FINS, FUR & FEATHERS: Ringnecks tame, but fair game

The big news for the avid outdoors person is the start of the pheasant season. Drive past planted fields and you will see a sea of blaze orange awaiting the 8 a.m. starting bell. This will occur on Saturday when once again the official start of the upland bird season begins.

If you are looking for crafty wild birds, then you will have to pack the rig and head over the mountains. Pheasant hunting on our side is strictly a put and take affair.

The weather on our side of the mountains is difficult for the birds to nest and raise their young, so sustainable populations of birds are near impossible. Predators, due to the lack of wild instinct, will take the few birds that do make it through this hunting season. While some purists do not care for this type of hunting, it beats having nothing and waiting for the premiere of Dr. Phil to pass the time.

What we lack in wild birds, the state makes up for it in opportunity. There are ample places nearby that an avid bird hunter can go to take a few ringnecks. The most popular places on the island have been Outlying Field in Coupeville and upper and lower game ranges on the Seaplane Base. In years past it used to be very easy to get access to the base to hunt, but our world has changed and restrictions to hunt these lands are different. It would take too long to go into the entire detail of hunting regulations and available areas to hunt, so you should contact the NAS Security Department for all the information.

These are not the only places on the island to hunt. Birds should still be planted on the Arnold Farm off Zylstra Road. and down in Bayview. The state’s Web site has downloadable maps to the public hunting areas. If you want some bigger fields to hunt, then a short drive off the island can open up much more areas to hunt. Birds will be planted at the Headquarters Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area, Smith Farm Segment between Camano Island and Stanwood, and new this year some birds will be planted on the public lands off Samish Island. This is because corn has been planted in more of the fields at the HQ Unit. This is to control noxious weeds, but makes for difficult hunting, so the birds will be put in the barley fields to the north. Further north you can find plenty of birds at the Intelco plant and the Lake Terrell Area near Ferndale. Remember to read your regulations on bag limits and shot shell restrictions.

Upcoming cooler, wetter weather should make archery hunters a little happier — at least it is a bit quieter in the woods. A few days of rain does not lessen the fire danger that much so make sure you contact the ranger station near where you are hunting to inquire about fire restrictions. Forest grouse season continues and birds can still be found along the few remaining berry patches and along old logging roads early in the morning and late in the day.

Hunting is not the only game in town. The peaks of both the silvers and cutthroats are fast approaching. Granted, the run of silvers has not been as big as the major run of salmon we had last year, but there are still good numbers of fish to be had in both the salt and in the river systems. Cutthroats should be on the downward turn of their run in the next week or two. This means if you haven’t hit the Skagit yet, time is running out. Soon, rivers will be muddied with fall and winter rain and fishing will definitely take a turn south.

Right now it you can play it by ear. If we have one of those nice Indian summer days, you can hit the water or if there is a nip in the air and you can see your breath, pick up the shotgun and head out. Either way it’s a great time to be a Washington outdoors person.

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