Big game and turkey hunters who drive each fall to north-central Washington for their favorite activity should probably be prepared to do a little research before heading out. Wildfires — some still burning — have devastated more than 25,000 acres of land managed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, much of it prime habitat for big game, turkey, doves, grouse, and other critters.
The Wildlife Areas involved include Indian Dan and Pateros (both near the town of Pateros), Texas Creek (south of Carlton), Chilliwist (northwest of Malott), Methow (near Winthrop) and Swakane (north of Wenatchee). For more specific information, the state advises hunters to first check the wildfire webpage at www.wdfw.wa.gov/wildfires, and then, call the regional offices for the phone numbers of the individual Wildlife Areas, then call the area you’re interested in. The headquarters for Region 2, which covers Okanogan and Chelan counties, is in Ephrata (509-754-4624). Yakima is the headquarters for Region 3, covering Kittitas and Yakima counties. The phone number is 509-575-2740.
Some of the area burned by the Carlton Complex fire includes acreage used by a local mule deer population that lives there year-around, and thousands of migratory deer during the winter.
“Even with ideal weather conditions, there will be too many deer for the area to support this winter, and possibly for several years to come,” state district biologist Scott Fitkin said. “We know we need to take steps to reduce the size of the herd, and that effort will focus first on minimizing conflicts between deer and agricultural landowners.”
The department likely will increase the number of antlerless deer permits issued this fall and winter, first to youth, seniors and hunters with disabilities. Hunters who already have applied for deer permits in the area need not file a new application.
The agency plans to pull deer and other wildlife away from agricultural conflict with feed this summer and fall, and is considering a feeding program for deer this winter.
“Winter feeding is not a long term solution,” Fitkin said. “At best, it’s a stop-gap until the deer population and habitat are back in balance.”
Sustained supplemental feeding is neither efficient nor beneficial to wildlife and often creates problems, he said. Feeding concentrates animals, making them more vulnerable to predators, poaching and disease such as hair slip, which is already a concern for deer in the region.
Last year’s waterfowl season was a real bummer, largely because the weather refused to cooperate during most of the hunt, and state waterfowl manager Don Kraege said the harvest was down about 20 percent even though there were plenty of birds in the area. This year, with a record 49 million ducks on the northern breeding grounds, should be very good — assuming a little weather with real attitude.
Most species look strong this year, Kraege said, with seasons and limits similar to 2013. Canvasbacks are an exception, and the limit this season has been cut from two birds to one. Snow geese are another exception. Kraege said Russian biologists on Wrangell Island, the birds’ main breeding ground, told him the hatch wasn’t promising and that there will be a low number of juvenile geese in the fall flight.
On the bright side, mallards should be present in quantity. Many of our birds come from Alaska, and Kraege said the mallard hatch there was up 48 percent from last year. The local breeding population in our own state, which supplies hunting action until the northern migration arrives, was up 17 percent.
Duck seasons opens Oct. 11, runs through Oct. 15, then opens again from Oct. 18 to Jan. 25. A special youth hunting weekend is scheduled for Sept. 20-21.
Details on waterfowl hunting seasons will be available this week at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations. The paper pamphlet will be available at license dealers statewide about Aug. 22.
A surprising amount of interest popped up about the gold/sparkle hoochie dubbed “Goldilocks” by recreational salmon fishermen in the Sekiu area. A spokesman at Olson’s Resort said commercial trollers off the coast also reported using the unusual rubber squid this summer with some success.
“Yeah, that hoochie has been around for probably 50 years, and it seems to resurface every time we get a good king run off the coast and down the Strait,” said Kelly Morrison at Silver Horde in Lynnwood.
So much for the idea that Goldilocks was new and innovative.
“Another odd hoochie sold well to commercials this year, off both our coast and Oregon,” Morrison said. “It’s an oldie too, tan in color, that they call ‘buckskin.’ There must be some kind of small, brown baitfish or something around this year.”
Tickets for the 21st annual Everett Coho Derby, scheduled for Sept. 20-21, go on sale Monday at Arlington Hardware, Doug’s Boats and Outdoor, Ed’s Surplus, Bayside Marine, Greg’s Custom Rods, Harbor Marine, Holiday Sports, John’s Sporting Goods, McDaniels Do It Center, Outdoor Emporium, Performance Marine, Possession Bait, Sportco,Ted’s Sport Center, Three Rivers Marine, and Triangle Beverage &Bait. Tickets are $30 or free for youths 12 and younger. First place is worth $10,000; second, $5,000, third, $2,500, and fourth, $1,000. To arrange overnight moorage, visit the derby home page, www.everettcohoderby.com.
The Samish River opened for chinook on Aug. 1, but it’s still too early to expect any action, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. “You start to see a fish or two by the third week of August, but really the river is a Labor Day show,” John said.
On the other hand, jigging for kings over the river channel in Samish Bay heats up sooner. Anchor over the channel and jig with 1- or 2-ounce Point Wilson Darts, John said, from two hours before low slack to two hours after.
The selective chinook fishery in Marine Area 9 most likely will close with a whimper rather than a bang on Friday. The recreational quota probably will not be met, ending a season described as mediocre at best. Area 10, however, closed seven days early and provided at least fair fishing in the Jefferson Head area.
Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 opened Aug. 1 for coho, but haven’t yet provided much of a fishery.
“That will improve over the next week or two,” said charter owner Gary Krein of Everett. “Those silvers traditionally weigh 5 to 8 pounds on the average, but I heard of a nice 12-pounder taken at Point No Point last week.”
For more outdoors news, visit Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.