Regulations & Seasons
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2015-2017 Hunting Season Setting Process

Bighorn sheep

Issue #Issue Title
42Identify bighorn sheep herds available to auction and raffle hunters on the basis of the recent past history of pressure from similar hunts, and independently of the number of regular draw permits for that herd.
Background Information:

The current auction/raffle WAC for bighorn sheep mandates that only herds with 2 or more regular draw permits are available for the auction and raffle hunters. Because there are 2 raffles for California bighorn permits as well as an auction, this means that the number of rams permitted can either be 1 (thus allowing no auction/raffle hunts), or 2 through 5 (if none, 1, 2, or 3 extra-regular-draw hunters choose to hunt in that herd). Biologists are uncomfortable with the possibility that moving from 1 to 2 rams/year can result in moving from 1 to 5 rams/year. This has the unintended consequence of liming regular draw permits.

43Provide hunter opportunity for bighorns in Chelan Butte.
Background Information:

Smaller-horned rams and unproductive ewes can be harvested with no adverse population consequences. However, hunters are unlikely to take these animals unless permits specifically authorizing (and restricting) these hunts are provided.

44Correct discrepancies in legal descriptions of bighorn sheep hunting units.
Background Information:

Mistakes were made...

45Both the public and agency staff are confused by WACs regarding picking up heads of bighorns found afield
Background Information:

The the intent and implementation of WACs 232-12-284 and 232-12-287 are ambiguous.

Black Bear

Issue #Issue Title
46Bear - Hunter access fees on private industrial timberlands to hunt black bear to help reduce bear damage to trees.
Background Information:

A concern has been raised that some private industrial timberlands charge access fees to spring bear hunters to remove bears to help reduce tree damage by bears.  Some feel timberland owners should allow free or reduced cost access since the bear removal is to the benefit of the timber company.

Similarly, some feel timber companies should also allow fall bear season access for the same reason; to help reduce tree damage by bears.

47Bear - Opener for fall bear seasons
Background Information:

The August portion of the fall bear seasons is popular, where hunters focus on the remaining summer/early fall berry crop.  A large segment of bear hunters have voiced opposition against moving opening day of fall seasons to latter in the year when seasons where curtailed due to the status of the bear population.

48Bear - General spring bear season
Background Information:


49Bear - Spring bear hunt areas and permit levels in Western Washington
Background Information:

In western Washington, spring black bear seasons are used as a management tool to address bear damage to trees on industrial timberlands.  Proposals for hunt areas, season dates, and permit levels are cooperatively developed between the Department and landowners, and presented to the Fish & Wildlife Commission for rule making.  The public will have an opportunity to comment on any proposals later in the process during the public input periods established by the Fish & Wildlife  Commission. 


Issue #Issue Title
50Cougar - Cougar season dates and harvest guidelines
Background Information:

Cougar hunting seasons went through a comprehensive public process two-years ago for a major reform in season dates, harvest guidelines, and hunt areas.  With only two seasons under the new season structure, it is likely too early to make a meaningful assessment about whether the new season structure is meeting the objectives for a stable cougar population while maximizing recreational opportunity.  However, the Department will collect public input at the scheduled public meetings for potential changes.  Common themes from those comments that are consistent with the cougar management objectives will be considered by WDFW, along with changes from the internal review of biological information from the past two years.


Issue #Issue Title
1Muzzleloader white-tailed deer anterless
Background Information:

Hunter opportunities (all user groups) to take antlerless white-tailed deer were substantially reduced as a result of 2 consecutive severe winters in northeast Washington (2007-2009).

2Muzzleloader Deer Season
Background Information:

Overall dissatisfaction with muzzleloader deer seasons. 

3Archery Deer Season
Background Information:

Constituents would like to see early archery deer season dates encompass Labor Day weekend. Hunters would have the opportunity to hunt the majority of the weekend and fully utilize the Monday off from work. This year Opening day is on a Monday, which means most hunters will not hunt or be able to hunt until the following weekend, which is only a 2 day weekend. 

Fire danger will often preclude any additional hunting time.

Many hunters like to avoid season overlap with other recreationists during Labor Day holiday.

4Expand deer hunting opportunity
Background Information:

There are very few quality buck permit opportunities in Region 6 when they could be offered in many more areas.

5Deer - More antlerless opportunity
Background Information:

Constituents are submitting a wide variety of examples where they feel more antlerless deer opportunity could be offered. The Department will consider all of these on a case-by-case basis.

6Standardize black-tailed deer hunting seasons
Background Information:

Currently, there is wide variation across western Washington with regard to season dates and bag limits during general archery and muzzleloader seasons that do not follow a standard structure that all hunters can predict and plan for. The Department as a whole would prefer to implement standardized seasons.

72 pt. antler restrictions for black-tailed deer
Background Information:

Currently, there are 4 GMUs (437, 636, 654, 681) that are open during general, black-tailed deer seasons, that have 2 pt. antler restrictions.

Some hunters like antler point restrictions because they believe it results in deer populations that have more mature bucks, however data does not show that.

The Department uses antler point restrictions when general season buck harvest prevents the population from reaching post-hunt population objectives.

The restriction has not been used for western WA black-tailed deer because there is adequate security cover.

Lacking the need to enhance buck escapement, the 2 pt. restriction limits hunter opportunity unnecessarily.

8Mule deer buck escapement in GMU 382
Background Information:

Post-hunt buck:doe ratios are below objective in this GMU.

It is the only mule deer-managed GMU that has both early and late muzzleloader seasons and a 14-day modern firearm season.

The majority of GMU 382 is privately owned and landowners contacted represented ownership of >80,000 acres.

Landowners contacted agreed that actions should be taken to reduce pressure on deer.

The majority of landowners preferred to shorten the modern firearm season.

92 pt. min. mule deer opportunity
Background Information:

See separate issue listed as -- "There is concern that the current 3 pt. antler restrictions for mule deer is resulting in populations that have an increased number of adult 2 pt. bucks."

10There is concern that the current 3 pt. antler restriction for mule deer is resulting in populations that have an increased number of adult 2 pt. bucks.
Background Information:

The current 3 pt. antler restriction for mule deer has been in place since 1997. Without the current 3 pt. antler restriction, it would be difficult to maintain post-hunt mule deer population objective of 15 bucks:100 does.

It may be possible to offer limited opportunities to harvest bucks that only have 2 points, which could result in the harvest of adult 2 pt. bucks.

However, it is also likely that limited opportunities to harvest bucks with 2 points would also result in the harvest of yearling 2 pt. bucks.

114 pt. antler restrictions for white-tailed deer in GMUs 117 and 121
Background Information:
  • In response to requests from hunters, the Fish & Wildlife Commission implemented a 4 pt. antler restriction in 2011 for white-tailed deer in GMUs 117 and 121.
  • Some hunters like antler point restrictions because they believe it results in deer populations that have more mature bucks.
  • The Department uses antler point restrictions when general season buck harvest prevents the population from reaching post-hunt population objectives.
  • Public input suggests the proportion of hunters that like or dislike 4 pt. antler restrictions are relatively equal.
12Expand opportunities for youth, senior (65 and older), and disabled hunters to harvest antlerless white-tailed deer.
Background Information:

Opportunities to harvest antlerless white-tailed deer were substantially reduced after 2 consecutive severe winters (2007-2009) caused a decline in the white-tailed deer population.

The white-tailed deer population, as well as deer depredation issues on private property, have since increased.

Currently, youth, senior, and disabled hunters have only 4 days to harvest an antlerless white-tailed deer during the general modern firearm season.

Antlerless opportunities could be increased to help alleviate deer damage issues on agricultural lands.

13Modern firearm hunters would prefer to have a general modern firearm season that occurs closer to the mule deer breeding season, and is longer and closer to the migration timing in north central Washington.
Background Information:

Currently, the general modern firearm season is 9-days long and opens on the first Saturday after October 10th.

Under the current season structure, season end dates range from October 19th to October 25th, depending on the calendar year.

Adding additional days will increase the number of years the season is open during the last week of October.

There are concerns that season structures with later end dates may increase harvest mortality for mature bucks, which may make it more difficult for WDFW to meet the objective of maintaining a post-season population with a minimum buck-to-doe ratio of 15:100.

14Deer- Senior Hunting Opportunity
Background Information:

Senior hunters feel there should be more deer hunting opportunity provided to them.

15Deer- No change
Background Information:

Hunters like the seasons as they are.


Issue #Issue Title
16Expanding elk opportunity
Background Information:

Constituents and Department Staff have submitted a variety of ideas for expanding hunting opportunity and mitigating damage.

17Elk Season Length and Season Timing
Background Information:

Elk hunters on the eastside would prefer later modern firearm seasons to take advantage of elk movements in response to weather. Later seasons would result in more harvest which would ultimately result in the need to create shorter and more restrictive seasons to meet population objectives.

18True Spike rule for elk
Background Information:

The True Spike rule was implemented to increase survival of yearling bulls. The rule has been working in that respect, there are more yearling bulls survivng the hunting seasons. 

The public is somewhat frustrated with the rule because total post-hunt bull ratios are still not meeting objective.

19Elk Special Permits
Background Information:

The constituent submitting the proposal likes the current system for elk special permits and does not want it to change.

20Y/D antlerless elk in Region 3
Background Information:

Currently, excellent youth and disabled elk hunting opportunities exist in these GMUs and are only utilized by Master Hunters. Damage elk situations exist over a long period of time (4 months) in which youth and disabled hunters could easily harvest elk, and in situations where Master Hunters are not required. Landowners have shown interest in youth and disabled hunting access, as well as during damage emphasis harvests where large numbers of elk are harvested.

21Eliminate Elk General Season in EA 2033
Background Information:

September general season in this elk area has achieved it's goal. The time is appropriate to eliminate this general season.

22The 3911 Elk Area boundary includes some WDFW land that was purchased for elk winter range. Master Hunters have focused on the WDFW parcel, which potentially moves elk onto private property.
Background Information:

The 3911 hunt is designed to limit elk use of private property and elk-caused damage.

WDFW purchased property within the Elk Area boundary in 2007 for elk winter range.

Hunters often focus on the public land portion of the Elk Area, pushing elk off the winter range and onto private property.

Adjacent private landowners have complained about the elk movements and about Master Hunters repeatedly asking for access to retrieve elk shot on the public/private edge.

23Archery hunters would prefer to have a general early archery season that is more coincident with the elk breeding season and later in the month of September to better address high temperatures and private forestland fire closures.
Background Information:

Currently, the general early archery season is 13 days long and opens the Tuesday following Labor Day.

From 2003-2009, it was a 14-day season that occurred September 8th-21st.  Before that it was September 1-14.

Opening day of early archery season was adjusted in 2009 in response to concerns that the proportion of mature bulls harvested by archery hunters was disproportionately high compared to other user groups.

Having the early archery season occur earlier has had no discernable effect on the proportion of mature bulls harvested by archery hunters.

24Muzzleloader hunters would like to have more GMUs open during early muzzleloader elk seasons.
Background Information:

Currently, there are 26 GMUs on the east side and 29 GMUs on the west side that are open during the general early muzzleloader season.

In contrast, there are 42 GMUs on the east side and 49 GMUs on the west side that are open during the general early archery season.

Opening more GMUs during the early muzzleloader season may result in muzzleloader hunters accounting for a proportion of the elk harvest that is greater than the proportion of muzzleloader hunters.

However, opening more GMUs during the early muzzleloader season may result in a substantial number of hunters switching from modern firearm or archery to muzzleloader which would change the harvest allocation objective and may help reduce crowding.

25A number of developments have made the Margaret GMU less amenable to a special permit only, elk hunting season structure.
Background Information:

GMU 524 has been under a special permit restriction since 1982.

Consistent with the MSH herd plan the elk population has been reduced in the past few years.

GMU 524 is predominantly private land with restricted public access.

Private timber companies have recently implemented a fee-only system for access to most of the GMU.

An additional 7,000 acres in the Schultz Creek area is privately owned and no public access is allowed.

Restrictions due to fire danger regularly close most of the GMU to all public entry during Sept. and sometimes early Oct.

A continued desire by half the hunting public for a change to general season hunting has been expressed for several years. In addition major landowners in the GMU have requested a change to general season.

26Addressing Elk Conflict In An Urbanizing and Agricultural Portion of Pierce County
Background Information:

Over the past 10 years, both elk and human populations have grown in the area covered by GMU 652. These increases have resulted in increased conflicts between elk and people. Of particular concern are the substantial impacts to landowners growing crops on remaining agricultural lands. Changes in elk management practices need to be made to address these increasing conflicts.

Forest Grouse

Issue #Issue Title
38Forest Grouse Season Length
Background Information:

Research indicates that early season forest grouse harvest is weighted heavily toward brood hens and juveniles, particularly in areas open to vehicular access.  However, there is currently no reason to believe that harvest is affecting grouse populations.  Declines noted by hunters and biologists are more likely due to changes to or loss of habitat.

39Forest Grouse Bag Limits
Background Information:

Several years ago the statewide daily bag limit for forest grouse was increased from 3 to 4.  This raised concern among some hunters and biologists who believe that grouse populations have declined.  Total statewide grouse harvest has continued to decline since the bag limit change.

Mountain Goat

Issue #Issue Title
51Increase hunter opportunity for mountain goats while ensuring sustainability.
Background Information:

There is a desire among some hunters for more opportunity to harvest mountain goats. However, mountain goat populations are sensitive to harvest, and have been over-harvested in the past.

52We currently do not obtain as much biological information on mountain goats as we could. Mountain goats are difficult to study, and understanding their population dynamics is a challenge.
Background Information:

Hunters can potentially provide more information on goats than we currently utilize.

Knowing the sex and age of harvested goats is important, but best documented by WDFW biologists.

We are currently encouraging goat hunters to bring their harvested goats to WDFW offices voluntarily, but thus far, relatively few have done so (even with the enticement of a chance to win a Cabella's gift certificate).

53Identify mountain goat herds available to auction and raffle hunters on the basis of the recent past history of pressure from similar hunts, and independently of the number of regular draw permits for that herd.
Background Information:

The current auction/raffle WAC for mountain goats mandates that only herds with 2 or more regular draw permits are available for the auction and raffle hunters. Because there are both a raffle and an auction, this means that the number of goats permitted can either be 1 (thus allowing no auction/raffle hunts), or 2, or 3 (if none, 1, or 2, additional hunters choose to hunt in that herd). Biologists are uncomfortable with the possibility that moving from 1 to 2 goats/year can result in moving from 1 to 3 goats/year. This has the unintended consequence of liming regular draw permits.

54Mountain goat season too short
Background Information:
Current mountain goat seasons are from September 15 through October 15.
55Removing exemption for once-in-lifetime permit for mountain goats
Background Information:

Once-in-lifetime restriction for mountain goats harvested does not apply to hunters who took a goat prior to 1999.

Mourning Dove and Band-tailed Pigeon

Issue #Issue Title
56Mourning Dove Season
Background Information:

Extend dove season from 30 to 60 days, and increase bag limit from 10 to 15 birds.

Small Game, Furbearers, and Unclassified Species

Issue #Issue Title
57Bobcat Season
Background Information:

Some hunters have referenced a discrepancy between the end dates for hunting and trapping bobcat.

58Raccoon Season
Background Information:

Raccoon hunters, particularly those who use dogs, have been requesting a pursuit season or longer hunting season.  Of particular concern is a restriction that prohibits hunting with dogs during modern firearm deer and elk seasons.

59River Otter Closures in parts of Eastern Washington
Background Information:

River otter seasons have either had an annual catch limit or have been closed due to lower population levels in the past.  Anecdotal accounts indicate that populations have recovered in at least portions of the closure area.

Upland Game Birds

Issue #Issue Title
40Timing and Length of Eastern Washington Pheasant Season
Background Information:

The structure and timing of pheasant and other upland bird seasons have changed many times.

All upland bird populations and hunter harvest have declined significantly over the past 30-40 years, which is attributed to changes in habitat.

In 2004, the pheasant season opener was moved later to the weekend after the modern firearm deer opener.

In 2005, the season was extended into January to mitigate lost season length.

For several years prior to the last three-year season package, all upland bird seasons extended through Martin Luther King Day.

For the last three years the pheasant season has been a consistent 12 weeks, ending one week earlier than other upland bird seasons.

Some hunters want the season to always end on Martin Luther King Day, but others express concerns with hunting upland birds this late in the winter.

Because hens are not hunted, there is little chance that hunting can impact pheasant populations.

60Early Disabled Hunter Opportunity for Upland Birds
Background Information:

Youth and Seniors currently have early upland bird season opportunities.  There currently is not a similar opportunity for disabled hunters.

61Hunter Recruitment - Upland Birds
Background Information:

Recruitment of upland bird hunters has been low and hunter numbers have been in a steady decline for many years.


Issue #Issue Title
62Game Reserves, Waterfowl Closures, Shotgun Shell Restriction Areas
Background Information:

Review and clean-up of WAC Section 232-16.

63September Goose Seasons
Background Information:

Expand September Canada goose season opportunity in Regions 4 and 6.

Wild Turkey

Issue #Issue Title
64Use of Dogs for Fall Turkey Hunting
Background Information:

The use of dogs to hunt turkey is currently unlawful in Washington but is allowed in many other states in the fall.  A few states also allow the use of dogs during spring seasons.

65Adult Mentors during Youth Turkey Seasons
Background Information:
Safety is a primary concern while youth are on their first hunts and mentoring can have many benefits in addition to safety.
66Fall Turkey General Seasons
Background Information:

Hunters have expressed concerns that turkey populations have declined in some parts of Region 1.

WDFW still regularly hears from landowners concerning conflicts with turkeys and others who feel the population is too large.

Fall seasons in Region 1 were expanded to provide additional recreational opportunity and address landowner conflicts associated with an increasing population.

Wildlife Conflict

Issue #Issue Title
67Elk Damage in the Cowlitz Valley
Background Information:
68Deer damage Region 6
Background Information:

General Issues - Baiting

Issue #Issue Title
37Baiting of deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat for the purposes of hunting.
Background Information:

Some hunters feel that certain practices, such as baiting deer and elk, give hunters an unfair advantage.

In recent years, concerns have been expressed about disease transmission around baiting sites.

Baiting can exacerbate wildlife damage and wildlife nuisance. More complaints by neighbors.

More and more professional guides and outfitters are baiting.

Hunters also note it is inconsistent to allow baiting for deer and elk but not for waterfowl, game birds, and bear.

Western States that allow deer baiting: Washington, Oregon, and Utah.

Western States that don't allow deer baiting: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

General Issues - Communication

Issue #Issue Title
Background Information:
70Increase penalty for failing to report harvest online.
Background Information:

Concern that it $10 increase in next-year's license fee is insufficient incentive to maintain high reporting rate.

General Issues - Equipment

Issue #Issue Title
36Changes to allowed equipment for hunting
Background Information:

As technology advances hunters often seek to use new or improved equipment.

WDFW attempts to provide equitable opportunity between weapon choice user groups given the limitations of the weapon choice and the participation rates of the user group.

Changes to allowed equipment that may increase harvest or hunter success rates could lead to shorter seasons, or other changes, if game populations or allocation between user groups are affected.

General Issues - Hunter Recruitment and Retention

Issue #Issue Title
27Hunter Recruitment
Background Information:

This issue is becoming one of the most important issues for Fish and Wildlife Agencies across the country. To maintain the tradition of hunting and the funding base for conservation we recognize a need to recruit new hunters, encourage current hunters to keep hunting, and convince past hunters to re-engage.

Recruitment of new hunters and keeping current hunters participating is best done by providing opportunities that result in reasonable success at harvesting an animal.

Deer & Elk Licenses - 160,000

Youth - 15,000 (9%)

Senior - 15,000 (9%)

Disabled - 7,000 (4%)

General Issues - Non-Toxic Ammunition

Issue #Issue Title
41Non-Toxic Ammunition
Background Information:

A wide variety of birds may consume spent lead shot, resulting in increased mortalities and sublethal effects.  Birds of prey may ingest lead as they scavenge animals (e.g., deer) taken during hunting seasons.  In Washington, there is increasing evidence of lead consumption by golden eagles, a species of concern with low population levels (see Golden eagle ecology).

General Issues - Permit Drawings

Issue #Issue Title
28Because demand far exceeds supply, some hunters applying for special species hunts may never get drawn, despite their accumulation of preference points.
Background Information:

As in many other states, applicants are awarded a "preference point" each year their application is not among the few randomly selected.

Points are squared; thus a hunter having applied twice receives 22 = 4 points, whereas a hunter having applied 10 times receives 102 = 100 points. Thus, the second hunter has 25 times the probability of drawing a tag as the first hunter. 

There are many more hunters with few points than those with many. Thus, each year some hunters with relatively few points are fortunate enough to receive a permit.

29Compensation for cancelled hunts
Background Information:

Although rare, it sometimes occurs that a hunt cannot be conducted for reasons beyond the control of the hunter or WDFW.  Examples include land closures due to fires or government shut-downs.  How to (or even whether to) compensate hunters who lose their opportunity is not straight-forward.

Large forest fires may preclude a hunter from accessing even a small portion of the unit.

In September, we have experienced closures on private timber lands due to fire concerns.  These closures may affect the majority of land in the unit.

Some hunts require the cooperation of Federal land managers; in the case of a government shut-down, an entire hunting opportunity can be lose.

WDFW typically offers preference points to such hunters, which increase the chances of obtaining a permit in the future, but do not guarantee a future permit.

30Multi-season permits
Background Information:
31Provide permit holders the option of declining that hunt and saving their points
Background Information:

A few hunters have mentioned the frustration of getting "too lucky" and being unable to take advantage of their good fortune if getting too many permits in one year. Others have expressed concern that an illness, family emergency, etc. could interfere with opportunity to hunt. These hunters would rather have that hunt opportunity go to someone else, while being able to retain the points they've built up.

32Roll-over of youth points to other category
Background Information:

Youth losing accumulated points when they graduate.

33Move deadline for permit applications back in time
Background Information:
34Master Hunter
Background Information:
35Military resident hunts
Background Information:

Other Game Species

Issue #Issue Title
71Dog Training with Eurasian Collared Doves
Background Information:

Eurasian Collared Doves are a predatory bird species and are not listed in WAC 232-12-005 as a species that can be used for dog training.