Drought- and fire-related access restrictions on public and private lands around the state might force hunters to find alternatives to their favorite hunting locations this year.
Wildlife managers with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said hunters should confirm before heading into the field that they can have access to preferred hunting locations.
The fall black bear season opened Aug. 1 in some areas and will open Saturday in other game management units. Archery season for deer, plus hunting for forest grouse, mourning dove and other small game open Sept. 1.
“For most hunters, these conditions may simply mean they can’t have a traditional campfire,” Game Division manager Mick Cope said. “But with several wildfires currently burning and with extremely dry conditions across the state, some hunters may need to find different routes into traditional hunting areas or choose different places altogether.”
The department is not considering hunting regulation changes at this time, Cope said.
Drought conditions have forced fishery managers to close some streams to fishing or restrict when fishing is allowed.
Cope added that game management units for which hunters have drawn special permits are currently accessible, although fire restrictions are in place. Should a wildfire prevent access to all of the areas covered by a special permit, he said the department will work with permit-holders to restore special permit points or help them find alternative locations.
The department manages 33 wildlife areas and more than 700 water access sites. Fire prevention restrictions on many of those areas were enacted in June by emergency order, coinciding with efforts by the state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies to minimize the risk of wildfire.
FIRE/ACCESS UPDATES: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and other public land management agencies have posted fire and access restrictions on their websites where hunters can learn what areas are open or where there are restrictions. Updated information on wildfires in Washington, including local travel and access restrictions, is available at inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/49/#.
U.S. FOREST SERVICE: The agency manages more public hunting lands in Washington than any other agency and provides information on several national forests at fs.usda.gov.
HUNTING INFO: More information on preparing for hunting seasons is available from the state hunter education program at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/huntered/prepare.