Deer hunters bearing modern firearms get one last crack at their quarry when the late general season (occasionally called the late buck hunt) opens in an array of Western Washington game management units for four days Thursday, Nov. 13.
This leaves-off opportunity has a limited scope with the westside’s black-tailed deer being the main attraction. However, there is a 12-day over-arching option for white-tailed bucks in seven Northeast Washington game management units that started Saturday, Nov. 8.
GMUs not on the regulations list on page 19 of the 2014-15 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet are closed to the center-fire clan.
Short though it is, this November opportunity often yields up to one-third of the total annual Western Washington harvest of deer, say wildlife managers. Also, hunting in this four day period is not universally for male deer, 24 westside GMUs, predominantly islands in greater Puget Sound with burgeoning populations, are actually open for the taking of “any deer.”
HUNTS HERE AND FURTHER AFIELD
With North Cascade foothills game management units closed, Whatcom hunters, have open just GMU 407 (so named the North Sound unit) here encompassing the western third of the county, generally with two exceptions, west of State Route 9.
To the south, late hunt options with overland access include GMUs 420 (Whidbey) 421 (Camano), 454 (Issaquah) and 466 (Stampede). By Washington State ferry or pleasure boat, in addition the main islands in San Juan and Skagit counties (GMUs 410-417 and 419) are to open.
Together with these designated Region 4 units, an extensive list of GMUs in WDFW’s Western Washington regions 5 and 6 also are available to deer hunters.
Modern riflers and handgunners may, by rule, shoot any buck (spike or branch-antlered) in three of the local units (407, 454 and 466).
In the island type hunting zones including Camano, Whidbey, Cypress and Guemes as well as all of the larger San Juan Islands, ‘any deer’ (male or female) is the legal standard for hunters.
Hunters use to stalking more remote habitat with high powered rifles should be aware that in the relative confines of this late hunt there are local- as well as state-imposed limitations on permissible hunting weaponry. A partial list (not including individual county (Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan) firearms restrictions can be found on page 83 of the WDFW hunting regulations pamphlet.
WHATCOM/SKAGIT DEER HAUNTS
In Whatcom County’s portion of GMU 407, besides the forested lowlands harboring an abundance of black-tailed deer, a number of extensive montane timberland venues can be accessed. They are:
Sumas Mountain (east of Everson/Nooksack) which has a mix of state and private forest lands and major road entries at Coal Creek (east side off State Route 542) and
Paradise Road (north side off South Pass Road). Other entries around the mountain cross private lands and thus could be or are gated.
Red Mountain (northeast of Kendall) is mainly a block of state forest lands with a single major road entry west of Maple Falls (off State Route 542). Limestone quarry lands on the east and northwest sides are privately owned and Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department has some holdings on Red’s lower northeast flanks as well that are off-limits to hunting.
Stewart Mountain (east of Lake Whatcom) contains largely privately owned timberlands with some state holdings interspersed. Most of its industrial road entries are gated, so walk- or ride-in hunting is the norm. Some of these accesses are on smaller private parcels owned by third parties who do not allow any trespass on their land even to cross over to the state or timber company properties.
Van Zandt Dike (a north-south trending geologic formation framing the east side of the lower South Fork Nooksack) is a heavily visited and substantially logged predominantly state-owned block of forest lands with a main road entrance at the ridge’s south end off Mosquito Lake Road. A gate now controls that access and it could be found closed at any time.
Galbraith/Entwhistle Mountains (southeast of Bellingham) with their higher elevation interior locales have a combination of smaller private/state timber holdings.
Again, access from public roads or highways is affected by intervening peripheral private holdings.
Blanchard/Chuckanut Mountains (south of Bellingham) have a combination of state and private timberlands interspersed with designated park holdings including Larrabee State Park and Whatcom County parks and significant smaller, private parcels. Expect hikers on the Pacific Northwest Trail section on Blanchard. Parking is limited at accesses to Bloedel Timberland holdings in the Mud Creek drainage.
Hunting access is also allowed via a state road off Barrel Springs Road.
Alger (Anderson) Mountain (northeast of Burlington) is another predominantly state-owned forest block that has its main entrance off Skaarup Road in Skagit County.
Because of significant abuses of these lands and indiscriminate, unsafe shooting by some persons, probably not hunters, the main access is gated. Another walk-in option across private lands is available off State Route 9 on the southeast side of the mountain.
Devil’s Mountain (southeast of Mount Vernon), which is another mix of state and private timberlands, has entries that are often gated. Walk-in, day trip hunting is the norm here. Key accesses are off Amick Road to the north side and State Route 536 on the locale’s south side.
Pilchuck Tree Farm (south of Mount Vernon) consists of managed timber tracts wholely owned by Pacific Denkman Company. There is a considerable amount of forest recreational activity here including riding on the road/trail system that could affect hunting.
For smaller private holdings, as always, be sure to check with the landowner before crossing property to get to public land or private industrial forest lands for which tacit permission to enter has been given.
The Olympic Peninsula offers a variety of lower elevation private lands in Jefferson and Clallam County where deer may be hunted in the late stanza. In addition, state-owned blocks in the foothills areas of GMU 621 (Olympic) have a good abundance of black-tailed bucks.
To the south and east, managers suggest focusing on Green Diamond lands on the south side of the peninsula as well as state forest holdings on the Tahuya Peninsula.
Black-tailed deer numbers are almost always rated as good in interior locales of Southwest Washington with GMUs 648 (Wynoochee), 651 (Satsop), 660 (Minot Peak) and 663 (Capitol Peak) often providing the best hunting.
Prior general elk and modern rifle deer seasons have chased animals deep into cover, so out-waiting bucks ensconced of forested areas is the norm.
For the large private timber company holdings here fee access permits are now often required. Hunters will have to learn requirements for accessing the big blocks of Weyerhauser, Rayonier and other commercial forest real estate.
Several things to remember and abide by:
Use of center-fire and rim-fire rifles as mentioned is not allowed when hunting big game (deer) west of I-5 in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Legal weaponry for big game in this restriction area includes (selected handguns, crossbows, conforming bow and arrows, shotguns (slugs, sabots and buckshot) and muzzleloaders).
Always obtain permission to venture onto and hunt privately owned land. However, it’s not necessary to contact major timberland holders (Sierra Pacific, Longview Timber and Bloedel Timberlands) that have announced and posted policies allowing non-motorized, day-use entry of their property.
Trespass on private property for the purpose of pursuing and retrieving wounded or fallen game is not allowed nor covered under state law. Know the boundaries of the lands on which you have permission to hunt, take shoots accordingly.
On all state forest land a $30 Discover Pass is needed to visit and park a motor vehicle. Display it conspicuously.
The discharge of firearms is banned by ordinance in 21 Whatcom County delineated geographic areas.
MORE LAST HURRAHS
Following the November late general hunt for deer, hunters with bows and blackpowder rifles will take to selected game management units around the state for their late stanzas that last into December.
Locally, muzzleloaders will have access to the 407, 410-417 and 419-422 GMUs for their last hurrah, while the closest option for Whatcom archers in the late bow hunt will be GMU 437 (Sauk) in neighboring Skagit and Snohomish counties.
By law, Washington big game hunters are required to make annual reports of activity for each deer, elk, black bear or turkey transport tag they buy on or before Jan. 31.
An incentive for timely reporting is offered to those hunters who make their reports early on up to Saturday, Jan. 10. A total of nine special deer or elk permits will be awarded to persons whose names are drawn from the pool of early-bird reporters.
Successful hunters have until 10 days after the close of their season to report the notching of their tags.
For more details concerning these reports, see page 17 of the 2014-15 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet.
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.