It may not be as easy as it used to be, but no hunter in Idaho or Washington is without a place to hunt.
Millions of acres of public land are open to hunting.
In the vast state of Texas, there is virtually no public land open to hunting. But in Washington, there are about 12.9 million acres about 30 percent of the state of public land open to hunting. That does not include park and refuge lands where hunting is prohibited.
National forests hold some of the best big-game and mountain grouse hunting. The Idaho Panhandle national forests cover 2.5 million acres from St. Joe River country north to Canada.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has blocked together thousands of acres of land in Lincoln county near Fishtrap lake and Odessa. These lands hold waterfowl, upland birds and deer.
Bureau of Reclamation lands and property managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are prime areas for waterfowl hunting.
Hunters can apply by mail to be in weekly drawings for goose pits and duck blinds on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge near Othello.
And state land managed by the Washington natural resources and wildlife departments offers excellent hunting for a variety of species, including upland birds.
The wildlife department alone manages 44 state wildlife areas which total about 800,000 acres. These include important elk areas, such as the Colockum Wildlife Area north of Vantage, and prime bighorn sheep range, such as the Chief Joseph Wildlife Area near Asotin. The Chief Joseph area also is a good bet for finding chukars.
Idaho has an abundance of national forest land, plus good waterfowling along areas such as the Coeur d’Alene River.
There is immense satisfaction in being able to arrive at the fringe of a vast marsh in the black hour before first light, to load a boat with decoys, gun bag and dog, and pick one’s way to a spot where there’s a decent chance of luring ducks or geese toward a blind.
Some hunters pay thousands of dollars a year to tie up private land with leases. But average hunters can still find good hunting on public land without being tied to one spot.
This isn’t to suggest that public lands offer the same quality of gunning as the best commercial leases or private land. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
But persistent hunters will almost always get some shooting and, at times, fabulous opportunities.
Following are sources for finding public hunting areas in Washington. Waterfowl hunters should contact refuges and ask for information about open hunting areas and special pits and blinds which are assigned by lottery:
Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 239, Umatilla, Ore., 97882, phone (541) 922-3232. Ask for information on both the Umatilla and McNary refuges.
Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Drawer F, Othello, Wash. 99344, phone (509) 488-2668.
Walla Walla District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 201 N. Third Ave., Walla Walla, WA 99362, telephone (509) 527-7020. Pheasant hunters also should ask for the Corps’ guide to habitat areas along the Snake River. Waterfowlers should call (541) 922-3212 for specific information about Peninsula Habitat Unit, adjacent to McNary Wildlife Refuge.
Washington Department of Wildlife Region 3 Office, 1701 S24th Ave., Yakima, Wash. 98902-5720, phone (509) 575-2740. Ask for information on register-to-hunt areas on private land.
Department of Wildlife regional offices have fact sheets showing locations of state wildlife areas, general information about feel-free-to-hunt areas on private lands, and names of landowners offering access to hunters with special permits. In this region, the information is available from the regional office at N8702 Division, Spokane 99218, phone 456-4082.
National forest maps are available for $4 from U.S. Geological Survey Earth Science/National Forest Information Center, 904 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201, phone (509) 353-2574.
Detailed maps showing public land throughout much of Washington are available from Northwest Travel and Book Service, W525 Sprague Ave., Spokane 99204, phone 455-6981.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Snake River Fish, Wildlife Compensation Plan: Public hunting and fishing lands