Bird Hunting in Washington

Bird Hunting in Washington

Northwest knows best — especially when it comes to bird hunting in Washington.

The Pacific Northwest has a distinct beauty all its own, and nowhere is this more true than in Washington state. The major feature that really makes this state what it is are the mountains. The mountains have plenty to offer by themselves—not the least of which are populations of grouse. But it’s also what the mountains do to the state, dividing it distinctly into western and eastern portions. This has an effect on the land itself, of course, but it also means the hunting seasons are divided by regions. 

There are rain forests to the west of the mountains and desert regions to the east. And while there are 150 different wildlife areas and 139 state parks found throughout Washington, about 50 percent of the entire state is privately owned. In order to make that land accessible to hunters, Washington has a number of land access programs. “Feel Free to Hunt,” for example, allows hunters to enter public land without needing permission from the land owners. Other programs, like “Register to Hunt” and “Hunt By Registration” explain themselves. 

Residents who want to enjoy the good bird hunting in Washington will pay $40.50 for an annual license. Nonresidents pay $183.50, unless they want a 3-day permit which costs $68. 

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed grouse were once commonly known as “native pheasants” in Washington, which seems to say something about their status within the state. Grouse populations are strongest in lowland forests that are made up of many kinds of trees, both in kind and age. Look in the aspens of the east and the alders of the west. 

The season opens September 1 and closes December 31 with a daily bag limit of 3. In aggregate with blue and spruce grouse, the daily bag limit is 4. 

Dusky and Sooty Grouse

You will find the dusky grouse (also known as blue grouse) not in the lowland forests, but in the high-country coniferous forests between the mountain ranges in the western half of Washington. And depending on which slope of the Cascades you’re hunting, you will find two different kinds of blue grouse. Although technically a different species, the sooty grouse on the west side of the Cascades were once considered blue grouse. The actual blue, dusky grouse live on the eastern slopes. Their range extends into the Blue Mountains. 

The season opens and closes the same days as the ruffed grouse season with the same daily bag limits. 

Ring-Necked Pheasant

If ruffed grouse are the native pheasant of Washington, pheasant are by definition the non-natives of Washington. While there are populations of pheasant west of the Cascades, you will find the strong numbers in the east. In addition to the independent populations of pheasant in agricultural areas, the state releases thousands of pheasant each year for bird hunting in Washington.  

In order to hunt pheasant in the western half of the state, you will need to purchase a separate license, which costs $84.50 for residents and $167 for nonresidents. A 3-day license costs $40.50 for residents and $79 for nonresidents. Further regulations apply to this license, but you will not need to purchase a small game license in addition. 

The season for the western zone opens September 30 and closes November 30 with a daily bag limit of 2. The eastern zone opens October 21 and closes January 15 with a daily bag limit of 3. 


There are three kinds of quail available for bird hunting in Washington. The largest of them is the mountain quail, which lives primarily in western parts of the state. Populations east of the Cascades are protected and not available for hunting. The most abundant of them, the California quail, live on both sides of the mountains. Eastern Washington holds higher numbers of California quail, also known as valley quail.

While there is a season for bobwhite quail open in Washington, it is unclear just how many bobwhite quail live in the state. 

The western zone for quail opens September 24 and closes November 30. The eastern zone, not open for mountain quail, opens October 7 and closes January 15. The daily bag limits are 2 for mountain quail, 10 for California quail, and 10 for bobwhite quail. 

Spruce Grouse 

You can find spruce grouse higher and deeper in the mountains than blue grouse, though they are less abundant. Find them in the high forests of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. 

The season opens September 1 and closes December 31. The daily bag limit is 3 and 4 in aggregate with both blue and ruffed grouse. 

Other Species for Bird Hunting in Washington

There are plenty of other great species for bird hunting in Washington. In the eastern zone, you can find Hungarian partridge and chukar. The season for both opens October 7 and closes January 15 with a daily bag limit of 6. Snipe, a migratory bird, are available statewide from October 14 to 18 and October 21 to January 28 with a daily bag limit of 8. Mourning dove season opens September 1 and closes October 30 with a daily bag limit of 15. Crow season also opens on September 1 and closes March 15. 

Related Conservation and Non-Profit Organizations for Bird Hunting in Washington

Pheasants Forever

Quail Forever

Ruffed Grouse Society

North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association

The Hunter Safety Course and Dog Training for Bird Hunting in Washington

Anyone born after January 1, 1972, who wants to buy a license for bird hunting in Washington will need to acquire a hunter education certificate. Washington does offer a one-time deferral program for one year. Anyone 10 years old or older taking advantage of the deferral program will need to be accompanied by a licensed adult. In addition to holding a valid license for that year, the mentor will also need to have had a valid license for the past three. Check out the hunter course.

You may train your dog for bird hunting in Washington between August 1 and March 31 and year round on some wildlife areas. You may purchase pen-raised game birds to release and shoot on private property. However, you can only kill banded birds that have been purchased and cannot shoot wild birds out of season.

The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for the most up-to-date information on bird hunting in Washington. 

Last modified: January 14, 2020

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