Idaho and Montana still have an unusually good supply of nonresident big-game tags available for the 2012 seasons. Sales of nonresident deer and elk tags have steadily declined in each state since 2008, when the economy tanked at the same time nonresident license fees were increased by legislators or initiatives.
The 2012 season will go down in history as the first year the Idaho Panhandle has not offered a general antlerless elk hunt somewhere in the region. Even bowhunters are prohibited from targeting a cow elk in the Panhandle Zone this year.
Here’s a wake-up call for upland bird hunters, not a day too soon: “It takes six to eight weeks to get your dog into shape for hunting season,” said gun dog expert Jim Closson of Boise.
Wild fires have blackened the prospects for hunting this season in specific areas of Washington and Idaho. Weeks of rainless hot weather in August and September forced state and federal land managers to issue numerous restrictions.
While duck and goose populations are in good shape for Inland Northwest hunters this season, Idaho Panhandle waterfowlers will have to wait an extra week for opening day. Both the youth hunt and the general duck and goose seasons will open later than in the past based on Idaho surveys indicating hunters preferred late-season hunting.
Prospects are ducky for waterfowlers across North America this season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service preliminary report on North American breeding ducks estimates a record population of 48.6 million, up from 45.6 million last year – 43 percent above the 1955 to 2010 long-term average.
Cougar hunting seasons have been liberalized in Eastern Washington for the 2012 season as the Department of Fish and Wildlife reacts to an apparent increase in cougar populations. “The changes stem from our research and partly to what we’re hearing from local hunters,” said Kevin Robinette, regional wildlife manager in Spokane. “They just didn’t think they were making a dent in the cougar population.”