Cougar hunting seasons have become considerably more restrictive this year in Washington.
Instead of simple statewide rules, a zone management approach has been incorporated with rules that vary depending on cougar populations in each zone.
Also new are seasons with weapon restrictions:
•Only archery gear can be used during the Sept. 1-25 bowhunting season;
•Only muzzleloaders are legal during the Sept. 26-Oct. 16 muzzleloader season.
•The any-weapons season for cougars runs Oct. 17-Dec. 31 in the Spokane and Blue Mountains zones and Oct. 31-Nov. 30 in the four zones that cover northeastern Washington.
These cougar seasons generally run concurrent with deer and elk seasons for the various weapons, but there are exceptions, especially in northeastern Washington.
Hunters must check the seasons carefully for where they plan to hunt.
“Some hunters have said they want to be able to hunt cougars when there’s snow on the ground for tracking and they’ll get that in some zones,” said Kevin Robinette, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional wildlife manager.
A new series of permit-only hunts for hunters without hounds has been scheduled in December through March.
Cougars are not listed under the caliber restrictions for big-game hunting. For example, a .223 or .22-250 rifle would not be legal for deer, but these and similar centerfire cartridges would be legal for cougar in the any-legal-weapon season.
It’s illegal to kill spotted cougar kittens or an adult cougar accompanied by spotted kittens.