Latest from The Spokesman-Review
WINTER SPORTS — Ski resorts are the obvious beneficiaries from a good dump of snow, and perhaps the most public insight into the economic importance of a steadily building snowpack through winter.
Farmers, river rafters, hydropower operators and many more interests are keeping their eye on the lack of precip that's leaving the region mostly brown.
Under the general radar, duck hunters and steelheaders, in particular, are sizing up the the dry, mild weather that marked the end of 2013 as a giant bummer.
“Dry, calm weather is nice, but it doesn’t make for great duck hunting conditions,” said Dave Ware, game manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Ducks like water, and that is in short supply in the fields around the state.”
A good downpour would also improve fishing for winter steelhead on the Columbia River and elsewhere around the state, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist based in Vancouver, Wash.
“Salmon and steelhead get active and move upriver when rivers and streams rise,” Hymer said. “A lot of anglers would welcome a good hard rain, the sooner the better.”
Statewide waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 26, while steelhead seasons vary by area, as described in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules Pamphlet.
CONSERVATION — A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate today to increase the price of the federal duck stamp to $25. The current price of $15 was set more than 20 years ago, in 1991.
“We appreciate the introduction of a federal duck stamp increase bill by Senators Begich, Baucus, Coons and Tester to meet very real on-the-ground wetland habitat conservation needs,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall in a statement supporting the action. “We are committed to seeing this legislation signed into law and look forward to working with Senators on both sides of the aisle to enact this.”
Since its enactment in 1934, the federal duck stamp program has protected more than 6 million acres of wetlands – an area the size of Vermont – through expenditures of more than $750 million. This has contributed to the conservation of more than 2.5 million acres in the Prairie Pothole Region, including the protection of 7,000 waterfowl production areas totaling 675,000 acres.
Land values have drastically increased since the last price increase in the 1990s. In Minnesota, for example, land has increased from an average price of $400 to $1,400 an acre since 1998, an increase of 250 percent. While the duck stamp price remains stagnant, the cost to conserve land and habitats that host waterfowl and other species has increased dramatically.
At its current price, the buying power of the federal duck stamp has never been lower over its 79-year history, DU says.
The Congressional Budget Office found that because the federal duck stamp is a user fee, such a price increase would have no net impact on federal spending.
“Once again, sportsmen and women have demonstrated their willingness to pay for conservation by supporting a long-overdue increase from $15 to $25. With 98 cents of every $1 from duck stamp receipts going to conserve wetlands habitat, it is vital that the cost of the stamp keep up with inflation and land acquisition costs,” Hall said.
HUNTING — With waterfowl seasons opening Saturday, Idaho hunters are noticing that a table of official hunting hours, which change during the season, are no longer published in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's waterfowl hunting regulations pamphlet.
That's because the legal shooting hours have been simplified to one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Waterfowl hunters can find sunrise and sunset hours for the area they will be hunting in newspapers and various online sources, including this site.
In addition, a chart of shooting hours is available on the waterfowl page on the fish and Game website.
But if you're like me and still want something on paper you can keep in your pickup, look for the Shooting Hours pamphlet available at license vendors and Fish and Game offices.
HUNTING — Ducks Unlimited is offering a barbecue lunch for youth waterfowl hunters and their parents/chaperones at Mar Don Resort, Potholes Reservoir, on Youth Waterfowl Hunt Day, Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Each of the first 48 youth, who is registered online ($5 fee) on or before Sept. 19 – will receive a bbq lunch, a “duck hunter’s bucket”, Haydel duck call and lanyard, and a gun tool, all donated by Colonel Tom O’Dell, of Moses Lake. DU has donated a duck identification poster, DU duck call and cap for each young hunter, as well, while Kraft Foods has donated a snack pack for each youth.
Please visit the DU website, , or, the specific address is: to
The fee is $10 for the parent/chaperone, who accompany the youth, and they will be fed, too!
An anonymous donor is buying a Greenwing (youth) membership for each of the first 48 who sign up.
Mike Nilsen, WA State DU Chairman-Elect is coordinating the event. Mike is a career Navy NCO, who is working with Col. O’Dell to make this happen for our young hunters.
Sept. 21-22 is the special youth only waterfowl and upland game bird hunting season, which gives hunters under 16 years of age a jump start on the general seasons that open later this fall. Non-hunting adults at least 18 years of age must accompany young hunters. Check WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet for details.
HUNTING — Three mentored waterfowl hunting opportunities for youth aged 10-15 are being organized for Sept. 28, the opening day of Idaho's youth-only waterfowl hunting season.
The mentored hunting clinics, sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department and sportsmens groups, take advantage of this special season, before the birds become scattered and wary, to teach youngsters basic hunting skills and giving them a shot at their first ducks.
Clinics will be held at the Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Area west of Bonners Ferry, Heyburn State Park west of St. Maries, and the Clark Fork River delta.
Clinics are free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required:
- For the Boundary Creek and Heyburn hunts, contact Dave Leptich or JJ Teare, (208) 769-1414.
- For the Clark Fork hunt contact Ray Millard, (208) 264-5252.
Read on for more details:
HUNTING — Amendments to some of the fine print on Washington's 2013-2014 waterfowl hunting seasons have been made by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and posted on the state agency's website. The changes include changes in limits for ducks such as canvasbacks and scaup and details about goose seasons.
Click here to see the final regulations and a Concise Explanatory Statement that describes the changes the Commission has made to these regulations.
HUNTING — Idaho's 2013-2014 waterfowl hunting seasons will include 105 days and a two-day youth hunt, along with some changes in goose seasons and limits, according to action by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Monday.
The number of geese that can be taken in light-geese zones has been doubled to 20 birds a day.
Idaho's waterfowl seasons will open with a two-day youth hunt, Sept. 28-29, for licensed hunters ages 10 to 15.
Duck and Canada goose seasons in the Panhandle and most of the state will run Oct. 12 - Jan. 24, with scaup seasons from Nov. 2 - Jan. 24.
In the area around American Falls Reservoir the seasons will run from Oct. 5 to Jan. 17, with scaup seasons from Oct. 26 to Jan. 17.
The daily bag limit is seven ducks – but no more than two female mallards, two redheads, three scaup, two pintails and two canvasbacks – and four Canada geese.
New this year, the white-fronted goose season was separated from Canada geese to accommodate white-fronted goose hunting opportunities in the southwest part of the state. But during the time the white-fronted goose and light-goose seasons occur at the same time, the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns would not be allowed.
- Washington's migratory waterfowl hunters will have a general duck season open for 107 days — Oct. 12 - 16 and Oct. 19 - Jan. 26. The youth hunting weekend is set for Sept. 21-22. Surveys in the Pacific Flyway show duck populations are near long-term averages, while goose populations are generally at or above management goals.
Read on for more details about Idaho's upcoming goose hunting seasons:
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its meeting in Olympia today set 2013-14 waterfowl seasons, extended protections for octopus in Puget Sound, approved land transactions and heard testimony on rules for interactions with wildlife including wolves.
Specifically, the commission:
- Established the 2013-14 hunting seasons for migratory waterfowl. The general duck season will be open for 107 days – from Oct. 12 through 16 and from Oct. 19 through Jan. 26. A special youth hunting weekend will take place Sept. 21 and 22. WDFW Wildlife Program staff members said surveys in the Pacific Flyway show duck populations are near long-term averages, while goose populations are generally at or above management goals.
- Approved seven land acquisitions – five purchases and two conservations easements – for parcels ranging from 1.3 to 191.4 acres in Pacific and Okanogan counties. Each parcel is either adjacent to existing state wildlife lands or surrounded by other publicly owned land, said WDFW Director Phil Anderson. The Pacific County acquisitions will help WDFW preserve and restore salmon habitat. The Okanogan transactions will protect shrub-steppe habitat, mule deer winter range, and migration corridors used by deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife.
- Took public testimony on several proposed amendments to wildlife interaction rules that are designed to implement actions by the 2013 Legislature and to ensure the WDFW administrative rules are consistent with the department’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. The amendments include a proposal that would make permanent an emergency rule adopted earlier this year, which permits ranchers, farmers, and other pet and livestock owners in the eastern third of the state to kill a wolf that is attacking their animals. The commission will accept written public comments through Friday, Sept. 20, and is scheduled to adopt the regulations later in the fall.
- Extended protections for giant Pacific octopuses in Puget Sound by prohibiting the recreational harvest of the species at seven popular scuba diving sites from Whidbey Island to Tacoma.
HUNTING – Young hunters can apply for a limited-entry youth waterfowl hunt at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge during Washington’s youth waterfowl hunting weekend at the end of September.
Applications will be accepted Aug.1-15 from licensed hunters under age 16.
Hunters will be allowed to use designated hunting sites, accompanied by an adult.
One application per hunters must be submitted on standard U.S. Postal Service postcards and include the youth’s full name, address and telephone number.
Youths may apply with a youth friend or youth sibling on the same application.
Mail postcards to Refuge Manager, Turnbull NWR, 26010 South Smith Road, Cheney, WA, 99004.
Drawing results will be posted on the refuge website and letters of confirmation and a youth waterfowl hunt brochure will be mailed to selected youths by the end of August.
A workshop will be held in partnership with the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association to select hunting sites, and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips on the weekend prior to the hunt.
Info: (509) 235-4723.
CONSERVATION – The Spokane chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fundraising banquet April 11 at the Lincoln Center. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Bob Zorb of Spokane and St. John, who was unable to travel for the national ceremony in Washington, D.C, will receive DU’s national private lands conservationist of the year award at this Spokane event.
Get tickets online at ducks.org/washington.
Hunting, waterfowl, wetlands conservation, wolves, sportsman shows and other stories of interest were in the news last week in The Spokesman-Review's outdoors coverage:
HUNTING — Ducks Unlimited officials in Idaho restated their zero-tollerance policy for illegal hunting tactics last week after a former volunteer chapter chairman from Hagerman was convicted of baiting ducks with corn.
Ducks Unlimited leaders condemned Steele’s hunting tactics, not only as a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act but also the ethics of fair-chase that govern hunting, the Associated Press reports.
Mond Warren, the group’s regional director in Nampa, called corn baiting akin to using salt to lure big game such as elk nearer to hunters’ scopes.
“We have a zero tolerance for any type of game violation,” Warren said. “It’s a very stringent policy, there’s no wavering on it. Our job is waterfowl conservation and wetland conservation.”
Warren might have used better analogy. Putting out salt or even bait for big-game hunting is illegal in Idaho but legal in Washington.
Baiting for waterfowl and other migratory birds is strictly forbidden in all states by federal law.
Read on for the entire Associated Press story about the baiting case.
CONSERVATION — Ducks Unlimited is holding a recruitment meeting Thursday (Dec. 13) in Spokane for people interested in helping organize a fundraiser for wildlife habitat projects.
DU is a nonprofit (501.c.3), volunteer run, conservation organization, that covers the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Bernard Brown, DU's senior regional director for Washington, will meet with conservation-minded waterfowl enthusiasts from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. at O’Doherty’s Irish Grille, 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Contact Brown at (509) 860-1510 or email Bernard Brown email@example.com.
WATERFOWLING — How crazy could it get if Washington had allowed electronic waterfowl decoys?
Check out this video.
HUNTING/FISHING — My outdoors column this week discusses some of the disturbing parasites waterfowl hunters and anglers have discovered in the ducks and fish they've harvested in the Inland Northwest.
They're natural; been around for a long time, and in most cases the game and fish are still safe to eat — as far as we know — as long as you cook the meat to at least 180 degrees.
But would I eat visibly parasitized meat? What do you think?
- Waterfowlers: The photo above shows a mallard infested with the sarcocystis parasite, better known as “rice breast.”
- Fishermen: Click on the document attached to this blog post to see the pamphlet “Common Parasites and Diseases in Washington Fish,” prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Hunters note that the meat of rabbits, bears and cougars also must be thoroughly cooked to prevent exposure to serious diseases: tularemia and trichinosis.
HUNTING-GATHERING — While most people head to the supermarket for their Thanksgiving fixings, some sportsmen head to the field.
Washington's late-fall wild turkey hunting season opens Nov. 20 in portions of Eastern Washington.
November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and a variety of other game around the state.
Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 10-19 in northeast Game Management Units 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.
SPORTSMEN ONLINE — Idaho Fish and Game officials sat down Friday with 158 waterfowl hunters from all over the state, answering their quesstions about waterfowl hunting and management — and nobody had to leave their officer or home.
The agency's first online chat. For example:
Comment from Duckhunter:
Will Idaho ever move to a split season for water fowl hunting?
It is entirely possible that Idaho could have a split season; however, when we conducted a survey of Idaho waterfowl hunters in July, 75% of survey respondents favored a continuous season.
Click here to scroll through a replay of the first chat, which covered waterfowl rules, biology, management and issues.
HUNTING– Registration is underway for the limited number of spots in the annual Youth Waterfowl Hunting Clinics sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Game Department’s Panhandle Region.
This year’s clinics are set for Sept. 29, when girls and boys ages 15 and under and their parents can learn the basics of hunting waterfowl in mentored hunting situation during the states’s special hunting season just for youths.
Following a morning hunt with experienced waterfowlers, participants will be treated to a free barbeque and skills clinic.
The clinics are limited to 25 participants at three different clinics:
Northern Panhandle Clinic: Boundary Creek Wildlife Management Area, northwest of Bonners Ferry.
Central Panhandle Clinic: Pend Oreille Wildlife Management Area, east of Sandpoint at the Clark Fork Delta drift yard boat ramp.
Southern Panhandle Clinic: Heyburn State Park, northwest of St. Maries at the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Pre-register with J.J. Teare at the Panhandle Region Office, (208) 769-1414.
HUNTING — Duck and goose calling contests plus seminars by waterfowling experts and a retrieving dog trainer are on the schedule for two days of free events this weekend (Sept. 8-9) at Cabela’s in Post Falls.
Some of the seminars will be conducted by hunters who've been spotlighted in S-R outdoors features, including Pend Oreille County waterfowling expert Kent Contreras and Spokane-area dog trainer Dan Hosford.
8 a.m.-9 a.m. – Registration for junior duck calling.
9 a.m. – Seminar on identifying waterfowl, hunting regulations by Idaho Fish and Game.
9:30 a.m. – Junior Duck Calling Contest (16 and under).
9:30 a.m.-10:30 – Registration for open duck calling.
10:30 a.m. – Reading birds, when to call by Bill Saunders.
11 a.m. – Open Duck Calling Contest. 1 p.m. – Layout blind hunting, judging distance by Kent Contreras.
2 p.m. – Working Man’s Retriever by Dan Hosford.
9 a.m. – Registration for junior and open goose calling.
9:15 a.m. – Duck calling strategies by Chris Redell.
9:45 a.m. – Junior Goose Calling Contest.
10:30 a.m. Reading birds, when to call by Bill Saunders.
11 a.m. – Open Goose Calling Contest.
1 p.m. – Hunting gear, hunting situations by John Plughoff.
2 p.m. – Working Man’s Retriever by Dan Hosford.
Note: dog-training seminars may change times if weather too hot for the dogs.
WATERFOWLING — Abel Cortina of Prosser won the premier solo event in the Washington State Duck Calling Championships last weekend, earning a berth in the prestigious World Duck Calling Championships held over Thanksgiving holidays in Stuttgart, Ark.
John Plughoff of Yakima dominated goose-calling, winnng the Washington State Goose event as well as the Open Goose event.
Cortina — chairman of the Washington Waterfowl Association and one of the judges in the state event — won the Washington premier contest in 2003 and went on to place 16th at Stuttgart.
Cortina missed several years of competitive calling while serving in the military, although he won the 2005 Arizona state title while stationed there and returned to finish second hin the Washington state event last year.
Cortina teamed with another WWA member, Mike Maier of West Richland, to top the Two-Man Duck event.
Apparently Cortina’s position with the WWA judges doesn’t help him in the competition. Judges never know who’s competing at any time; they’re in a segregated area and can only hear (and grade) the calls — not seeing the callers.
Read on for the list of top callers in each division.
WATERFOWL HUNTING — Preliminary surveys indicate a wet spring is just ducky for waterfowl.
While the jury's still out on whether pheasants and other upland birds will produce many young after the wetness that smothered our region during nesting, ducks apparently prospered throughout much of North America. The notable exception is pintails.
Is you're retriever in shape?
Here's a summary of the North America breeding ground population surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
Mallard: totaled 10.6 million ducks, a 15 percent increase over last year and a 39 percent increase over the long-term average.
American wigeon: increased 3 percent from last year, but remains 17 percent below the long-term average.
Teal, Green-winged and blue-winged: numbered 3.5 million and 9.2 million, 20 percent and 3 percent respectively above last year. Both are well above the long-term averages by 74 percent and 94 percent.
Gadwall: increased 10 percent above last year’s estimate, and 96 percent above the long-term average.
Northern pintail: numbered 3.5 million, down 22 percent from last year’s estimate, and 14 percent below the long-term average.
More info: www.ducks.org
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Perhaps it's a hint of the difference wolves can make. While Idaho cut back on elk hunting opportunity for this fall, Washington — where wolf expansion is still in its infancy — is expanding elk hunting permits.
But the Fish and Wildlife Commission wasn't game for proposals to allow electronic devices for hunting. During its meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia, the commission left intact the statewide ban on using electronic decoys to attract waterfowl and illuminated knocks on hunting arrows.
Click “continue reading” for more details on the commission's decisions for 2012-2014 hunting seasons, plus info on new wildlife lands purchase in Asotin and Okanogan counties and the landowner hunting program approved for the Turnbull area.
WETLAND CONSERVATION — The Pullman chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising event on Feb. 12 at the Paradise Creek Brewery in downtown Pullman.
Social hour starts at 4 p.m. A ticket gets you in for heavy hors doeurves, a drink of choice, the fundraising auction and membership in Ducks Unlimited, which is celebrating its 75th year of efforts for waterfowl conservation.
For tickets, contact Joe Ford (509) 872-3030; Vic DeMacon (509) 336-9151, or Jeremy Lessmann (509) 336-9559.
Since 1937, DU has conserved 12 million acres of habitat across North America, benefiting more than 900 different species of wildlife.
HUNTING — I had the privilege to hunt the Lower Coeur d'Alene River area with a yellow Lab named Gunner this weekend. It was a good day.
WATERFOWL HUNTING — 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.
Bottomline: 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.
Waterfowlers will want to read on for details from her observations.
WATERFOWL HUNTING — After mechanical “Robo Duck” decoys were invented in the late 90s, Washington waterfowl hunters enjoyed a few seasons to sample their effectiveness.
Many hunters liked what they saw as the wings caused movement in the air and water to lure waterfowl from afar.
But a majority of sportsmen and wildlife managers thought they were so effective they could eventually lead to reduced limits or shorter seasons.
In 2001, the Fish and Wildlife Department conducted a casual survey of hunters and found that 34 percent opposed use of mechanical decoys, 46 percent would be in favor of using them if it did not result in loss of hunting opportunity and 20 percent favored mechanical decoys unconditionally.
A 2006 survey found 40 percent opposition, 49 percent in favor if no restrictions resulted and 11 percent in favor unconditionally.
This fall, sportsmen on the Washington Waterfowl Advisory Group voted 7-5 to support a proposal reinstating use of battery-operated or other electronic decoys. This would bring Washington into alignment with Idaho and Montana, which have no restrictions on mechanical decoys.
The proposal made the list of items being considered for the 2012-2014 Washington hunting regulations.
In November, the WDFW conducted one more email survey among hunters who had purchased state waterfowl license endorsements in the past two years. Of the 3,500 responses:
- 29 percent opposed use of electronic decoys,
- 57 percent favored their use if they did not lead to hunting restrictions,
- 14 percent favored their use unconditionally.
More public comment will be taken on revised proposals in January before the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission consider the hunting rules package again in March.
Ardent waterfowl hunter Kent Contreras of northeastern Washington said he’s on the fence, along with most hunters.
“They definitely are effective at bringing in ducks and geese,” he said while hunting Saturday. “I’ve heard from hunters in other states who say mechanical decoys become less effective the more waterfowl see them. But motion in a decoy spread is always effective.”
WATERFOWLING — Tank, a bruiser black Lab, races back with a mallard drake before the ripples smooth out in the decoys on the Pend Oreille River Saturday.
Temperatures in the teens didn't even nick the the dog's enthusiam for rounding up all the ducks and geese Kent Contreras could bring down from his Avery Outdoors layout blind.
After every retrieve he returned, settled down steady by Contreras and looked out as if to say, “Bring it on.”
The original plan was to hunt a slough that had been luring ducks by the hundreds. But the cold temps sealed the slough in ice, forcing the Newport-area pair to hunt the open water of the river.
HUNTING — John Roland retrieves my duck while we were waterfowling by canoe today.
Who needs a dog?
Best of all, after the hunt I sent him back to his master and let her feed him.