The 1997 elk hunting proposals caught heat from a variety of hunting groups Saturday during the second day of Washington State Fish and Wildlife talks at Cavanaugh’s Fourth Avenue in Spokane.
The final day of the meetings proved to be more than just a forum for hunters to vent their frustrations. It also showcased the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s ability to incorporate comment from hunters in its complicated policy-making process.
A proposal to establish spike-only elk seasons with branched-antler bull hunts by permit only, drew the ire of hunters.
David Brittell, Fish and Wildlife department’s assistant director, said the proposal for the statewide limits came as biologists look to improve the bull-to-cow ratio in herds around the state.
Brittell said the limitations would help ensure the survival of older adult bulls crucial to the breeding populations.
But when fish and wildlife commissioner Dean Lydell of Spokane told the crowd that elk populations within Washington’s different hunting units were “too diverse to manage with an across-the-board policy,” he drew applause and cheering.
As a result, the commission will consider regionalizing such limits to areas where elk numbers are low when it votes on big-game hunting proposals Dec. 7 at a meeting in Bellingham.
Ten minutes later, it was primarily bow hunters who spoke against creating a single pool for all hunters wanting in on buck-deer and bull-elk special permits. That pool would include modern firearms groups, muzzleloaders and archers.
Ray Crisp, vice president of the Washington State Archery Association, said because bow hunters have far lower success rates than hunters who use rifles, they need their own pool to get the same “recreational opportunities.”
Kettle Falls commissioner Kelly White agreed and added, “If we’re going to have three user groups, than we’re going to have to separate it (the pools).”
Assistant director Brittell had said the single-pool proposal came about in consideration for “total hunting opportunities, not opportunities to kill animals.
“Fairness means that everybody has a chance to be drawn, not based on the fact that one group of hunters is more effective than another,” Brittell said.
The commissioners also listened to comments on other big-game issues that will be voted on in December.
Nearly all the hunters who attended were satisfied with the proposal to maintain general hunting hours from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, the same as last year.
The commission also introduced a proposal for landowners with deer or elk damage on their properties to establish special “damage hunts.”
One man who addressed the issue showed concern. He said such hunts might allow landowners to pick and choose people who were allowed to take part in those hunts.
Commissioners also voted on emergency action forbidding the use of hounds for hunting cougar and bobcat. This comes as a result of Initiative 655, which passed in the Nov. 5 general election, forbidding the use of dogs on such hunts.
Commissioners had noted dogs are still allowed to hunt coyote, raccoons, and fox. But that didn’t satisfy Harry Murray, a Bremerton hunter.
Murray was angry when he spoke.
“I’m going to pay no attention to your emergency action,” he said, claiming the move violates state law. “I’m going to continue to hunt (with hounds). I know they’re going to arrest me.”