While an aerial survey has just detailed where northern ducks are congregating in the Columbia Basin, wildlife managers in Olympia are using a different type of survey to help guide changes in rules for hunting big game as well as waterfowl.
Read on for breaking news on both stories.
Hunting rule revisions for the next three years are months from being adopted, but hunters who aren’t email savvy are losing a vote in the process.
Public meetings were held last summer on six hunting rule changes proposed by the Fish and Wildlife Department managers Since then, four more proposals have risen to the rank of being considered for the three-year rules package that would start next year.
Last month, WDFW conducted email surveys on each of those proposals to get sense of where hunters stood on the issues. To be included, your email had to be up to date in the profile you can edit when you go online to buy a fishing or hunting license.
People included in the survey had to purchase a pertinent licenses in both 2010 and 2011. That helped narrow the survey to hunters actively interested in the issues, said Dave Ware, WDFW wildlife manager.
Lighted nocks: The most surprising survey involved the proposal to allow lighted nocks on arrows used for bowhunting. Jim Sutton of Spokane has been pushing the proposal, contending lighted nocks would help archers recover wounded game as well as retrieve lost arrows from the field.
The survey results, which are being announced for the first time here, were overwhelming:
—86 percent favored the use of lighted nocks,
—10 percent said lighted nocks should remain prohibited,
—4 percent were undecided.
Ware said 3,800 people responded to the email survey. Washington has about 24,000 licensed archery deer hunters and 22,000 archery elk hunters, he said.
East-West elk tags: Some elk hunters have lobbied to eliminate the East Side-West Side elk tag designations so they can apply for special permits on both sides of the Cascades.
The results in this survey were close, confirming that many hunters will be discontent either way the state goes:
—53 percent favored changing to allow elk hunters to apply for permits on both sides of the state,
—43 percent preferred status quo, limiting hunters to either East Side or West Side elk hunts.
—4 percent had no preference.
“We had 8,000 responses, which is huge,” Ware said.
Electronic decoys: Several waterfowl hunting guides petitioned to allow electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting.
So-called Robo Ducks are allowed in Idaho and were allowed in Washington until 2002, when they were declared so effective in attracting waterfowl they might lead to shorter seasons.
Of the 3,500 waterfowlers who responded:
—29 percent opposed use of electronic decoys,
—57 percent favored them if it did not lead to hunting restrictions,
—14 percent favored their use unconditionally.
Spring bear hunt: With the overall bear harvest being on target for goals in northeastern Washington, wildlife managers gave hunters who want a spring season a choice: A special spring season with 80 permits could be offered if the fall general season were shortened by a month.
The survey was sent to hunters who had pursued bears in northeastern Washington. Of the 888 respondents:
—25 percent favored a spring season,
—64 percent favored status quo to maintain fall general seasons,
—11 percent, no opinion.
These four proposals will be worked into the package of revised proposals to be presented for more public review in January. The Fish and Wildlife Commission will adopt measures in March.
Basin waterfowl survey: Mikal Moore, state waterfowl biologist, compiled data Wednesday from the season’s first aerial waterfowl surveys over the Columbia River Basin on Monday and Tuesday.
Bottom line: Northerns are here.
“There a lot of new birds in the area, probably recently arrived, that seem to be staging in large groups at well-established reserves and private hunting clubs,” she said. The ducks were not yet well-distributed and widely available to hunters, but many opportunities exist, she said.
For details from the survey, go online to see my blog: spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors