Hunters can expect to find gates across many forest roads throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho during the hunting season.
While these closures to motor vehicles might make access to elk more difficult, the rewards can be worth the effort to sportsmen willing to hunt by human power.
Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game Department spokesman in Coeur d’Alene, says research on elk survival has shown that elk “are about twice as vulnerable to hunter harvest in heavily roaded areas as they are in areas with few roads.”
Road closures in cooperation with the Forest Service and private timber companies help prevent hunters from wiping out the big bulls in certain areas.
Most Forest Service ranger districts have “travel plan” maps with color-coding that shows road closures. The Sullivan Lake District of the Colville National Forest has more restrictions that most areas, mostly to protect grizzly bears. This district has a special brochure detailing closures. It’s available from forest offices, or the Forest Service information center at 400 S. Jefferson in Spokane.
Cooper suggests that hunters walk the closed roads and occasionally move into the timber to call or take a stand.
Mountain bikes are great tools for exploring roads that are closed to motor vehicles. The closed roads usually are easy to travel, allowing a hunter on a mountain bike to cover far more ground that hunters on foot.
That spells an opportunity that’s becoming rare in the ever-more-crowded woods: An opportunity to hunt where there are few other hunters.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Poaching hotlines Following are the official toll-free telephone numbers to report poaching or other game-law violations: Washington: From within the state only, (800) 477-6224. Idaho: From within the state only, (800) 632-5999. Montana: From within the state, (800) 847-6668. From outside the state, (800) 327-3212.