State adopting new hunting rules

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission took action last week to expand the number of big-game hunting permits available this year and reduce the cost of several types of permits.

The commission, a citizen panel that sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, approved those and other changes while adopting new hunting rules for the upcoming season.

The continued growth of many state deer and elk populations will support increases in the number of hunting permits issued this year, said Dave Ware, game manager with the state.

“After a five-year stretch of mild winters, surveys show that most big game populations are stable or growing,” Ware said. “That bodes well for hunting opportunities this year.”

The commission approved additional permits in three key areas:

· Yakima elk herd: The commission approved 130 additional permits for antlered elk and 1,440 for antlerless elk in response to the herd’s continuing growth in central Washington.

· Colockum elk herd: With the herd continuing to exceed population objectives, fish and wildlife officials will increase the number special permits, primarily for antlerless elk, to 1,016 from 374.

· Northeast white-tailed deer: Buck harvest levels have increased as the herd starts to rebound from harsh winters of 2007-08. An additional 120 antlerless special permits will be made available this year to youth, senior, and disabled hunters.

The only significant reduction made in special permits this year is in the Mount St. Helens area, where the elk herd has reached fish and wildlife management objective after six years of elevated permit levels.

The commission also approved a proposal to reduce fees for some special permits and tags, which were raised in 2009. Ware said the reductions are to encourage participation in certain hunts and address concerns raised about the cost of certain permits.

Under the new fee schedule adopted by the commission, the cost of a second-deer tag will be reduced to $43.40 from $68, while the price of a multi-season deer tag drops to $139.10 from $182.

The cost will also be reduced for second-deer “damage tags” used by hunters working with property owners with damage-prevention or kill permits.

Also approved was a proposal to streamline the process for issuing hunters with disabilities special-use permits, which enable them to use modified hunting equipment such as crossbows equipped with a scope.

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