Hunters have a responsibility to positively identify their target before they pull the trigger.
That doesn't just mean knowing the target is an animal and not a human, or that it's a game animal and not livestock.
Duck hunters must be able to distinguish between mallards, pintails and canvasback.
A moose can look like an elk in certain situations; caution is required.
In some seasons hunters can shoot only deer with three points or more on one antler.
In Eastern Washington, most elk hunters are restricted to shooting only spike bulls -- and the shooter must be sure one of the antlers is a true spike and not spoiled by a little fork with tines longer than 1 inch.
Bear hunters must be able to distinguish between a legal black bear and a federally protected grizzly.
Two Grant County men will be in federal court in Spokane this fall after killing a grizzly while black bear hunting in northeastern Washington in 2007.
They tried to dispose of the carcass without reporting their mistake, but a tip from a citizen who saw them with the animal led to their arrest.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Deputy Chief Mike Cenci called the loss of the grizzly a setback for recovery.
The bear was tagged with a radio transmitter and followed for 14 years.
"This bear consistently produced cubs year after year, and, even more important, it stayed out of trouble," he said. "An animal that was really important to grizzly recovery was taken out of the gene pool."
Education programs are available to teach hunters the differences between grizzlies and black bears.
A grizzly has as a shoulder hump and a lower rump than the black bear, although these details might not be apparent when the bear is in certain positions.
"If there is any doubt, you don't pull the trigger," Cenci said.
Help fight poaching
Sportsmen and landowners are the strongest allies wildlife enforcement officers have in the fight against poaching.
"Without tips from the public we wouldn't be able to make half the cases we put together to convict major poachers," said Mike Whorton, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional enforcement supervisor.
Besides qualifying for rewards, citizens who report poachers help provide more hunting opportunity.
Bull elk tag numbers have been reduced in the Blue Mountains because of poaching activity, biologists say.
Grizzly bear killings have worked to reduce road access to some areas.
The wife of a Spokane-area wildlife enforcement officer provided her husband with his first big-game pinch of the season earlier this month as she was biking near their residence on the archery deer opener.
Whorton said she had observed a truck go by with large antlers sticking out the back and smelled something fishy. She called her on-duty husband, who found the vehicle and made a routine check.
The stop netted the nervous young archer a ticket for failing to notch his deer tag and fixing it on the carcass as required by law.
Protection for wildlife resources would jump to another level if we all considered the fight against poaching a family affair.