Washington is offering hunters the ability to make Web-based reservations on private land under a new program aimed at improving access.
The Hunt By Reservation system kicked off last spring, but gets its real test this fall as upland bird, waterfowl and deer hunters head afield. It allows Washington-licensed hunters to peruse a menu of participating private lands and make reservations for available hunting dates on a first-come, first-served basis. Landowners who participate no longer have to field permission requests from hunters and at least for this year and next, will be paid $3 for every acre they enroll in the program.
“So far, we have had really good feedback from the hunters and the landowners that this program is working really well,” said Joey McCanna, private land and wildlife conflict supervisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at St. John.
The program is concentrated largely in Eastern Washington’s prime pheasant hunting areas within Whitman, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla counties, but reservations can also be made in Stevens, Ferry, Whatcom and Pend Oreille counties. Thus far, there are 70,000 acres on about 70 properties that hunters can choose from.
Some of the parcels are available for group hunts, meaning multiple hunters from the same party can reserve them. Others are simply open to a set number of people who don’t have to belong to the same group.
The properties are marked with bright yellow “Hunting By Reservation” signs and the website provides aerial maps with hunt areas outlined in blue. McCanna said the hunting dates were chosen to give the fields — and the game that lives in them — a break between hunts.
“We usually like to have a week between each hunt because we want to make it a quality experience for the people who are hunting.”
The landowner payments were made available through a grant that comes from a program in the federal farm bill. It expires after next year, but the department is seeking additional grants for future years. Even if future funding isn’t forthcoming, McCanna said many landowners have signed up to participate without payment.