagging their quarry, senior bird-hunters (age 65 and older) get an exclusive five-day opportunity for pheasants starting Monday, Sept. 22.

With a Western Washington Pheasant Permit, this is an opportunity for elder gunners to hunt themselves into shape for the more-crowded, faster-paced main Western Washington season that starts Saturday, Sept. 27.

A basic hunting license is not required to shoot pheasants (the only ‘game’ animal for which this is true), but in lieu of it, hunters must buy and carry the aforementioned westside permit. To hunt all other gamebirds, a Washington small game license is mandatory.

Seniors may shoot only two ring necks of either sex, but the same designated release sites stocked for the youth stanza will be fortified with ample numbers of pheasants for this hunt.

OTHER BIRD HUNT REMINDERS

Every hunter as well as the younger set’s chaperones who take to the field are obligated to familiarize themselves with the latest hunting regulations by downloading or picking up copies of the 2014-15 big game and migratory bird pamphlets.

Among Washington rules governing bird hunting, especially take note that:

•  legal daily hunting hours differ for pheasants (8 a.m.- 4 p.m. only) and waterfowl (near sunrise to after sunset).



•  use of non-toxic shot charged shells (usually with steel shot) is the rule when shooting game birds on fish and wildlife department owned or managed lands in virtually all areas of the state.



•  non-toxic shot charged ammo, as has been the law of the land since the late 1980s, is mandated to legally hunt waterfowl anywhere.



FULLY ACCESSIBLE BLIND AVAILABLE

The ADA-accessible waterfowling hidden on the Lake Terrell Unit of Whatcom Wildlife Area will now accommodate wheelchairs, reports Whatcom Wildlife Area Manager Richard Kessler.

Modifications to the new blind and refurbishment of virtually all others on the Lake Terrell and Intalco Alcoa units were accomplished this summer courtesy of the members of the Whatcom Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association and master hunters in this area, Kessler said.

Some blinds got new decks and/or roofs and all these places of concealment were ‘brushed up’ to fool even the most discerning webbed-foot’s eye.

The one ADA/wheelchair blind is available exclusively for disabled hunters with state permits when arrangements are made ahead of time. To make a reservation any time during the up-coming waterfowl season for its use, call ahead to Kessler at 360 739-3404.

For more details about it and other fully accessible waterfowl hunting blinds in the fish and wildlife department’s system, log onto http://wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/blinds.html.

Not only did the local web-foot hunting group install the special blind structure and build its access, club members say they’re willing, with appropriate advanced notice, to provide disabled would-be duck hunters intent on using the new hid with some assistance while hunting this fall, Kessler said.

At the time you call Kessler to reserve the blind, if assistance is desired, let him know and he will put you in contact with the waterfowlers group.

Kessler also said he may be able to link up young upland bird hunters with available owner/handlers and their four-legged hunters.

Overall, there are about 20 blinds designated for waterfowl hunting on the expansive Lake Terrell Unit, four on the Intalco/Alcoa unit and still more on the nearby Nooksack and Tennant Lake units, all of which will be available the two days of the youth hunts and when the main duck and goose season starts Saturday, Oct. 11.

Kessler says that there are always small work details that he can use volunteer stewardship help on to get done on the more than 4,960 acres of fish and wildlife habitat under his care in the Whatcom Wildlife Area.

He also reminds archers that with the arrival of the bird hunting season, the outdoor archery course of targets and its adjacent sight-in range located on the Alcoa-Intalco Unit are now closed until next spring. Fish rules at lakes Terrell, Tennant and Fazon also change in the fall to reduce conflicts between hunters and anglers.

MORE ACCESSIBLE HUNTING AND FISHING OPTIONS

The wheelchair accessible hunting blind at Lake Terrell is the latest addition to the list of accessible hunting and fishing related facilities, joining a number of other Americans with Disabilities Act certified accommodations here that enable persons with mobility impairments greater enjoyment of the outdoors.

Some others on the growing list include the:

•  fishing pier at Lake Terrell, a state fish and wildlife (WDFW), open year-round and fully accessible.



•  boat loading facility at Lake Samish’s WDFW public access off East Lake Samish Drive to aid getting into watercraft.



•  lake shore revetment on the northwest side of Lake Padden, a City of Bellingham parks facility, open for trout fishing through the end of October.



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