OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted statewide hunting seasons and regulations that include new restrictions on toxic shot and more hunting opportunities for muzzleloaders over the next three years.
The new seasons, approved during a public meeting here April 3-4, establish hunting rules for deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, black bear, cougar and small game in 2009-11.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), adopted the new three-year hunting plan after nearly eight months of public comment and review. As part of that process, WDFW wildlife managers conducted public meetings around the state and contacted more than 50,000 licensed hunters by e-mail to solicit their ideas on various management options under consideration.
“Within the framework of state conservation goals, we try to accommodate the public as much as we can in designing state hunting seasons,” said Dave Brittell, assistant director of the WDFW wildlife program. “These seasons reflect the ideas of thousands of Washingtonians, both hunters and non-hunters alike.”
Under one new policy approved by the commission, WDFW will phase in an expansion of state restrictions on the use of lead shot, which are toxic to birds and other wildlife that ingest it. Noting that toxic shot has been banned in hunting waterfowl since 1991, Brittell said WDFW has been expanding that prohibition to other hunts around the state.
New this year, hunters will be required to use non-toxic shot when hunting upland game birds or mourning doves in three units of the Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife Area, where ingestion of lead shot by wildlife is of particular concern. In 2011, the non-toxic shot requirement will be expanded to all established WDFW pheasant-release sites.
The commission also approved a number of other changes in hunting rules and seasons in the following areas:
- Deer and elk seasons: Starting this year, hunting opportunities for muzzleloaders will be expanded in several ways and special-permit hunts with modern firearms will be added when mature bucks and bulls are most available. Hunting seasons for archers, who currently have the longest seasons of any user group, were modified to accommodate these changes.
- Cougar hunting: The commission approved a statewide archery-only season Sept. 1-25 and a muzzleloader-only season Sept. 26-Oct. 16 to make hunting options for cougar consistent with deer and elk seasons during those periods.
- Bear seasons: Most seasons will remain the same for 2009, but regulations for 2010-11 were deferred pending further study of bear populations that show signs of decline in some areas of the state. Management units that formerly opened the day after Labor Day will open Sept. 1, consistent with the opening day of archery season.
- Hunting equipment: Hunters using muzzleloaders or archery equipment will be allowed to carry a handgun for personal protection if they have a concealed pistol permit. Hunters may also use black powder pistols to hunt during muzzleloader seasons.
A description of these and other initiatives in the three-year hunting plan approved by the commission will be posted by April 11 on the Hunting page of the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/. The new hunting rules and seasons will also be incorporated into the 2009 Big Game Hunting pamphlet, which will be available by April 20.
The three-year hunting rule package approved by the commission is intended to implement the strategic goals set forth in the 2009-15 Game Management Plan, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildlife/management/.