Hunters who want to try for one of Washington's 405 fall turkey hunting permits must have applications in to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) by Aug. 25.
This year's new season runs Oct. 1 through 5 with 75 permits in Klickitat and Skamania counties; 50 permits in Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla counties; 250 permits in Stevens County and 30 permits in Game Management Unit 133 (northern third of Lincoln County). The earlier fall dates were selected to avoid big-game seasons.
Last April, as part of the three-year regulation package for small game, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a recommendation to replace general fall turkey seasons with special permit hunts. Fall hunt recommendations were proposed in 1999 and received substantial public comment along with other parts of the three-year package. However, rules to actually conduct a drawing for turkey permits were not included in the package. A recently approved WDFW administrative rule spells out the permit application and drawing system.
In the past, fall turkey hunting was open for five days in late November to a general (no permits required) season in Klickitat and Skamania counties in southwest Washington, and to Advanced Hunter Education graduates only in Asotin, Columbia, Garfield and Walla Walla counties in the southeast part of the state.
The change from a general season to a permit season is meant to prevent over-harvest of hen turkeys, explained Tom Keegan, WDFW small game manager. The change to include the two new areas in the northeast is to allow harvest where turkeys are abundant. Although total fall harvest during the last three seasons has been only 20 to 40 turkeys, there is now a need to control harvest levels because of potential interest in the new areas and earlier hunt times, he explained.
Applications will be available beginning the first week of August at WDFW offices and hunting license dealers across the state. Hunters who this year (in the spring hunt) already harvested the annual total bag limit of three turkeys statewide, or two turkeys in eastern Washington, are not eligible. Applicants must have a valid small game hunting license. Applications are $5 for resident adults, $50 for non-residents, and $3 for youth (under 16 years of age); partnership applications are also available.
Permits will be drawn about Sept. 1, with results mailed by Sept. 8. Successful applicants will be able to use valid turkey tags left over from the spring season or purchase a tag before the season opens; no subspecies designation (Rio Grande, Merriam, eastern) is required. Unsuccessful applicants will accrue points toward future drawings.
The bag limit for the new fall hunt is one turkey of either sex. Only shotguns or archery equipment can be used. WDFW recommends 12 or 10 gauge shotguns with shot sizes 4, 5 or 6. Hunters are reminded to respect private property and hunt safely, including positively identifying game. Use of dogs is not allowed for turkey hunting.