By Bob Brown
Contrary to popular belief, hunting and fishing is not a constitutional right in Washington. It is a privilege that state Sens. Dean Takko of Longview and John Braun of Centralia want to change by making both activities a right and protected under the state’s constitution.
Takko said the effort is intended to prevent animal-rights groups from harassing hunters and anglers.
That hasn't been a problem in Washington, but has been in eastern states where activists block roads, make noise to scare game away, and do other things to impede hunting and fishing.
"We want to protect the people out there hunting and a right we have," Braun said. “Hunting is a major part of our state’s heritage and a generations-old activity for many families in the Pacific Northwest. Sportsmen constantly see more government regulations affecting where and how they can hunt or fish. As demand for public lands increases, sportsmen want to know their rights are respected and protected.”
To become part of the state constitution, the proposal would have to get a two-thirds majority in both chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) of the Legislature and then be submitted to a statewide vote of the electorate. A simple majority of voters would have to agree to add it to the constitution.
"Every year, hunters hear the special-interests call for additional restrictions, ranging from location and time of year to increased game limits," Takko said. "We’re respectful of concerns and are willing to work together with other outdoor enthusiasts, but hunters and fishermen I talk to are concerned, and want to know their rights won’t  be further eroded."
Takko acknowledged that any time you want to do a constitutional amendment, it is an uphill battle. It's tough to amend the constitution, and it may be an idea that has to be reintroduced several times before gradually winning public acceptance.
Should Takko and Braun’s proposal pass muster with the electorate and come under the state constitution umbrella, Washington would become the 22nd  state to have both activities protected.

Antler sales help anti-poaching effort

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has a thousand pounds of antlers seized from poachers. The antlers are being sold through the state's Department of Enterprise Services (DES), Surplus Operations, located at 7511 New Market St. in Tumwater.
Antlers from moose, deer and elk will be sold through an online auction, the funds of which will be used to pay rewards to people who report poaching violations that lead to a conviction. Also, some of the money will be used to pay for forensic work used to tie violators to crime scenes, surveillance technology, and investigations into illegal wildlife trafficking.
In 2012, antler sales contributed more than $21,000 to anti-poaching efforts.

Oyster seasons modified by state

The state wildlife department has modified sport oyster seasons on several public beaches based on results from population, harvest and effort assessments, and to align clam and oyster seasons effective March 1 until further notice.
The WDFW is extending the oyster season at Indian Island County Park, Oyster Reserves-North Bay, Port Gamble Heritage Park, Potlatch State Park and Potlach DNR (Department of Natural Resources) tidelands, and shortening the season at Penrose Point State Park.
A shift in season timing was recommended for Oyster Reserves North Bay to reduce user-group conflicts and increased pressure on infrastructure at the access site, according to WDFW officials.
It was also decided the existing hours of darkness harvest restrictions at Quilcene Bay Tidelands are no longer necessary because there is no conservation or management needs to limit the hours of harvest.
Information regarding season openings and closures can be had by contacting Camille Speck of the WDFW at 360-302 3030, extension 313.

Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at robertb1285@centurylink, net.