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FINS, FUR & FEATHERS End is near for hunting seasons
Just as we remove the final pages from our 2001 calendars, so too we remove more hunting and fishing seasons from our bountiful opportunities. While the year is coming to a close, it does not mean all is lost here in the Evergreen State. Many hours afield can still be enjoyed by those willing to work at it.
For the west side upland bird hunter, most seasons will close Nov. 30. The final pheasant releases have already occurred, but some carryover birds can still be had.
Top choice for an end of season pheasant hunt would be the sites at the Headquarters Unit or Smith Farm. With wet and windy weather, the birds will be holding in the thick, nasty cover. If we get a reprieve from Mother Nature, and the last days of November allow, scour the open barley fields. The birds will want to feed as much as possible and basking in the winter sun will be welcome to the remaining birds.
Quail hunting also comes to a close here on this side. From all outward appearances, this was not the greatest season. Personally, my dynamic trio of dogs did not put as many coveys as years past. I am not sure if the cool, wet spring had something to do with the poor survival of new hatchlings, or possibly the increase in the numbers of predators on the island has had an impact.
In addition to the raccoons and coyotes that prey on birds on the island, Whidbey is home to a fairly large feral cat population that can wreak havoc on the small birds. All of this does not mean the upland gunner must hang up the brush pants and shotgun.
Grouse season will continue until the end of the year. With the recent snows, look for blue and spruce grouse to be feeding near the snowline. Ruffs will still haunt the thick creek bottoms.
From all reports, the hunter willing to travel to the other side of the mountains should encounter good numbers of birds. Quail are in decent shape in the Wenatchee and Yakima areas while chuckars can be found in the Snake and Yakima River breaks.
Hunters are not alone when it comes to the end of seasons. Anglers will start to see their opportunities dwindle also. All the Marine Areas that surround Whidbey Island will see their salmon seasons close on Nov. 30. Reports of a few silvers and chums are still coming in for those who wish to brave the rough waters.
Blackmouth fishing was decent by normal standards, but salmon anglers cannot complain with the fishing season we saw this year. The river anglers can continue their pursuit of salmon for another month with the Samish and Skagit still producing some fish. Increased rain will cause the rivers to rise and get murky. Hope that the weather does not turn warm up in the mountains, increased snowmelt can put area rivers in unfishable shape very quickly.
Crabbing is still open, but the winter winds do make for a more difficult trip.
All is not doom and gloom though; there are still plenty of chances for the sting-puller or bore-stuffer on big game.
Bear in mind your doe hunt also ends on the Nov. 30, but many areas of the state are still open to deer and elk hunting. With the recent heavy snows, now is a prime time for the archer or muzzleloader hunter to search the winter feeding areas for these animals.
Snow on the hillsides also improves visibility and tracking. For the archer, be sure you practice with the heavier clothing that will be required. Your anchor point and release may be altered with bulkier winter clothes.
No matter what the calendar may say, there are still chances to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Good luck, and stay warm and dry.