Hunting seasons for deer, elk, waterfowl and upland game birds are set to begin in September, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has issued their annual online guide to hunting opportunities throughout the state.
For District 17, covering Grays Harbor and Pacific County, the guide goes through each species of the upcoming hunts, providing insight to hunters.
In regards to the elk season, WDFW says that there is no perfect area to get the best opportunity.
“The ideal GMU for most hunters would have high densities of elk, low hunter densities, and high hunter success rates. Unfortunately, this scenario does not readily exist in any GMU open during the general modern firearm, archery, or muzzleloader seasons in District 17. Those GMUs with the highest elk densities tend to have the highest hunter densities as well.”
The guide goes through recent trends over the years, a breakdown of each GMU, as well as covers concerns such as hoof disease and changes in regulations specific to the area.
“This report was compiled by local wildlife biologists to help hunters succeed in the field,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager. “Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or just getting started, you’ll likely find some helpful information in Hunting Prospects.”
WDFW’s complete Hunting Prospects report, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/, provides information about game populations, hunting rules and land access in every district in the state.
State game managers say that they expect another good year of hunting, although hunters can expect new restrictions on deer and elk hunts in some areas due to the harsh conditions last winter. Meanwhile, hunting prospects for gamebirds are looking up, according to the report.
“This last winter was one of the tougher ones we’ve seen in recent years, and we have to give the herds – particularly those east of the Cascades – some time to rebuild,” Aoude said. “Fortunately, most Washington deer and elk benefitted from a previous string of mild winters, so the affected herds are only slightly below our population objectives.”
Late spring rains also delayed nesting for doves and some other upland game birds, but observations in the field indicate a good hatch this year, said Kyle Spragens, WDFW waterfowl manager.
Especially encouraging is the boom in the state’s waterfowl populations, which have rebounded from the drought of 2015, Spragens said. Among the various species of ducks and geese that breed in Washington state, Canada geese are up by 17 percent, mallards are up by 74 percent and wood ducks are up by 76 percent from last year.
“This year’s long, wet spring was a boon to waterfowl in our state,” Spragens said. “Those local birds will be the focus of hunters’ attention until northern birds arrive later in the year from Canada and Alaska.”
Aoude asks that hunters pay special attention to several new rules that will take effect this year:
- Youth-only hunts: The traditional bird hunt for hunters under age 16 has been split between two weekends this year, providing more options for them and the non-hunting parents, guardians and mentors who accompany them. The youth hunt for waterfowl is scheduled Sept. 16-17, followed by the youth hunt for pheasant and other upland game birds Sept. 23-24.
- Goose bag limits: Starting Oct. 14, hunters in most areas will be allowed to take up to six white geese and 10 white-fronted geese – in addition to their limit of four Canada – per day. The change reflects the large number of white geese on the northern breeding grounds.
- Special deer hunts: Youth hunters and hunters with disabilities can hunt any deer in Game Management Units (GMU) 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 117, and 121 from Oct. 14-15 and Oct. 21-22 during the modern firearm general season.
- Hoof disease precaution: Several units have been added to the list of GMUs where hunters are required to remove and leave behind the hooves of harvested elk to reduce the spread of elk hoof disease. Those units include GMUs 633 and 636 in Mason County, and 407, 418, 437, and 454 in north Puget Sound.
These and other hunting regulations are described in WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet or Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
However, for an overview of how those hunting seasons are shaping up in specific areas of the state, Aoude recommends checking the Hunting Prospects report.