As I was perusing my calendar the other day, I looked ahead to October and November and started wondering about the hunting trips I have in the works for this fall. Of course, nobody knows for sure what we might be able to do, and where we might be able to go five months from now, but being an optimist most of the time, I have to believe we’ll be out hunting like normal by then.
I was looking at the calendar because, like many other hunters across the state, now is the time to apply for special hunts. Washington state offers a myriad of different special hunting permits for deer, elk, goats, sheep, moose and other big game animals.
Depending on where you like to hunt, there are opportunities to draw a special tag in one of dozens of game management units around the state. And, if you prefer to hunt with archery gear, a muzzle-loader rifle, or a modern rifle, there are special permit categories for those as well.
Those who study the numbers will see that there are fewer permits in our region for elk. This is because the population numbers of the popular game animal have not recovered as quickly as biologists had hoped.
But there are still some options for drawing a permit to possibly shoot the bull of a lifetime, or an elk to fill the freezer.
Deer hunters will also find several options for hunting during special seasons, just not many around here.
Of course, with fewer special hunts available, the odds of getting drawn are decreased, depending on how many hunters apply, and how many bonus points a hunter has.
Getting drawn for a permit to hunt a moose, a sheep, or a goat, is akin to winning the Lotto. There are so few permits available the big three, combined with the large number of hunters applying for those permits, the odds of getting drawn for one is long for sure. Even with the maximum accrual of bonus points, the chances are poor.
The permits for the big three are called “lifetime permits.” Meaning once you draw for one, you can never be drawn for another.
Again, I am generally an optimist, but in this situation, I have become a bit of a pessimist, and figure the special tag is called a lifetime permit because I’ll never draw one in this lifetime. I was a relatively young man when I first started applying for a moose permit. Now, 24 years later, I am getting to the point where I am definitely going to need some assistance if I happen to draw a permit and bag a moose.
That’s okay though. I wouldn’t complain. I know several young men who would gladly come help an old(er) man with a hunt of a lifetime. Or at least I think I know some who would.
And, over the past several years, as I have zeroed out on every special permit for which I have applied, my pessimism has grown.
For the first time in about a decade, my buddies and I didn’t get drawn to hunt in Montana, so that just adds to my negativity.
Based on that, and my extremely poor batting average, combined with the reduced number of permits available, I almost didn’t apply for any special hunts this year. I would have saved myself close to a hundred bucks and some probable disappointment.
In fact, I had decided to not apply, and then, what should appear in my mailbox but a jury summons. It was like a message from the heavens. I actually can get drawn for something. It’s not a hunting permit, but it’s something. Though I am not sure how they are going to fit 12 jurors in a box in early June, even with the Governor’s possible easing of the gathering protocols.
So, I ponied up and purchased my special applications. I paid my money, and I am taking my chance. I’m stepping back into the batter’s box, hoping to hit a home run. Truth be told though, I won’t be surprised at all if I strike out. Again.
Originally, the deadline for applying for the special hunt permits was this past Monday. But due to the delay of the printed Washington Big Game Hunting Regulations booklet, what with the Covid-19 and all, WDFW officials extended the deadline to today.
The odds are long. The chances are slim. But at least I have a chance. Believe me, I won’t be holding my breath.
The hunt dates are going to stay blocked out on my calendar for October and November. If I’m not hunting big game, at least I will be able to chase some birds, around here and in Montana. That is, I will, we all will, if we’re past this pandemic by then.
• Rob Phillips is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer who has written the Northwest Sportsman column for over 25 years. He can be reached at email@example.com