HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
Autumn is just around the corner with its misty mornings and falling leaves. It also is the beginning of the yearly hunting seasons.
Bear hunting is presently ongoing in our area, and migratory waterfowl and upland game hunting starts next month.
For the most part, hunting is a safe outdoor activity, but unfortunately, each year there are shooting incidents that injure or kill fellow hunters and sometimes non-hunters. There are other forms of recreation that cause more fatalities, but hunting is one of the few activities that can endanger an entire community, and not just its participants. According to the International Hunter Education Association, approximately 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year, with slightly less than 100 being fatalities. Last year in Washington, there were five hunting shooting incidents, two of which were fatalities.
Careless handling of firearms and poor judgment were the two major causes of hunting incidents involving shooting. A third that should be mentioned is the lack of common sense. Carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in a vehicle would certainly fall under that category. It is also one of the most common infractions of all state hunting regulations. Each year, nearly half of all hunting incident victims are shot by friends or family members. Almost 35 percent of victims shot themselves.
A review of all shooting hunting incidents in Washington by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) since 1957 concluded that almost all incidents could have been prevented.
Currently, hunters must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter-orange clothing that must be worn above the waist. Forty other states have a similar requirement. Non-hunters should also consider wearing similar clothing while visiting or recreationing in the outdoors during hunting seasons. Be seen, be safe.
In the WDFW Washington Hunter Education pamphlet, it is stated that firearm safety is a habit that requires regular practice. Edward Tryon, American theologian (1809-94), said preventatives are far better than remedies, cheaper and easier than applications, and surer in results.
Impacts of fire on hunting
WDFW is assessing the damage caused by the Carliton Complex fire in eastern Washington. The fire scorched 25,000 acres within five wildlife units that will have a major effect on local mule deer herds living there year-round and migratory deer during the winter. A fire of this magnitude will have both short and long-term effects on wildlife populations and the landscape. Some of the areas may provide winter habitat, depending on weather throughout this summer and fall, but there are no easy answers to this problem, said Jim Brown, WDFW regional director.
Scott Fitkin, a WDFW district wildlife biologist in Okanogan County, said, “Even if conditions are ideal, there will be too many deer for the area to support this winter and possibly for several years to come. We need to take steps to reduce the size of the herd that will minimize conflict between deer and agricultural landowners. The department will likely increase the number of antlerless deer permits issued this fall and winter, reaching out first to youth, senior hunters and hunters with disabilities. The department will contact hunters who have already applied for deer permits in the area, so a new application process is unnecessary. The agency plans to draw deer and other wildlife away agricultural lands with feed this summer and fall and is also considering a feeding program this winter.”
WDFW will probably implement a road closure program in some burned areas this fall due to hazardous trees, said Dale Swedberg, the agency’s Okanogan lands operations manager. Hunters and others can check the WDFW’s wildfire webpage for updates on conditions and access on department lands. Information on wildlife and restoration efforts in the affected also can be found on the webpage.
• Steelhead and salmon fishing has been pretty good on the Cowlitz River. Bank anglers are catching some spring chinook and steelhead at barrier dam. Boat anglers are catching summer steelhead and chinook near the trout hatchery and lower portions of the river.
During the week of July 28-Aug. 3, Tacoma Power recovered 1,605 summer steehead, 138 chinook adults, 55 jacks, 142 mini-jacks, one fall chinook, one cutthroat and five sockeye. They also recycled 199 summer steelhead and four sockeye salmon down stream to the Interstate 5 boat launch. Tacoma Power employees also released 91 spring chinook adults, 45 jacks and one fall chinook in the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek.
• Idaho Power Company biologists recently captured one of the largest fish encountered during a three-year survey of white sturgeon population in the lower Snake River. The big fish hooked in the Hells Canyon downstream of Hells Canyon Dam measured nearly 10 feet long and weighed an estimated 470 pounds The female sturgeon is estimated to be more then 75 years old. She was measured, outfitted with an electronic tag, and released unharmed moments after her capture.
Bob Brown is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org