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Crowds making permit-only hunting likely

6:13 am November 12th, 2012

HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown

Unofficial deer harvest numbers indicate modern firearm hunting was not too impressive on Weyerhaeuser’s Vail Tree Farm during this years’ modern firearm general season.
According to Eyes-In-The-Woods sampling taken at the Vail game check station, 130 black-tailed deer and one cougar were harvested during the two weekends the farm was opened to vehicle access and hunting. It was estimated approximately 3,500 hunters entered the farm during that period.
With the numbers and density of hunters increasing yearly in western Washington, plus access restrictions and land-use problems, what is on the horizon for the modern firearm hunter? Is the situation going to be more of the same or something different?
Wildlife managers are aware there needs to be a balance between the number of hunters, harvest success and quality experiences, but how to achieve that objective is another matter. Would a lottery type hunting program be the answer?
Asked to comment on the subject, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist (who wished to remain anonymous) said if he were to propose such a program, he would probably be lynched.
No doubt he is not the only person in the department who feels the same way, because it is almost universal that the majority of state modern firearm hunters find a lottery-type hunting program not only distasteful, but also pugnacious.
Other western states have found themselves in the same predicament and found a way to alleviate hunter density and improve hunting success. In 1976, New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish stratified its elk hunting seasons in an attempt to provide hunters with a quality experience and reduce intense hunter pressure on elk, Hunters could apply for an elk license every other year, and for each year they received a license they had to specify one of six hunting periods between October and December. Last year, New Mexico elk hunters averaged a 37 percent success rate. Deer hunters averaged a 27.3 percent success rate.
Both California and Nevada have limited number permit-only elk hunting seasons, which wildlife managers say accounts for the relatively high harvest rates.
In 1975, Montana elk hunters – without permit limitations – showed a 14 percent success rate, while hunters under limited permit-only hunts experienced a 42 percent success rate. Under limited permits, elk harvest success in Utah ranged from 39 to 90 percent through 1966, but in 1967, the state removed the permit limitations allowing a free market on elk tags. Harvest success rates immediately dropped to 23 percent, and in 1979 the rate was eight percent. Last year, Washington modern firearm elk hunters had a success rate of 6.5 percent. For deer, the average was 23.2 percent.
Presently, the WDFW has no plans to initiate statewide permit-only hunting. In fact, it isn’t even under consideration, but with the forecasted increase in the state’s population and eventual habitat loss, plus the ultimate increase in hunter numbers, I believe sooner or later it will happen. It goes without saying that crowded hunting conditions can be unsafe and definitely unpleasant.

Clam and cutthroat notes

• In mid-November, if marine toxin tests are favorable, the WDFW will proceed with an evening razor clam dig at Twin Harbors (Nov. 13-14), Long Beach and Twin Harbors (Nov. 15), and Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (Nov 17)). Again, if toxin tests are favorable, razor clammers will have another opportunity later in the month. No digging will be allowed before noon on any of the razor-clam beaches.
• Sea-run cutthroat are on the bite in the Cowlitz River, with the best fishing being had from Blue Creek downriver. Anglers may retain up to five hatchery-reared cutthroats as part of the daily trout limit on the lower Cowlitz. The fish generally range from 12 to 20 inches.

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