November Hunting Forecast For Washington

With October — the best month ever invented — fading quickly, it’s time to look towards November’s hunting opportunities around Washington.

Next month offers everything from bucks and bulls to gobblers and ringnecks to quackers and honkers.

But some hunts will be better than others.

WDFW’s Weekender breaks it down for us:

NORTH PUGET SOUND

November is prime time for waterfowl hunting in the region, where more and more birds are expected to arrive as the month progresses. After a couple weeks of good hunting, there’s typically a lull in the action in late October, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl manager.

“But hunting usually improves in mid-November, when the number of migrants arriving to the area picks up along with the wet and windy weather,” he said.

Goose hunts are open through Oct. 28 in the region, and then start again Nov. 6. However, snow, Ross and blue geese seasons in Goose Management Area 1 (Skagit and Snohomish counties) will run from Oct. 16 through Jan. 30 without a break. The duck hunting season also is open through Jan. 30.

Hunters who would like to participate in the Snow Goose Quality Hunt program on Fir Island and in the northern Port Susan Bay area should visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/snow_goose/ for information on the rules and requirements.

Upland bird hunters have through Nov. 30 to hunt pheasants, California quail and bobwhite , while the forest grouse season runs through Dec. 31.

Bear and cougar hunts are also open in the region. However, the bear hunting season closes Nov. 15.

PENINSULA & SOUTH SOUND

November is prime time for hunting in the region, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change in a month known for falling temperatures and rising precipitation.

“November is a busy month for hunters,” said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk specialist. “Popular hunting seasons are open for one species or another throughout the month, and we can usually count on weather conditions that support hunters’ success in the field.”

The modern firearm season for deer runs through Oct. 31. Then comes the modern firearm season for elk , which is open Nov. 6-16, and the late modern firearm season for deer that runs Nov. 18-21.

CALLIE WILLIAMSON'S 2009 BULL. (DAVID WILLIAMSON)

Archers and muzzleloaders also have late-season opportunities in select game management units. Archery hunts for deer and elk get started Nov. 24, when muzzleloader hunts for elk also get under way. Muzzleloader hunts for deer open the following day, Nov. 25.

SOUTHWEST

Elk hunters using modern firearms will take the field in western Washington from Nov. 6-16 for one of the most popular hunting seasons of the year. Archers and muzzleloaders will also get another opportunity to hunt elk during the late season that gets under way Nov. 24 in selected game management units (GMUs).

Sandra Jonker, WDFW regional wildlife manager, said southwest Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different.

“The mild winter appears to have improved hunting prospects for this year,” she said.

Jonker reminds hunters of new rules now in effect that prohibit taking antlerless elk during any general modern firearms seasons or muzzleloader seasons in GMUs 568 (Washougal), 574 (Wind River), or 578 (West Klickitat). A three-point antler restriction will also be in effect during general hunting seasons in these areas.

Antlerless elk hunting in all three GMUs is now offered through the special-permit process for both modern firearm and muzzleloader hunts. Tag numbers have been allocated at levels designed to maintain harvest and hunting opportunity at a level similar to that of the past five years in these GMUs, Jonker said.

For more information on elk hunting and other big-game seasons, see the Big Game Hunting pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/ .

Another popular hunt, the “late buck” season for black-tailed deer , runs Nov. 18-21 in select game management units (GMU) throughout western Washington. Although the late-buck season is only four days long, it usually accounts for about a third of all the deer taken each year by hunters in the region.

“One reason why hunters are so successful during the late season is that the bucks are more active,” Jonker said. “By then, the temperatures have dropped and the rut is coming to an end.”

As with elk, a late season for deer will open to archers starting Nov. 24 and to muzzleloaders starting Nov. 25, in some GMUs.

This is the fourth year of the St. Helens Land Access Program, a cooperative effort between Weyerhaeuser, WDFW, and many volunteer organizations to facilitate providing additional weekday motorized access for hunters during special elk permit seasons on the Weyerhaeuser St. Helen Tree Farm. Those interested in helping to provide this access, can sign up at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/sainthelens/ .

The hunting season for black bear ends Nov. 15, and the general hunting season for cougar ends Nov. 30 in Klickitat County.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons for geese will remain open in Management Areas 3 and 5 (including Lewis, Skamania and Klickitat counties) through Jan. 30, 2011. Wildlife managers expect hunting to improve in both areas as cold temperatures drive more birds into the region from the north.

Starting Nov. 13, Management Area 2A (Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and part of Clark County) will open to hunters who have successfully completed a goose-identification test administered by WDFW. Hunting in most sections of Area 2A is limited to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays only. An exception is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where goose hunting is restricted to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Hunting for pheasants ? While there is some wild production of pheasants, pen-raised birds at formal release sites in Klickitat County and Clark County provide the best hunting prospects. For information about those sites, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/pheasant/western/ on the WDFW website.

FAR EASTERN WASHINGTON

The modern firearm general elk hunting season and some special permit elk hunts run Oct. 30 through Nov. 7 in select game management units. The southeast’s Blue Mountains herds are providing the best opportunities again this season. Late archery and muzzleloader elk hunting in select game management units gets under way in late November. Check the regulations pamphlet for legal elk definitions and all other rules.

Pheasant hunting has been under way since Oct. 23. WDFW Enforcement Sergeant Dan Rahn reports success has been marginal, with heavy rain in at least the central district of the region over opening weekend.

“Hunters have been braving the storms and report seeing average number of birds,” Rahn said.

Most regional biologists reported few pheasant broods this year. Joey McCanna, a WDFW upland game specialist, initiated survey routes to count birds this year, but the numbers so far are not relative to anything comparable from past years. Pheasants per square mile ranged from less than one in the Colton and Pomeroy areas to over two in the Walla Walla area. Brood sizes ranged from near five in the Lancaster and Union Flat Creek areas to near seven in the Colfax and Hay areas. McCanna thinks this year’s season could be similar to 2009, when hunter participation was down three percent but harvest was up three percent. Last year in Whitman County alone, for example, some 3,073 hunters spent 18,827 days to harvest 11,795 pheasants.

Game-farm-raised pheasants will be released throughout the three-month-long season at several release sites to boost opportunities, although the total number of birds will be down from past years. See the Eastern Washington Pheasant Enhancement Program ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/pheasant/eastern/ ) for detailed information about those sites.

Sergeant Rahn reminds pheasant hunters to wear the required hunter orange and be aware of others hunting in the same area. He also reminds all hunters who witness poaching or other illegal conduct afield to call the Washington State Patrol at 227-6560 or call 911 to relay messages most quickly to WDFW officers.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting runs Nov. 6-19 in game management units 105-124, where any buck is legal. Late archery and muzzleloader deer general hunting and modern firearm special permit deer hunting in select units throughout the region is in late November.

Earlier deer hunting participation and results can provide a glimpse of the prospects for these seasons, although rut behavior and weather conditions can change opportunities dramatically. In southeast units checked, WDFW district wildlife biologist Pat Fowler reported deer hunting pressure was spotty, with low pressure in the mountains and wilderness area, moderate pressure in the foothills, and low to moderate pressure in the lowland farming area.

Success in the mountains appears to be low, moderate in the foothills, and low in the farmland area. WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area was full of deer hunting camps and the adjacent Last Resort was busy checking deer into the cooler. In northeast units surveyed through traditional roadside check stations, WDFW district wildlife biologist Dana Base reported a relatively average rate of participation and success – about 380 hunters contacted with about 12 percent of them successfully harvesting deer.

The northeast district’s wild turkey late fall general season is just in time for bagging a bird for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday dinner table. From Nov. 20 through Dec. 15, turkey hunters can take either sex birds in northeast game management units 105-124, where the big birds are relatively plentiful. Hunters who already bagged a bird or two (depending on the sex), can still take one more turkey in this late season. See all the regulation details on page 67 of the Big Game pamphlet.

Holiday tablefare opportunities are also available for goose hunters in this region. There are three extra days this month for goose hunting in Spokane, Lincoln and Walla Walla counties where the season is restricted to weekends and Wednesdays. Thursday, Nov. 11, and Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25-26, are open for goose hunting.

Waterfowl hunting in general should improve as more wintery weather develops throughout the region. WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area manager Juli Anderson reports recent rain has been a good start toward filling the area’s many small potholes that have been dry this year. If rain continues and deep freezing holds off, ducks and geese should be drawn in and could provide limited hunting opportunities.

Fall black bear hunting season in select game management units throughout the region closes Nov. 15. Special permit moose hunting in select game management units in the northeast district closes Nov. 30.

NORTH-CENTRAL

WDFW Waterfowl Specialist Mikal Moore of Moses Lake reports the waterfowl hunting season in the north Columbia Basin opened with better than expected participation and success. Depending on weather, prospects for the rest of the season look good, he said.

“The most successful hunters were those hunting isolated potholes in the North Potholes area and the Frenchman Wasteway between Dodson Road and Road C Southeast,” Moore said. “Both areas averaged four birds per hunter, though mallards dominated the bag on the Frenchman, and American green-winged teal were most common on North Potholes.”

Moore said water delivery to the Winchester Regulated Access Area (RAA) has been slowed by an enormous beaver lodge, which prevented the area from flooding in time for the opener.

“It’s receiving water now and should be a good hunting spot until freeze-up, thanks to all the mallards using the Frenchman Reserve,” she said.

Moore also noted small Canada geese are arriving in the Stratford area in large numbers. They will spend a few weeks feeding on harvested wheat fields in the area before distributing through the Basin. Contracts for access to harvested corn stubble fields in the Columbia Basin are in the works, but they won’t be finalized until after the field corn harvest, approximately in mid-November. Moore said a map of walk-in hunting fields enrolled in the Corn Stubble Retention Program will be posted on WDFW’s Northcentral Region webpage, once the contracts are complete.

Hunting for the Thanksgiving holiday? Goose hunters will have three extra days in November in areas where the season is usually restricted to weekends and Wednesdays. Those extra days are Thursday, Nov. 11; Thursday, Nov. 25; and Friday, Nov. 26.

A special-permit wild turkey hunt also arrives just in time to bag a bird for the Thanksgiving – or Christmas – holiday dinner table. For the 50 permitees drawn earlier this year, the season runs Nov. 15 through Dec. 15 in game management units 218-231 and 242.

Meanwhile, special-permit and late archery deer hunting gets under way in select game management units later in November. Depending on the weather, prospects look good, considering the condition of deer already checked during earlier seasons, said Scott Fitkin, a WDFW Okanogan district wildlife biologist.

Fitkin said the deer check station in the Methow conducted on the final weekend of the general modern firearm season, showed excellent body condition of harvested animals and several older age class bucks.

“The percentage of 2 ½ year-old deer in the sample increased over last year as predicted, given the improved fawn recruitment two winters ago,” Fitkin said. “Greater availability of young bucks, combined with good buck carryover from 2009, may boost success rates this year. However, hunter numbers and success as tallied at the check station could not be accurately compared to last year, due to the change in check station location.”

Fitkin also noted snow has come to the high country, with more unsettled weather in the forecast. Those conditions should also improve prospects for permit and archery hunters in November.

SOUTH-CENTRAL

November is prime time for hunting in central Washington, offering a variety of hunting opportunities from waterfowl to big game. Warm, dry conditions made for some tough hunting conditions in October, but that is expected to change as temperatures continue to drop and the rain and snow begins to fall in earnest.

A prime example is the modern firearm hunting season for elk , which opens Oct. 30. Southcentral Washington consistently offers some of the best elk hunting in the state, and this year shouldn’t be any different, said Ted Clausing, WDFW regional wildlife manager.

“We’re seeing a lot of elk, and the numbers look good,” Clausing said. “The Yakima and Colockum herds both appear to have benefited from the mild winter.”

Hunting areas for elk abound in Yakima and Kittitas counties (District 8), where most public lands and private timber lands are open to hunters. That is not the case in Franklin and Benton counties (District 4), where hunting opportunities are largely limited to private property surrounding the western and southern boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (Game Management Unit 372).

For archers, a number of game management units (GMUs) open for deer and elk hunting Nov. 24 and run through Dec. 8. For more information, see WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/ and at license vendors around the state.

As noted in the pamphlet, the hunting season for black bear ends Nov. 15. The general season for cougar using any weapon runs through Dec. 31 in the Kittitas-Yakima Zone and through March 2011 in the Columbia Basin Zone.

Meanwhile, hunting seasons continue throughout the region for geese, ducks, coots, snipe, California quail, chukar, forest grouse, pheasant, partridge, cottontail and horseshoe rabbit .

Local waterfowl production is down this year, but hunting should pick up once cold temperatures up north drive more birds into the area. In Franklin County, small ponds and lakes on WDFW’s Windmill Ranch Wildlife Area and the Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch are good places to hunt ducks and geese. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also provide hunting areas along the Snake and Columbia Rivers for bank and boat hunters.

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