The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have decided to cancel the special youth turkey hunting season and keep bear hunting in certain areas closed for now.
According to an official release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, both the spring youth turkey season (scheduled for April 4-5, 2020) and the spring bear season in six game management units (scheduled to open April 1, 2020) will remain closed, with potential to be reopened.
The decision was made to help limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19 per Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's order to Stay Home, Stay Healthy. Previously, public land and resources had been closed or canceled in Washington, disappointing many in the state looking for fresh air, exercise, and an excuse to get out of the house.
On March 25, the agency closed all recreational fishing statewide until at least April 8, again in response to the governor's order. According to that news release, WDFW Enforcement officers would remain on duty and would be enforcing these new closures.
WDFW Director Kelly Susewind says he understands the disappointment, and wishes the closures weren't necessary. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced many to make calls they weren't looking forward to making.
"Aspiring hunters often experience their first successful hunt over this weekend," said Susewind. "It's disappointing, but this is a serious situation, and we want our communities and the hunting public to successfully protect themselves."
Here's what the release had to say about the possibility of future seasons and dates being impacted:
On April 6, WDFW will reassess its ability to open the impacted hunting areas, as well as several other upcoming hunting seasons. The most notable upcoming seasons include spring turkey and additional spring bear hunts currently scheduled to open April 15.
Despite the natural tendency for both hunting and fishing to promote the social distancing requirements many Americans have been asked to practice, there are still risks that the WDFW didn't feel were worth it to take.
The amount of spring bear permit holders likely to be in northeast Washington for the April 1 unit openings that would be traveling from outside the area were "nearly 90 percent," the WDFW said.
"Every stop for gas, food, or a restroom break can introduce the virus to areas it hasn't yet reached," said Susewind. "It was a tough decision, but we want to ensure that people are properly encouraged to stay home at this time."
For what it's worth, youth planning to hunt during the April 4-5 weekend can still use their turkey tags in the regular spring season, which is scheduled to start April 15.