File photo by Sue Misao

File photo by Sue Misao

By Mike Maltais

Deer hunters who will turn out by the tens of thousands for Washington state’s most popular hunting season Oct. 12 can expect to find the conditions “very positive” according to information just released from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“A mild winter followed by a favorable spring benefited wildlife species ranging from deer to pheasants,” WDFW game manager Dave Ware said. “Also, recent storms have helped to quiet hunters’ footsteps in the forest and blow leaves off the trees for better visibility. Those are all very positive signs for upcoming seasons.”

The modern firearms season for mule deer extends from Oct. 12 through Oct. 20 in game management units 203 (Pasayten) through 242 (Alta) in Okanogan County.

The recent wet weather has also put a damper on fire restrictions across many areas of the state. That noted, hunters are advised to check local regulations and any restrictions before planning a trip.

For example, campfires are banned through Oct. 15 at WDFW wildlife areas in Benton, Franklin, Yakima, and Kittitas counties – and through Oct. 31 at the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant and Adams counties.

Other local fire restrictions are posted on the Department of Natural Resources’ website at http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger/BurnRisk.aspx.

“There are areas of the state where wildfires still pose a real risk, and we are asking hunters, campers and others heading outdoors to be extremely cautious,” Ware said.

While deer will attract the largest number of hunters this month, hunting seasons also get underway Oct. 12 for ducks and – in many parts of the state – geese. For information on seasons and rules, see WDFW’s Migratory Waterfowl & Upland Game pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

All hunters using modern firearms – or in areas open to hunting with modern firearms – are required to wear hunter orange clothing as specified by state law. While that requirement does not apply to non-hunters, Ware suggests that hikers, mushroom pickers and others in areas open to hunting wear bright, colorful clothing to maximize their visibility.

“Statistics show that hunting is a very safe sport, especially compared to most other outdoor activities,” Ware said. “Hunters are trained to make sure they have a safe shot, and non-hunters can help ensure their safety by making themselves visible in the field.”