King County Parks will open Island Center Forest to deer hunting for a limited season, Oct. 12-31, when no other access will be permitted on 200 acres of forestland.
The hunting season coincides with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s designated hunting season in which all firearms can be used, except rifles. The action reduces the state’s established four-month-long hunting season to a 20-day season in Island Center Forest, which is popular for hiking, walking and other recreational uses.
While hunting will be allowed on the former state lands that now make up Island Center Forest, the 40-acre Gateway and 81-acre Natural Area properties will be closed to hunting, but open to all other allowable uses.
Hunters are required to purchase a modern firearm hunting license. Bows and arrows, crossbows, muzzleloaders, revolver-type handguns or shotguns are allowed.
King County initiated a limited hunt at Island Center Forest in 2011, when more than 60 hunters registered and eight deer were harvested. In 2012, when the county established a five-year pilot project for limited hunts, 40 hunters registered at the trailheads and four deer were harvested.
King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks staff note that the most common complaint from the 2011 and 2012 hunting seasons was the presence of remains from harvested deer along Island Center Forest trails.
Parks staff are installing new signs prior to the 2013 hunting season that remind hunters to be more mindful of how and where they dispose of deer remains. The county will also provide disposal bags for deer remains at trailheads.
Vashon Island’s largest public open space, Island Center Forest and Natural Area has nine miles of trails that are shared by hikers, mountain bikers, runners and equestrians. Island Center Forest was formerly owned by Washington state, and is the only public land on Vashon Island where deer hunting has historically been allowed.
King County Parks manages the land in collaboration with community partners who make up the Friends of Island Center Forest, a diverse group that includes the Vashon Forest Stewards, Vashon-Maury Island Horse Association, Vashon Sportsmen’s Club, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, Vashon-Maury Island Audubon, outdoor enthusiasts and other community members.