Refuges closed on opening day of hunting season

TRI-CITIES - The government shutdown isn't just affecting federal workers. It's also putting a dent on hunting season. Leaving hundreds of local hunters out of options.

It's the opening day for water fowl hunting season. And for sportsmen like Dennis Staley, it's a day anticipated all year-long.

As veteran hunters know, McNary and Umatilla National Wildlife Refuges work the lottery method. And the pickings can be slim. The department gets over eight thousand applications for Umatilla, with an 13% chance of snagging an opening. This was a lucky year for Dennis.

"Fortunately, my wife and I both got drawn for the opening day. Not just one of us, but both of us," said local hunter Dennis Staley.

But because of the shutdown, those federal grounds are closed. To say Dennis is left disappointed is quite an understatement.

"So, it's kind of a downer, but there's nothing we can do about it until the legislature gets this squared away," added Staley.

He hopes for a resolution soon.

"Both parties can't work together and settle this thing," said Staley.

Natural resource planner Dan Haas has been furloughed for over a week. He says the high demand for hunting spots makes the whole thing worse.

"It's hard to get a permit, and these folks who aren't able to use their permits, it's tough," said Natural Resource Planner Dan Haas.

Once the legislature reaches a deal, it will still take a couple days to get the grounds back up and running.

"It really hurts to have to tell the hunters, 'sorry, you can't go out there and hunt,'" said Haas.

It's the aftermath of Washington's budget war.

Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge is also closed.