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Autumn has arrived and hunters will be making plans to head out onto local waterways in search of waterfowl.

The general waterfowl hunting season is open from Oct. 12-16 and Oct. 19 to Jan. 26. A special youth hunt was held this weekend.

“The waterfowl breeding counts in western areas did decline from last year, but we’re still close to long-term averages, and just slightly below or just above average depending on the species,” said Don Kraege, a state Fish and Wildlife waterfowl manager.

“I know this sounds bad, but when you look at the longterm waterfowl numbers this will be an average season (in 2013-14),” Kraege said. “We’ve had some pretty good seasons in past years, and you can’t really compare it to the upcoming season.”

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Breeding counts were down due to drier weather along the Pacific Flyway. Places like Alaska had good precipitation and snowpack, but it was late to melt and come off the mountain side.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service preliminary report on North American breeding ducks and habitat stated the population is about 45.6 million in contrast to 48.6 million last year. That figure also is 33 percent above the 1955 to 2010 longterm average.

Scaup hunting restrictions are similar to the past two years with an 86-day season that won’t begin until Nov. 2. The scaup bag limit is down to three compared to seven last year. The number of canvasback increased from one to a two daily bag limit.

Huckleberry season peaking

Huckleberries are popping up all over local mountainsides, and right now is prime time for gathering these tasty berries.

Huckleberries can be found along mountainsides and open meadows exposed to sunshine and a water source. Elevations of 2,000 feet or higher usually are choice locations heading into the latter part of this month and early October.

Huckleberries tend to grow in older clear-cut areas, and around hemlock, beargrass, serviceberry and Pacific silver fir.

In Western Washington, trek along the trails of Mount Baker at Park Butte and Schriebers Meadow, Mount Dickerman, Tonga Ridge trails in Central Cascades near Stevens Pass, Pacific Crest Trail of Snoqualmie Pass, Mount Catherine south of Snoqualmie Pass and Naches Peak Loop.

In Southwest Washington, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers good spots, but be sure to check with the forest ranger for locations that are off-limits.

Also head up to the trails in Mount Adams Wilderness, Boardman Lake in Darrington Ranger District and Huckleberry Creek in White River Ranger District.

For more information, call 425-888-1421 at North Bend Ranger District; 360-856-5700 at Mount Baker Ranger District; 360-677-2414 at Skykomish Ranger District. or 206-464-8780