MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Bird hunting opener Saturday

IF THERE’S ONE group that welcomes the gray days of autumn, it’s the bird hunters.

Nothing stirs up a flock of geese or ducks quite like blustery fall weather.

Unfortunately, those looking to participate in this weekend’s early hunts will get very little of that.

The weatherman predicts mostly sunny, mild conditions during the next five days.

Thus, hunters shouldn’t expect birds to be moving around too much when things get started Saturday.

While that might not affect the opener, it could lead to a few uneventful days after that, Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said

“Anytime it’s blue-bird weather, it always puts a little damper on that,” Aunspach said. “Duck hunting is always best when it’s cold and windy.

“But the first day when the season starts, they are pretty gullible, so the opening will still be pretty strong.

“The second day will be tougher if it’s still blue-bird weather. Once they realize the pressure is there, that will slow them down until the weather brings them back in.”

The Dungeness Valley area has long been one of the more popular duck hunting spots on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Last year, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife opened a new 140-acre plot west of Dungeness River near the mouth to public hunting Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Many of the Peninsula’s other public hunting areas can be found near the Hoh, Quillayute Prairie and beaver ponds of the Pysht.

The beach near Graysmarsh Farm in Jamestown usually opens to the public on Wednesdays and Sundays, too, and parts of the Coyle Peninsula can produce a few birds.

“[The birds] are starting to move,” Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks said.

“Lots of geese go over [on the West End], but they are about 1,000 feet high and going south.

“We do get some around here but not very many, not like east of the mountains.”

Duck hunters did well for themselves in Clallam County in 2010 with the second-best harvest (9,147 birds) of the past 11 years.

They also got 709 Canada geese in another above average season.

Things weren’t quite as good for Jefferson County bird hunters, who had an average duck harvest (2,270) and a terrible Canada goose take (18).

Duck season opens for five days starting Saturday. After a brief closure, it reopens Oct. 22 through Jan. 29.

Canada Geese are fair game Saturday through Oct. 27 and Nov. 5 through Jan. 29.

More hunting

As the weather cools down around the Peninsula, expect deer to start acting a little strange.

The rut may not be on in full force at this point, but there should still be a few randy bucks stomping around when the modern firearm deer season starts Saturday.

“They are falling into their fall pattern,” Aunspach said. “Things are damp and wet out there.

“They are definitely going to be moving around, early in the morning and right before dark.”

The early modern firearm season for deer will run from Saturday through the end of the month throughout the area.

As I’ve alluded in the past, the best spots to scout out the bucks are in the eastern half of the Peninsula, most specifically in the Olympic Game Management Unit (GMU).

The Pysht is also productive out west.

“Most people are going to try to hunt clear cuts in the morning and late evening when they are trying to feed,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said.

Added Aunspach, “Some of your younger bucks will get killed this weekend.

“Your big, mature trophy-type bucks will come more toward the end of the season as that urge comes on to follow that doe.”

Fishing for salmon

Fall salmon season has arrived on the West End.

Silvers are flooding into the Quillayute system and Hoh river.

And once the Dungeness River opens Sunday, anglers will have a whole lot of options across the Peninsula.

“There’s quite a few fish around,” Gooding said of the West End. “If [the rivers] are dropping and getting clear, you better get your butt out there because it’s going to be smoking.

“Last weekend the Quillayute [Tribe] got like 80,000 pounds, and people still caught fish. There was just so many. They were coming in waves.”

The Sol Duc Hatchery reported 1,200 coho reaching its traps in the past week, many chrome bright.

While the numbers aren’t as big on the Dungeness — 450 coho made it to the hatchery this week — there still figures to be plenty of salmon swimming around in time for the traditional Oct. 16 opener.

“Of course, it will be combat fishing extraordinaire,” Menkal said.

“There’s great access points all along the river, and the easier the access the more people are going to be there.

“The people who want to walk a little farther, they will get away from everybody else, but you’ve got to walk a ways.”

Those who still have a little salt in their blood may consider heading out into Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca).

Anglers around the Port Angeles area have hooked a number of straggler coho coming through the Strait in the past week.

“Sunday was pretty poor, and then it really picked back up again on Monday,” Aunspach said.

Some of those fish are likely to pass by Port Townsend in Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) as well.

Hopefully they aren’t suffering from lockjaw at that point.

Also . . .

■ The return of recreational crabbing to the Strait and most of Area 9 was met with so-so results.

Predictably, the best returns seemed to be near Sequim at Dungeness and Sequim bays. Those around Port Angeles encountered a hit-or-miss fishery.

“Guys seem to be doing OK,” Menkal said. “It’s not super-hot like it was the first week of July, but they are consistently getting their crab.”

■ Brian’s Sporting Goods and More will host a free two-session salmon and steelhead river fishing class this Tuesday and next Tuesday at its Sequim shop, 542 W. Washington St.

The class will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. both nights.

■ Puget Sound Anglers-North Olympic Peninsula chapter will hold its monthly meeting this Thursday.

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave.

Details on the guest speaker were unavailable.

■ The Hurricane Ridge Gear Swap and Olympic Peninsula Outdoor Sports Expo comes to Port Angeles High School next Saturday, Oct. 22.

The gear swap/expo will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with admission $3 per person or $7 for a family pass.

Anyone is welcome to drop off equipment and clothing for sale between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. the day of the event.

There will be two showings of a Warren Miller ski and snowboard film that night at 6 and 8 at the Port Angeles High School auditorium. Admission is $10.

■ Dungeness River Audubon Center will hold a free presentation for beginning birders and newcomers to the area from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday at Carrie Blake Park.

The presentation will help familiarize participants with area birds and birding techniques.

To pre-register, contact Dave Jackson at 360-683-1355 or djackson@wavecable.com.

■ Washington Trails Association extended the deadline for its annual Northwest Exposure Photo Contest to this Monday.

The outdoor photo contest includes five categories: wild landscapes, flora and fauna, hikers in action, families on trail and offbeat outdoors.

For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/yj29nxg.

■ The first razor clam digs of the fall are set for Oct. 28 and 29 at four ocean beaches.

Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks will all open to afternoon digs on that Friday and Saturday.

There is still no word on when, or if, digs will commence at Kalaloch Beach inside Olympic National Park.

Send photos, stories

Want your event listed in the outdoors column?

Have a fishing or hunting report, an anecdote about an outdoors experience or a tip on gear or technique, why not share it with our readers?

Send it to me, Matt Schubert, Sports Department, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone, 360-417-3526; fax, 360-417-3521; email matt.schubert

@peninsuladailynews.com.

__________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays and Fridays.

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