Regulations & Seasons
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2015-2017 Hunting Season Setting Process

Black Bear

Issue #Issue Title
7Bear - 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.


Issue #Issue Title
82 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.

9There 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.

104 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.
11Modern 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.

12Mule 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.

13Expand 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.


Issue #Issue Title
14The 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.

15A 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.

16Archery 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.

17Muzzleloader 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.

Forest Grouse

Issue #Issue Title
19Forest 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.

20Forest 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.

Mountain Goat

Issue #Issue Title
18We 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).

Upland Game Birds

Issue #Issue Title
21Timing 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.

Wild Turkey

Issue #Issue Title
22Fall 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.

23Use 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.

General Issues - Baiting

Issue #Issue Title
1Baiting 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 - Equipment

Issue #Issue Title
2Changes 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
3Hunter 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
4Non-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
5Because 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.

6Compensation 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.