Finding a place to hunt is becoming more challenging for a variety of reasons. Hunters increasingly have no other choice than to hunt on public hunting areas, which can lead to overcrowding conditions and a less than satisfactory hunting experience. At the same time landowners–in many cases farmers– are growing crops and managing their land in a manner conducive to waterfowl use. The logical solution is to provide resources and incentives for landowners so that the hunting public has increased opportunity to pursue game.
As waterfowl travel during their winter migration, they often exploit different habitats to select food.
These hungry birds made a frenzy of the conditions found on one of our Private Lands Quality Hunt sites in Skagit County.
The Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program (WQHP) is designed to increase hunting opportunity in the state on land previously unknown or inaccessible to the general public. The Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program focuses on providing the public with duck and goose hunting in the North Puget Sound area. In 2011-12, the WQHP provided public access to 44 sites, and roughly 3000 acres throughout Whatcom, Skagit, and north Snohomish Counties, were Most of those units will be available to the public for the 2012-13 waterfowl season. However, there will also be some different sites available to the public that were not in the program in 2011-12. Each unit has been selected based on its quality as a hunting site and the landowner’s willingness to participate in the program.
|Young hunter on 2012 opening day
||Canada Geese at WQHP unit
This WDFW Program is designed to work with landowners to allow limited access to private property. It absolves the landowners of managing hunting on their land, while increasing hunting opportunities for the general public. WDFW works with the landowner to lay out each unit to ensure a safe hunting environment while taking each landowner’s concerns and wishes into account. WDFW compensates each landowner for use of the property for hunting purposes, using funds provided by those who have purchased Washington State hunting licenses and applied for special permits, as well as funds provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP).
Department of Fish and Wildlife private lands staff work closely with partner landowners to provide the best hunt scenario possible. When WDFW staff negotiate unit selection with landowners, two points are made clear:
- Agricultural crop preparation and harvest supersede availability of the unit to the public
- Parking and blind location will get landowner approval before public access commences
Please keep these in mind before utilizing this program.
To ensure the long-term success of this program, please obey boundary signs, pick up litter, and obey access rules. WDFW, partner landowners, and your fellow hunters appreciate your cooperation. Access to these sites–and possibility of program continuation–is in the hands of those using them.
|Signs displayed at the access points and/or parking for each unit. Note the differences between the two
(open field and hunting blind access).
WDFW works with a variety of landowners in this program. Many of them are hunters or have hunter friends and/or family. Many of them know how difficult it can be to gain access to private lands. The grounds within the program are only available because of the landowner’s support of public hunting, and good faith that their property will not be abused. Treating the property/landowners with respect will go a long way in retaining the enrolled landowners’ support.
WDFW personnel regularly check on the Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program (WQHP) units. All landowners, and their neighbors, watch their land and those hunting on it, and will contact WDFW with information on violators.
WDFW-private landowner agreements are seasonal as crop rotation and preparation occur on either side of the waterfowl season. Additionally, differing topography, crop/cover type, and overall location offer varying types of habitat at each hunt unit. Because of this, most of the blinds at the hunt units are minimally constructed, and similarly made. The most common of the WQHP sites is a simple as brushed wire on t-posts with a wooden base. Each is then further “brushed” with surrounding cover as to better conceal the blind. Hunters may bring seating to these sites as long as they are removed at the end of the hunt.
|WQHP blind at 2011-12 seasons end
||WQHP blind at a distance mid-season 2011-12
Regulated Access Programs for Waterfowl Hunting
There are state-owned lands open for public recreation, as well as other private land opportunities in the area. These include waterfowl and pheasant hunting throughout the three counties.
1. Adult trumpeter swan
2. Adult snow goose
have long necks in relation to their bodies, black bills and all white
plumage except for “rust” stained heads. Snow geese are
smaller, have shorter necks, rose colored bills and vivid black wing
Credits: Ginger Holser, WDFW photos.
Swans in the area
Waterfowlers must be able to discriminate between mature or juvenile swans and their snow goose counterparts. That can be a challenge for inexperienced hunters. With proper species identification and patience, there should be little confusion between the species. Hunters should brush up on all the waterfowl identification skills before the season begins. Under both state and federal laws it is illegal to harm swans under any circumstances.
Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish Counties hold many waterfowl speciesthat could be confused with snow geese. Several thousand trumpeter and tundra swans reside throughout the three counties from mid-Fall through Spring.
So that WDFW can better manage the sites and program please send comments and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional useful information includes date hunted, location, and unit condition. Thank you for your feedback.
Good luck and hunt safely!