Brush Prairie hunter seeks to tweak state's permit system

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

Published:

 

Chuck Tracy of Brush Prairie is asking state wildlife officials to help him from forcing him to choose between pursue elk with his teenage son or longtime hunting partner.

First, a little background.

Starting in 2010, Washington allowed hunters to apply for special deer permits in seven categories and elk permits in six categories. Hunters are limited to one deer and elk per year.

Unsuccessful applications earn the hunter points, which improve chances in drawings in subsequent years.

Tracy, salmon staff officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, told the state Fish and Wildlife Commission last Friday the problem is if two permits for one species are drawn in a given year — say a bull and cow elk permit — the hunter can filll only one of the permits, but loses years of points accumulated in the other category.

"This is counter to the primary benefit of the new program from the hunter's perspective,'' Tracy said.

Tracy said he has hunted elk with the same partner for 25 years, but also is trying to involve his teenage son.

"For me, the choice has come down to applying for a bull permit with my partner, or applying for a cow tag with my son,'' he said. "With my points, my son and I stand a pretty good chance of drawing a cow tag.

"But I wouldn't want to put in for a bull tag with my partner in the same year if I may not be able to use it. It isn't fair to my partner to make him wait until I draw a cow tag with my son before we can draw a bull tag together or for him to hunt in a unit without a partner.''

Tracy asked the system be changed to where permit applicants could opt out of a permit within a specified time frame, perhaps four to six weeks, and retain their accrued points.

He said an opt-out fee could be charged and returned permits reissued in a raffle.

"Such a system could also help hunters who may have changes in family, health, or employement situation that could preclude taking advantage of a drawn permit,'' Tracy said. "Other states such as Oregon and Wyoming have similar programs.''

Commission member Gary Douvia of Kettle Falls agreed with Tracy.

"The people who put in a lot of money and a lot of time trying to get these tags — all of a sudden they get two and they lose all their points,'' Douvia said. "That just isn't right. There are ways to correct that. That's not what we're trying to achieve. That's not satisfaction. I think we've got to try to figure that one out.''

Tracy said he'll prioritze hunting with his son.

"I want our relationship to grow around hunting,'' he said. "I also realize that the future lies with the youth of today, the future of hunting, protection of wildlife habitat and the future of management agencies like WDFW.''