Tomorrow, Sept. 1, brings the opening day for many Washington State hunters who will be in the field pursuing grouse, rabbits, mourning doves and — for bowhunters — deer in several management units, and now is a good time to think about safety and being on your best behavior.
The Labor Day weekend will find not only hunters, but also a considerable number of non-hunters in the woods, creating lots of opportunity for interaction that could be good or bad. There is a good chance grouse and rabbit hunters, and archers, will cross paths with hikers and other recreationists.
Have you purchased the Discovery Pass? This column discussed that pass, who needs it and where.
Have hunters brushed up on firearms safety? How about everyone else? Huh?
People who know they are going to be in an area where people are hunting should make an effort to let hunters know you’re around, not by making a bunch of noise, but by wearing bright colors. Most hikers do not typically wear fluorescent orange. Indeed, some abhor the color, for any number of reasons. The ultimate responsibility is up to hunters to be sure of their targets, but one might argue that people who wear brown in the forest during hunting season are begging for trouble.
Not everyone in the different user groups gets along with one another. Years ago, this writer was confronted on a trail by a man who demanded to see my identification and my “permit” for being in the wilds with a rifle (it was opening day of the annual High Cascades buck hunt). He tried to intimidate me with his rather large dog.
It is against the law to interfere with a hunter engaged in the lawful pursuit of game in this state.
RCW 77.15.210 — Obstructing the taking of fish, shellfish, or wildlife — Penalty.
(1) A person is guilty of obstructing the taking of fish[, shellfish,] or wildlife if the person:
(a) Harasses, drives, or disturbs fish, shellfish, or wildlife with the intent of disrupting lawful pursuit or taking thereof; or
(b) Harasses, intimidates, or interferes with an individual engaged in the lawful taking of fish, shellfish, or wildlife or lawful predator control with the intent of disrupting lawful pursuit or taking thereof.
(2) Obstructing the taking of fish, shellfish, or wildlife is a gross misdemeanor.
(3) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for obstructing the taking of fish, shellfish, or wildlife that the person charged was:
(a) Interfering with a person engaged in hunting outside the legally established hunting season; or
(b) Preventing or attempting to prevent unauthorized trespass on private property.
(4) The person raising a defense under subsection (3) of this section has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence.
[2001 c 253 § 30; 1998 c 190 § 24.]
The other day, on the Northwest Hiker’s forum, someone left this remark about hunters in connection with a discussion on wolves:
“…These people don’t care about wildlife so much as they want a limitless supply of fresh blood for their bows and rifles. The simple fact is that they are recreational killers with side benefits of having a few hunks of meat to choke down and a head to hang above their fireplaces. That’s why they patrol around with their militia buddies playing Rambo and stuff. It’s a culture of violence that should be surpressed (sic), repressed, and even oppressed.”
Happily, that’s not a sentiment expressed by the majority of hikers or other outdoor users, but hunters need to be cognizant of this. That’s a suggestion that hikers might take to heart as well. That comment elicited some negative reactions from other members of that popular hiking forum.
It is a good idea to have a regulations pamphlet, and you can find one here that can be downloaded.
One might also enjoy some of the discussions on the Hunting-Washington and HuntFishNW forums. This column is a member of both.
Have a safe, enjoyable time in the outdoors, and remember, you probably have company.
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