Visitors who come to hunt in Lewis County have a wide variety of choices of wildlife and game birds, super waterfowl opportunities, small game, and the big trophy animals to seek. Some of the more exotic animals in the county will require special permits available only by a random drawing. Among those is an annual hunt for one of the county’s plentiful mountain goats.
Tops in early hunting are the open wild turkey season in mid-April of each year — and a general spring black bear hunt on selected game management units in the area.
For many local hunters, the true hunting season begins in early fall when the especially generous forest grouse season opens. That popular choice lasts for four months and gives a hunter the chance to experience the lower and mid-elevation forests during the brilliance of autumn and the chill of winter.
Ducks and geese are plentiful at certain times of each winter season, while earlier hunters may seek ringneck pheasants, doves, quail, and even band-tailed pigeons, again plentiful enough to allow a general hunt.
The primary sport of hunting among locals and visiting trophy hunters is centered on the blacktail deer and the elk populations. Lewis County boasts large segments of both the South Rainier elk herd and the burgeoning Mount St. Helens herd of huge elk.
Wildlife biologists report the elk herds, coupled with more than a hundred smaller bands of elk in lowland valleys and in the west half of the county, may number as many as 20,000 individual animals. Hunting is the preferred management option to reduce the elk population to optimum habitat levels.
Deer hunters will find the bulk of the blacktail deer population at lower elevations, generally along the river valleys and increasingly near farmlands, towns, and suburban areas.
There are fewer local deer to be found in the traditional foothills and high country because a general lack of permitted logging has reduced the available brush and shrubs — the “browse” on which deer and elk prosper — and the deer have moved to greener pastures, quite literally. Elk still find their favored leaves and forbs in the high country, but migrate to low elevations in late fall, just as seasons begin.
Hunters in and around Lewis County may choose to use modern rifles, primitive firearms (muzzleloaders) or archery equipment for their big game adventure, and there are separate areas and seasons for all three choices.
Visitors and residents alike may apply for any of the hundreds of special area/season hunting permits awarded each year to lucky hunters. Those coming to the area to hunt should contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at wdfw.wa.gov for preliminary information on licenses, species, and seasons, and then choose their hunting preference and quarry.