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The Weekender Report
The latest in fish and wildlife recreational opportunities across Washington State

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November 2013

(This document is updated periodically throughout the month to reflect current rules and opportunities. Please download the latest copy before heading out! Last updated November 1, 2013)

Contact: (Fish) 360-902-2700
                (Wildlife) 360-902-2515

Give thanks for turkeys, ducks, elk, razor clams

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, thousands of hunters are gearing up for the fall turkey season in Eastern Washington. The season opens Nov. 20 in a number of eastside game management units, giving hunters a full week in the field to bag a bird for their holiday table.

Not your neck of the woods? Throughout the state, November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, elk, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and other game, any of which would make a fine addition to your holiday table.

“Waterfowl hunting usually picks up around the middle of the month, when the wet and windy weather starts pushing more migrating birds into the area from the north,” said Don Kraege, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “That’s good news for waterfowl hunters from the Skagit Valley to the Columbia Basin.”

November is also prime time to hunt deer and elk on both sides of the Cascades. Hunting seasons for those and other game species are described in the 2013-14 Big Game Hunting pamphlet, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/. Additional information about where best to hunt is available in WDFW’s Hunting Prospects report at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/.

For anglers, Thanksgiving traditionally marks the start of winter steelhead fishing in western Washington, where coho and chum salmon are also moving in from the ocean. On the eastside, anglers are still reeling in hatchery-reared summer steelhead on the upper Columbia and Snake rivers.

Rather serve shellfish? Most areas of Puget Sound are currently open for crab fishing, and two multi-day razor clam digs are scheduled at various ocean beaches in November. For details on upcoming digs, see the WDFW razor clam webpage at http://goo.gl/8I23K2.

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count see the Audubon website at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

For more information about the full array of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing available over the next month, see the Weekender Regional Reports posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/weekender/. These reports are updated throughout the month to provide current information about recreational opportunities around the state.

North Puget Sound
(Island, King, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties)

Fishing:  Anglers are still finding coho in the region’s rivers, but most of the action will shift to steelhead, blackmouth and chum in November. On Puget Sound, the late-season crab fishery is under way and more marine areas are scheduled to open for chinook.         

Beginning Nov. 1, blackmouth salmon fishing gets underway in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet). Anglers fishing those marine areas, as well as Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area), have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Anglers are reminded that Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes to salmon retention Nov. 1. 

Good bets for blackmouth in the month ahead include Useless Bay, Possession Bar and West Point, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Blackmouth are resident Puget Sound chinook salmon, available for harvest in the winter months.

Anglers support the blackmouth winter chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than one million yearling and almost nine million sub-yearling chinook each year.    

As October came to a close, saltwater anglers were also reeling in increasing numbers of chunky chum salmon. Good bets in coming weeks include Point No Point off the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula and Possession Bar south of Whidbey Island. 

Before heading out, anglers might want check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with the department collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.  

While on the Sound, why not drop a crab pot? Sport crabbing is open in most marine areas of Puget Sound seven days a week through Dec. 31. The exceptions are Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), where annual quotas were reached during the summer fishery.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

All Dungeness crab kept in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2014. For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/crc.html.  

Meanwhile, several rivers are open in November for steelhead fishing, including the Nooksack, Skagit, Cascade, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skykomish, Wallace, Snoqualmie and Green. “Anglers can certainly find some steelhead early in the month, but around Thanksgiving is when fishing historically starts to improve,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.

Because regulations vary for each river, anglers should check WDFW’s sportfishing regulations pamphlet before heading out.

Thanks to a new emphasis on increasing fall lake fishing opportunities, trout angler can look forward to some renewed action this month.

“We're launching our ‘Fall into Fishing’ stocking campaign in response to requests from anglers to increase year-round trout fishing opportunities in western Washington,” said Chris Donley, WDFW Inland Fish Program manager.

For beginning anglers, Donley introduces some basic techniques for trout fishing in Washington lowland lakes on this YouTube video.

Three lakes in King County -- Morton, Green, and Meridian -- have been stocked, as has Silver Lake in Snohomish County. To see a complete list of lakes stocked with catchable trout as part of this promotion, visit WDFW’s Fall into Fishing announcement.

Hunting: November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a typical late-October lull in activity, hunting usually improves in November. That’s when the numbers of migrating birds pick up along with wet and windy weather, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“During high wind events, ducks using north Puget Sound bays typically look for new resting and feeding locations on inland lakes, ponds, and flooded fields until the storm passes,” says Kraege. “This leads to better conditions for hunters able to take advantage of these situations.”

The seasons for snow, Ross’, and blue geese in Goose Management Area 1 (Island, Snohomish, and Skagit counties) and ducks are underway throughout November and run continuously through Jan. 26. The hunting season for other geese such as Canada geese and white-fronted geese resumes Nov. 2 and proceeds through Jan. 26 in all Puget Sound areas.

Upland bird hunters have through Nov. 30 to hunt pheasants and quail, while the forest grouse season runs through Dec. 31.    

Meanwhile, the modern firearm season for elk is open Nov. 2-13.  Hunters seeking elk may want to consider a recent news release that outlines tips and prospects in the state.

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season hunting opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 27, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open Nov. 28 in select western Washington game management units.

Cougar hunts are open through December, but bear season closes Nov. 15.

Hunters should check the Big Game Hunting pamphlet and the Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet for details. Also, area-by-area summaries of the hunting prospects throughout the state are available on WDFW’s hunting prospects webpage.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, also reminds hunters of WDFW’s third-annual 2014 Big Game Regulations Pamphlet Contest. This year’s theme is hunting camps, and the winning photo submitted will adorn the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year.

“Please remember to bring a camera to snap a few quality photos of your elk camp,” said Ware. “Even if you don’t win the contest, pictures of camp memories are a precious commodity to most of us who hunt.”

Wildlife viewing:  More and more birders are making their way to the region to view snow geese, which also continue to arrive in increasing numbers. Thousands of snow geese winter in western Washington each year. Most of those birds congregate in the Skagit Valley, and can be found in the area from mid-October through early May. A great place to view the snow geese is at the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit of WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area. For more information on the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit, visit WDFW’s website.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
(Clallam, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Thurston and Pacific counties)

Fishing:  In November, as salmon seasons start to wind down and before hatchery winter steelhead show up in big numbers, consider taking the trout rods, extra warm clothes, and some bundled-up kids to one of many popular trout lakes.

As part of its new “Fall into Fishing” promotion, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish hatchery crews began stocking 33 western Washington lakes with 75,000 large rainbow trout throughout October. Those stocking efforts will continue this month, said Chris Donley, WDFW’s inland lakes manager

"We're launching Fall into Fishing in response to requests from anglers to increase year-round trout fishing opportunities in western Washington," said Donley. “We decided to significantly expand our fall stocking. As always we encourage anglers to get out and enjoy the abundant fishing resources available to Washington residents, and we encourage everyone to get family and friends involved in the sport of fishing.”

Fishing should be excellent all month in regional year-round trout favorites such as St. Clair, Offut and Black lakes in Thurston County, among many others in Western Washington that are available for viewing here. For up-to-date stocking information, see the department's weekly catchable trout stocking report here.

Salmon season 2013 hasn’t quite drawn to an end yet, but the ocean fishery is all done, and chum salmon are pushing into the region’s rivers. Chum are the latest of the five Pacific salmon species to enter Washington’s freshwater in numbers.

Popular chum salmon fishing spots include the Hoodsport Hatchery area of Hood Canal and the mouth of Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet. Other areas where anglers can find chum salmon include the Dosewallips and Duckabush rivers in Jefferson County and Minter Creek in Pierce/Kitsap Counties. Those three rivers open for salmon fishing Nov. 1.

In most of the region’s river, salmon fishing remains open through Nov. 30. Olympic Peninsula streams such as the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh and Sol Duc rivers will produce good numbers of salmon – especially coho salmon – throughout the month.

Also open for salmon fishing through November are the Elk, Hoquiam and Johns rivers in Grays Harbor County and the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County. In Mason County, the Skokomish River is open for salmon fishing through Dec. 15.

Fishing for all salmon will close on Nov. 30 on most streams in the region, and many rivers have different rules about which species may be retained. As always, anglers should check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet to make sure they are following regulations.

Hatchery winter steelhead are also an option on several rivers, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Hoh, Quillayute and Sol Duc. All wild steelhead, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released.

“As the month progresses, hatchery steelhead fishing should steadily improve,” said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager. “Traditionally, steelhead fishing really starts to heat up around the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Other good bets for steelhead include the Satsop, Wynoochee and Humptulips, said Leland.

Hatchery winter runs typically return earliest to the Humptulips and Bogachiel rivers, but the peak of winter steelheading for all of the aforementioned rivers begins late in the month or in early December.

“The Hump” and “The Bogie” are excellent November fisheries for salmon and the best bet for anglers hoping to hook into a chrome-bright winter steelhead during the month.
Because regulations vary between rivers, steelhead anglers should always check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet before wetting a line.

November should also be a good month for razor clam digging. State fishery managers have approved the first of two tentatively scheduled razor clam digs in November, this one running from Friday, Nov. 1, through Friday, Nov. 8, on evening tides at various ocean beaches.

WDFW approved the evening dig after marine toxin tests showed the clams on those beaches are safe to eat

Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said this could be one of the season’s best razor clam digs. “This might be the best low-tide series we’ll have the entire season,” said Ayres. “Digging conditions and strong clam numbers combine to suggest diggers should do very well, weather depending.”

The schedule for the upcoming dig and evening low tides is:

  • Nov. 1, Friday, 5:52 pm; 0.1 feet; Twin Harbors and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 2, Saturday, 6:36 pm; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 3, Sunday, 6:16 pm; -1.1 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 4, Monday, 6:59 pm; -1.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 5, Tuesday, 7:45 pm; -1.3 feet; Long Beach and Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 6, Wednesday, 8:33 pm; -1.2 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 7, Thursday, 9:24 pm; -1.2 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 8, Friday, 10:19 pm; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors

Ayres reminded diggers that best results typically occur one to two hours before low tide and that digging is not allowed at any beach before noon. “Getting to the beach early should allow diggers to harvest clams before darkness sets in, at least based on low-tide times for the first four or five days of the dig,” said Ayres. “But being prepared for darkness is a good idea. Always bring a lantern, which is much more effective for spotting clams than the direct beam of a flashlight.”

Under state law, diggers can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig. Each digger's clams must be kept in a separate container.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable 2013-14 fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Licenses, ranging from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, are available on WDFW’s website and from license vendors around the state.

WDFW will announce the final word on a tentative dig to begin Nov. 15 after marine toxin tests have been completed. That dig is tentatively scheduled on the following dates, beaches and low tides:

  • Nov. 15, Friday, 5:01 pm; -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 16, Saturday, 5:42 pm; -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 17, Sunday, 6:20 pm; -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks
  • Nov. 18, Monday, 6:57 pm; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 19, Tuesday, 7:33 pm; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors
  • Nov. 20, Wednesday, 8:09 pm; -0.2 feet; Twin Harbors

Comprehensive information about razor clams – from updates on tentative digs to how-to advice on digging and cooking – is available here.

Hunting:  Late archery and muzzleloader seasons for black-tailed deer get underway in several game management units (GMU) in the region on Nov. 27 and 28, respectively, but November is an elk month in the region.

“News across the state is pretty good,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “Elk populations throughout all of our major herds are good.”

Southwestern Washington’s Willapa Hills Elk Herd is at population management objective and should offer good opportunities for three-point or better Roosevelt elk bulls, Ware said. Some hunters may be frustrated by a lack of drive-in access in places, but Ware said those willing to walk behind closed gates – where legal – stand the best chances of encountering and harvesting elk.

“There’s something about the magic number two miles behind a closed gate to make elk feel secure,” said Ware.

He extends this same advice to hunters pursuing three-point or better Roosevelt elk bulls from the Olympic Herd, whose population is also stable and at objective.

“The lower elevations receive a lot of pressure,” Ware said. “Older age-class bulls are typically found in higher elevation roadless areas or two or more miles behind closed gates where they feel safe.”

Ware reminds hunters of WDFW’s Private Lands Hunting Access Program, as well as the agency’s new GoHunt! mapping feature, which includes layers displaying public and private lands, game-management units, and other useful information.

Along with securing legal access, hunters are advised to make safety their top priority.

“Statistics show that hunting is a very safe sport, especially compared to most other outdoor activities,” Ware said. “Hunters are trained to make sure they have a safe shot, and non-hunters can help ensure their safety by making themselves visible in the field.”

All hunters using modern firearms – or in areas open to hunting with modern firearms – are required to wear hunter-orange clothing as specified by state law.

Ware also reminds hunters of WDFW’s third-annual 2014 Big Game Regulations Pamphlet Contest. This year’s theme is hunting camps, and the winning photo submitted will adorn the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year.

“Please remember to bring a camera to snap a few quality photos of your elk camp,” said Ware. “Even if you don’t win the contest, pictures of camp memories are a precious commodity to most of us who hunt.”

Meanwhile, November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a typical late-October lull in activity, hunting usually improves in November. That’s when the numbers of migrating birds pick up along with wet and windy weather, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“During high wind events, ducks typically look for new resting and feeding locations on inland lakes, ponds, and flooded fields until the storm passes,” says Kraege.  “This leads to better conditions for hunters able to take advantage of these situations.”

Forest grouse are another popular quarry in the region, especially in November since birds have dispersed from broods and are more visible due to fewer leaves inhibiting viewing.

Before heading out into the field, hunters should always double check Washington’s 2013 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet for details.

Wildlife viewing: With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. “It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. “But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area.”

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

Late November is typically a time when large numbers of migrating ducks and geese move south into Washington from far-north locations seeking open water and warmer temperatures. The spectacle of waterfowl can be amazing when bad weather concentrates large numbers of birds. 

Also in November, normally secretive black-tailed deer bucks are in the rut and looking for does – and male challengers.  It’s rare to witness bucks fighting or bucks and does actually breeding, but it is very commonplace to see black-tailed bucks walking around foolishly in broad daylight when the hormonal madness of their rut drives them in search of action.

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 114th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

Southwest Washington
(Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties)

Fishing: Thanksgiving Day traditionally marks the start of the popular winter steelhead fishery, although some anglers start working their favorite rivers well ahead of time. Catch totals will ramp up as area rivers swell from the falling rain, said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Steelhead move upriver on pulses of water,” Hymer said. “Once the sky opens up, we’ll see more fish on the move.”

The daily catch limit on the mainstem Columbia River is two adult hatchery steelhead, or two adult salmon (chinook and hatchery coho only), or one of each. On area tributaries, anglers may retain two adult hatchery steelhead plus the salmon limit listed for each river in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet.

In all waters, only hatchery-reared steelhead with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. All wild, unmarked steelhead must be released unharmed.

Major destinations for hatchery-reared steelhead include the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis (east and north forks), Washougal, Elochoman and Grays rivers, along with Salmon Creek in Clark County. Other waters opening for steelhead fishing Nov. 1 are Abernathy, Coal, Germany and Mill creeks and the Coweeman River in Cowlitz County and Cedar Creek in Clark County.

WDFW’s Hatchery Escapement Reports can provide a good indication of the number of fish returning to each river. Anglers can also check the 2012 Steelhead Smolt Plant Reports to determine how many young fish were stocked last year.

“Based on the early summer run, we’re not expecting a huge return of winter steelhead this year, but we’ll know a lot more once they start moving into the rivers,” Hymer said.

Until then, late-run coho salmon may be the best bet for anglers who want to catch fish. Catch rates on the Cowlitz, Kalama, Lewis, and Klickitat rivers – including both coho and some chinook salmon – were decent in late October.

“These are fairly large fish, some weighing up to 20 pounds apiece,” Hymer said. “The trick is getting them to bite. The best time is when they are moving upriver, drawn by high water. Otherwise, it can be hard to get their attention.”

State regulations allow anglers to catch and keep up to six adult coho salmon per day on the Cowlitz, Klickitat, Kalama, Lewis and Washougal rivers – and on the lower portion of the Grays River. Except in the Klickitat River, only those fish with a clipped adipose fin may be retained. Several rivers – including the North Fork Lewis below Colvin Creek – also remain open for salmon, although some close Nov. 1. Effective that day, the Wind River closes to all salmon fishing as does the stretch of the Columbia River from Beacon Rock to Bonneville Dam.

“We’re seeing lots of coho jacks this year, which is good news for next season,” Hymer said.

Caught your fill of salmon and steelhead for the year? Here are some other options to consider:

  • Cowlitz sea-run cutthroats:  The bite is on, with some of the best fishing for cutthroat on the Cowlitz in years. Mark Johnson, WDFW hatchery complex manager, described the return as “spectacular, a possible record run.”  Fish up to 24 inches are being caught at the trout hatchery and local tackle stores report having trouble keeping night crawlers stocked.  The best fishing is downriver from Blue Creek near the trout hatchery. Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats per day as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz River.
  • ‘Black Friday’ trout:  Hatchery crews have been stocking 33 lakes – including six in southwest Washington with thousands of large rainbow trout in preparation for WDFW’s second-annual “Black Friday” fishing event on the day after Thanksgiving. Area lakes receiving fish – mostly 12-17 inches with some five pounders – include Fort Borst Park, South Lewis County Park Pond, Kress Lake, Klineline Pond, Battleground Lake and Rowland Lake. See the news release for more information.
  • Razor clams:  An evening razor clam dig has been approved for Nov. 2-5 at Long Beach. A second dig this month at Long Beach is tentatively scheduled Nov. 15-17, pending the results of marine toxin tests. For updates and additional information, see WDFW’s Razor Clam Webpage.

Hunting: November is prime time for hunting in southwest Washington, whether for elk, deer or waterfowl. Hunters gearing up for any of this month’s hunts may want to check WDFW’s 2013 Hunting Prospects report for staff biologists’ assessment of this year’s seasons.

Elk hunters with modern firearms will take the field Nov. 2-13, less than a week after the close of the early season for black-tailed deer. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that begins Nov. 27 in select game management units (GMUs) around the region.

Last year, elk hunters posted some of the highest harvest numbers in the state in GMUs 506 (Willapa Hills), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood) and 550 (Coweeman). GMU 560 (Lewis River), most of which is located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, also offers good elk-hunting opportunities.

As in past years, taking antlerless elk will be illegal during general muzzleloader or modern firearms seasons in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River) and 578 (West Klickitat). In addition, a three-point antler restriction will be in effect for all general elk hunting seasons in those three areas. Hunters can check success rates throughout the state in the annual Game Harvest Reports on WDFW’s website.

Hunters who see elk with deformed hooves are encouraged to report their observations on WDFW’s website, which also includes information about hoof disease and the department’s efforts to address it.

Immediately following the late elk season, hunters using modern firearms will get another chance to take a black-tailed deer during the popular late-buck hunt that runs Nov. 14-17 in select GMUs. Archers will get their shot starting Nov. 27, with the muzzleloader season opening the next day.

The black bear season ends Nov. 15, but cougar hunting is scheduled to run through next March. For more information on all these hunts, see the Big Game Pamphlet, available on WDFW’s website.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, also reminds hunters of WDFW’s third-annual 2014 Big Game Regulations Pamphlet Contest. This year’s theme is hunting camps, and the winning photo submitted will adorn the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year.

“Please remember to bring a camera to snap a few quality photos of your elk camp,” said Ware. “Even if you don’t win the contest, pictures of camp memories are a precious commodity to most of us who hunt.”

Meanwhile, locally produced mallards are providing early-season hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters throughout the region. Duck hunting should improve greatly toward the end of November, when migratory birds are expected to start pushing down from British Columbia and Alaska in record numbers.

Goose hunting opens Nov. 2 in Goose Management Area 3 (which includes Lewis and Skamania counties) and Nov. 9 for authorized hunters in Goose Management Area 2A (Cowlitz, Clark and Wahkiakum counties). Be sure to check the Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet for regulations, particularly the special rules for Area 2A.

As for upland game, seasons remain open as listed in the pamphlet for forest grouse, pheasant, quail, northern bobwhite, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares.

Wildlife viewing:  Migrating waterfowl are building toward peak levels in southwest Washington, providing prime viewing opportunities for people throughout the region. Swans, geese, ducks and other waterfowl of all descriptions are on display throughout the Vancouver Lowlands and other areas of southwest Washington.

With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. “It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. “But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area.”

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2013 through Jan. 5, 2014. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

Eastern Washington
(Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens,  Walla Walla and Whitman counties)

Fishing: The Snake River steelhead fishery has been only fair so far this year, said Glen Mendel, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) district fish biologist.

“That’s because it is a weaker run this year, when compared to either the five or 10 year averages,” Mendel said. “But catch rates in some areas are good and should be getting better. Large steelhead are in short supply this year as most A-run steelhead are returning after only one year in salt water, and the B-run steelhead return is expected to be very low this year.”

Mendel also notes that the Grande Ronde River, a tributary to the Snake, is traditionally a good steelhead fishery in November. Also, catch rates downstream of the mouth of the Grande Ronde are often good in November.

During the last week of October, creel reports on the Tucannon showed the best catch-rate average of all Snake drainage sections checked – just a little over five hours of angling per steelhead caught.

Nov. 1 is the start of catch-and-release fishing on the Tucannon River, from the mouth to the Tucannon Fish Hatchery bridge. Barbless hooks are required, as is the Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement.

Mendel reminds anglers to check the Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for all details.

Many of the region’s top-producing trout fishing lakes are closed by November. But there are a couple of exceptions and several year-round-open waters worth trying in November.

WDFW fish biologist Randy Osborne caught an Amber Lake rainbow trout
WDFW fish biologist Randy Osborne
caught an Amber Lake rainbow trout

Southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake remains open through the end of November for catch-and-release, selective-gear fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout. WDFW District Fish Biologist Randy Osborne recently fished Amber and found trout in very good condition.

Osborne says anglers should be able to find some opportunity this month for yellow perch on two year-round lakes in Spokane County -- Silver Lake, near Cheney, and Newman Lake, near the Idaho border.

Meanwhile, Lake Roosevelt – the year-round Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam – has “fast and furious” rainbow trout fishing, according to WDFW District Fish Biologist Bill Baker. “Roosevelt rainbow fishing is very good, with most fish running about 16 inches,” Baker said. “The best bite is early, 6:30 to 7:00 a.m., so anglers should try to be on the water in the early morning. The bite usually slows down by 11a.m.”

Baker also reported that Roosevelt walleye anglers are “having to work at it,” but most of the walleye caught in the Kettle Falls area are running 16-18 inches. 

Waitts Lake in Stevens County is open through February and provides rainbow and brown trout, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.
 
Big rainbows continue to provide action at Sprague Lake, the year-round waterway that sprawls across the Lincoln-Adams county line just south of Interstate 90.

Hunting:  Modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunting runs Oct. 26 through Nov. 3 in select game management units throughout the region. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season, although that hunt is under a spike bull only rule.

Elk are traditionally much fewer and further between in the central and northeast districts of the region where any bull or any elk, depending on unit, is legal to harvest. Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units runs Nov. 25-Dec. 8. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

The late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 9-19 in northeast Game Management Units (GMU) 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.  The later deer hunt is usually the most productive since it coincides with the rut or breeding season when bucks are less wary, according to WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers. “They’re on the move more but also more focused on searching for does, so they are more vulnerable to hunters in the woods,” he said.

Deer hunter check stations will be conducted the last weekend of the hunt, Nov. 16-17, to help provide information about success rates and deer body condition.

Hunters 65 and over, disabled, or youth (under 16) can harvest antlerless whitetails during the Nov. 9-19 late season in special deer areas. Late archery and muzzleloader deer hunting is also available in select units starting Nov. 20 or Nov. 25, depending on unit. Late archery white-tailed deer hunting in GMU 101 opens Nov. 10. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Black bear hunting continues in most of the region’s units through Nov. 15.The Selkirk Mountain area in the northeast district includes some state and federally protected grizzly bears, so black bear hunters are advised to clearly identify species. WDFW’s website includes a Bear Identification Program, including a video and interactive test.

All big and small game hunters in the northeast district who might harvest coyotes (open year-round) are reminded to be sure of species identification because wolves are in the area. The gray wolf is protected as an endangered species under state law and may not be shot or killed. See wolf-coyote comparisons on page 70 of the hunting rules pamphlet.

Late fall wild turkey hunting opens Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 15 in GMUs 105-154 and 162-186. One either sex turkey can be taken. The big birds are abundant throughout the region.

Upland game bird hunting seasons continue. WDFW Upland Game Bird Specialist Joey McCanna reports good numbers of wild pheasants in the central and southeast districts of the region, where many private landowners allow hunting through various WDFW access programs. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage).

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Manager Juli Anderson says it looks like an average year at best for Hungarian partridge hunting in the Lincoln County area. She reminds upland game bird hunters that the season is closed for sharp-tailed and sage grouse that are protected as they recover in the area, so be sure of bird identification before shooting.

Waterfowl hunting season also continues, with the best of it still ahead when migrants come through the region from Canada.  Most northeast district duck hunting concentrates on the Pend Oreille River, mostly for diving ducks like goldeneyes. Canada geese are also available on major water bodies such as Lake Roosevelt, the Pend Oreille River, and large farm fields in valley bottoms.

Spokane, Lincoln and Walla Walla counties are within Goose Management Area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season, plus Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and Thanksgiving Day and the day after (Nov. 28-29).  The rest of the region is within Goose Management Area 5, which is open daily. In the southeast district, most waterfowl hunting is best in December and January.

Anderson says it’s been pretty dry on the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, and many of the lakes that normally harbor ducks and geese are not this year. That includes the east and west Swanson lakes, Whittaker Lake, and Florence Lake. The larger lakes on Lake Creek are still full enough to harbor waterfowl, however.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports. For hunting rules, see the 2013 regulation pamphlets.

Wildlife viewing:  Landlocked or non-migrating sockeye salmon, better known as kokanee or sometimes silver trout, are viewable this month as they spawn in Pend Oreille County’s Harvey Creek. WDFW Northeast District Fish Biologist Bill Baker says the fish can be seen near the bridge on the south end of Sullivan Lake, northeast of the town of Ione off Sullivan Lake Road.

Backyard birdwatchers might be setting up feeding stations this month to attract birds for close-up viewing. WDFW biologists remind birders that while supplemental feeding is a way to increase bird watching enjoyment, it doesn’t necessarily help birds. In fact, if feeders are not maintained well, feeding can harm birds. See WDFW’s Winter Bird Feeding webpage for more information.

November is breeding season for white-tailed and mule deer, and that can mean more visible bucks. “Buck deer are on the move this month, searching for does and less wary of almost everything else,” said WDFW ungulate researcher Woody Myers. “The peak of the rut or breeding season is usually late November, but throughout the month bucks may be more visible.”

Myers cautions motorists to be alert and aware of this seasonal activity when driving through deer habitat – which is most of the region. “Deer-vehicle collisions increase this time of year, not just because the animals are more active and less wary but also because of changing daylight hours,” he said. “Declining day length means that deer will be active during periods of darkness. This is also when we change from daylight savings time to standard time, creating peak commuter drive times that coincide with darkness and high deer activity periods.”

Northcentral Washington
(Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties)

Fishing:  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) District Fish Biologist Travis Maitland says that although the run of steelhead in the Upper Columbia River is smaller this year, anglers are doing well on the river from Rock Island Dam up to Chief Joseph Dam. That includes steelheading on the Icicle, Methow, Okanogan and Wenatchee rivers.

“The Methow has probably been the hottest ticket, and about half the fish caught are harvestable adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead,” Maitland said.  “The Wenatchee has also been good, but with fewer clipped hatchery fish. The Okanogan has been slow and the Columbia River sections are producing spotty success, but that should improve into the fall and winter, depending on how long the fishery lasts.”

Brad Wagner caught a Wenatchee River hatchery steelhead
Brad Wagner caught a Wenatchee River hatchery steelhead

The hatchery steelhead fishery continues until further notice. Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager, said about 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia system this year, enough to allow a fishery but with caution. Korth said fishing is more tightly regulated this year because protected wild-stock fish are expected to make up a higher percentage of the run.

“These fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, but we may have to close early due to the higher number of encounters with wild steelhead expected this year,” Korth said.

Korth and Maitland remind steelheaders that the retention season for hatchery steelhead on the Similkameen River opens Nov 1.

Anglers are required to keep the first two hatchery, fin-clipped, steelhead they catch, and that with the exception of the Columbia proper, where bait may be used, selective-gear rules apply.

These special rule fisheries (not listed in the 2013 Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet) are for mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped steelhead, with a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead. Anglers must stop fishing for hatchery steelhead after they have retained two. See the Fishing Rule Change for all details.

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license when fishing any of these tributaries of the Columbia.

Meanwhile, a few lowland rainbow trout lakes are still open for catch-and-release trout fishing through the month of November – Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Rat Lake near Brewster.  Selective gear rules are in effect for these three lakes.

Anglers interested in catching yellow perch could try year-round-open Patterson Lake near Winthrop. Expect average size on these perch to be seven to eight inches.  There’s no daily limit and no minimum size, and anglers are encouraged to retain all perch caught regardless of size.

Several other year-round waters in the region can provide decent fishing opportunities during the month of November. Banks Lake has a little bit of everything – yellow perch, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, walleye, kokanee, even lake whitefish. Moses Lake and Potholes Reservoir have most of the same, plus net-pen-reared rainbow trout.

“Fall is a great, but very overlooked time to catch walleye in particular on Moses, Banks, and Potholes,” Korth said.

Hunting: Waterfowl hunting really starts to heat up in the Columbia Basin in November if temperatures drop, bringing migrant ducks and geese from the north.

WDFW Columbia Basin District Wildlife Biologist Rich Finger says November will bring large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks. Goose hunting will  improve in November, too, when early season migrant Canada geese (Lesser and Taverner’s) begin to scatter from their initial staging area at Stratford Lake to alfalfa or grain fields near Moses Lake and the Columbia River.

The Winchester Regulated Access Area has hunt-able water throughout the project, Finger said.  Pond C is likely lower than usual but is filling now.

“Select areas to hunt based on the species you want to target,” Finger said.  “Diving ducks, like canvasbacks, redheads and scaup, are hunted along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool. They forage over beds of submerged aquatic vegetation such as pondweeds and milfoil.  American wigeon will associate with diving ducks because they are ‘kleptoparasites,’ meaning they wait for the diving ducks or coots to bring up a bill-full of vegetation, and then quickly rush in to steal their meal.”

Finger says dabbling ducks are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields attract mallards and pintail and shallow wetlands attract teal, wigeon, and gadwall.  Canada geese also feed primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

“Just be sure to request permission from private landowners before hunting agricultural fields,” Finger said.  More information about private and public land access for waterfowl hunting in the Basin is available in District 5 Hunting Prospects.

The entire northcentral region is within Goose Management Area 4, which is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays during the season, plus Veterans Day (Nov. 11) and Thanksgiving Day and the day after (Nov. 28-29).

Modern firearm elk hunting season opened Oct. 26 and runs through Nov. 3 in some game management units and through Nov. 15 in others. WDFW Chelan District Wildlife Biologist David Volsen said the first permanent snow fell on Mission Ridge the opening weekend of elk season.

The region overall is not a big elk hunting area. Volsen reports almost all harvested elk come out of Chelan County which includes the northern extension of the Colockum herd. The Mission Game Management Unit (GMU 251) traditionally has the highest elk harvest in the region, but elk density is not very high. Hunters should take note that GMU 251 is under a “true spike” regulation to aid bull recruitment in the Colockum herd.

Some late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting is also available through Nov. 15 in a few units. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet for all details.
Upland game bird hunting began last month and continues through the year. Columbia Basin hunters are reportedly seeing a fair number of pheasants and quail and harvesting a few chukars. Farm-raised rooster pheasants continue to be stocked periodically at several release sites throughout the region (details available at the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program webpage.)

Late archery deer hunting seasons run Nov. 27-Dec. 15 for any white-tailed deer in some units, and Nov. 21-30 or Nov. 27-Dec. 8 for mule deer in other units. See all details, including antler point restrictions on mule deer, in the Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet.

For complete hunting prospect details by district and game species, see WDFW's Hunting Prospects website. For past-season hunting harvest statistics by district and game species, see the Game Harvest Reports.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, also reminds hunters of WDFW’s third-annual 2014 Big Game Regulations Pamphlet Contest. This year’s theme is hunting camps, and the winning photo submitted will adorn the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year.

“Please remember to bring a camera to snap a few quality photos of your elk camp,” said Ware. “Even if you don’t win the contest, pictures of camp memories are a precious commodity to most of us who hunt.”

Wildlife viewing: November is the month to watch coho salmon returning to Beebe Creek near Chelan to spawn. WDFW Chelan Wildlife Area Manager Ron Fox says that coho and their redds, or spawning gravel beds, are visible from the bridges spanning Beebe Creek and from two viewpoints that provide close access to the creek. Returning coho numbers usually peak in mid-November.

View spawning coho salmon from the bridges across Beebe Creek
View spawning coho salmon from the bridges across Beebe Creek

WDFW Chelan District Wildlife Biologist David Volsen reports bighorn sheep are visible now along Highway 97A in Chelan County.  “This is a great opportunity to watch these animals as rams clash heads vying for breeding opportunities,” Volsen said.  “During this rut, or breeding season, it’s not uncommon for sheep to make their way across the Highway 97A wildlife fence and out onto the roadway.  Be especially careful when driving this section of Highway 97A when sheep are present.”

With the peak of both white-tailed and mule deer breeding season also this month, it’s a good time to view antlered bucks vying for dominance over other bucks or seeking does. WDFW Wildlife Research Biologist Woody Myers says buck deer can be less wary of virtually everything else at this time, so viewing may be as easy as from a roadside. But he reminds motorists to be extremely cautious. Motor vehicle collisions with deer increase at this time, not just because the deer are less wary but because shortened daylight hours simply have more motorists on the roads in the dark.

WDFW Sinlahekin Wildlife Area Manager Justin Haug said that with the pressure of modern firearm general deer hunting season over, deer on the area are beginning to move back down into the valley. “Fall colors are on their way out, but deer are more visible,” he said.

November is also a great time for a road trip through the Columbia Basin with binoculars and spotting scopes to watch incoming and outgoing migratory ducks and geese. WDFW Columbia Basin District Wildlife Biologist Rich Finger says large numbers of mallards, wigeon, gadwalls, teal, scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks typically arrive in the Basin this month.  The diving ducks – canvasbacks, redheads and scaup – are found along the Columbia River, particularly at Wells Pool, Wanapum Pool, and Priest Rapids Pool.

“These ducks forage over beds of submerged aquatic vegetation such as pondweeds and milfoil,” Finger said.  “American wigeon will associate with diving ducks because they are ‘kleptoparasites,’ meaning they wait for the diving ducks or coots to bring up a bill-full of vegetation, and then quickly rush in to steal their meal.” 

Finger says dabbling ducks are more commonly found on the plateau, where grain, corn and wheat fields attract mallards and pintails and shallow wetlands attract teal, wigeon, and gadwall.  Canada geese can also be found feeding primarily in wheat and alfalfa fields.

Southcentral Washington
(Benton, Franklin, Kittitas and Yakima counties)

Fishing: With an epic fall chinook salmon season in the books, most anglers’ attention throughout the region will turn to steelhead as waters continue to cool and fish hold up in winter concentrations for the cold months ahead.

Cooler water and only slightly depleted fat reserves make November one of the best months to harvest upriver summer steelhead for the barbecue. Catch rates typically increase during the month, as well.

Although this year’s run of summer steelhead over Bonneville Dam was under projection and below the 10-year average, the run is big enough to offer fair to good fishing throughout November and the remainder of fall, winter, and early spring.

Weekend crowds of several hundred boats are a thing of the past for the season on the Hanford Reach. With salmon anglers gone for the year, steelheaders will turn out in smaller numbers in November.

Fisheries managers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) expect several thousand hatchery-origin steelhead to return to the Hanford Reach’s Ringold Hatchery this year.

Anglers will troll, plunk, drift and float bobbers for them, often with good success.

The Columbia can be intimidating water to find fish due to its sheer size, so it’s valuable to remember that steelhead orient to the seams and slots nearest the eastern bank of the river both above and below the hatchery intake creek at Ringold. For a mile above and even further below, many hatchery fish will spend the winter until they’re either caught or until waters rise in the spring and send them into the hatchery intake creek.

Ringold offers ample shore fishing access, as well as excellent boating opportunities.  Bank anglers work the seams close to shore, working progressively deeper throughout the day as the suns climbs higher and as anglers’ casts and boat traffic spook fish deeper and further from shore. First thing in the morning, steelhead often lie in as little as 5 feet of water, but can be found as deep as 20 feet late in the day.

Boat anglers use trolling motors to hold parallel to the bank, slipping downstream slowly, casting toward shore and the slots and seams where steelies hold. Some boaters backtroll plugs as well.

Excellent lures for Ringold as well as for all other regional steelhead fisheries include scented or baited bucktail or marabou jigs in black, black and red, black and purple, and “nightmare” patterns. Jigs are fished close to the bottom below slip bobbers.

Other good offerings for steelhead throughout the region include drifting corkies with yarn, eggs, shrimp, or nightcrawlers – or trolling or backtrolling diving steelhead plugs in chrome colors: red, purple, green, and pink. Black with silver-sparkle overlay is another good choice.

Some anglers remove the hooks from plugs and attach four feet of leader followed by a corky or spin and glo and a tempting bait like coon shrimp or eggs. This method – called “diver and bait” fishing – works best in moving water.

Steelhead fishing can be even better farther down the Columbia in the still-water forebay behind McNary Dam, where a large concentration of steelhead stocks from throughout the basin hold for the winter. A similar wintering scenario exists in forebays behind other Columbia and Snake River Dams – like Ice Harbor Dam upstream of the town of Burbank.

Whereas the Columbia is big and swift-flowing at Ringold, fishing in dam forebays is akin to lake fishing. Steelhead behind McNary and other dams regularly cruise in water between 6 and 20 feet deep and react to pressure like Ringold fish – moving to water in the deeper end of this depth range when heavy weekend boat traffic spooks them.

During the daylight, anglers very slowly troll baited and scented jigs, set 8 to 22 feet below slip bobbers. This uncharacteristic technique has been popularized within the region in recent years and accounts for a large percentage of forebay fish. Other anglers troll a range of steelhead plug types, especially in the aforementioned chrome colors.

Trolling lighted plugs at night is popular and productive at McNary and in other dam forebays, but anglers should take special precautions to stay safe at night, including legally lighting boats in the bow and stern to stay visible to other anglers.

Anglers should always wear PFDs when boating the region’s waters to maximize safety and the chances of being found and returned to family in the event of a tragedy.

Diehard warmwater anglers know that November offers good bass and walleye fishing as they pack on pounds before slipping into lethargy for the winter, usually in December.

Every section of the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Southcentral Washington holds large populations of both smallmouth bass and walleye. Anglers should start in 15-25 feet on the edges of the main river channels.

In the northern part of the region near Ellensburg, trout lakes like Mattoon and North and South Fiorito ponds will be stocked in November with three- to 10-pound broodstock rainbows that should offer an exciting supplement to decent numbers of carryover trout that are also available.

Near Yakima, Rotary Lake and the I-82 Ponds should offer opportunities to harvest chunky holdover trout in ideal water temperatures.  Ponds 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 are all stocked with rainbow trout. Early in the month, anglers might also connect with warmwater species like crappie, yellow perch, bass, and channel catfish.

Anglers should always check the Washington Sportfishing Rules pamphlet before wetting a line.

Hunting:  Most of the region’s deer hunters are out of the field by November – except for special permit holders and late-season archers and muzzleloaders.

Opportunities still exist to hunt mule and white-tailed deer in the region, but as the month begins, most hunters focus attention on the end of the general elk season for modern-firearm hunters. That season – which is expected to be a good one – ends Nov. 3.

Three game management units (GMU) in the southcentral part of the region remain open for any elk until Nov. 15: GMUs 373d, 379 and 381. Elk here are often on private land, but significant public lands exist in both GMUs 379 and 381.

“News across the state is pretty good, especially for Eastern Washington elk tag holders,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “The Yakima Elk Herd’s productivity began declining several years ago, so we backed off our antlerless tags. Productivity has since increased, and, based on last year’s calf survival, I think hunters can expect to see good numbers of spikes in 2013.”

In the northern part of the region, the Colockum Elk Herd is above WDFW’s management objective and increasing. That should mean increased antlerless tag opportunities in the future, especially with the temporary decline in habitat conditions resulting from this summer’s catastrophic wildfires that swept across the Colockum and L.T. Murray wildlife areas, as well as surrounding lands.

“The effects of the fire shouldn’t affect the 2013 season much,” said Ware. “The new, green grass growing on burned landscapes is like candy to elk, so hunters might want to look in and around burned areas close to timbered cover. As always, scouting is important, and so is the ability to adapt to different access options and/or elk distribution and behavior caused by fires and post-fire flooding. Hunters should also be mindful of the true-spike regulation in place in these GMUs.”

Ware reminds hunters of WDFW’s Private Lands Hunting Access Program, as well as the agency’s new GoHunt! mapping feature, which includes layers displaying public and private lands, game-management units, and other useful information.

Along with securing legal access, hunters are advised to make safety their top priority.

“Statistics show that hunting is a very safe sport, especially compared to most other outdoor activities,” Ware said. “Hunters are trained to make sure they have a safe shot, and non-hunters can help ensure their safety by making themselves visible in the field.”

All hunters using modern firearms – or in areas open to hunting with modern firearms – are required to wear hunter-orange clothing as specified by state law.
Ware also reminds hunters of WDFW’s third-annual 2014 Big Game Regulations Pamphlet Contest. This year’s theme is hunting camps, and the winning photo submitted will adorn the cover of 475,000 pamphlets next year.

“Please remember to bring a camera to snap a few quality photos of your elk camp,” said Ware. “Even if you don’t win the contest, pictures of camp memories are a precious commodity to most of us who hunt.”

Meanwhile, November typically marks the return of the “northern” ducks and geese that swarm into the region when frigid northern storms drive birds out of Canada. This event – which always signals good waterfowl hunting – usually happens late in the month, but is driven solely by weather.

Upland birds like pheasants, Hungarian and chukar partridge, and California quail are also available to hunt throughout the region. Reports so far indicate good quail numbers and similar or better numbers of partridges and pheasant to last year.

Before heading out into the field, hunters should always double check Washington’s 2013 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet for details.

Wildlife viewing:  With hunting seasons under way in many parts of the region, some birders have called WDFW to ask whether they should wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. “It's not a legal requirement for bird watchers,” said Bill Tweit, a WDFW policy analyst and avid birder. “But it only makes sense to make every effort to let hunters know where you are when you’re sharing the same area.”

Meanwhile, birders throughout the nation are making preparations for the 113th Christmas Bird Count scheduled Dec. 14, 2012 through Jan. 5, 2013. Sponsored by Audubon, the annual event enlists tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to count and categorize the birds they see for science. For more information about the bird count – including “counting circles” in your area – see the Audubon website.

Late November is typically a time when large numbers of migrating ducks and geese move south into Washington from far-north locations seeking open water and warmer temperatures. The spectacle of waterfowl can be amazing when bad weather concentrates large numbers of birds, especially on the McNary National Wildlife Refuge.  Also in November, mule deer bucks are in the rut and looking for does – and male challengers.  It’s rare to witness bucks fighting or bucks and does actually breeding, but it is very common to see bucks walking around foolishly in broad daylight when the hormonal madness of their rut drives them in search of action.