Hunting as we know it is fully under attack in Washington State. This is not a dramatic statement to capture your attention, but it is wholly truthful and should frighten all of us who hold hunting and conservation near and dear to our hearts. As many of you know, the Washington Fish and Game Commission voted to remove our special draw spring bear hunt in 2022 against the advice from our state’s wildlife and predator biologists. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what this group of commissioners — solely appointed by our governor — have planned to drastically change and ignore science-based wildlife management.
These commissioners recently rolled out a new “preservation” based management plan, which would move Washington away from the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. This decision is devastating to hunters and anglers as the end result, and the goal is to remove human involvement in wildlife management and the ecosystem as a whole. This is obviously an impossibility in this day and age as humans continue to spread into more spaces, making us key players in wildlife management to ensure healthy populations for all. This new “plan” also features no forethought into how to replace the funds generated by the Pittman-Robertson Act, which are directly contributed by hunters via taxes on weapons, ammunition, and other outdoor gear. The money generated by the Pittman-Robertson Act is a key funding component to many conservation efforts across the country.
At the commissioner’s August meeting, they also discussed their plan and desire to end all bear and mountain lion hunting in the state as early as April of 2024. Again, this goes directly against the state biologist’s advice and data. Washington has an unbelievably robust population of bears and mountain lions due to the state banning the use of bait and hounds back in the 1990s. By ending general predator hunting, future data will likely show a dwindling number among ungulate populations. We all know what an unchecked predator population will do to fawn and calf recruitment each spring — especially over harsh winters like we’ve seen recently. Additionally, there is a possible move to make the entire state draw only for elk. Currently, we have a lot of over-the-counter (OTC) opportunities for elk and deer hunting; however, by doing away with predator hunting first, the trickle-down effect will trend toward the end of ungulate hunting as well. This will not stop if we do not stand up to them.
The most important element in all of this is not backing down and not becoming apathetic. That is what the commissioners and the anti-hunter groups are hoping and banking on.
Now is the time all hunters and anglers from all states join together to be loud and proud of our hunting heritage and the overwhelmingly positive effect it has on wild animal populations.
Organizations like HOWL For Wildlife make it incredibly simple to stay up-to-date on the issues here in Washington and any others that pop up across the country. If you think these attacks will only happen in Washington, you are very mistaken. We already see similar things coming up in Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon, just to name a few. Washington is the testing site for these tactics from the anti-hunting organizations. If they are successful, they will be coming for additional states. This is a call to action to get involved, stay informed, and do your part to preserve hunting in Washington and all other states.
The next big dates to keep in mind are Oct. 26, 27, and 28. On Friday, Oct. 27, there will be a commission meeting that is open for public comment. This meeting is taking place in Olympia, WA (coincidentally during the prime of blacktail deer season). You can get involved by signing up to speak either online, over the phone, or in person. There will be a lot more information coming out soon to organize as many folks as possible to show up to this meeting in person to show full support of our hunting heritage to make sure these commissioners know we are not going down quietly. Stay tuned to the PNWild, Bear Country Outdoors, and Conservation Coalition of Washington Instagram pages for the most up-to-date information on these meetings and organizational efforts.
We all know it is hard to take a day or a few hours off work or a day out of hunting to show up to a meeting in person, but if you can, I highly encourage everyone to make their best effort to be at this meeting. The more folks we can raise to flood the in-person meeting, the online/phone public comment section, the better. Hunters outnumbered the antis during the August public comment meeting, but only by a handful. In October, we need to tower over them with numbers. Emphasize what hunting means to you, your family, and your heritage. You make memories in the mountains that can’t be made anywhere else, and you put the cleanest, most organic protein possible in your freezer and on your dinner table because of hunting. There are commissioners that can be swayed, so I promise you this is not a fruitless endeavor. Now is the time to show up, speak out and let the commissioners, the anti-hunting organizations, and anybody else listening that we will not back down. Personally, I know that when I look back on this time period, I want to be able to say I stood up and fought for what I believed in and did everything in my power to ensure hunting for future generations in my home state. Hunting and the conservation of our wildlife and public lands means the absolute world to us, and we will not let them take it.
https://www.howlforwildlife.org/ - Stay informed, and send HOWLs to politicians and commissioners.
https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/meetings - Read/watch past meetings, and stay informed on upcoming meetings
https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/commission/contact - Contact the commission directly with your emails and notes supporting hunting and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation