How are big game hunting seasons set?

Washington's Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet outlines the rules and procedures for hunters to follow each hunting season. The process of releasing the pamphlet involves several steps that must be executed efficiently and accurately to ensure as much hunting opportunity as possible is offered each year.

These steps are provided in the table below. Although specific dates may change in any given year, the time frame for each action is similar.

Annual Big Game Season Setting Process

Date Tasks

January 31

  1. Big Game hunting activity report deadline.  Report data are compiled and quality checked.

Early February

  1. Working with Washington State University, follow-up telephone surveys are conducted to assess the non-response bias for hunters who failed to report their hunting activity.
  2. WDFW staff begin population surveys.
  3. WDFW files hunting season recommendations and posts them online for public review and comment.

Late February- Early March

  1. Using steps 1 and 2, WDFW estimates harvest, hunter numbers, and hunter days.
  2. WDFW staff complete population surveys.
  3. WDFW staff evaluates populations, harvest data, and winter severity in case adjustments to recommendations are warranted.

Early to mid- March

  1. The Fish and Wildlife Commission holds public hearings and collects public testimony.  WDFW briefs the Commission and the public on the hunting season recommendations

Late March

  1. WDFW adjusts hunting season recommendations based on survey information, harvest, winter severity, and public comments received during the review period and at the public hearing in March.


  1. WDFW presents final recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission for adoption.
  2. Once the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopts the seasons and rules, the pamphlet is sent to print and posted online.
  3. The printing company delivers Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations Pamphlets to License Vendors.