Idaho native Ryan Hatfield recently published “Idaho’s Greatest Whitetails,” which chronicles the game, the hunters and the hunts involving the best whitetail bucks ever taken in the state. The book shares the story behind every buck and uncovers the mystery behind Idaho’s state record buck. The monster whitetail was taken in 1955 by an unknown hunter until Hatfield tracked down the hunter’s identity.
Washington waterfowl hunters can look up to prospects for good hunting this fall. Don Kraege, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department waterfowl manager, said ducks appeared to have pulled off a hatch similar to last year within the state.
While the Panhandle has stood out as Idaho’s hot spot for goose hunting, other waterfowl trends are similarly encouraging, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager. “Hunters took about twice as many ducks and geese last year compared to 2008,” he said. “In 2009, the Panhandle had about 1,800 duck hunters who took 20,413 ducks for an average of 1.8 ducks per hunter per day. That was the second-best duck hunting in the state.”
Potential duck and goose hunters under the age of 16 have the chance of a lifetime in the Idaho Panhandle this month, while a few selected Washington youths will make waterfowling history. Idaho is signing up hunters under the age of 16 for its popular Youth Waterfowl Clinic and hunting trip set for the Sept. 25-26 youth waterfowl season.
Although they have virtually no money for formal surveys, Washington biologists speculate that forest grouse populations have been lower than average in the past few years. The harvest of ruffed, spruce and blue grouse for 2008 was 101,685, state surveys show. The average number of forest grouse harvested each year in the state during the 2003-2007 seasons was 117,686. Stevens County in northeastern Washington and Okanogan County produced the largest number of grouse taken in those years.
Washington is a rare bird for wingshooters looking to bag a “slam.” Forest grouse hunters recognize Washington as the only state that offers a four-bird slam, which was born in 2006 when the blue grouse was split into these two subspecies by the American Ornithologists’ Union:
Time to start training for the harshest bird hunting terrain in the region, since chukars may be one of the saving graces in a season of mixed news for upland bird hunters. The highest chukar counts in several years were recorded in survey flights along the Salmon and Snake rivers south of Lewiston in late August.
An early June greeted by prolonged rain and cool weather appears to have dampened the hopes of pheasant hunters in Washington’s far-Eastern counties for the second consecutive year. But partridge and the second-nesting of California quail once again are offering hope for wingshooters in Whitman and Lincoln counties as well as farther south.
Elk in Idaho’s Panhandle units tend to be doing better than most other regions of the state during the wolf reintroduction era, despite a tough winter in 2008-2009. The numbers of cow elk, for example, are higher than the numbers game managers peg as optimum and the ratio of calf elk improved this year in most areas, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager.
Since the return of wolves to Idaho 15 years ago, Idaho’s overall elk population has dropped by 20 percent from 125,000 to about 100,000. Idaho Fish and Game research in 11 elk-management zones shows that predators have become the primary cause of death among female elk in five zones, all of them south of the Panhandle.