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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

A bird dog is ready to hunt in any weather

HUNTING — It was cold and dreary Saturday and my friends all had excuses for not going chukar hunting.

But my English setter was more than ready.  With temps in the teens, the footing was good and a dusting of snow helped in the search for birds.

It's good to have a friend willing to go any time, any day … especially a friend who runs his butt off finding birds and lets you do all the shooting!

Some cougar hunting seasons closing

HUNTING — Cougar hunts in several areas of the state will close at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 15 after harvest guidelines for the animals were reached in those areas, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday. 

Game Management Units that will close include 105, 108, 111, 117, 121, 145, 149, 154, 157, 162, 163, 166, 175, 178, 328, 329, 335, 642, 648, and 651. 

Those GMUs are located in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Garfield, Asotin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Kittitas, Chelan, Grays Harbor, Mason and Thurston counties.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said this season’s cougar hunts are the first under a new management plan, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission early last year. 

The new plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas, said Ware. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where cougar harvest meets or exceeds guidelines, while continuing to allow for hunting opportunities elsewhere.

"The goal is to preserve a variety of cougar age classes in numerous areas throughout the state, particularly older animals which tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations," Ware said. "Going into this season we expected to have to close some areas, but even with these closures most of the state remains open for hunters."

Other areas of the state could close early during the late-season cougar hunt that's generally sent for Jan. 1 through March 31.

Before going afield, hunters should check WDFW’s website or call the cougar hunting hotline (1-866-364-4868) to check which areas of the state remain open.

Big-game topic at Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting

HUNTING — Seasons for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats will be set when the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets Jan. 16 and 17 at Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

Other routine items on the agenda include a budget preview, big game briefing and the appointment of winter feeding advisory committee members.

Commissioners also will hear updates on legislative activity and an elk management plan, in addition to Chinook salmon forecasts for spring and summer, Chinook returning to the Snake River and potential for 2013 seasons in the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake river drainages.

They will consider a staff proposal to redirect $50,000 of animal damage control funds from coyote control in eastern Idaho to wolf control within elk management zones that are performing below management objectives.

Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore will present the 2012 Director’s Report to the Commission.

Chuck Heath, Palin’s father, to talk about hunting, fishing in Alaska

HUNTING/FISHING — Chuck Heath, father of Sarah Palin, will be speaking with his lifelong friend, Chuck Moe of Spokane, on Alaskan fishing and hunting on Jan. 19 at the Lake City Community Church, 6000 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d'Alene.

The fund-raising events includes raffles and prizes, a demo on scoring antlers and local outdoor sports vendors, as well as a meal of moose chili and cornbread.

The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets cost $5 at Michael D’s, Owl Café, Black Sheep, Wholesale Sports and Hoffman Boots.

Info: (208) 676-0632.

Idaho allows first-timers to bypass hunter ed

HUNTING — To encourage potential new hunters to take to the field, Idaho Fish and Game’s new Hunting Passport offers novice hunters the opportunity to hunt for one year before completing a hunter education course.

A Hunting Passport is a special authorization that allows anyone who has never held a hunting license in any state, resident and nonresident, age 8 and older, to take wildlife only when they are accompanied by a mentor and participating in the Mentored Hunting Program.

The minimum age to hold a Hunting Passport is 8. There is no maximum age. Passport holders must be 12 years old to hunt big game, 10 to hunt turkey and sandhill crane and 8 to hunt most other game birds and small game.

Passport holders must purchase general season tags, appropriate permits and validations.  All hunting rules, seasons and weapon restrictions also apply.

The Hunting Passport expires December 31 of the year it was issued, and only one can be purchased in a lifetime. To continue hunting after the passport expires, the hunter must complete a hunter education course and buy a license.

Anyone 18 or older who holds a valid Idaho hunting license can serve as a mentor. No certification is required, but people may not mentor more than two people at the same time.

Hunting Passports cost $1.75 and are available at license vendors and Fish and Game regional offices.

Best things about hunting dogs revisited

BIRD DOGGING — A Facebook friend recently sent me several poignant quotations regarding dogs, which made me think fondly back over the German shorthairs, Brittanys and English setters I've been privileged to own, know, love and hunt.

But honestly, I couldn't help but make a few reality checks after thinking about these Dog Wisdoms for a moment.  I've added my two cents from decades of experience in bold face.

*Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. Indeed, the tail wagging may be a devious attempt to delay you from discovering the chewed up bamboo fly rod.  - Ann Landers

*If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went, unless it's into the barnyard to roll in cow pies.  - Will Rogers

*There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face, and that's a good thing because a psychiatrist is much more likely than a puppy to have been licking something icky before it licked you. - Ben Williams

*A neutered dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. - Robert Benchley

*If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise and you clearly aren't a chukar hunter. - Unknown

Montana ranchers bar hunting to protest public land buy

HUNTING — About 30 Montana farmers and rangers say they won't allow public  hunting on their land in protest of the state's purchase of a ranch along the Milk River.

Last month, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission OK’d the purchase of 2,992 acres of the Milk River Ranch from Aageson Grain and Cattle for $4.7 million. The agency says the land has great wildlife values, 10 miles of river shoreline, huge areas of intact native prairie and is an important wildlife corridor.

But the landowners have a lot of gripes, from the price paid to simple anger over the government owning land.

See the latest from the Great Falls Tribune.

New Year rules, programs for Idaho hunters, anglers

HUNTING/FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game put out the following notice of new rules affection hunters and anglers in 2012.

Several new rules, including a mentored hunting program and changes to fishing rules, take effect January 1; all of them are subject of legislative review.

A new mentored hunting program will allow a person 8 and older to participate in a mentored hunt program without being required to hold a hunter education certificate.

A Hunting Passport is a special authorization that allows the person to take wildlife only when they are accompanied by a mentor and participating in the Mentored Hunting Program. They may participate in the program only for one year, and the Hunting Passport expires December 31 of the year it was issued.

A person with a Hunting Passport at least 8 years old may hunt small game and most upland game birds, but a person must be at least 10 to hunt turkey or sandhill crane and at least 12 to hunt big game.

The mentor must be at least 18 and must possess a valid Idaho hunting license, and he or she may mentor no more than two others at a time.

For anglers, the state has shifted to a three-year cycle, which means new rules in 2013 will be effective through 2015. 

In addition, the limit on trout will go down to two per day in some streams and urban ponds in the Clearwater, Southwest, Southeast and Upper Snake regions on January 1.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted the rule in November. The goal is to increase opportunity for more anglers to catch stocked fish and to reduce the boom and bust cycle with the stocking program.

Affected waters are Big Elk Creek, Crooked Creek and Red River in the Clearwater Region.

In the Upper Snake Region the limit is removed on rainbow trout and hybrid trout in the South Fork Snake River tributaries. The limit on brown trout is two, with none under 16 inches. In Henrys Lake Outlet, the 400 yard section from the USGS gauge to the Henrys Lake Dam opens to fishing.


Fewer moose permits proposed in Idaho

HUNTING — Fewer numbers of moose in Idaho have prompted proposals for fewer moose hunting permits as the Idaho Fish and Game Department takes comments on changing moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat seasons and rules for 2013-2014.

Proposed changes in moose tags are in response to decreased success rates in past years and fewer moose. However, Fish and Game biologists are proposing an increase in tags and new hunts where moose are doing better.

Proposed changes are posted on the Fish and Game website for review and comment.

The proposals will be submitted along with public comments to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for consideration and action during the annual meeting Jan. 17.

Comments may be entered online or by email to idfginfo@idfg.idaho.gov.

Read on for more details.

Pheasant season closes before other upland birds

BIRD HUNTING — Upland bird hunters should be aware that the Eastern Washington pheasant season closes Jan. 13 while the season for other upland birds — quail, chukars, Huns — runs through the Martin Luther King holiday and closes on Jan. 21.

Most waterfowl seasons run through Jan. 27.

Mule deer buck roughs up dead foe

HUNTING — Although the story in the video doesn't totally add up, this footage illustrates the power and violence two rutting mule deer bucks devote to battle — even if one of the bucks is dead.

The hunters probably picked up a rifle sooner for self defense just in case the attacking buck decided they were worth fighting, too.

A mule deer buck is a big load to pack around, but this buck whips his deceased foe around as though it were a rag doll. 

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. 

Fence hangs up elk, briefly, at highway crossing

WILDLIFE — This video of a huge herd of wintering elk crossing a highway near Helena, Mont., has several interesting elements.

First, it's awesome to see so many wild elk after hunting so hard for them during the elk seasons and concluding that most of the elk in North America had vanished.

But after nursing my English Setter, Scout, through two gory run-ins with barbed wire during this year's bird hunting seasons (the latest is pictured at left), I was especially interested in seeing the elk hanging up in the barbed-wire fence before they could cross the highway. This is especially noticeable toward the end of the video.

I always hear that elk are hard on fences.

But it's pretty safe to say that the millions of miles of fences — especially barbed wire — stretched across our Western landscape are pretty darned hard on wildlife, too.

Hunters have incentive to file reports by Jan. 10

HUNTING — Hunters have a chance to win one of nine 2013 special hunting permits if they report this year’s hunting activities for black bear, deer, elk, or turkey to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by Jan. 10.

Hunters who file their mandatory reports by phone or online by the deadline will be included in a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state. Those permits will be valid from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013.

To qualify for the drawing, hunters must submit a report for each black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag they purchased and for each special hunting permit they received in 2012.

All hunters, whether successful or not, are required to submit hunting reports for those species by Jan. 31. Failure to meet the deadline can result in a $10 fine, payable before a hunter can purchase a 2013 license.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said the annual hunting reports are an important source of information for managing the resource and developing future hunting seasons.

“The drawing for special permits is designed to give hunters an extra incentive to file their reports early,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “If everyone waits until the last minute, it creates problems with reporting.”

Hunters can report by phone (877 945-3492) or on the WDFW online reporting site.

Hunters should be prepared to give the game management unit they hunted and their individual WILD identification number, which is printed on license documents.

More information the WDFW’s incentive permit drawing is available on page 17 of the 2012 Big Game Hunting pamphlet.

Saturday is hunters’ last shot at wild turkeys

HUNTING — Late wild turkey hunting sesaons will close Saturday (Dec. 15) evening in designagted areas of Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Washington late fall turkey season has been open since Nov. 20 in Game Management Units 105-142, 149-154 and 162-186. The limit is one turkey of either sex.

North Idaho's fall general season also will close Saturday evening in Game Management Units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA) 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6.

However, Idaho's fall general season will continue through Dec. 31 in units 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 18. This hunt is open on private lands only. Hunters must have permission from the landowner.

DU restates zero tollerance for hunting violators

HUNTING — Ducks Unlimited officials in Idaho restated their zero-tollerance policy for illegal hunting tactics last week after a former volunteer chapter chairman from Hagerman was convicted of baiting ducks with corn.

Ducks Unlimited leaders condemned Steele’s hunting tactics, not only as a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act but also the ethics of fair-chase that govern hunting, the Associated Press reports.

Mond Warren, the group’s regional director in Nampa, called corn baiting akin to using salt to lure big game such as elk nearer to hunters’ scopes.

“We have a zero tolerance for any type of game violation,” Warren said. “It’s a very stringent policy, there’s no wavering on it. Our job is waterfowl conservation and wetland conservation.”

Warren might have used  better analogy.  Putting out salt or even bait for big-game  hunting is illegal in Idaho but legal in Washington.

Baiting for waterfowl and other migratory birds is strictly forbidden in all states by federal law.

 Read on for the entire Associated Press story about the baiting case.

Ducks Unlimited looking for helpers Thursday in Spokane

CONSERVATION — Ducks Unlimited is holding a recruitment meeting Thursday (Dec. 13) in Spokane for people interested in helping organize a fundraiser for wildlife habitat projects.

DU is a nonprofit (501.c.3), volunteer run, conservation organization, that covers the USA, Mexico and Canada.

Bernard Brown, DU's senior regional director for Washington, will meet with conservation-minded waterfowl enthusiasts from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. at O’Doherty’s Irish Grille, 525 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Contact Brown at (509) 860-1510 or email Bernard Brown bbrown@ducks.org.

Should hunting regulations pamphlet include a calendar?

HUNTING — It's safe to say most sportsmen would rather not see the Washington hunting regulations pamphlet get any larger.

But Stevens County hunter Fred Phillips is adamant that something should be added:  a calendar.

Phillips has been writing back and forth to the agency trying to make his case FOR 10 YEARS, but officials have told him, among other things, it would cost money to add more pages to the pamphlet.  A staffer who answered from Olympia said they can't justify adding the extra element considering most hunters have a calendar on their wall, in their rigs or on their smartphones.

Here's Phillips' case:

So let's look at my request from a hunters point of view. First I must reserve vacation time from my employer for next years elk hunt, the 2012 pamphlet on page 46 tells me the season starts Oct 27, but no day, so I must look at calendar for the day.

if I wish to put in for special permits, I go to page 84 and it states I must have the application sent by May 18, but no day. and no calendar to look at.

If I am drawn for special elk season, page 52 informs me it starts Oct. 22. but no day.

This goes on and on in the pamphlet , all dates and no DAYS. A number of years I started getting myself a calendar every year and stapled it to the front page. But his year I said why should I do that? It would be NO trouble for the WDFW to add a calendar for the ease of hunters to utilize this document.

If you look at the 2012 pamphlet, page’s 19, 46, 48, 57 and 80 have more then ample room to incorporate a small calendar. 

Personally, I've never had an problem since I always seem to have a calendar around. BUT, if it's the wildly popular idea Phillips suggests, maybe the free enterprise system could take care of it. 

Perhaps an advertiser looking for a hook to get hunters to check out its ad should include a CALENDAR along with its message.  WDFW could make the stipulation that only one advertiser could sponsor the "calendar ad" each year and charge a premium for the privilege.


Colville Tribe: “Wolves starting to have an impact”

ENDANGERED SPECIES — No wolves have been killed yet in the first regulated wolf hunting season within the borders of Washington, the Colville Confederated Tribes report.

Although gray wolves are still protected by state endangered species regulations, the tribe opened a season two weeks ago to tribal members, with an overall quota of nine wolves in three sections of the 1.4 million acre reservation.

"Wolves are starting to have an impact," a tribal spokesman told the Seattle Times in this report.

Ex-duck group president sentenced for duck baiting

HUNTING - The former head of an Idaho group whose mission it is to protect ducks is being punished for using illegal methods to hunt them.

Charles D. Steele of Hagerman was sentenced today to a year of supervised probation, a $2,000 fine and 25 hours of community service in U.S. District Court, according to the Associated Press.

On Sept. 25, he pleaded guilty to violating federal bird-protection laws by baiting ducks placing corn on private farmland near Gooding to attract waterfowl — and enhance hunting opportunities.

The 48-year-old Steele is the former president of the Hagerman Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While on probation, Steele is forbidden to hunt in the United States.

In some ways, now’s better than the good ol’ days for wildlife

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Of course there are ups and downs, but overall this isn't a bad time to be among the critters.

Montana wildlife numbers better now than 50 years ago

Most of Montana's suite of wildlife species are doing better than they were 50 years ago. The reasons for the resurgence are mixed, with federal protection of some species playing a part, protection of habitat another. — Billings Gazette

Practical outdoorsman eyes wedding dress in closet

HUNTING — I'm thinking this man isn't hunting; he's running scared.

On the other hand, I've always thought it would be cool to haul out my game on a train.

Hunter earns reward for turning in gate-busting ATVers

HUNTING — A national sportsman's conservation group has paid a $500 reward to an Idaho bear hunter who provided the information game wardens needed to cite hunters using all-terrain vehicles in habitat protected from motorized traffic.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a national group of outdoorsmen and women who value hunting and fishing in the peace and quiet of natural conditions, said Holly Endersby, BHA acting director who lives in Pollock, Idaho, in announcing the reward.

The case dates back to spring of 2011, when Ted Koch and two friends were hunting for black bears on the Nez Perce National Forest. They planned to hike into an area where roads had been closed to vehicles, but hike-in hunters were allowed.

As they hiked in, they observed hunters on ATVs driving around the locked gate. They also found bait stations the hunters had left behind.

“We planned to enjoy a quiet evening looking for bears,” Koch said. “Instead, the evening was shattered by noise and exhaust where it did not belong.”

Koch lived in Boise at the time of the hunt, but has since moved to Reno, Nev. He pointed out that he and his hunting partners own dirt bikes or all-terrain vehicles, but stay within the bounds of the law.

“Hunters and wildlife alike need some places entirely apart from the noise and disturbance of motor traffic,” Koch said. “Owning an ATV does not mean you can re-write the rule book.”

Koch noted the license plate numbers of the hunters’ vehicles, took GPS readings, recorded the date and time and wrote detailed descriptions of the riders. He reported the incident to Roy Kinner, a senior conservation officer from Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Grangeville.

“Mr. Koch gave us exactly the kind of information we needed to launch a successful investigation,” Kinner said. “I don’t usually get that kind of high quality information.  It was just priceless.”

In the end, three hunters pleaded guilty to the road closure violations and were fined $500 each. Other charges of leaving bear bait too close to a stream were dismissed.

BHA has a dedicated reward fund for aiding the conviction of law-breakers who abuse public hunting and fishing areas with motorized vehicles.

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.

Feds consider possible trophy hunts for grizzlies around Yellowstone

Federal authorities are laying groundwork for possible trophy grizzly bear hunts around the Yellowstone area as soon as 2014, the AP reports, in the surest sign yet that more than 30 years of ederal protection for grizzlies in the area is nearing an end. Officials stressed that any grizzly season would differ significantly from the aggressive wolf hunts now underway in Idaho and Montana, and would not be aimed at reducing grizzly numbers. "It would be a very careful, limited hunt," said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A federal-state committee that oversees grizzly bears will consider adopting a pro-hunting policy during a meeting next week; click below for a full report from AP reporter Matthew Brown in Billings.

Colville Tribe opens wolf hunting season on reservation

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wolf hunting has arrived in Washington.

Although gray wolves are still listed by the state as an endangered species, the Colville Confederated Tribes have opened a wolf hunting season for tribal members on a portion of their reservation, according to the 2012 Tribal Member South Half Gray Wolf Regulations posted on the tribe's website.

Tribal officials aren't answering calls from the media, but Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman magazine has put together a detailed report on this milestone in wolf management.

The Tribal Council approved a season that opened last week on the south half of the 1.4 million-acre reservation in Okanogan and Ferry Counties where at least two and possibly three packs roam.

At least 12 wolf packs have been identified across Eastern Washington.

The minimum number of wolf packs have not been formed to trigger steps toward a hunting season in Washington outside the reservation, according to the state's Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Nine permits are available to Colville tribal members, according to the online regulations. The season is posted to run through Feb. 28 or until  hunters have met the quota.

This fall, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers set another milestone in the process of wolves reestablishing themselves in the state by killing an entire wolf pack that had been attacking cattle in northern Stevens County.

Washington freezes Master Hunter Program enrollment

HUNTER EDUCATION – With current enrollment nearing 2,000 hunters, the Master Hunter Permit Program administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has stopped accepting new applications for membership until further notice.

The enrollment freeze is designed to give the department time to absorb an increase of nearly 30 percent more certified master hunters over the past four years and clearly define the program’s role, said Sgt. Carl Klein, WDFW program manager.

“Since 1992, the program has produced a highly skilled pool of volunteers that assist the department in controlling wildlife damage,” Klein said. “Now we need to make sure we can utilize the skills of all master hunters.”

Klein said WDFW often calls on master hunters to participate in hunts designed to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. To maintain their certification, master hunters are required to participate in volunteer projects, ranging from maintaining elk fences to restoring wildlife habitat.

Mike Britton, chair of WDFW’s Master Hunter Advisory Group, said he supports the department’s review of the program.

“There is an urgent need for WDFW to identify priority volunteer needs and to actively engage master hunters in meaningful work,” he said.

Montana game wardens share bizarre stories from the field

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — "Sorry, officer, but I thought that llama was an elk — even after I gutted it out and put it in my pickup."

Sound like a tall tale? Nope.  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks employees have seen some doozy cases over the years, as you'll read in Montana game wardens share some of their stranger tales, published in the Missoula Independent.

Indicentally, the 2009 llama incident mentioned above was well reported at the time.

Most Dworshak facilities closing for season

BOATING — Most of the recreation facilities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir are buttoning up for the winter.

Dam View, Grandad and Canyon Creek campgrounds, and Merrys Bay day-use area are closed for the season and will reopen in the spring 2013 as weather conditions allow.

Dent Acres campground will remain open until Dec. 15, weather permitting, to accommodate late-season hunters.

Big Eddy, Bruces Eddy and the fishing wall area below the dam will remain open for use during the winter season. 

Roads accessing recreation areas can be challenging and icy during inclement weather.

Info: (208) 476-1255 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.