State set for vote on hunting regulations

Big-game hunters could see changes in dates for archery and modern firearms seasons, while use of non-toxic shot by upland bird hunters on some Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lands would be phased-in under proposed 2009-2011 state hunting regulations.

Turkey hunters in Northeast Washington also could find expanded fall opportunities over the next three years, but the Eastside September season for Canada geese would end under regulations before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Commissioners, who gathered in Olympia on Friday, will vote on the three-year plan today.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife managers have proposed shortening by one day the early elk archery season in Eastern Washington units, which would be Sept. 8-20.

The late archery season would be Nov. 25-Dec. 8.

Also proposed in the Blue Mountains is a bull elk permit season for modern firearms hunters in September, during the rut. If adopted, one hunter in each of the game management units in the Blues could draw a permit.

Based on public comment, the department said it wanted to increase the number of game units open for deer general season muzzleloader and expand from seven to nine days the length of the season.

To accommodate the increased muzzleloader general season, the department has proposed shortening the early archery general season.

"The biggest change from last year is the shifting of the archery season," said Dave Ware, big game manager for the department.

Bird hunters also will see a few changes. Non-toxic shot will be required for hunters pursuing upland birds, mourning dove and bandtail pigeon in 2011 on fish and wildlife land used as release sites for pen-raised pheasants.

The department has designated certain areas as non-toxic shot areas since 2001 because of concerns about ingestion of lead by birds and scavengers.

Waterfowl hunters have been required to use non-toxic shot in Washington since 1991, the department said.

Upland hunters in the Windmill, Byron and Headquarters units of the Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife Area will see the new requirement this fall. But the non-toxic shot requirement won't take effect on other sites until 2011, said Mick Cope, upland game section manager for the department.

"It was important to us to provide educational opportunities about hunting with non-toxic shot, so we wanted to phase it in," Cope said.

Fall turkey hunters in northeast units will have more opportunities this fall under the proposed regulations. The department, responding to hunter sentiment and expanding turkey populations, intends to create an open, either sex general season in some northeastern units. More early fall permits also would be available in Blue Mountain units.

The daily bag limit for forest grouse would increase from three to four, as statistics collected over the past 25 years showed hunters harvested fewer than three forest grouse per year, the department said.

But the two-day Eastside September Canada goose season, which started in 1997, would be eliminated under the proposed regulations because of a lower nesting index of geese, according to the department.

The three-year average Eastern Washington nest index for 2005-2007 was 1,935, below the 2,000 benchmark level to restrict or discontinue the September season, Ware said.

The two days would be added to the regular goose season, which starts in mid-October, the department said.