Don’t put away your hunting license just yet; there are birds out there | Outdoors and Recreation

The strange year that was 2021 is quickly coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still some hunting to be squeezed out of your 2021 hunting license. Actually, the license is good through the end of March, and even though not many hunting seasons are open that long, most of the small game hunting seasons will be open for a few more weeks.

While virtually all of the upland bird hunting seasons on the Yakama Reservation close Dec. 31, the waterfowl hunting seasons, both on and off tribal lands, are open through Jan. 30. The upland bird hunting throughout the rest of the region, off of the reservation, runs through Jan. 17.

Local upland hunters working some of the heavy cover around the Valley have found that pheasants seem to be more plentiful now versus earlier in the season, when the birds were holed up in the thousands of acres of standing corn.

Some friends and I hunted several days during the past couple of weeks and have actually found a few pheasants and quail. The pheasants are bunched up in some of the weedy “feel free to hunt” fields that are near cut corn or wheat fields.

Heavy weeds, grasses and cattails give the birds the cover they need to survive the cold temperatures and the predicted snows that may be coming in the days ahead, and those are the spots we have been finding the pheasants.

The bigger issue has been getting within shotgun range of the pheasants. The birds seem particularly wild right now, so, as is normally the case during the late season, hunters need to be stealthy, avoiding loud talking or screaming at the dogs. Even then the birds have an uncanny ability to hear approaching hunters and dogs, and most will flush hundreds of yards out.

Quail numbers have been decent this fall, and hunters working thicker brush lines near grain fields have been getting some shooting at the little rockets with wings.

No matter what, getting the dogs out for another run or two before the seasons close is good for them and for all of us who might have eaten a bit too much during the holidays.

The recent cold temperatures have turned just about all of the local lakes and ponds into skating rinks, forcing the ducks and geese in the region to either migrate south or search for water in the streams in the area.

No matter how cold it gets, there are still a number of creeks and drains in the region that are fed by warm enough water they won’t freeze. Those open waters attract ducks like magnets and can provide some good hunting for those willing to do some walking.

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Waterfowl hunters who prefer to hunt ducks over decoys won’t find much open water around the Yakima Valley until we get some warmer temperatures to help thaw things out a little.

The best alternative for trying to shoot a few mallards over decoys might be to travel to the Tri-Cities or Paterson and hunt along the Snake or Columbia rivers on the McNary or Umatilla National Wildlife Refuges.

Goose hunters will have better luck down in those areas, too.

Other hunting options for the New Year include hunting chukar partridge in the Yakima River Canyon or on the Yakima Training Center. Hunters who have been willing to put in some miles have had some decent luck finding some chukar.

As is the case with the pheasant and quail hunting seasons, partridge hunting remains open through Monday, Jan. 17 everywhere except on the Yakama Reservation. Partridge season on the reservation closes Friday.

Winter is also a good time to get out after coyotes. They’re designated as pests and can be hunted year-round. The best coyote hunting, though, can be had in the winter when the predators are more active in searching for food.

Some of the most popular coyote hunting areas in Central Washington include the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area and at the Yakima Training Center. Coyotes are found throughout the region so the hunting is not limited to just those areas. Again, because the coyotes are out looking for food, they can many times be called into rifle, or even shotgun range.

It is hard to believe it is almost 2022. Who knows what the new year will bring with all the craziness surrounding COVID variants? But even though the year ends at the stroke of midnight Friday, don’t think that the hunting opportunities are over, too. Depending on what Mother Nature throws at us with the weather, there’s still a chance at success during the next few weeks, before the upland and waterfowl seasons come to a close.

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