Hikers, bikers, runners, horseback riders and general wanderers of Whidbey trails should be aware some areas may be off limits after deer hunting season started Saturday, Oct. 12.
Trillium Community Forest is closed to all other recreational activities this fall during three periods of time reserved for hunters: Oct. 12-31, Nov. 14-17 and Nov. 27-Dec. 27.
Signs stating the restrictions are posted throughout the trail system that zigzags through hundreds of acres of thick woods between Smugglers Cove Road and Highway 525. Hunting on Whidbey Island is managed under the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and identified as Game Management Unit (GMU) 420.
Trillium Community Forest is managed by Whidbey Camano Land Trust, a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving land.
Land Trust officials said allowing deer hunting helps cull the growing population of black tail deer that some residents consider pesky and others find delightful.
”Whidbey Island has a very large deer population, estimated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at nearly 3,000,” Jessica Larson, Whidbey Camano Land Trust land steward, said.
“After consultation with Department of Natural Resources experts and user focus groups, we have allowed deer hunting at Trillium Community Forest for three short periods during the hunting season to help reduce vehicle strikes, which are common on the island, and to minimize the impact deer can have on their natural environment due to over-population.”
In Central Whidbey, hunting is allowed on two different county properties but the areas also remain open for other recreational pursuits, such as hiking and bicycling. At Greenbank Farm, hunting is allowed on the northern 198 acres and the southern 58 acres.
Near Coupeville, people can hunt at Kettles Trails, which is about 240 acres.
Deer, pheasant and waterfowl hunting is available on North Whidbey property that’s part of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, but hunters have to jump through hoops to get permission.
After purchasing a general season deer tag from the state, hunters are allowed to take one deer of either sex based on the weapon type they choose — archery, restricted modern firearm or a primitive weapon called a muzzleloader.
Hunters can apply for a second permit tag which allows them to take a female deer, explained Ruth Milner, WDFW district wildlife biologist.
“There is considerable interest in obtaining a second deer permit on Whidbey,” she said.
Last year the state offered 150 modern firearm second deer permits on Whidbey and 174 hunters applied for the drawing, Milner said.
For archery second permits, 115 hunters applied for 50 permits and for the 20 muzzleloader second permits, 32 people applied.
“Our harvest reports indicate 285 deer taken last year (on Whidbey Island),” Milner said.
The state recommends hunters directly contact Island County Public Works that oversees Parks and Trails at 360-678-511 before hunting to make sure permitted hunting areas haven’t changed from previous years.