With hound hunts for cougars off the table this winter — needed enabling legislation did not get passed in Olympia this past session — WDFW is recommending expanded “boot hunting” opportunities across six Eastern Washington counties for the big cats.
Next week, the Fish & Wildlife Commission will be asked to sign off on proposals to:
• Add a month and a half to hunting season, extending the any-weapon hunt from the current October 29-November 30 to October 15-December 31.
• Tack a permit season on to the end of the any-weapon hunt, allowing holders of special tags to hunt from January 1-March 31.
The special regs would be for certain game units in Okanogan, Chelan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Kittitas Counties, areas that all were part of a legislatively authorized pilot project that allowed specially permitted hunters the use of dogs for chasing cougars. That opportunity sunsetted March 31. SB 5356 would have extended the program, and though the bill passed the Senate, it failed to get to a vote in the House. That was blamed on politics, but it also brought together some very strange bedfellows. Hound hunting was otherwise banned by voters in 1996’s Initiative 655.
WDFW’s first proposal would basically allow rifle hunters with cougar tags the chance to kill mountain lions during mid-October’s modern firearms deer seasons in those counties, some of the state’s best for muleys and whitetail bucks. Annual guidelines on female cougar harvest would also likely be met by Dec. 31, a WDFW staff memo to the commission states.
As for the second, the memo reads, “The purpose of the permit season is to provide late season opportunity with snow conditions that are conducive for tracking and calling. Because the harvest success is less than 1 percent, the expected harvest is low.”
The proposals drew approval on WDFW’s Facebook page from Naithan Kain, the cougar committee chairman for Washingtonians For Wildlife. Earlier he forwarded a letter on cougar management from his organization to WDFW to Northwest Sportsman. In part, it called for increased boot hunting opportunities.