What is it that fascinates hunters and outdoor revelers about the State of Washington? Perhaps it is due to its 35 plus types of waterfowl. Or is it due to its vast hunting opportunities for blacktail deer?
To make sense of all of these, as well as many other hunting topics, we have summarized the crucial pieces of information about hunting in the State of Washington. It covers everything from procurement of hunting license to the various questions asked by hunters in this Evergreen State.
For more information about changes to the season dates and contact details, please visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) website.
Washington Hunting License
Regardless of age, every hunter who intends hunting (solo or under supervision) in Washington must possess a valid Washington Hunting License issued by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Furthermore, hunters must secure hunting permits and stamps (see below) in order to hunt some game species and animals in Washington.
Depending on the hunter’s residency status, the applicant can either be eligible for a resident hunting license or a non-residency hunting license in Washington.
By law, the State of Washington views people who have legally resided in the state for a minimum of 90 days prior to their hunting licenses application as residents. These people must have a valid resident hunting license in order to hunt in the state. Those who do not meet this minimum day requirement will be regarded as non-residents of Washington.
Hunters can prove their residency status by furnishing the following: a valid Washington driver’s license and Social Security number or say a tax return form and documentation.
Note: A resident of the State of Washington automatically loses his residency privileges the moment he or she claims hunting or trapping residency privileges from another U.S. state. However, active-duty members of the U.S. military (regardless of residency status) stationed in Washington automatically get residency privileges.
Requirements for a Washington Hunting Licenses
Hunters born after January 1, 1979, can legally hunt in the state by meeting or going for either one of the following options:
- A completed Hunter Education Certification
- A temporary Washington State Hunter Education Deferral (the equivalent of an apprentice hunting license)
Hunter Education Certification
Washington Hunter Education Certification is designed to imbue upcoming hunters with knowledge and skills for safe and ethical hunting across the state.
Note: Washington accepts education certifications from all states or provinces in the U.S. that meet IHEA-USA (the International Hunter Education Association) requirements. Likewise, all U.S. states and provinces and Canada that have compulsory hunter education requirements will accept Washington’s Hunter Education Certificate.
The traditional classroom option is made up of 10 to 20-hour instructions on a host of ethical safety topics. There is no minimum age requirement for the traditional classroom course. However, students under the age of 12 years must be accompanied by a parent or guardian when attending the class. To find an available Washington traditional hunter course, please click on this link.
The online session can be completed at your own discretionary pace. There is no minimum age requirement for the online hunter education course in Washington. The online course can be completed by both residents and non-residents of the state. It requires about 4-6 hours in order to complete. For more details about the course fees, outline and topics, duration, and class schedule of the online Education certification course in Washington, please click on this link.
In both online and classroom formats, students must obtain a pass grade (80% correct) on a multiple-choice question.
Field Skills Evaluation Course
Upon completion of either the online or classroom session, students have to attend a 4-6 hours Field Skills Evaluation Course. They must come along with a signed Certification of Completion, a Field Skills Training and Evaluation Form, and the Washington Hunting Seasons and Rule Pamphlet Worksheet on the Field day. Active-duty and honorably discharged members of the U.S. military stationed in Washington are exempt from the Field Skills Evaluation Course. Peace Officers get exempted from the firearm field skills portion of the Field Skills Course. Click on this link to download those forms as well as the exemption forms.
Washington Hunter Education Classes are provided throughout the year. Some other notable education courses in Washington include Trapper Education Course, Bowhunter Education Course, and boater education.
Hunter Education Deferral License
The Hunter Education Deferral is the equivalent of an apprentice hunting license seen in other states in the U.S. This deferral is given once a year in a lifetime to defer the hunter education training. The applicant must not have failed the hunter education course in the prior year. The minimum age to be eligible for this deferral is 10 years. Also, the State forbids holders of this deferral from hunting alone. They must at all times, while hunting, be in the company of a licensed hunter 18 years or older. This hunter, who should have held a hunter license in the past three years, can supervise only one person. He or she must be close proximity with the deferral (apprentice) holder.
Violation of this or any other hunting regulations of the state will lead to the revocation of hunting licenses, tags or permits of the accompanying hunter or the apprentice. Depending on the gravity of the offense, the suspension maybe for a year (except for a violation of unlawful hunting of wild birds).
Applicants of the Education Deferral license have two options in the application process. They can either opt for a 1-2 day turn-around or a 1-2 week turn-around option. The former requires that the applicant send the electronic deferral application form to this email: [email protected]. There is an application fee that must be paid after the department has approved the application.
Alternatively, the application form can be filled out and posted to the following address:
600 Capitol Way North
Olympia WA 98501-1091
A notification will be sent to you once the department has approved your application. Then, an application fee must be paid. Visit this link to download the 1-2 week turn-around PDF or Word application form. And in both options, applicants below 18 years old should have a parent’s or legal guardian’s permission prior to applying for the deferral. The validity period for the deferral is often from April 1 to March 31 the following year.
Note: Applicants should not pay or mail the application fee until their applications are approved by the department.
Washington State WILD ID Number
Virtually every transaction with the department often requires the hunter to have a WILD (Washington Interactive Licensing Database) ID number. This number is unique to the applicant. Hunters without these numbers can sign up on the WILD system in order to generate their WILD ID number. It is not mandatory to have the WILD ID number prior to applying for a deferral hunter education license. However, having it makes the transaction easier and smoother for new applicants or first-time hunters dealing with the department. The hunter’s Social Security Number can be used in place of the WILD ID number.
How to get a Washington Hunting License
There are primarily two ways hunters can purchase a hunting license or permits in Washington.
- The easiest and fastest option is to make the purchase online using the WDFW’s online licensing system. This option allows the user to perform a host of transactions such as harvest submissions, make donations, purchase a Discover Pass, purchase hunting permits and stamps.
- The second way is through any one of the numerous license vendors and retail outlets in the state. Hunters can click this link to search for the nearest vendor in their vicinity.
Alternatively, applicants can visit any one of the numerous regional WDFW offices scattered across Washington State.
How much does a Washington Hunting License or Permit or Stamp Cost?
There are varying licenses, permits and stamps fees for resident and nonresidents of Washington State. In cases of specific game species, hunters are obliged to buy additional permits and tags in order to hunt those species.
Most Washington Hunting licenses are valid from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. However, some of them are not. Click on the fees link above to view further details and the varying license fee structure in the state.
Note: Upon the request of a wildlife officer or other law enforcement officer, hunters must produce their hunting license, or hunting gear, or vehicles for inspection. Failure to do so, or refusal to do so, will attract punitive sanctions.
Other notable Hunting Licenses and Stamps in the State of Washington
Here are some famous hunting licenses, stamps, and permits in the State of Washington:
- A youth hunting license is given to residents and nonresident 16 years old and below at a reduced fee. To obtain this license the youth should have successfully completed a hunter education course. Youth hunters must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter years or older. The Youth Hunting license can be obtained from any license agent or online.
- Active military member hunting license: All active military personnel stationed in Washington are eligible for a resident hunting license regardless of their residency. Active service document, hunter education or previous hunting license (either Washington or other states) are the documents that must be furnished to the license agent.
- Hunting Licenses for veterans with disability: are given at a reduced fee to Washington resident veterans with 30% service-related physical disability. Resident veterans can also secure a hunting license at a reduced fee. Non-resident Washington veterans get similar fee privileges.
- Hunting licenses for National and State Guard Members: Active resident National Guard members stationed in Washington are entitled to a free hunting license. This free package encompasses big game license and small game license as well as migratory bird permit. To apply, applicants must submit a printed application the WDFW, verification of service, a Washington State driver’s license, and a hunter education certificate. For more information about the application form and mailing address, please visit this link.
- Migratory Bird and Waterfowl Stamp are meant for resident and non-resident hunters 16 years and above who hunt migratory birds such as duck, goose, snipe, woodcock, rails, and band-tailed pigeon. Hunters who specifically hunt duck and goose must have a Federal Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp as well. The federal stamps are available at any local U.S. Postal Office and online. The stamp must be in the possession of the hunter at all times while hunting those species. These stamps are valid from 1st of July to the 30th of June, each fiscal year. For more information about these stamps, please read the migratory waterfowl and upland game seasons.
- WDFW Raffle Hunting Permits: The WDFW has a raffle for deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, and other multi-species permits. The multi-species permit allows winners to choose the type of game animals to hut. In order to secure these permits, the applicant can buy raffle tickets at license vendors. Applications cannot be made online. There is no restriction to the number of raffle tickets that can be bought. Winners of permits, in some cases, must purchase additional tags such as elk and deer.
The draw is done randomly by a computer. Winners are duly notified by phone or mail. For more details about the WDFW Raffle permits, please visit the Big game hunting seasons and regulations guide.
Hunting Regulations in Washington
The following regulations below must be taken note of if you hunters are to engage in lawful hunting and trapping expedition in Washington:
- The state prohibits the use of drones or unmanned aircraft in any form to hunt.
- It is against the hunting regulations to use or possess an arrow that has an explosive tip or one that has been poisoned.
- The use of electronic calling or decoy in hunting wild turkey is prohibited.
- Dogs cannot be used to hunt turkey. And certainly, dogs are not allowed to roam untended.
- To transport turkey, a hunter requires a transportation tag. The person who shoots or kills the turkey must be the one who fills the tag.
- Baiting of turkey is illegal.
- All hunters must report turkey hunting activities even if they did not hunt or harvest any turkey. The deadline is usually 31 January or May 31 for spring turkey season. See the website or the Wild Turkey Spring Season Regulation Pamphlet for any changes in dates.
- Harassing or obstructing a hunter who is legally taking wildlife is purely against the hunting laws of the state.
- The use of a bow and arrow from any moving or stationary vehicle is prohibited.
- Killing or wounding any animal without making any considerable effort to retrieve it is illegal.
- A harvested kill cannot be transported on behalf of the person who killed it outside the field without the appropriate tagging.
- It is unlawful to hunting, trapping, chasing or retrieving a game animal from private property without the approval of the owner.
- The use of a motor-powered vehicle to chase, hunt and take mammals and birds is forbidden (except for persons with disability hunting permits).
- Hunters who hunt deer, elk and upland game birds with a modern firearm must hunter orange.
Note: The above regulations were selected from the state’s various Hunting Regulations. Hunters are advised to read those guides very carefully in order to avoid breaching any Washington State laws and regulations.
Hunting Seasons in Washington
The hunting seasons in this state varies in terms of the type of game and species. For more information about the hunting seasons in Washington, we request that hunters read the various hunting pamphlets or visit this link.
Big Game Hunting Seasons
The big game animals in Washington are deer, elk, black bear, moose, bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, and cougar. They are mostly categorized into general or special permit seasons.
- Cougar Hunting Seasons
All the seasons here are general. They occur from the beginning of fall to the mid of winter. The bag limit is one cougar per license year. For further information pertaining to the season dates and tag numbers, hunters can peruse the Big Game Seasons and Rules Guide from the WFDW website.
- Deer Hunting Season
Deer hunting seasons are both General and Special Permit seasons. The general deer season has three components: Modern Firearm, Archery and Muzzleloader General Deer Seasons. The Modern Firearm General Deer Season and Muzzleloader General Deer Season occur from early fall to mid-fall. There is a senior, disabled and youth general season as well. They take place in mid-fall. As for the Archery General Deer Season, it runs from fall all the way to early winter. Visit the Big game hunting seasons and regulations guide to find out more about the various game management units (GMUs) as well as the bag limits.
- Elk Hunting Season
Washington’s elk population numbers are quite many and sizeable. Elk tags can be bought over the counter from accredited agents in the state. The major seasons are the general and special permit seasons. The general season includes Modern Firearm General Elk Season, Archery general elk season and the muzzleloader general elk season. The first two seasons occur from late spring to mid-winter. However, the Muzzleloader season occurs from mid-fall to early winter.
- Black bear hunting seasons
The black bear hunting seasons are Spring Black Bear special permit and the fall black bear season. It is illegal to capture black bears with snare or trap. Female bears with their young cannot be hunted or taken in any situation.
Wild turkey Hunters hunting seasons
The seasons for turkey are generally spring and fall. The spring season has both the Youth-Only and Spring General Seasons.
Small Game Hunting Seasons
The small game animals here are bobwhite, coyote, fox, crow, ruffed grouse, opossum, raccoon, jackrabbit and hare rabbit, gray squirrel, and beaver. Their seasons often spans from the beginning fall to the mid of spring. However, the coyote is often year-round.
Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Season
Waterfowl in the state include duck, coot, snipe, goose, brant, band-tailed pigeon and mourning dove. Generally, hunters hunt these waterfowl in fall. Examples of some upland Game animals are forest grouse, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, pheasant, quail, partridge, jackrabbit. Hunting for these animals has been categorized into W.Wasinton Youth, E. Washington Youth and statewide.
Hunting for waterfowl and migratory birds in Washington can be done in the following seasons, based on the type of bird, and the hunting zone in which the hunter intends to hunt. Hunters are advised to check out the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Birds Pamphlet
Note: The official hunting hours for migratory and upland game birds and turkey can be found at this link.
Where to Hunt or Trap in the State of Washington
According to state records, WDFW has in its possession close to a million acres of land available to the public for hunting as well as other outdoor activities. About 50% of the land in Washington State is owned and controlled by state and federal agencies. Many of them are open to public hunting and outdoor activities. Here are some common categorizations of these lands:
Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)
The state has about 33 Wildlife Management Areas across 6 regions. Notable WMAs include Methow Wildlife Area, Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, Asotin Creek Wildlife Area, Colockum Wildlife Area, Skagit Wildlife Area, Cowlitz Wildlife Area, and the Chehalis Wildlife Area. For example, the Asotin Creek Wildlife Area has about 37,000 acres ideal for deer, elk, turkey and quail hunting.
To view more of such WMAs, with their corresponding maps, in Washington, click on this link
Access Areas and Private Lands
In addition to the above public lands, Washington has enrolled large stretches of private land for hunting. Examples of such programs are Feel Free to Hunt, Hunt By Written Permission, Register to Hunt and Hunt by Reservation.
Care must be taken to get all the necessary documentation and permission from these landowners prior to hunting on their lands. Hunters must go in there with the appropriate licenses, permits, and tags. Hunters are advised to properly conduct themselves on these private properties. They should also vacate the premises whenever they are told to leave by the landowner.
Visit this link to explore the various maps for outdoor and hunting activities in the state.
Hunting Guides or Outfitters in Washington
When it really matters, the following famous hutting outfitters and guides can help hunters to make sense of it all:
- Chinook Pass Outfitters
- Bearpaw Outfitters**
- Twisted Horn Outfitters
- Deadman Creek Outfitters
- Panhandle Outfitters
- Zoller’s Klickitat River Guides**
- Hidden Ranch Outfitters
- Miller Ranch & Hunting Preserve **
- YJ Guide Service**
**Offers lodging and accommodation to hunters.
Accommodations Available to Hunters in Washington
A good resting place is one sure way to fully take advantage of the numerous and superb hunting opportunities in Washington State. Here are some of those accommodation facilities and inns that have carved a niche for welcoming all sorts of hunters with open arms:
Tagging and reporting hunting activities in the State of Washington
The state requires that the game be tagged appropriately using the hunter’s signed tag. The tag must remain fastened to the game at all times until it gets to the taxidermy.
Irrespective of whether hunters make a catch or even use hunt, they must report game animals such as deer, elk, black bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey. Failure to complete all reports will attract a penalty. You are not required to report cougar transport tags unless you harvest a cougar.
They can do this online or call this number 1-877-945-3492. Hunters must desist from filing reports by mail or email.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What should I do after failing to ace the Field Skills Evaluation Class?
A. The online class must be retaken if you do not pass the Field Skills Evaluation Class. You can contact the department in order to have a reset of the online class.
Q. I have lost my hunter education card. How do I get a new one?
A. You can get a new card or duplicate a hunter education card by completing and returning a special application form to the regional Department of Fish and Wildlife offices or the Olympia hunter education office. There are fees charged for this service.
Q. How do I buy a permit as a gift for a friend?
A. You will need some basic information about that friend of yours. Date of birth plus any one of the following: last four digits of their social security number, first and last name, WILD ID. These sorts of purchase can only be completed at a licensed dealer. The recipient must have purchased a license before and have a wild account.
Q. How do I get a Discover Pass for my vehicle? And what is the difference between the Discover pass and Vehicle Access Pass (VAP)?
A. The Discover Pass and Vehicle Access Pass are almost similar. Hunters with VAP don’t need a Discover Pass to access WDFW lands. The Discover Pass is needed when you want to use the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or Washington State Parks lands. Be it VAP or Discover Access Pass, outdoor seekers must post them on their vehicles. It should be visible enough from outside the vehicle. The discover pass can be obtained online or by phone at 360-902-2464 or from recreational license vendors.
Q. How do I replace my online education course completion document?
A. You can log in to the course and print a new one.
Q. I am a Hunter Education Deferral holder. Do I still need to acquire tags or permits?
A. Yes. All holders are required to acquire the additional appropriate tags, permits, and licenses in accordance with licensing procedures of the state. This allows you to participate in both General Season and Youth Hunting Season depending on your age.
Q. Can I claim discounts for a hunting license in Washington? I am 69 years old.
A. No. As at now, the state has licenses for resident senior citizens. However, you cannot get them for a reduced fee. You will be charged the same fees as other residents of the state.
The above information lets you make sound decisions while hunting in the State of Washington. It is our hope that you pay careful attention to them so as to have a very safe and enjoyable hunting trip. Armed with the right amount of information, Washington State can let you connect to nature in ways that you have never done before. Its numerous hunting places are bound to stretch you out of your comfort zone.