Washington’s 2014 main event hunts for deer and waterfowl kick off Saturday, Oct. 11.
Modern firearms tag holders west of the Cascades this season will have 21 days (Oct. 11-31) to stalk or wait out their deer. Those looking for muleys and white-taileds in Eastern Washington get a shorter pursuit period lasting either nine (Oct. 11-19) or 14 (Oct. 11-24) days, depending on species and game management unit.
Bucks are the key focus in most game management units, but 'any' deer may killed in selected greater Puget Sound ‘island’ GMUs as well as three units on the east side. For male deer, minimum antler point restrictions apply in many GMUs, otherwise any visible antlers qualify an animal as a male.
AS A RULE…
Important regulations by which to abide when hunting deer include:
• Obtaining permission to enter private lands except some timberlands locally where entry is allowed by property owner guidelines with some restrictions.
• Buying a Discover Pass to enter and park on state forest lands. To park at trailheads on national forests a Northwest Forest Pass is required.
• Wearing at least 400 square inches of hunter orange garb when in the field during modern firearms seasons. That includes anyone hunting grouse, upland gamebirds or small game other than waterfowl.
• Utilizing only primitive weapons, handguns and shotguns (with slugs or buck shot) may be used when west of Interstate 5 in the Puget Sound basin. For public safety, high-powered center-fire and rim-fire rifles are not legal in this zone.
• Knowing Whatcom County’s ordinancial no shooting zones where it is unlawful to discharge firearms.
• Not hunting inside corporate city limits nor on county, state or federal parks.
Washington's 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations and Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Regulations pamphlets are available at any hunting and fishing license dealers and on line and downloadable from http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
ACCESS AT A GLANCE
Locally, game management units 407, 418, 426 and 437 are open. Whatcom and Skagit county deer hunters seeking places close to home to stalk their quarry will find the array of access opportunities to which they have grown accustomed in recent years.
Gates continue to bar motor vehicles on roads entering private timberlands in many locales, but the ‘vehicle-less’ access (on foot, horseback or by bike) does provide a degree of exclusivity not normally obtained on ‘driveable’ logging roads on state and federal forests here.
Public lands, however, will largely stay accessible by motorized forms of transportation though rules now require a $30 vehicle permit to enter state timberlands. As mentioned $30 Northwest Forest Passes are required to park within 1/4 mile of developed federal trailheads.
Operating unlicensed ‘off-road’ vehicles on the national forest roads is not permitted. Driving any motorized vehicles off of developed roads on both state and federal timberlands is disallowed as well.
PRIVATE FOREST TRACTS
Sierra Pacific Industries is a major private timberland owner in Whatcom County with holdings in the Bald Mountain, Coal Mountain (Glacier area), northeast Sumas Mountain, and Canyon Lake areas.
In addition, Sierra owns large forested tracts in the upper South Fork Nooksack and on Wickersham Mountain (Lyman Hill), Mount Josephine, and Grandy Creek areas, together with its timber acreage on the east side of Lake Shannon and holdings east of Rockport, all in Skagit County.
The company allows public entry to its greater Hamilton District holdings only on foot or horseback and by mountain bike.
Under SPI policy, access by motor vehicle of any kind is not permitted, even if gates on company roads are open during the week for industrial traffic. Also, Sierra does not allow overnight camping or fires of any kind on its holdings.
When parking vehicles, operators should use care not to block gates or the driven portion of the roadway up to the barrier.
Weyerhaeuser now owns major holdings in Whatcom County in the Bowman and Blue Mountain areas, together with significant forested tracts in Skagit County in the Finney Block south of the Skagit River centering on Day Creek and the Cultus, Haystack and Bald mountain areas. These properties were previously held by Longview Timber, LLC.
Bloedel owns timber tracts in the north Blanchard Mountain and Lake Samish areas, while Trillium controls foothills black-tailed deer habitat in the North Fork Nooksack Valley and south county areas.
Seefeld Corporation, with long-standing timber interests here, owns, and through an intermediary, manages lands on the southwest side of Sumas Mountain and on Stewart Mountain east and north of Lake Whatcom.
Similar to Sierra Pacific’s access rules, Weyerhaeuser and other major forest owners such as Bloedel Timberlands, Trillium Corporation, Seefeld Corporation and Grandy Lake Timber have policies banning overnight camping, fires and vehicular entry but do allow day-use access via non-motorized conveyances.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources manages non-federal public forest lands throughout the state including significant holdings here in Whatcom County on Sumas, Red and Slide mountains as well as in the Van Zandt Dike and Middle Fork Nooksack Valley.
Hunters will find many state forest roads providing access directly onto state-owned lands open and ‘driveable’ for the general deer season. Some roads, though, are gated because these routes cross privately owned property for which DNR does not have authority to allow public access.
In several other state timberland locales such as south Blanchard and Alger mountains, roads have been gated and closed to vehicular access because of past abuses such as garbage dumping, forest products theft and indiscriminate shooting.
Persons who venture by car, truck or RV onto state lands also must now buy and display a Discover Pass on their vehicle.
Camping and fires are subject to WDNR public recreation rules found online in the Washington Administrative Code at apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=332-52
All Washington State Parks and Recreation lands (state parks) are permanently closed to hunting.
Northwest Washington deer hunters will find forest roads on the Mount Baker Ranger District of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest traffic-ready for the general season deer hunt.
The only exception is Grouse Butte Road (FSR 36 near Glacier), which currently has construction work going on that requires periodic closures.
Any street-legal vehicle may be driven on currently open forest roads, but unlicensed recreation machines are not permitted either on main and secondary roads nor anywhere off-road (including in-active logging spurs).
Some district roads including the Dillard Ridge and Sandy Creek routes are off-limits to vehicles entirely and are gated year-round.
It is advisable to contact the local National Forest Ranger District or Bureau of Land Management office for detailed information about travel restrictions in the area you intend to hunt.
Hunting, in conformity with state regulations, is by law allowed in many national recreation areas under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service including the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
It is unlawful to hunt inside the boundaries of any national park.
Waterfowl hunting (for geese, ducks and snipe) commences across the state on Saturday as well with some species restrictions and daily bag limitations varying for both ducks (by species and gender) and geese (by goose management area).
While ducks and geese may be legally pursued in many wet and not-so-wet locales, much of the gunning here takes place on public lands owned and managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In Whatcom County, the Lake Terrell, Tennant Lake, Alcoa/Intalco and Nooksack units of Whatcom Wildlife Area have a fair amount of space on which to spread decoys and or take cover in developed. Strategically located at the confluence of the Fraser Valley and Strait of Georgia flight corridors, this territory is often the first lower Forty-Eight marshlands seen by interior and Alaska Panhandle pintails and mallards.
To the south in Skagit County, The old Headquarters Unit west of Conway together with the Samish Unit near Edison are focal points for early season duck gunning since both front on major estuary idling areas where arriving birds congregate.
There is a break in the duck and goose action this coming Thursday and Friday Oct. 23-24 when shooting is halted for two days to keep the actual season length within the 107-day federally mandated duration. The two days being accounted for are the dates of the youth hunt in September.
To be street-legal, deer hunters, in addition to a basic 2014 Washington big game hunting license (with deer as an option), must make sure they have a modern firearms deer tag.
Duck and goose hunters must get and carry a 2014 Washington small game license together with a state waterfowl endorsement and federal migratory bird (a.k.a. 'duck') stamp.
Big game hunters must make post-season report by the end of January each year detailing their effort on each big game transport tag they take out. If successful in getting a deer or other big game animal, those hunters must file a report within 10 days of their kill.
Waterfowl hunters are sampled at the time they buy their license.
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.