Two hunting- related rule proposals being considered by Washington Fish and Wildlife managers have sportsmen squawking like a flock of ravens swarming a carcass.
As The Spokesman-Review reported last week, a proposal generated by the Fish and Wildlife Department calls for replacing a Cheney-area December elk season for Master Hunters with a depredation permit season. Hunters who own land or have leased land in this area for hunting no longer would be guaranteed a chance to hunt that coveted season from year to year.
The other proposal, generated by waterfowl hunting guides, asks the state to revoke a 2002 ban on electronic waterfowl decoys. Some hunters say the decoys are so effective they force hunters into an expensive gear competition with other nearby hunters for attracting birds.
Other hunters worry that unleashing electronics could ultimately result in lower limits or shorter seasons.
Wildlife managers set themselves up for some of the criticism they’re getting, especially on the Master Hunter elk hunt issue. The proposal surfaced late, well after the public meeting process that started in August, and apparently without warning to the Master Hunter group. The decision will be made in the next few months and the issue hasn’t had a public airing.
On the other hand, the comments I’ve received from hunters regarding the two proposals indicate the wide range of opinions wildlife managers must consider when they make decisions on rules.
No matter what decision is made, there’s going to be discontent. Here’s mere a sampling of the comments that have come to my attention.
PROPOSAL: Allow electronic decoys for water fowling.
George Orr of Spokane, wrote:
“We use compound bows with trigger releases, rifles that will shoot 1,800 yards with optics that make Marine snipers jealous. We use outboard motors, ATVs and 4x4 trucks to get us and our gear there, but a battery-operated decoy is the bane of sportsmanship. Really?
“If 47 states haven’t found a biological reason to ban the decoys then lighten up. If you need to protect ducks so much, lower the limit, or shorten the season. Welcome to 2012.”
John Nitcy of Sandpoint said by email:
“Stick to your guns, Washington. Ban the Mojo Duck! I’ve hunted waterfowl in North Idaho for 30 years (always on public land) and have seen this one device turn a great tradition of decoying ducks into an Arms Race.
“Last season my 11-year-old son and I were the first hunters in one of our local marshes. We had our traditional, non-mechanical decoys in place before the sun came up and I know from many years of hunting this area that we were in is the best spot. Shortly after shooting hours, several hunters arrived with a spread of traditional decoys and two spinning-wing decoys.
“Our competition limited in several hours while we didn’t get another shot. This was a very frustrating for me since I wanted my son to have a quality hunting experience.
“Hunters shouldn’t have to purchase a very expensive gadget just to be competitive in the field. If the purpose of hunting is to kill more ducks than by all means we should keep this Mojo legal.
“I applaud the state of Washington for banning the mechanical-winged decoys. If Idaho has the courage to make them illegal also, I will be happy to make my Mojo Mallard a very expensive lawn ornament and never use it in the field again.”
PROPOSAL: Change Master Hunter late elk hunt to a permit hunt.
N.A. Pohle said by email:
“If the December season is such a ‘sweet deal,’ it’s only because some of us chose to go the extra mile and jump through the hoops to become master hunters.
“Why should a master hunter go through a permit process? Master hunters who wish to be on damage control hunts should have guaranteed permits.
“Master hunters are required to contribute 40 hours of conservation service to renew their master licenses. Why would anyone go through all of this only to be required to draw a permit?”
Sid Harty says by email:
“The Fish and Wildlife Department has not had the courtesy to talk with the Master Hunters or with the Master Hunter Advisory Board. We have put in hundreds to thousands of hours of community service, yet the WDFW seems to want to keep this quiet.
Cliff Hart of Moses Lake said by phone:
“I’ve been a Master Hunter nine years and I haven’t been able take part and hunt where the elk are during the late season. I like the idea of going to a permit hunt. That would make everyone equal. Right now the same people are getting the elk year after year.
“If I owned the land and was getting an elk every year, I’d be pissed off about changes, too. But I’ve got only one elk in nine years and I’d like to see more equality.”
Steve Hagman of Idaho said by email:
“Perhaps Washington should import some wolves to help control the elk south of Cheney. They are doing quite well at reducing elk numbers here in Idaho. Soon we won’t even need hunters at all.”