Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017
By Dwain Hebda
Despite several areas in the Cascade Mountains being restricted due to wildfires, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) insists the year’s more popular hunting seasons will open on schedule. And, despite more than 1 million acres going up in smoke this summer, no season is currently in danger of being canceled.
WDFW officials made that claim in September after reportedly receiving numerous phone calls from worried hunters inquiring as to the status of the upcoming fall hunting seasons. Officials were looking forward to cooler weather and anticipated precipitation to assist firefighters throughout the area, but the situation remains fluid.
On Sept. 26, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lifted regulated fire closures in eastern Washington, specifically in the following counties: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima.
However on Oct. 3, the U.S Forest Service issued Order 06-17-03-17-1031, closing the Cle Elum Ranger District of Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, including area, roads and trails on Jolly Mountain due to fire hazard. Diamond Creek and Jack Creek fires, also within the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, are the only other areas still with area closures at the present time.
According to information provided by InciWeb, an inter-agency emergency information site for BLM, the U.S Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and other agencies, there are currently 10 active wildfires ranging in size from the 130-acre Quarry fire at Mount Baker in the Snoqualmie National Forest 30 miles northwest of North Bend to the 128,0000-acre Diamond Creek blaze, located 11 miles north-northwest of Mazama. Of the 10, three are serious enough to require area, road and trail closures.
"This is an unprecedented drought year," WDFW's Madonna Lures said last month. "We have unprecedented fires burning and people fighting them, and people losing their lives and their homes over them."
Wildfires continue to burn in Washington state, but hunting seasons are expected to open on schedule. (WDFW)
Earlier in September, the Washington Department of Natural Resources issued a statewide burning ban. Five Washington counties – Okanogan, Douglas, Grant, Adams and Whitman – remain at a high fire danger rating and Franklin County is rated very high/extreme danger. For current, county-by-county burn restrictions and associated burn permit requirements, click here.
For the most part, however, Washington counties are at moderate or low fire danger rating, welcome news to the WDFW which is set to open its most popular hunting seasons of the year on Oct. 14, including firearm deer and waterfowl seasons. But fire is only one bullet officials are looking to dodge as deer season gets underway.
"Winter conditions in recent years, wildfires, fall green-up and weather during the hunting season are just some of the factors that can influence deer numbers and distribution," said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk section manager. "That is why we are encouraging hunters to review the hunting prospects on WDFW's website to find location-specific forecasts."
As for waterfowl, WDFW officials like what they see for the 2017 season. Last season, nearly 550,000 waterfowl were harvested in Washington and a combination of factors suggest even better hunting this year.
"Washington can anticipate a strong fall flight," said WDFW waterfowl manager Kyle Spragens. "With exceptional habitat conditions in Washington this past spring, and strong numbers of birds spotted during surveys in Alaska and Canada, things are looking fantastic."
Duck, goose, coot and snipe seasons open statewide Oct. 14, excepting dusky Canada goose hunting, which is closed in Goose Management Area 2. Brant season, determined by the midwinter waterfowl survey, is also currently closed but may open on selected dates in January. Scaup season is also currently closed, but set to open Nov. 4.