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We just weren't looking in the right places.
For it was the state's big-game hunting community that has taken a slight hit since the turn of the millennium.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife harvest reports point to a shrinking interest in elk and deer hunting across the state during the last 10 years.
Hunter participation is down in both general elk and deer.
Minus a brief uptick in 2004-05, the number of hunters for each have declined noticeably since 2000.
Furthermore, the 2008 harvest numbers for both hunts were the smallest in the past 10 years (see chart on Page B3).
A vast PETA conspiracy? Probably not. A symptom of a declining economy? Maybe.
Whatever the case, we'll try to investigate some more in the coming months.
Between now and then, however, I suggest you go out and get a license.
Hunting season kicks off in earnest next week, with several hunts (archery deer, grouse and cougar) all beginning on Tuesday.
Black bear season is already underway throughout the area and will last through Nov. 15.
Here's a list of other general seasons on the horizon:
• Forest grouse -- Last year's season was a bit disappointing to say the least.
Numbers in Jefferson and Clallam counties were down significantly from the year before, with each posting its third smallest harvests of the past 10 years.
Hopefully things will improve this year, despite what should be a very dry opener.
The season lasts from Tuesday through Dec. 31 throughout the North Olympic Peninsula, with hunters limited to three a day.
• Ducks -- The quacks have remained steady on the Peninsula in recent years.
Clallam County had a banner season just three years ago (9,212 harvested), and has been relatively productive since.
Jefferson County saw a slight increase in success (approximately 30 percent) from 2007-08 to '08-09.
Hunters can break out the decoys beginning with an early hunt Oct. 17-21 statewide.
After a brief closure, the ducks will be fair game once again Oct. 24 through Jan. 31.
There is also a youth hunt on Sept. 26-27.
• Canada Geese -- It would be hard to complain about last year's general Canada Goose season as well.
Jefferson and Clallam counties each had their most productive seasons in the last six years.
The Clallam hunt was particularly pleasant, with hunters bagging 712 geese, which was more than the previous seven years combined (656).
Goose hunting season will be broken up into three separate hunts this year. The Canada Geese season is open Sept. 10-15, with other seasons on Oct. 17-29 and Nov. 7 through Jan. 31.
• Cougar -- This season will have a different look.
Normally, cougar hunting would already be underway at this point, but the state is now trying to match the dates and regulations with those of early deer and elk seasons.
Cougar hunting begin with a statewide archery-only season Sept. 1-25, followed by a muzzleloader-only season Sept. 26-Oct. 16.
From Oct. 17 to March 31, hunters may use any legal weapon to target cougars.
• Archery deer -- Archers get their first shot at the blacktails on Tuesday in all nine GMUs (game management units), which are the Hoko (601), Dickey (602), Pysht (603), Sol Duc (607), Goodman (612), Clearwater (615), Matheny (618), Olympic (621) and Coyle (624).
The season lasts through Sept. 25 in the Hoko, Pysht, Clearwater, Olympic and Coyle GMUs, while the Dickey, Sol Duc, Goodman and Matheny close after Sept. 20.
A late season set for Nov. 25 through Dec. 15 in the Hoko, Sol Duc, Goodman, Matheny and Clearwater GMUs.
There also will be a late season in Coyle and Pysht that will go from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31.
• High buck season -- This hunt is only for the hardiest of the hardy, so get your merit badges handy.
Hunters must not only backpack into extremely remote locations, but they must also haul out whatever they run into. No easy task to say the least.
There's only 10 days for this specialty hunt, from Sept. 15-25, with both the modern firearm and muzzleloader seasons overlapping in Peninsula wilderness areas.
• Muzzleloader deer -- As is the case every year, the muzzleloaders get the second shot at Bambi's brethren . . . albeit a bit earlier than last year.
The early season will go from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4 in the Pysht, Sol Duc, Goodman, Clearwater and Coyle GMUs, while the late season will hit the Dickey GMU only from Nov. 26 to Dec. 15.
• Modern firearm deer -- The most popular hunt of the season arrives in mid-October, going from Oct. 17-31 in each of the Peninsula's GMUs.
Blacktail bucks can be targeted again Nov. 19-22 in all nine GMUs for the late season.
• Archery elk -- Archers can hit the trails Sept. 8-20 in Hoko, Dickey, Pysht, Sol Duc, Goodman, Clearwater and Matheny GMUs.
There also will be a Sept. 8-20 hunt in the Coyle GMU with the exception of elk area 6071.
The late archery season is set for the Pysht, Goodman and Clearwater GMUs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 15.
• Muzzleloader elk -- Muzzleloaders can track down Roosevelt elk Oct. 3-9 in the Dickey, Pysht and Sol Duc GMUs. The late season is set for Nov. 25 to Dec. 15 in the Hoko and Matheny GMUs.
• Modern firearm elk -- This season goes from Nov. 7-17 in the Hoko, Dickey, Pysht, Sol Duc, Goodman, Clearwater, Matheny and Coyle (except for elk area 6071) GMUs.
Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.