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Idaho big-game hunting rule changes proposed

HUNTING — Idaho hunters have until Sunday March 8 to comment of proposed changes to state big-game hunting rules and seasons.

Biologists across the state will answer questions about the proposals during two live web chats set for Wednesday, March 4, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. MST, and again on the same day from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. MST.

PANHANDLE REGION changes include:

White-tailed Deer

  • Increase a total of 250 Extra Antlerless Controlled Hunt tags in Units 1 and 3 to take advantage of abundant deer.
  • Expand seasons in Extra Antlerless Controlled Hunts in Units 1 and 3 to be consistent with general season.


  • Propose to reinstate B-tag 8 day muzzleloader spike hunt in December (eliminated in 2012).
  • Add 125 either sex tags to increase antlerless harvest in Units 1 and 2 to return historic levels of harvest prior to the removal of the general antlerless season and to address depredation concerns.
  • Add 100 either sex tags and 25 antlerless tags to increase harvest in Unit 5 to address depredation conflicts.
  • Offer youth hunt opportunity (archery and any-weapon) for antlerless elk in Units 1, 2, 3, and 5 (4 new hunts, 25 tags each).

Black Bear

  • Extend take season by 15 days in Units 2, 3, and 5, and extend take season by 10 days in Units 4 and 4A to standardize spring season dates and dog prohibition.
  • Simplify regulations by standardizing spring season closures and dogs prohibited seasons.

Mountain Lion

  • Reduce dog prohibition by 12 days in Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A and 5.
  • Allow use of second tag and electronic calls in Units 4 and 4A to address predation concerns on elk.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet in Boise on March 24 to set seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, mountain lion and wolf, as well as spring Chinook salmon.

Idaho continues nonresident discounts on predator tags

HUNTING – Discounts on nonresident tags for large predators in some units offered last will be continued through 2015, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission says.

The discounts will apply to black bear, mountain lion and wolf tags.

Black bear and mountain lion tags will be sold at the new discounted price of $41.75, a 78 percent decrease in the regular price of $186.00.

Gray wolf tags will continue to be sold at the discounted price of $31.75.

The panel agrees there’s a biological and public need to encourage participation in the hunting of mountain lion and black bear in certain units and in the hunting of wolves statewide as a rationale for the discount. The discounts will remain in effect through December 31, 2016.

For a list of the units in which these discounts apply, go to this IDFG webpage and click on your species of interest.

Alaska bear largest to be killed by hunters

HUNTING — The largest grizzly bear killed and recorded by a hunter has been entered into the Boone and Crockett record book.

The big bruin, taken in 2013 near Fairbanks, Alaska, by Larry Fitzgerald of Fairbanks scores 27-6/16. It missed the world's record mark by seven-sixteenths of an inch but landed a spot as the second-largest grizzly ever recorded. The reigning World's Record is a skull found in Alaska in 1976.

Bears are scored based on skull length and width measurements.

Conservationists use Boone and Crockett trophy data to gauge outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management and fair-chase hunting.

"One would think that a relatively accessible area, with liberal bear hunting regulations to keep populations in line with available habitat and food, would be the last place to find one of the largest grizzly bears on record," said Richard Hale, chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club's Records of North American Big Game committee.

Hale said the area is being managed for an overpopulation of grizzlies. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game liberalized hunting regulations to help balance and control bear predation on moose. Baiting is allowed although Fitzgerald stalked his trophy.

Hale added that Boone and Crockett Club recognizes found or picked-up trophies, like the reigning world's record grizzly which scores 27 13/16, alongside hunter-taken trophies because all are useful for documenting historic conservation successes.

Idaho spring bear hunting seasons underway

HUNTING — Here's a cue for hikers to wear colorful clothing — no black or brown.

Idaho's spring black bear hunting season opened April 15 throughout the Idaho Panhandle Region.

Season ending dates vary by unit.  In units 2, 3 and 5 the season closes May 15.  Units 1, 4, and 4A close May 31.  The higher elevation units close later with unit 6 open through June 30.  Units 7 and 9 close July 31.  Hunters may use a second bear tag and electronic calls in units 4, 6, 7 and 9 where bear numbers are higher and predation is depressing deer and elk numbers.

Only black bears may be hunted. Grizzly bears could be encountered throughout much of the Panhandle, but grizzlies are protected by state and federal law.

While grizzlies are most commonly found in big game unit 1, they may be found in any of the Panhandle hunting units. Several years ago, a grizzly showed up near Rose Lake in unit 4.  To get there it crossed through several big game units where grizzlies are very uncommon.

Also keep an eye out for this bear, as described by Idaho Fish and Game:

Last fall, a female grizzly collared in NW Montana crossed into Idaho big game unit 4.  This 16-18 year old bear then spent several weeks in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Apparently the area was not where she wanted to settle down for the winter, so she traveled toward the Silver Valley, crossed I-90 somewhere near Kingston or Pinehurst and made her way into the upper St Joe. She likely denned somewhere in the St. Joe drainage.

Her collar was programmed to automatically turn off for the winter to save battery power, so her exact den location is unknown.  

The collar is programmed to be back on now, but no signals have been detected.  The lack of a signal indicates she is likely still in her den. 

As she did not have cubs with her last fall, there is a good possibility she may have new cubs with her when she emerges.

Only the bear knows if she will move back toward Montana, or take up residence in the St. Joe country.  Because of the uncertainty of this bear’s next move, bear hunters should be aware that this (or another) grizzly could show up in any Panhandle big game unit.


Under field conditions, it can be very difficult to distinguish grizzly bears from black bears.  The mistaken shooting of grizzlies has been a significant factor limiting the recovery of grizzly bears in northern Idaho.

Grizzly bears have a hump on their shoulders, a dished face, longer claws on their front feet, and shorter more rounded ears than black bears.  

Size and color are not reliable features to identify the bears.   Black bears can be any color from black or brown to blonde; and, grizzlies can be so dark as to appear black.  A young grizzly can be smaller than an adult black bear and have a very small shoulder hump.

To prevent mistaken identity, bear hunters must learn to accurately identify black bears and distinguish them from grizzly bears in the wild, often in poor light conditions and possibly from long distances.

Bear spray is a good item to carry regardless of whether you're a hunter, hiker mushroom picker or anyone heading int North Idaho mountains.

Research has shown that bear spray is more effective and easier to use to deter a bear/human interaction than a firearm. 

Spring black bear hunt applications due Feb. 28

HUNTING — Hunters have until Feb. 28 to apply for black bear spring hunting permits in Washington. 

A drawing will be held in mid-March for 383 permits in western Washington and 314 permits for hunts east of the Cascades. Permit winners will receive their permit in the mail by March 31. Applicants also can check drawing results online.
More information on hunts scheduled on both sides of the state is available on page 63 in the 2012 Big Game Hunting Rules pamphlet.
Any legal weapon used during the modern firearm, archery or muzzleloader seasons can be used for spring black bear hunts.Bait or hounds are not allowed for bear hunting.

Researcher not surprised that grizzly checked out Missoula

WILDLIFE — New kid on the block in Montana …

Data from radio collar tracks Montana grizzly's trek near Missoula

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel said he wasn't surprised to learn that a female grizzly bear had traveled on the fringe of Missoula in the fall of 2011, as his department has been predicting the big bruins would be expanding into the area for years. — Missoulian

Palouse woman finalist for national Extreme Huntress title


HUNTING – Thia Anderson, a mother of three boys and nurse practitioner who works in Pullman, is among 10 finalists from across the country in the Extreme Huntress 2013 Contest presented by Tahoe Films.

She needs online votes from supporters by Jan. 1 to help her win the title and an Alaska brown bear hunting trip that will be filmed for TV.

Anderson, who volunteers as a hunter education instructor, wrote an essay that first attracted the judges’ attention in their quest to find the world’s most hardcore female hunter. Here's an excerpt:

"I am lucky to have many opportunities to hunt the way I love to hunt: unguided, spot-and-stalk on public land,” she said,noting that stalking a bear ranks as her most rewarding hunt so far.

”I spotted a bear on a ridge a half mile away, with one hour of shooting light left. While my husband watched with binoculars from the opposite ridge, I hurried down the steep canyon and up the other side and was able to stalk to within 75 yards and drop the tremendous 300-plus-pound color-phase boar with one shot.

"Being an extreme huntress is not about the number of animals taken, the size of trophies on the wall, or the exotic places visited. It is about having a passion to hunt that is so ingrained and intense that absolutely nothing will keep you from doing what you love the most. I am such a huntress and I have never met anyone, man or woman, quite like me."

Click here to check out the 10 finalists, VOTE and earn a chance to win prizes. 

Feds consider hunting season on Yellowstone-area grizzlies

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Federal authorities are laying groundwork for possible trophy grizzly bear hunts around the Yellowstone area as soon as 2014, the AP reports.

It's the surest sign yet that more than 30 years of federal protection for grizzlies in the area is nearing an end as their population recovers.

Local hunter rallies to salvage non-residents’ botched guided hunt

HUNTING — It's buyer-beware when paying money to an outfitter for a big-game hunt, especially when the deal is made online and payment is in person without going through a safety net such as PayPal or a credit card.

I give examples of hunters who say they've been burned by a Spokane-area man who advertises a hunting service on eBay in today's outdoors column.

  • Note: since my column was published, Sean Siegel's eBay ad for a 2013 7-Day Eastern Washington Elk Hunt has been removed.

One of these disgruntled hunters was able to salvage his trip from California through the generosity of a local man who heard of his plight at a restaurant.  I din't have room in the column for "the rest of the story:"

In 2012, Jeff Hunt of Modesto, Calif., and a friend booked a five-day bear hunt. First problem: Local hunting facilitator Sean Siegel had promised that for the price of $1,000, he would set the hunters up with a place to hunt, complete with tree blinds.

"I have it in writing," Hunt said. "But he sets us up in a ground blind. I'm glassing through the trees at daylight and I see lady doing dishes through her kitchen window. There’s a road right there. Another house. A school bus. I have a .300 Win. Mag and I’m afraid to shoot the thing.”

The clincher: Siegel later gave the men directions to timber company land on Mica Peak, but he never told them they were required to have an Inland Empire Paper Company access permit. A company security guard caught them, booted them off and called Fish and Wildlife police.

”We went to a restaurant, and we’re all pissed off about getting ripped off by this hunting guide, and somebody we don’t know from Adam hears us and offers to take us hunting,” Hunt said.

"The next morning he drives us all the way north near the Canada border and we saw several bears. We didn’t shoot one, but at least we saw some. The best part of our hunting experience was through a guy who wouldn’t take a dime for what he did for us."

California bans hound hunting for bears

HUNTING — Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning hound hunting for bears in California, 16 years after Washington state did the same thing by voter initative

Both campaigns were primed and pumped by the Humane Society of the United States and other anti-hunting groups.

Bear hunters join hikers, campers, berry pickers in mountains

HUNTING — Black bear hunting seasons opened Aug. 1 in portions of Washington, including areas in the North Cascades as well is areas in Lincoln County.

More bear hunting areas will open Aug. 15, including the area from Spokane north through Mount Spokane.

Although hunting-related accidents with othe recreationists are extremely rare, black or brown are not the best colors to wear while hiking or huckleberry picking during bear seasons.

The black bear season that mixes hunters with the most hikers, campers and berry pickers opens Sept. 1 in most of the areas of northeasthern Washington's Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

  • North Idaho's black bear hunting seasons open Aug. 30.

Time to apply for Idaho spring hunts

HUNTING — The application period for spring black bear controlled hunts opened Sunday and continues through Feb. 15.

The spring turkey controlled hunt application period opens Feb. 1 and runs to March 1.

Spring turkey and spring black bear seasons start April 15 – some controlled hunts open later. Leftover controlled hunt tags for spring turkey and bear controlled hunts go on sale April 1.

Hunters may apply for controlled hunts at any hunting and fishing license vendor;  Fish and Game office; with a credit card by calling (800) 55HUNT5; or online.

The application fee is $6.25 per person for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents. An additional fee is charged for telephone and Internet applications.

Spring 2012 bear controlled hunt information is in the 2011 Big Game Seasons and Rules book.

Spring turkey controlled hunt information will be available following the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting in late January.

Hunters must have a 2012 Idaho hunting license to apply.

Wife of man killed by bear hunter sues 3 firms

HUNTING ACCIDENTS — The widow of a man fatally shot by a hunter who mistook him for a bear in September has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the hunter and three Western Washington companies, reports the News-Tribune in Tacoma.

Although a jury acquitted the shooter of manslaughter charges — a bit of pure luck from the perspective that hunters should always positively ID their target — the case is going back to the courts.

All of this could have been avoided and a life saved with a little forethought, a hunter orange vest and a bit of patience on the hunter's part.

Read on for the rest of the story by TNT reporter Adam Lynn:

Oh, no! Even dead grizzlies are hurting people this year

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — This strange year for grizzly bear encounters with humans is going toward bizarre, as you'll see in this story that just moved by the Associated Press.

Man gets shock after poking dead bear on live wire

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a bowhunter suffered serious injuries from an electric shock when he poked a dead bear lying on live wires.

The Park County sheriff’s office says Edward Garcia of Emigrant came across a badly decomposed bear carcass Sunday in the Beattie Gulch area north of Gardiner.

Garcia was shocked when he poked the carcass with a knife, suffering injuries to his torso, head and hands.

The sheriff’s office says Garcia walked two miles to find help. He was flown to a burn center in Salt Lake City, where he was listed in critical condition on Tuesday.

Eugenio Garcia tells the Livingston Enterprise that his brother is in good spirits. He says Edward Garcia helps his family run a salsa business, Montana Mex, in Livingston.

Bear spray worked for bowhunters

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — It's worth emphasizing that an Idaho archer was able to end a grizzly attack on his bowhunting partner on Saturday by using pepper spray, an essential that should be on the pack straps of every hunters in grizzly country.

The elk hunter who apparently stumbled across a bear’s resting spot and was hospitalized after the animal bit him and broke his right arm, officials said.

Richard Paini, 40, suffered puncture wounds and an injured left hand along with the broken forearm in the attack at about 9 a.m. He was taken to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

A hospital spokesman said Paini, of Island Park, was listed in serious condition Saturday afternoon.

The bear involved in the attack fled after Paini’s archery hunting partner, John Stiehl of Island Park, used bear spray to scare off the bear. Stiehl told authorities he believed it was a grizzly bear.

Gregg Losinski, an Idaho Fish and Game bear specialist, said hunters are at more risk of surprising bears because they are understandably being stealthy when they're in the woods.

Hunter killed by gunshot wound, not grizzly bear

ENDANGERED WILDLIFE  — Here's another big twist to the story about the hunter attacked and by a grizzly bear after it had been mistaken for a black bear and wounded in a remote area of extreme northwestern Montana.

The hunter who died during a grizzly bear attack was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest, the Montana State Crime Lab medical examiner announced today.  Initial reports suggested the man was killed by the bear.

Steve Stevenson, 39, was killed when his hunting partner, Ty Bell, shot the bear multiple times in an attempt to stop the bear’s attack on Stevenson, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. One of the rounds struck Stevenson in the chest.  The breaking story has just been posted by S-R reporter Chelea Bannach.

Here's the perspective the S-R published last week from the father of the young hunter who shot the bear.

Website helps hunters learn to distinguish black bears from griz

BIG GAME HUNTNG — Black bear hunters can test their bear species identification skills through a new interactive program on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

The site includes information on how to identify black bears and grizzly bears, and gives hunters a chance to test their identification skills. 

  • Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal endangered species laws.
  • Black bears are classified as a game species.

“This test was developed to help black bear hunters be sure of their targets,” said Dana Base, a WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist. “We encourage hunters to test their knowledge about the two species before going afield.”

Hunting season for black bear opens Sept. 1 in several areas of the state, including the northeast district, where hunters sometimes encounter grizzly bears.

That district spans Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties and includes game management units 101-121.

Up to 50 grizzlies are estimated to roam the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington, North Idaho and southeastern British Columbia.  Less than a dozen are believed to roam the North Cascades of northcentral Washington and southcentral British Columbia.

Muckleshoot Tribe’s hunting access to DNR land investigated

PUBLIC LANDS — Internet chat rooms were buzzing today with charges that  the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe was given access to otherwise closed state lands in Western Washington in order to harvest black bears.

Officially unconfirmed reports say tribal members were hunting with hounds and/or bait — means that are illegal in Washington without the approval of the Legislature.

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Bryan Flint said the agency's Olympia headquarters was alerted to the issue just today.  At 5:10 p.m., he said he still didn't have enough details to address the controversy beyond the following statement (which doesn't confirm or deny much, but seems to indicate that somebody's headed for the wood shed):

"DNR does  not issuing permits for a bear hunt.  That's not our role or jurisdiction.

"We don’t have a policy of giving access to tribes that others don’t have. 

"It has come to our attention that the Muckleshoot Tribe was given keys by the South Puget Sound Region (officials) to gated (DNR) land in the Green River watershed for puroposes of wildlife management.   We are investigating to find out how this happened and why.

"(Headquarters staff) has no knowledge of what activities took place."

Late spring affects hunting for turkeys, bears

HUNTING — The unusually cold, wet weather and seemingly endless season of new snowfall just off the valley floors has affected bears, turkeys and the sportsmen who hunt the spring seasons.

Following are obervations posted this afternoon by Jim Hayden, a hunter and Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

Turkey season:  Remember, the longer you put off going, the earlier you’ll need to get up in order to catch them coming off the roost.  Hunting has been pretty good this year so far even though birds have not spread out quite as much as most years.  The late spring means less vegetative development at higher elevations, and birds are a little more concentrated lower than usual.  That’s good for folks who hunt near winter flocks, but not so good for those who wait for birds to spread out more.

Bear season: Late grass development so far means that bears will probably stay a little lower later as well.  If you only have one weekend to hunt, I’d suggest waiting until at least the second week of May (the harvest usually peaks in mid-May anyhow). 

Polar bear trophies still in limbo

BIG-GAME HUNTING — The 41 hunters who successfully — and legally — killed polar bears in early 2008, just before the U.S. declared the species endangered, are in court fighting to get their trophies imported from Canada.

The Idaho Statesman provides a good update in this story.