Changes mulled for elk permit applications

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Washington wildlife officials are considering allowing elk hunters to apply for special permits on both sides of the state in the 2012-14 regulations package.

Washington requires hunters to buy either an east or west elk tag and choose between archery, modern firearms and muzzleloader weapons. Hunters can apply for special permit hunts only on the side of the state corresponding with their tag.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife started working on the hunting rules for the next three years in April with a six-month issue-scoping period followed by late summer public-comment period.

Washington often deals with dozens of hunting issues in the season-setting process every three years.

But Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked state agencies to minimize changes to state regulations this year.

One of the specific issues that surfaced in the comment period was no longer requiring elk special permit applications to be consistent with the geographical designation on an elk transport tag.

An email survey in November, which got 8,000 responses, found 53 percent favored changing to allow elk hunters to apply for permits on both sides of the state and 43 percent preferred the status quo. Four percent had no preference.

A pair of other interesting issues are under consideration:

Lighted nocks — Advocates for lighted nocks contend they would help archers recover wounded game as well as retrieve lost arrows in the field.

The e-mail survey found 86 percent favored use of lighted nocks, 10 percent said they should remain prohibited and 4 percent were undecided.

Robo ducks — Electronic waterfowl decoys were allowed in Washington until 2002. They are legal in Idaho. Several waterfowl hunting guides want them brought back.

Twenty-nine percent in the email survey opposed use of electronic decoys, 57 percent favored them if it did not lead to hunting restrictions and 14 percent favored them unconditionally.

About 3,500 waterfowlers responded.

A public comment period on specific rule proposals is planned in January. Comment before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled in March.

The panel will adopt the 2012-14 seasons in April.