September 19, 1996 in Sports

Chukar Hunting Makes Its Return Starting Saturday

Rich Landers The Spokesman-Revi

Saturday will be the first time in years that some hunters have gone afield to pursue chukars.

News of a good spring hatch has revived interest among fallen partridge-hunting brethren who gave up the hunt during recent years of dismal chukar numbers.

Which begs the question: Why?

Do they think a few years of erosion have gentled the grade on the ridges leading up from the Grande Ronde River?

Do they think a few years of aging has slowed the chukars’ wing speed?

Do they think the cushy life afforded by low hunting pressure has lulled chukars into living on FLAT ground?

Have they forgotten about the high price of chukar hunting, including the cost of boot leather, mole skin, aspirin and veterinarian services to remove cheatgrass from every nook, cranny and orifice on their prized hunting dogs?

Don’t they have something easier to do, like hoe corn in a gravel pit or taunt crazed pit bulls?

Can’t they recall how hard it is to walk a sidehill of marble-like scree or how those dents got in their shotgun barrel?

See you out there.

Hounding issue: State elections officials still have not determined whether Washington residents will get a chance in November to vote on Initiative 655, which would forbid hunting bears or cougars with the help of hounds or bait.

East-coast-based anti-hunting groups, including the Fund For Animals, spearheaded the signature gathering campaign.

“They brought in a minimum amount of signatures and we’re working hard to find enough that are valid,” said Jean Womer, elections office spokeswoman in Olympia.

Only the signatures of registered voters can be counted toward the 181,667 names required to put the initiative on the ballot.

“There are an unusually high number of duplicate signatures,” she said. “It will be very close.”

Results from the tedious count should be available early next week, Womer said.

Sandhill saga: Twenty birds were killed by the 30 permit holders in the first hunt Idaho has allowed for sandhill cranes since 1916.

The special season was held Sept. 1-8 in the southeastern portion of the state at the insistence of landowners who have been complaining for years that the large birds devastate grain crops as they stage for migrations.

Ironically, most of the crops were harvested or being harvested this year at the time of the hunt.

The cranes were in the fields eating waste grain and grasshoppers when the gunners arrived.

“This year was unusual in that respect,” said Gary Will, Idaho Fish and Game Department migratory bird manager in Boise. “The harvest was a little ahead of normal this year. The birds were more widely distributed than in most years.”

The department did not request the hunt. State Fish and Game Commissioners paved the way for the sandhill season after looking into research in other western states that shows that taking a few sandhills can significantly reduce the damage the large gathering of migratory birds can do to crops.

“This might not have been the vest scenario to evaluate the effectiveness of the hunt,” Will said. “But similar hunts in other states have shown that killing just a few of these smart birds goes a long way in maintaining their wariness of humans and reducing crop damage.”

The Idaho Fish and Game Department has scheduled an open house Monday in Coeur d’Alene to gather comments on proposals to continue limited hunting of sandhill cranes. The open house is set for 4-6 p.m., at the regional headquarters in Coeur d’Alene, 2750 Kathleen Ave. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider the proposal on Oct. 3.

Also, the Audubon Society has raised $1,300 to help southeastern Idaho farmers plant lure crops that could preclude the program to shoot cranes. But more money is needed.

Troubled waters: It’s 1996 and Spokane County has grown by nearly 50,000 people in seven years.

So is there still anyone here naive enough to believe the California developer who says he’s selling lots on Horseshoe Lake to save ducks?

Harry Iesberts, who owns 190 acres that nearly surround the lake west of Spokane, said he’s carving out 21 lots, including 12 on the waterfront of what has been a home to wildlife for centuries.

“We want to preserve the ducks,” he told a Spokesman-Review reporter. “Once it’s developed, people won’t be able to hunt there.”

Hunters, of course, only came to the lake for a few weeks each fall. But the dogs, cats, kids, boats, lawns, pesticides and other niceties of development will soon grace Horseshoe Lake year-round, including the nesting season.

Have any waterfowl been allowed to vote on whether to let Iesberts into the Friends of Ducks Society?

Incidentally, Iesberts also said he’s going to dress up the lake by introducing domesticated white and black swans, which, as you can see each spring at Manito Park, love to bully ducks.

Like most developers, Iesbert will not be doing the ducks any good. He’ll be doing them in.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

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