With scarce room to hunt, waterfowl hunters begin to trespass

On the south eastern tip of San Juan Island, pristine views and serene silence are being disrupted by sea duck hunters. While this activity is legal in Washington from late October to late January. Locals have complained of trespassing.

“Where they’re hunting is right by my deck,” said local Kyle Kittoe, who has a history of being a successful animal advocate. “I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and then all of a sudden there’s these loud gunshots.”

Kittoe arrived on the island in the 1970s and has been studying birds ever since. He also wanted to make it clear that, although he has respect for the wildlife here, he is not promoting an anti-meat agenda as he is a meat-eater himself. Instead, he is looking to protect the tranquility of the islands.

The area he claims to have seen these hunters trespassing is not just private property, but also the National Historical Society Land and Land Trust land.

The ducks that are frequently hunted here are harlequin ducks, bufflehead ducks, and scoter ducks.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound Region Communications Manager, Chase Gunnel, said that there are strict regulations surrounding waterfowl hunting.

According to Gunnel, a hunter will have to fill out a card with records of an individual’s catch for the season, similar to that of fishing or crabbing.

Hunters are also required to be able to identify waterfowl species and sex prior to shooting in order to abide by the regulations. It also requires hunters to note the species harvested, similar to salmon catch cards.

The sea duck limits in Western Washington are as follows: The daily bag limit includes seven ducks, to include not more than two hen mallards, one pintail, two scaup, two canvasback, and two redhead statewide; and to include not more than one harlequin , two scoters, two long-tailed ducks, and two goldeneyes. The possession limit includes a total of 21 ducks, to include not more than six hen mallards, 3three pintails, six scaups, six canvasbacks, and six redhead statewide; and to include not more than one harlequin, six scoters, six long-tailed ducks, and six goldeneyes.

Regardless of the regulations surrounding hunting, Kittoe still argues that it is disruptive to the local’s enjoyment of the land.

“It’s not like they are hunting these birds, really. They don’t care how they catch them or if it’s fair. I’ve seen them drive up to shore and shoot them while they are just sitting there. They don’t have any sort of fighting chance,” he said.

Kittoe said the hunters then proceed to send their dogs to the shore to retrieve the catch, sometimes on private property.

He has also reported seeing them hunting ducks on Goose Island, which has been a nature preserve since the 1970’s.

“I know Fish and Wildlife take their work very seriously. I fish a lot and I used to see them around much more than I do now,” Kittoe said. “I’ve been here since the 70’s and haven’t experienced this. The fact that all-of-a-sudden we are having a problem with these hunters I think says something.”

Gunnel did address the fact that there is not a lot of public land open for hunting in the San Juans and that this is a big reason as to why many hunt from boats here. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, they do not know what particular outfitters are visiting the islands or where they are coming from, but they do know there are also a number of private hunters visiting as well.

He emphasized again how heavily regulated waterfowl hunting is.

“So one of the first things we want to emphasize is that it’s not a free for all,” Gunnel said. “There’s a lot of rules and identification and harvest records that hunters have to follow. And generally, if they’re following those rules, things tend to be quite responsible. Now, issues of trespassing or private lands violations, that’s a different category.”