Washington Game Bird Hunting Laws & Regulations

What's NEW in 2023-24?

  • Harlequin Duck CLOSED to harvest statewide.
  • Goose Management Area 4 – White Goose dates: Select Days Oct. 14-22, Nov. 10 - Jan. 28; Everyday Feb. 17 - Mar. 3

Non-Toxic Shot Mandates for Upland Bird Hunting

Nontoxic Shot for Upland Birds: Upland bird hunting across the United States mandates the use of nontoxic shots. This requirement spans all pheasant release sites nationwide, with an emphasis on Fish and Wildlife Service refuges. It's illegal to have any shot other than nontoxic types when hunting upland game birds like pheasants, quail, chukar, gray partridge, mourning doves, or band-tailed pigeons in designated areas, especially where the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages pheasant releases. Violations are severe, incurring a $1,000 fine and a two-year suspension of small game hunting privileges.

Lead Shot Issues: Historically, lead shot was the standard until research in the 1970s and 1980s exposed its dangers, prompting a gradual ban between 1986 and 1991 for waterfowl hunting. Lead ingestion, even in minute quantities, can be fatal for waterfowl and other birds. Lead shot's impact extends beyond the direct victim; predators and scavengers, including bald eagles, can suffer secondary poisoning. Ongoing research continues to uncover lead shot's detrimental effects across ecosystems.

Pinpointing Risk Zones: Certain areas, like western Washington's pheasant-release and waterfowl feeding zones, are identified as high-risk for lead poisoning. Rigorous soil and tissue testing methods are employed to ascertain these danger areas, though not all locales pose a threat. Despite this, a blanket conversion to nontoxic shot usage in release sites has been adopted to mitigate risks.

Addressing Hunter's Concerns:

  • Cost: While alternatives like steel shot were initially pricier, prices have become more competitive, particularly as new options emerge and become more popular.
  • Performance: Extensive testing confirms that steel shot's effectiveness is comparable to lead, with proper attention to load and choke combinations and range considerations. Newer alternatives also strive to match lead's ballistic properties.
  • Barrel Damage: The apprehension regarding barrel damage due to nontoxic shots has largely been debunked. Nonetheless, hunters are advised to consult with their shotgun manufacturers for assurance.

Further Actions and Research: The Commission in 2001 called for a comprehensive review of lead shots' impact on wildlife, prompting ongoing studies and assessments. This directive includes examining alternative nontoxic shot regulations. Links to various studies on lead poisoning in upland birds provide a wealth of information, documenting the pervasive and harmful effects of lead on wildlife health, ecosystem balance, and even implications for human well-being.

Hunter Visibility Requirements: Orange and Pink

Mandatory Fluorescent Wear for Hunters: In many states, hunters are required to wear at least 400 square inches of fluorescent hunter orange and/or fluorescent hunter pink clothing. This rule is designed to ensure high visibility and safety in hunting environments. The vibrant clothing must be visible from all sides and worn above the waist, with a hat alone being insufficient. Hunters may combine both colors to meet the visibility requirement. Detailed information is available through specific fact sheets provided by wildlife authorities.

Promotion of Hunter Pink: To encourage and normalize the use of fluorescent hunter pink, the public can engage by submitting photos of hunters donning this color. These initiatives aim to diversify safety colors and support the visibility of hunters in varied environments.

When Fluorescent Wear is Required:

  1. Big Game and Predator Hunting: Mandatory during hunting seasons for bear, bobcat, cougar, coyote, deer, elk, fox, grouse, hare, rabbit, raccoon, and turkey. This is particularly enforced in areas open to deer or elk hunting during modern firearms seasons. The requirement encompasses all hunters, including those using archery or muzzleloaders, if they are in areas coinciding with modern firearm seasons.
  2. Modern Firearms and Certain Birds: Required for those using modern firearms to hunt pheasant, quail, and partridge during the respective upland game bird season. However, note that grouse are excluded from this requirement when considered under hunter-orange and/or hunter-pink rules.

Exemptions from Fluorescent Clothing:

  1. Upland Game Bird Season Exceptions: Hunters targeting upland game birds with a muzzleloading firearm, bow and arrow, or engaging in falconry are not required to wear fluorescent clothing during their specific hunting season.
  2. Specialized Hunting Areas: Those hunting in Game Management Units (GMU) designated for muzzleloading or archery, and possessing appropriate tags for deer or elk, are exempt from the fluorescent wear requirement.

Goose Identification and Authorization Process

Regulatory Overview for Northwest Goose Hunters: The Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissions have implemented new regulations for goose hunters in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. These include a closed season for dusky Canada geese to protect the species. Detailed regulations and seasonal information are available in the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet. Hunters, especially new ones or those who had their previous year’s authorization invalidated in Goose Management Area 2 (Coast and Inland), are required to pass an identification exam with at least an 80% score to secure their current year's hunting authorization.

Testing and Authorization Constraints:

  • Retest Waiting Period: A 28-day waiting period is mandatory for hunters who fail the goose identification test, during which they cannot receive a reciprocal authorization.
  • Dusky Canada Goose Season Closure: Hunting dusky Canada geese is prohibited in Goose Management Area 2 (Coast and Inland) from October to March. Violations, including taking a dusky goose or non-compliance with field check requirements, lead to the invalidation of hunting authorization for the remainder of the season in the specified area.

Steps to Obtain Goose Hunting Authorization:

  1. Review Identification Materials:

    • Study Guide: A comprehensive guide on Canada goose identification and management in the Pacific Northwest is available. It includes notes on different species like Dusky, Cackling, Taverner's, Aleutian, Western, Lesser, and Vancouver Canada Geese, highlighting which are open for harvest and their identifying features.
      • Video Tutorial: A video produced by Videoland Productions, Inc., details goose management issues and identification strategies. This visual guide aims to bolster hunters' knowledge and improve exam success rates.
    1. Take the Examination:

      • Online Test: Accessible through the WILD account under Mandatory Species Identification Tests, allowing hunters to take the exam online.
      • In-person Test: Available by appointment at WDFW offices, providing an alternative for hunters preferring or requiring in-person testing.
    2. Post-Examination Process:

      • Annual Limits: Hunters are allowed up to three examination attempts per calendar year.
      • Permit Issuance: Upon passing the exam, hunters are eligible to purchase their goose hunting permit and proceed with the season within the regulatory constraints.
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    The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.