Hunting big game with bait statewide and a four-point minimum antler restriction in northeastern Washington are among the issues sportsmen are bringing up for discussion as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife begins looking at possible changes for the 2015-2017 hunting seasons.
Frustration with hunter bonus points and conflicting concerns regarding turkey hunting also are being raised, said Kevin Robinette, department regional wildlife manager in Spokane.
In June, wildlife officials asked the public to comment on a starting list of alternatives for rule or season changes on a department website. Comments on the alternatives will be accepted through Sept. 20.
This week, state and regional wildlife managers will conduct public meetings, including a Tuesday session in Spokane, to discuss some of the issues being raised before any formal proposals are made.
Other issues currently under consideration by the department for upcoming seasons include:
• Setting spring and fall black bear seasons.
• Early archery elk seasons.
• Modern firearm mule deer seasons.
• Hunting equipment, including nontoxic ammunition, expandable broadheads and crossbows.
State wildlife manager Dave Ware is scheduled to give an overview of the issues before participants break into groups to discuss specific issues, Robinette said. “Then everybody will get together again for an opportunity to ask questions so everyone can hear the responses,” he said.
The four-point minimum antler restriction enacted three years ago in northeastern Washington Units 119 and 121 will be revisited.
“We’re still pulling together the survey data to present, but it doesn’t appear that the rule has affected whitetail populations up or down,” Robinette said. “On the other hand, it does look as though it’s reduced hunter participation.”
Giving youths, seniors and disabled hunters more antlerless deer hunting opportunity is a goal the agency is considering, he said.
“After the hard winters of 2007-2008 we scaled back doe hunting and there’s interest in restoring some of it. One option we’re looking into is allowing them more opportunity on private land.”
Wild turkey hunting brings up mixed feelings, with some hunters saying there aren’t enough turkeys in some areas and some landowners saying there are too many.
“Once again, maybe we can reduce some fall hunting on public land and shift the opportunity to private land to address the concerns,” Robinette said.
A general season spring black bear hunt of some sort is being requested by some hunters. “There would be some opposition to that, we need to look at it carefully,” he said. “Misidentifying black bears for grizzlies would be a concern, so there would be the possibility of training for participants in a spring hunt.”
The daily limit on mountain grouse, raised from three to four in 2008, may be resulting in overharvest of blue, ruffed and Franklin grouse, some hunters are suggesting. Grouse specialists have said that female grouse and their broods are especially vulnerable early in the September season.
Statewide, people who have a lot of hunter preference points want the agency to look into who can draw a tag for coveted species such as moose, Robinette said.
“There are people who have been trying for 15 years to draw a once-in-a-lifetime moose tag; they have 15 points and they say they’ll be old folks before they finally get a chance,” he said.
“It’s not clear what to do about it because it’s about math. We have a limited number of permits and a lot of people who want one. Last year, a moose hunter with just a couple of points drew a tag while hunters with 15 didn’t.”
One possible fix would be to give most hunters a shot at drawing a pool of half the state’s allotment of moose tags while hunters with 12 preference points or more would vie for the other half of the tags.