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Washington expands elk hunting, rejects electronic duck decoys

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.

Wetlands conservation banquet set in Pullman

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.

A ducky day for a Lab

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.

Ducks Unlimited shares the holiday spirit

WATERFOWL HOLIDAYS — A reminder from Ducks Unlimited of the beauty good habitat ensures.

Aerial survey plots Columbia Basin waterfowl congregations

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.

Survey gives mixed review for allowing electronic decoys in WA

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.”

Waterfowler’s best friend: Labs don’t balk at winter retrieves

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."

Very cool.

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.

Waterfowling by canoe is budget hunter’s dream trip

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.

Waterfowl hunting website compiles watershed of info

WATERFOWLING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has a new waterfowling website ready for hunters to take advantage of the best forecast fall flight of ducks since 1955 — and the foul weather that's ushering them southward and into our region.

The site has information for new or returning waterfowl hunters, ranging from the basics of duck and goose identification to details on hunting locations, equipment, licensing requirements and handling harvested waterfowl.

One portion of the site is devoted to helping hunters zero in on places to hunt waterfowl. The information isn't necessarily specific. Hou'll still have to go out and do your homework. 

The site also is a quick stop for hunters checking on waterfowl regulations and seasons, especially for the more confusing seasons for Canada geese. Goose management in much of Estern Washington restricts hunting to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, but late fall and winter bring added opportunity on holidays including the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 24-25, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16.

Last chance for online survey on allowing electronic duck decoys in WA

WATERFOWLING — Wednesday is the dealine for hunters to let the state know whether they want to head down the slippery slope of allowing electronic decoys for waterfowling.

Several waterfowl hunting guides have petitioned the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting starting in 2012.

The agency is approaching this petition by asking hunters (WILD ID requierd to vote) to comment by Nov. 16 in an online survey on this single question:

 
 
This survey is a followup to the first round of hunting proposals presented in late summer. See the results from more than 3,000 respondents to the previous survey on hunting proposals for 2012-14.
 

Hunters asked to vote on electronic decoys, East-West elk tags

HUNTING – Hunters have until Nov. 16 to comment in an online survey on two new proposals for 2012 hunting regulations being considered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Electronic decoys: Several waterfowl hunting guides have petitioned the state to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting starting in 2012.  Vote here.

East-West elk tags: Some elk hunters want to elminate the East Side-West Side elk tag designations they can apply for special permits on both sides of the state. Vote here.

Have your WILD ID from your hunting or fishing license ready in order to complete the one-question surveys.

More than 3,000 people participated this summer and fall in the online scoping survey on the first round of proposals for the 2012-2014 huning seasons.  See the results.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife commission will consider the refined proposals this winter.

Veteran artist’s wood duck painting wins 2011-2012 Duck Stamp contest

WETLANDS CONSERVATION — Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Contest on Saturday with his acrylic painting of a single wood duck.

Hautman has previously won the contest three times, in 1991, 2001 and 2007. His art will be made into the 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale July 1, 2012.

The federal migratory bird stamp program has raised $750 million for wetlands conservation since its inception in 1934. The money has been used, among other things, to preserve 5 million acres of wetlands habitat important not only to ducks and geese, but also to a wide range of other wildlife.

See a video about the Duck Stamp Contest here.

I'll be writing more about the current status of the Duck Stamp program and why waterfowl hunters and other wildlife and wetlands cconservationists should be paying particularly close attention this year.

Misprint corrected in IFG waterfowl hunting time chart

WATERFOWLING — Idaho Fish and Game officials say the time chart on Page 11 in the 2011-2012 Waterfowl Seasons and Rules book has some incorrect times for five days in January in southern Idaho area.

The opening times on January 22 through 27 in the column for Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington counties and part of Idaho County, all in the Mountain Time Zone areas are off by three hours.

The correct opening times in those areas are: January 22 - 7:41 a.m.; January 23 - 7:40 a.m.; January 24 - 7:39 a.m.; January 25 - 7:39 a.m.; January 26 - 7:38 a.m.; and January 22 - 7:37 a.m.

The correct closing time for January 27 is 5:49 p.m.

The times for all other days are correct.

For a correct table, see the waterfowl rules on the Fish and Game Web site.

Birders get detail how to distinguish cackling geese from Canadas

WATERFOWLING — Goose hunters have a lot of decisions to make, often in a split second in the dim light of early morning, with wind blowing and rain pelting their faces.

Bird identification is tough in good conditions.  Add these factors and …. well, it's really tough.

Daily limits of dusky and cackling geese are reduced to help protect their struggling populations, yet they often fly in groups with plentiful Canada geese.

Read on for some pre-season reading for conservation-minded waterfowlers.

Cold water a major safety factor for waterfowlers

WATERFOWLING — Water does not have to be near freezing to kill, it only has to be colder than a person to cause potentially fatal hypothermia.

With the waterfowl seasons about to open, Idaho Fish and game officials are urging waterfowl hunters who hunt from boats are to wear life jackets and take necessary safety precautions when on the water.

Nationwide last year, 15 hunters lost their lives in boating accidents. Eleven victims drowned because they were not wearing life jackets, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation reports. Overloaded boats and failure to wear life jackets are leading reasons Idaho typically loses a couple of waterfowl hunters every year.

Cold water wicks body heat 25 times faster than air at that same temperature. A hunter who falls in has only a few minutes before the cold renders numb numb and unable to swim.

Most boats float even when capsized or swamped, so get in or on the boat to get as far out of the water as possible. Wearing a life vest is a must. It will help preserve body heat and keeps even an unconscious person stay afloat. Get to shelter, change into dry clothing and warm up slowly.

Read on for more timely tips:

Ducks Unlimited raising wetland funds at Northern Quest BBQ

CONSERVATION — With waterfowlers gearing up for the fall general season start (Oct. 15), the West Plains Chapter of Ducks Unlimited is sponsoring BBQ buffet dinner and fundraising auction Oct. 6 at Northern Quest Casino.

Many species of wildlife benefit from the work of DU and the generosity of sportsmen and other conservationist to preserve and restore wetland habitats.

Buy tickets online by Oct. 1 for a chance on $100 Duck Bucks to use on the Live Auction!

Read on for details.

DU encourages waterfowls to double up on Duck Stamps

WETLANDS CONSERVATION – Ducks Unlimited is asking duck hunters and other waterfowl enthusiasts to “double up for the ducks” by purchasing two federal duck stamps this year.

“The federal duck stamp has been an important tool in waterfowl habitat conservation for 77 years, but its ability to purchase and conserve important waterfowl habitat has been greatly diminished by inflation and rising land prices,” DU CEO Dale Hall said. “The purpose of the ‘Double Up for the Ducks’ campaign is to show that hunters support the program and are willing to pay more for the duck stamp in order to conserve waterfowl habitat. We view the duck stamp as an investment in conservation, not as a tax on hunters.”

This effort is part of a larger campaign currently being led by Ducks Unlimited to increase the price of the federal duck stamp.

Read on for details.

Out of the blue, commission to consider battery-operated decoys

WATERFOWL HUNTING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider a petition to allow use of battery-powered spinning-wing decoys for hunting during a special conference call meeting Friday, 8:30 a.m.

This didn't come up at the recent meeting the Fish and Wildlife Department had on new rules for upcoming hunting seasons.

The only way the public can listen to the discussion — travel to the Fish and Wildlife Department's Olympia headquarters and listen on the speaker phone.

Idaho sets fall waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a 107-day waterfowl season for 2011-2012 during its meeting Wednesday.

A youth hunt was set for Sept. 24-25.

Read on for other details of bag limits and other seasons that begin in October.

Youths get shot at Turnbull ducks

HUNTING — For the second time since 1937, youngsters can apply for limited permits to participate in a two-day youth waterfowl hunt this fall at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will restrict the hunters under 16 to about eight hunting sites during Washington’s youth waterfowl season, Sept. 24-25.

Two youth hunters accompanied by one or two non-hunting adults will be allowed at each site. The hunters must have state small game and waterfowl licenses.

Hunters will be selected in a random drawing.

Applications will be accepted Aug. 1-15.

Apply on a U.S. Postal Service postcard. 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 S. Smith Road, Cheney, WA 99004.

The Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association will conduct a workshop the week prior to the hunt to help the youths select hunting sites and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips.

Info: 235-4723; fws.gov/turnbull/

Washington waterfowl calling competition open to all callers

HUNTING– A waterfowl calling contest coming up in the Tri-Cities will give the open division winner an all-expense-paid trip to the hallowed quacking grounds of the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, Ark.

The sanctioned Washington Duck Calling Championships are set for Aug. 6-7 at Wholesale Sports in Kennewick, sponsored by the Washington Waterfowl Association.

In addition to the Open Duck competition, the event has eight other contests and divisions for duck, goose, youth and  two-person competition.

Info: Abel Cortina, (509) 786-9196, email abelcortina@gmail.com.

Read on for details on the divisions.