Hunting in Washington

Published on 11th April 2023

An image of two hunters, hunting in Washington with a hound dog in grassfield

Washington State has a diverse landscape and plenty of selection of game species. With all that, you might say that hunting in Washington is as satisfying as in other states. 

But, many state hunters bet to differ. Its overpriced hunting licenses and tags don’t pay off what the state offers. It has a shorter hunting season and limited land access. All resulted in a high density of hunters and increased hunting pressure.  

Despite these challenges, Washington still provides unique and diverse hunting experiences. Washington hunters can find success and enjoyment when they have well-planned hunting trips. 

This article will explore various aspects of hunting in Washington State. That includes everything to know to help you make the most of your hunting in Washington.

The state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission (WDFW) manages hunting seasons in Washington.

But as a bummer as it is, WA hunting seasons for some game species are pretty short. Here’s the quick hunting season rundown for you:

Note: These dates are approximate and subject to change each year. Consult the WDFW website to confirm season dates before heading afield! 

Big Game Hunting Season

In WA, big game hunting is a popular outdoor activity. It offers hunters the opportunity to pursue various species in diverse landscapes. 

The hunting season for big game species falls between September and December. But specific dates can vary depending on the species, location, and weapon type. 

Deer Hunting Season

The hunting seasons for deer occur between September and December. It comes with specific dates varying based on location, weapon type, and deer species.

Archery seasonEarly season: Early to late September
Late season: Late November to mid-December
Muzzleloader season Early season: Late September to early October
Late season: Late November to early December
General seasonMid- to late October
Late general season Early to Mid-November

Washington State offers a variety of deer hunting opportunities for hunters. It boasts blacktail deer, mule, and white-tailed deer populations across the state. The state’s diverse terrain and habitats provide unique challenges when hunting deer.

But compared to other states, WA has hardly considered a top-tier deer hunting state. The state does not have an excellent deer-hunter ratio. There is a high annual population of hunters, yet little access to hunting lands.

Black Bear Hunting Season

Washington State is home to both black and brown bears. Yet, brown bear hunting is a no-go due to its federal protection under state law.

On black bears, Washington is proud of their healthy and stable population. It has tens of thousands of bears across the state. All inhabit a wildlife habitat like forest, mountain, and coastal area.

While Washington is a good state for black bear hunting, hunting pressure can be high in public lands.

General seasonAugust to Mid-November

Elk Hunting Season

Washington State has two elk species: Rocky Mountain elk and Roosevelt elk. Rocky Mountain elk are in the eastern part of the state, while Roosevelt elk are in the western regions.

WA’s varied habitat and large tracts of public land give ample opportunities to hunt elk.

Early archery seasonEastern area: Whole of August and Early to late September
Western area: Early to Mid-September
Late archery seasonEastern area: August to late January
Western area: Late November to mid-December
Early muzzleloader seasonEastern area: Whole of August and Early October
Western area: Early October
Late muzzleloader seasonEastern area: Early August to late January
Western area: Late November to mid-December
Modern firearm seasonEastern area: Early August to late January
Western area: Early November to mid-November.

Draw-basis game hunting

Like other states, Washington has limited entry permits to hunt specific animals. In WA,  WDFW draws permits for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and moose hunting.  

Prospective hunters can only hunt these animals if they have special hunt permits. The state distributes these permits through a lottery.  Hunters need to apply to have an entry for the lottery. 

The WDFW manages coveted hunt to maintain the healthy wildlife resources’ population. 

Mountain goatMid-September to October
Bighorn sheepMid-September to November
MooseOctober to November

Waterfowl Hunting Season

Hunters might say there are better states to hunt than Washington. And we get them if we’re being true. 

But wait until you hear about the waterfowl hunting in the state. The state’s redeeming hunting feature! 

The state’s rich variety of habitats provides excellent opportunities for waterfowl hunting. In fact, Washington is home to a wide range of duck and geese species. 

Aside for ducks and geese, Washington provides hunting opportunities for other migratory birds. It includes coots, snipe, and band-tailed pigeons.

DucksMid-October to late OctoberLate October to late January 
GeeseSeptember to late January

Small Game Hunting Season

Washington has diverse landscapes. It even ranges from coastal areas and wetlands to forests and grasslands. 

And you guess it! All have a variety of small game species waiting for hunters to take them down. The state has abundant small game species such as;

  1. Wild turkey,
  2. Rabbits, 
  3. Hares, 
  4. Raccoon,
  5. Bobcat, and
  6. Cayotes.

So your only task is to look for them. But it can be pretty challenging because of the hunter of competitors you’ll have in your neck.

Wild Turkey Fall season: September to December
Spring season: Mid-April to May
Rabbit, Hares, Fox, Racoon, and BobcatSeptember to mid-March

Special Hunting Season 

Washington State offers various hunting opportunities to cater to specific groups of hunters. That includes the disabled, veteran, senior, and youth hunters.   

These special seasons aim to have an inclusive hunting community for everyone. And, of course, while promoting responsible and ethical hunting practices.

These special hunt seasons occur outside the general seasons. These may have unique regulations or requirements.

Where to hunt in Washington

Still want to give Washington a chance despite its drawbacks? If so, we recommend you go to these hunting locations for a fair chance of a successful hunt.

Colockum Wildlife Area

This wildlife area is in central Washington. It is a popular hunting destination for deer, elk, and upland bird hunting. 

The area covers over 105,000 acres. It has a mix of shrubsteppe, grasslands, and forested habitats.

L.T. Murray Wildlife Area

This area spans over 110,000 acres in central Washington. It offers elk, deer, and upland bird hunting opportunities for every hunter.

This area is crucial in providing diverse habitats for various game species. But the good thing, it has a mix of forest, shrub steppe, and grasslands for game species to inhabit.

Skagit Wildlife Area

This 1600-acre wildlife area in northwestern WA is popular for waterfowl hunting. It has wetlands, marshes, and agricultural lands that attract a variety of waterfowl.

Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife Area

Looking for waterfowl, upland birds, and deer? Then, this location is the best bet for you! 

The area encompasses over 18,000 acres. With habitats ranging from shrub-steppe and grasslands, you’ll find your hunt here.  

Capitol State Forest

This state forest spans over 91,000 acres with diverse wildlife habitats. It allows hunters to hunt deer, elk, and black bears.

The forest spans over 91,000 acres and has ideal habitats for some game species. It features a mix of coniferous forests and clear-cuts for you to hunt.

Blue Mountain

The Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington is an excellent location when hunting. Hunters can find plenty of elk and deer in this area. 

Umatilla National Forest and some parts of the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness cover this area. 

Olympic National Forest

Covering a million acres on the Olympic Peninsula, this forest is a great place to hunt deer, elk, and black bears.

The area features diverse habitats, including old-growth forests, alpine meadows, and river valleys.

Locked public lands

Washington public lands are the gate for different and exciting hunting opportunities. The state advertises a significant amount of public land for public hunting access.

But the problem is these public lands are not super accessible to everyone. Many state hunters frown at how some public hunting lands are inaccessible for them to hunt. 

This specific factor makes hunting in Washington a tremendous bummer. 

Hunting Regulation in Washington 

Hunting License

Hunting licenses in Washington State are available for residents and non-residents. The state’s hunting licenses come with different prices and categories.

Check here for the rundown of the general prices:


  • Small game license: $40.50
  • Big game license (deer, elk, bear, and cougar): $95.50
  • Youth (under 16 years): $46.00
  • Senior (65+ years) combination license: $95.00
  • Resident disabled: $46.00


  • Small game license: $183.50
  • Big game license (deer, elk, bear, and cougar): $860.00
  • Youth (under 16 years): $95.00
  • Non-resident veteran: $95.50

hunter Education

The state rules first-time hunters alike to complete a hunter education course. The course certification will allow prospective hunters to buy licenses for hunting.  

This rule applies to all hunters born after January 1, 1972. 

Bag Limits

Bag limits are the most number of animals you can take from a particular game species. These limits help ensure sustainable harvest levels and prevent over-harvesting.

Harvest Report

WDFW oblige every hunter to report their harvest for these game species: 

  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Bear
  • Cougar
  • Turkey
  • Other special permit hunts

Game harvest reporting is vital for population management, regulations, and season. Ensure you’re directly supporting conservation management by reporting your harvest to WDFW. 

Failure to report by the deadline may result in a fine or penalty. It covers the ineligibility to apply for special permit hunts the following year.

Orange and Pink Requirements

Hunters must wear the least amount of hunter-orange and pink clothing for safety. Hunters need to wear these while hunting during specific seasons or in certain areas.


All in all, Washington State is home to diverse game species across its varied landscape. But, it’s important to note that it’s overpriced than other states and does not pay off hunters. Short seasons, high pressure, and limited public land access annoy hunters.  


Is there a good hunting in Washington? 

There’s plenty of selection of game species in Washington State. But the state is infamous for having short seasons lasting several weeks.

What can you hunt in Washington state? 

If you’re lucky, hunting in Washing State allows you to hunt moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Note that you can only hunt these game species with special hunt permits.