Outdoors

Idaho Fish and Game proposing reduction in elk harvest

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game wildlife managers have posted their proposals for Panhandle big-game hunting and will be taking comment public meetings starting Saturday.

Of special interest to most hunters are the proposals to reduce elk harvest in some areas.

Click continue reading to see the proposals and the explanation from Jim Hayden, Panhandle Region wildlife manager.

From Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle Region wildlife manager.

Seasons for deer, bear, lion, wolves, and elk will be covered in the meeting, but undoubtedly it will be proposals for elk hunting that draw the most attention.  Elk herds in the St. Joe have declined precipitously in the last 3 years, and low calf ratios this year indicate a further decline by this fall.  The Coeur d’Alenes have been in pretty good shape as a whole, but growing portions of Units 4 and 4A are now showing signs of declines that are projected to continue into next year.  Calf ratios upriver in Unit 4 for example are about half what is needed to sustain a population under any cow harvest scenario. 

Other units in the Panhandle are in reasonable shape and some even growing at this point.  We all share concerns that further restrictions in one area lead to problems in other areas with hunters shifting to less restrictive areas, and we all share concerns that healthier units will be under more predation pressure if wolf numbers are not kept down.  Thirty-six years ago, general cow elk hunting was dropped in all of Idaho except the Panhandle.  We are now to the point where we have no room for cow harvest in much of the region, and any remaining units cannot withstand the additional hunter pressure of remaining open. 

Our proposal for 2012 is for cow hunting by permit only, and only in select units.   Relief is needed for bull survival as well as cows, and the proposal includes further restrictions here too.  Here’s what the elk seasons would look like as currently proposed,

Tag

Aug/Sep

October

November

December

A

Archery only – antlered only

Sep 6 – Sep 30

Any weapon – antlered only

Oct 25 – Oct 29

 

Muzzleloader only – antlered only

Dec 2 – Dec 9

 

Archery only – antlered only

Dec 10 – Dec 16

B

Archery only – antlered only

Sep 6 – Sep 12

Any weapon – antlered only

Oct 10 – Oct 24

 

 

Changes

No general antlerless elk hunting, reduced all hunting seasons, eliminate B tag spike bull muzzleloader hunt, eliminate A tag any bull muzzleloader hunt in Units 4, 7,and 9, add a short A tag any bull muzzleloader hunt in all units.  Add limited number of controlled either sex permits in units 1, 2, 3, and 5, running Oct 10 – Oct 24.  Eliminate extra cow CH NE of Bonner’s Ferry.

 Deer - Populations appear to be in reasonable to good shape, so few changes are being proposed for deer.

  • Open the muzzleloader deer season in Units 4, 7, and 9 November 10thinstead of November 20th.  This puts it back to a more traditional opener.
  • Increase extra doe tags in Kootenai Valley from 100 to 250, any open season, Aug 30 – Dec 16.

Bear

  • Extend the Unit 6 bear season to match that for units 7 and 9.  This adds 16 days of hound hunting on the front end of the fall season, and adds 30 days of harvest on the tail end.

Lion

  • Units 6, 7, and 9 - extend the season to close March 31, an addition of 44-60 days of hunting.
  • Units 6, 7, and 9 – hounds prohibited Oct 10 – Dec 1 (through the end of the deer rifle season in Unit 6 and deer muzzleloader season in Units 7 and 9).

Wolves

  • We’re still working on these, and expect a final proposal by Monday. 

There’s plenty of opportunity for you to provide input on these proposals.  In addition to our four local public meetings and the public meeting in Boise the night before the Commission acts, the public can weigh in on our Department website http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ during the next few weeks.  Proposals will be posted to our website next week, with a link to the comments/suggestions page.  Also, I’ll send you each a questionnaire directly, early next week, so you can get your input back to me directly if you wish.  I’ll summarize all the input and recommendations and get that to the Commission for their decision.  This is an important time, and we need solid suggestions from you for the best decision.

We’re in a difficult period right now, and we need to look to both our future and that of elk.  I’m not a big fan of changing seasons a lot, but I feel strongly that we need to do so now.  As we’ve seen, our elk herds can change rapidly, and seasons will have to adapt to the situation at hand.  The proposal above may not be the final answer, but it puts us on a much better track for our elk herds.  Thanks for your time in all of this, and I’ll have to get back with you on final wolf proposals and the times and places for the following week’s meetings when they are set.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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