Western Washington’s pheasant release sites will welcome both ends of the hunting spectrum this month with a special two-day youth hunt (under 16) Saturday and Sunday, and the five-day equivalent for seniors 65 and older and hunters with disabilities, Sept. 25-29.
Pheasant release sites are always a work in progress and this year is no exception. The very popular “Smith Farm” site on Leque Island, just west of Stanwood, will not host pheasant releases this year because of ongoing construction work for a tidal restoration project. That means there will be no pheasant releases from Ebey Island north to three sites in Whatcom County or the sites on Whidbey Island. The exception, according to Skagit Wildlife Area manager Belinda Rotton, is that birds will be released for the youth and senior hunts at the Samish Unit of the Skagit WA. The Samish Unit is located just south of Samish Island, on Padilla Bay, and there will be no pheasant releases there after the youth/senior hunts.
Rotton said she will have between 400 and 500 birds for the special hunts and probably will split them between the two.
Otherwise, the closest release sites to hunters in this area will be those on the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area — the Stillwater, Cherry Valley, Crescent Lake and Ebey Island units. And with Ebey Island on the list, they don’t get much closer than that. The 1,237-acre unit is just south of Highway 2 between the Snohomish River and Ebey Slough.
A lot of the hunters who have utilized the westside pheasant release sites in the past time their hunts to coincide with a particular planting schedule. This tended to devolve into a crowd participating in an “8 o’clock barrage” as planted days were pounded (the units are open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and unplanted days were ignored, even though there were still pheasant available.
Brian Boehm, manager of the Snoqualmie Wildlife Area, uses a different philosophy. He plants birds on his own unannounced schedule, which makes sure there are pheasant there on weekend days, then makes two more plants per unit on random weekdays. He said hunters can rest assured there will be pheasant available, and he has found that the system has resulted in less crowding and a more aesthetic experience for hunters and their dogs. Boehm also said the Ebey Island unit now carries different types of habitat, which allows a hunter the opportunity to choose his or her ground.
The unit will be planted for both the youth and senior hunts at the two release sites, one on the east side of the unit and one on the west. No plants are made in the center of the unit, which is accessible only by boat, Boehm said. He, in fact, tries to avoid the center of the unit as much as possible, but said it holds birds pushed out of the east and west areas as the season goes on.
The Snoqualmie Wildlife Area, including Ebey Island, will receive a portion of the pen-raised pheasant previously scheduled for the Skagit delta.
The access route to the Ebey Island unit is Homeacres Road off the Highway 2 trestle. Parking is limited. You can find a map of the Ebey Island unit, with directions, on the Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Go to “Hunting,” then click on the “Go Hunt” logo. From there, click on “Small game” and find your desired site. Besides the “Go Hunt” program, this site provides information on the Private Lands Hunting Access program and other useful facts.
Boehm said he is not only open to ideas, comments and criticisms, but encourages feedback and shares the information with Olympia. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October fast approaches, the last month of the 2017 trout fishing season in many lakes and, some say, the best. It also leaves one month to try to catch one of the tagged rainbows planted around the state for the Department of Fish and Wildlife-sponsored trout derby.
Are there any left uncaught? Of course there are. About half of them as of Sept. 9.
State data showed a total of 246 tagged trout planted in the lakes in Region 4 (north Puget Sound) and 117 prizes claimed as of early September. Region 6, the Olympic Peninsula, had the most tags planted, 259, with 123 prizes claimed so far.
The north Sound lakes where anglers have caught at least one tagged trout and claimed a prize include: Bosworth, Sixteen, Cain, Padden, Silver, Martha (Alderwood Manor), Echo, Storm, Heart, McMurray, Riley, Ki and Cavanaugh. Some have produced more than one tagged fish, many two or three, and a few, six or seven.
The state said the total value, statewide, of all the derby prizes this year is $28,700, and that the value of all prizes claimed so far is about $11,000.
Opening weekend of the trout season, in April, was by far the most productive period for those chasing a tagged rainbow, probably because of the large number of anglers on the water. In 2016, the Saturday/Sunday of opening weekend notched 85 tagged fish, while this year, 83 prizes were claimed. Some 900 tagged rainbow were planted this year, in more than 100 lakes.
The rules are simple: buy a license, catch a tagged trout, call the department with the tag number, and visit a license dealer to claim your prize.
For more information, including the prize list and the list of planted lakes, go to the department’s website and click on the Fishing Derby logo.