Change in grouse management proposed by state agency

by Terry Loney -- The Daily world writer


Grays Harbor, WA - Deer and elk hunters who like to shoot an occasional grouse for dinner at the end of a long day in the woods may want to think about packing a little more food for the hunting trip.

The state Department of Fish & Wildlife is considering banning the use of high - powered rifles for taking grouse.

The ban will be discussed during a public meeting with state Fish & Wildlife personnel at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen. The meeting is part of a series of eight being held across the state to gather public input on the dates for hunting seasons for the next three years. Staff will take public comments to the Fish & Wildlife Commission, which will set the hunting seasons and determine at its April meeting if the ban will be put in place.

Mick Cope, upland game manager, said The Ruffed Grouse Society has approached the Fish & Wildlife Commission asking them to prohibit the use of high - powered rifles in taking grouse.

"Their concern lies mainly in the ethical fair chase of the critter, (and) the wastage of meat by being shot with high - powered rifles," Cope said. "Some people believe that being able to shoot a grouse at more than 60 yards out of a tree with a scope is not a sporting way to do it."

If the rule change goes through, hunters will still be allowed to use .22 caliber rifles, bows, handguns, shotguns, muzzle loaders with bird shot and falconry to hunt grouse.

But for deer and elk hunters, who are out in the woods with high - powered rifles, taking a grouse can be a nice addition to the usual menu of camp food.

Dick Gates, owner of Western Sports Unlimited in Montesano, said "it is common" for deer and elk hunters to kill a grouse for the evening meal.

Gates said he does not view the proposed rule change as an ethical issue, but as another restriction on hunting. One restriction leads to another, he said, adding that if approved by the commission it will be "just one more nail in the coffin of hunting rights."

Cope said most grouse are taken in September, before the modern fire arm big game seasons start. But, he added, a large number are taken by big game hunters.

An average of 5,927 grouse per year were taken from 1996 to 2000 in Grays Harbor, according to Fish & Wildlife records. Grays Harbor ranks sixth in the state for the average number of grouse taken per year.

The department will also be taking comments on the September archery elk hunt and how it bumps up against the Labor Day holiday weekend, white tail deer hunting in the northeast part of state, black bear seasons and if the opening of pheasant season should be before or after deer season.

Public comment is being accepted through Feb. 10 on the hunting seasons and the rifle ban. Comments can be made at the meeting or by e - mail to or write to Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, attention Dave Brittell, 600 Capital Way North, Olympia, 98501.


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