FINS, FUR & FEATHERS New year slows hunt opportunities

For many of us who enjoy hunting and fishing in Washington are lamenting these short days of winter. With the start of the New Year hope springs eternal, but first we must all weather a few more weeks of limited opportunities. Do not despair, there are a few things that one can do to combat cabin fever.

If you are a hunter, your options are extremely limited. Forest grouse season has ended for the year, and snow goose season comes to an end on Jan. 6. The geese have been pressured pretty hard this year and these late season birds will be more wary than the beginning of the year. To get these skittish critters you need to change tactics that may have worked earlier. Hunting snows in the fields usually required large numbers of decoys. Take that number and double it. Since these birds have been shot at you need your spread to be as realistic as possible. Sheer numbers will give the birds some sense of security, but you must mix up the types of dekes you set out.

Rags are an inexpensive way to increase the size of your set-up, but you must add some realism to the groups. Silhouettes, shells, and full body decoys interspersed with the rags will give a more realistic look to your spread. Be sure not to use too many sentry decoys, because this will give the appearance of uneasiness amongst the flock. Set the blocks out i n pockets of family groups with ample spaces for incoming birds to land. Kites and flags can add some motion to your spread and may be the ticket to convince a wary snow into shotgun range.

After the season is over, make sure you mail in your authorization card. Hunters that return their cards, will automatically receive new ones next year.

East side hunting almost donE Too

Upland bird hunting on the other side of the state is just about over as well. Pheasant hunting ended with the old year, but quail and partridge will remain open until Jan. 21. Cold, snowy conditions are causing the birds to hold extremely tight. A good dog will greatly enhance your chances at taking a few birds. During windy weather the birds will almost need to be stepped on to induce flight. A nice sunny, still day will have the birds out feeding more trying to absorb the warm rays of sunlight.

For most hunters on both sides of the mountains, ducks will be the main quarry. Most if not all the northern birds have made their way to our neck of the woods. Given the right conditions many of these birds will winter in area waters. An extended cold snap will send the birds south to the agricultural fields of southern Oregon and California.

Tidal flats still crowded

Good numbers of mallards and pintails remain on the tidal flats near Island and Skagit Counties. With the fields flooded the birds look for calm water to rest in, then head to the fields to fill their gizzards. If you do not have access to private fields, the Headquarters Unit and Farmed Island Segment, and the Welts Property on Samish Island would be the best bets. Other areas would be the fields off Best Road and near Samish Island Road are good areas to try. Look for "Barley for Birds" signs on the posted property. This is private land that is open for hunting. Be respectful of the opportunity or it will quickly disappear. If you have a boat, there are plenty of divers on the waters of Padilla, and Skagit Bays. Scoters, goldeneyes, and ringnecks are congregating in large groups. Watch your tide tables and try and position yourself near the shoreline as the tide exposes the tender eelgrass the ducks enjoy. Be mindful of approaching weather and ensure that all members onboard are wearing personal floatation devices.

The New Year is upon us and with it the cycle begins again. Whether you are a long time resident or new to our island community, join us as we explore hunting and fishing Washington in 2002.

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