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Elk poachers bagged after slaying Wenaha Unit trophy bulls

POACHING — An Island City, Oregon father and son were arrested last week by Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division troopers following an investigation into the unlawful taking of two bull elk in the Wenaha Wildlife Management Unit in northeast Oregon. 

The Wenaha Unit is considered a premier controlled branch antler bull elk hunting unit for which only 20 tags are issued during archery season.  This is a very difficult tag to obtain, and for most hunters it may be a once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunity.

Read on for details from an Oregon State Police press release via Northwest Sportsman Magazine:

Out of the blue, commission to consider battery-operated decoys

WATERFOWL HUNTING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider a petition to allow use of battery-powered spinning-wing decoys for hunting during a special conference call meeting Friday, 8:30 a.m.

This didn't come up at the recent meeting the Fish and Wildlife Department had on new rules for upcoming hunting seasons.

The only way the public can listen to the discussion — travel to the Fish and Wildlife Department's Olympia headquarters and listen on the speaker phone.

Whitetail bucks losing velvet, prepping for fall, at different rates

DEER HUNTING — Hot weather and a brief cooling trend followed by record or near-record hot weather greeted archery hunters out for the opening of whitetail hunting seasons the past week in western states.

Then came the full moon: Deer activity really slowed for hunters.

The change in weather should get the action back in gear.

Although the velvet seems to peel off most bucks around Sept. 1, hunters are seeing some major differences in antler appearance.

In northeastern Washington, Kevin Scheib saw two nice bucks while scouting over the weekend: One was all rubbed clean, the other still had velvet hanging off his rack, he said.

A little farther south, Brandon Enevold has had plenty of action near his stands as well as at his trail cams as bucks continue to be in summer feeding patterns.

The night of Sept. 6, he snapped photo documentation (above) of two bucks, one in full velvet and the other with a bone-clean rack.

“I'll be letting both of these bucks grow for another year or two,” he said, offering an explanation for his patience: “I passed up 10 bucks over Labor Day weekend and almost got a shot at a solid 140 incher.”

But he said the hot weather shut down his action last weekend. He's expecting that to change.

Can hunters block their scent from a deer’s nose?

HUNTING — What do you think? Is a hunter spending his money wisely investing in soaps and clothing billed to mask human scent from the discriminating noses of deer and elk?

I'll tell you what I think in my Thursday outdoors column. Check it out, along with a long list of stories in our Hunting 2011 special section Thursday at spokesman.com/outdoors

Idaho hunters can exchange tags if fires prevent access

HUNTING — Fires burning in Idaho’s backcountry have state and federal land managers to close roads and trails in some areas, including the Idaho Panhandle.raised concerns about public safety and hunter access.

Those closures may affect access to some hunting units.

Idaho Fish and Game officials say they will not recommend closing hunts or altering season dates in response to fire restrictions. Most fires are not large enough to affect an entire hunt unit, they say.

Hunters affected by a fire closure can adjust their schedule to hunt later in the season or exchange general tags to hunt in a different area. But tags must be exchanged before the season begins.

Hunters with controlled hunt tags affected by a fire closure may exchange them for general season tags before the controlled hunt begins. But controlled hunt fees would not be refunded.

Fish and Game will consider requests for rain checks or refunds in the event that access to a hunting unit is blocked by fire. Hunters requesting a rain check will be required to submit their tags and permits with a letter describing the conditions of their request.

Rain checks would be evaluated case-by-case at the end of the hunting season. Rain checks will be valid in 2012 and offered only for the same species and hunt area as the hunter held in 2011.

Written requests should be sent to the license section at Fish and Game, P.O. Box 25, Boise ID 83707 when the season is over.

For updates on fires and access restrictions, go online to the Forest Service fire incident website.

Hold on bird hunters: Idaho quail, chukar seasons two weeks later than usual

HUNTING — The birds of the year will be larger and the hunting dogs will have less chance of heat stroke and rattlesnake encounters when Idaho's partridge and quail seasons open this fall.

The Idaho seasons open Oct. 1 — that's two weeks later than last year's season opener.

Organized sportsment made the a case for the later season opener before the state  Fish and Game Commission two years ago.

Washington, which also will open it's quail and chukar seasons on Oct. 1, went to the later season opening several years ago.

Read on for more details on Idaho's chukar and quail seasons.

Special 2011 hunting section coming Thursday

HUNTING — See 12 pages of updates and tips for hunters heading into the field for the 2011 hunting seasons in our annual hunting section, coming in the Thursday paper and online at spokesman.com/outdoors.

VIDEO: Bull elk responds to bowhunters bugle

Archery Elk Hunt with Montana Guide services from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HUNTING — North Idaho bowhunter Bob Legasa followed some hunting guides into the Gardner, Mont., area to bugle in elk. First came a young cow, then a bull that would stand out in any crowd of large beasts.

Check out this short sample of a longer video he's producing to document the hunt.

“More than 70 elk seen in 2.5 days, 5 set up-close encounters with a bull screaming within 75-100 yards,” Legasa reports.  “The taxidermist I was filming guessed the bull would score around 370 (Boone and Crockett points). Pretty impressive ground over there!”

British Columbia declares open season on Chilcotin wolves

PREDATORSThe British Columbia government has declared open season on wolves in the Cariboo region to benefit cattle ranchers, a move that critics contend is unjustifiable and based on politics, not science.

Under new wildlife regulations, there is no closed season and no bag limit on hunting wolves in 10 management units in the Cariboo region, according to the Montreal Gazette.

An annual hunting bag limit of three wolves is typical in B.C.

The changes also allow for unlimited trapping of wolves on private land with leghold traps in nine management units from April 1 to Oct. 14.

Northwest Alloys land near Addy provides hay for elk

WILDLIFE – Northwest Alloys land near Addy, Wash., has a hand in feeding elk wintering at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Yakima.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Alcoa subsidiary is allowing local farmers to harvest alfalfa from fields adjacent to its curtailed magnesium and silicon plant near Addy so the hay can be donated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agreement nets the state about 750 tons of hay a year to feed the elk forced onto the Oak Creek winter range to keep them from damaging private-land crops.

Here we go again: court asked to reverse Congress on Rockies wolves

PREDATORS — As hunters have begun shooting gray wolves in the first weeks of the wolf hunting seasons in Idaho and Montana, wildlife advocates are once again urging a federal appeals panel to restore endangered species protections for wolves.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, WildEarth Guardians and other groups argue the judicial branch needs to “zealously guard” against a move by Congress that lifted protections in defiance of earlier court rulings, according to the Associated Press.

They sued the government after Congress in April approved a budget rider taking wolves off the endangered list in five states.

The filing of their briefs in the case comes as wildlife agencies on Friday reported hunters have killed 11 of the predators since wolf seasons opened in Idaho and Montana last week.

Initial attempts to stop the hunts were denied last month by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A November hearing in the case is expected.

Globetrotting sportsman writes survival manual for worldwide hunters

INTERNATIONAL HUNTING — Planning a big hunt to an exotic locale outside the United States?

“World Hunter's Info Manual” by John Lowery offers an inside look at global political climates, first aid and how to recognize hazards before going abroad for a hunting trip

Read on for details from the publisher.

Outlawed in Idaho, cow decoys work elsewhere for goose hunters

WATERFOWL HUNTING — Jump-shooting waterfowlers might be able to beef up their success by devising a cow “blind” for stalking birds in the field.

The practice once used by market hunters is not legal in Idaho.

But it's legal in Washington, according to  Capt. Mike Whorton of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department.

Plow through the first part of the video above to the third segment, which shows three waterfowl hunters using a cow silhouette to stalk amazingly close to a flock of snow geese.

The subject of cattle silhouttes as hunting blinds came up in a Q&A feature from Idaho Fish and Game.

Read on for more details.

Hunters on OHVs urged to stay on designated trails

HUNTING — The Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign is urging people who use ATVs or motorbikes during hunting season to stay on designated trails and do their homework to ensure that the trails they plan to ride are open.

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managementand Idaho Department of Fish and Game say hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.

“We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game,” said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. “One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams.”

According to several surveys, more than half of the approximately 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas.

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service encourage hunters to obtain copies of Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices, and in some cases, they are online.

The Panhandle National Forests have published new MVUMs for the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District and the Kaniksu Zone. These are available from Panhandle National Forest offices, and they are online on the forest's web site.

Panhandle National Forest officials are still working on the map for the St. Joe National Forest. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project's web site, www.stayontrails.com, has a link to online Forest Service MVUM's on its where to ride page

BLM officials encourage hunters to check BLM district office web sites for info. Hard-copies are available at district offices.

Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, “it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed” regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.

Hunters also should check Idaho Fish and Game regulations to check on trail or road restrictions in their hunting areas. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project produced a YouTube video that helps explain how to sort through MVUM maps and Fish and Game regulations to see if trails are open or closed.  

 A new Idaho law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads, and that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one.  

  • Check out 10 hunting tips for OHVers.
  • Idaho Fish and Game also has a brochure that reviews motor vehicle and ATV regulations pertinent to hunting. 

Washington advances lead restrictions to East Side pheasant release sites

ENVIRONMENT - Lead is gradually getting the boot in Washington's hunting and fishing circles.

Starting this season, hunters will be required to use non-toxic shot in their ammunition while hunting at pheasant release sites in Eastern Washington.

The nontoxic shot rule has been in effect at refuges and release sites for several years in Western Washington.

The pheasant release areas and boundaries of those nontoxic shot zones are defined in maps available online at the agency's website.

It was a federal rule that banned lead shot for use in waterfowl hunting starting in 1986.



  

Montana game takes hit; economy will feel pain of bad winter

HUNTING — Last winter took a serious toll on deer and pronghorns in parts of Eastern Montana. 

The ripple effect has translated into a sharp decline in sales of big-game tags in some areas.   The next hit will be to local economies that rely on the traditional spike in business hunters normally bring to small Montana towns.

Read the story from the Billings Gazette.

Idaho sportsman’s group sponsors wolf hunting contest

PREDATORS — Now that Idaho's wolf hunting season has begun, The Idaho County Sportsmen Club based in Grangeville is kicking off a wolf hunting contest.

Prizes are planned for the largest male wolf recorded, the largest female, best pelt, biggest paw and longest tooth, according to a club release.

The club is having a public meeting to annouce the event at 7 p.m. Sept. 6  at the Grangeville Senior Citizens Center.

Info: John Gaither, (208) 983-1685 or George Casteel, (208) 983-1538. 

Buying moose raffle tag was the least of his expenses

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Todd Klement of Spokane just received the official letter informing him that he'd won the state-sponsored raffle for a coveted 2011 Wasington moose hunting permit.

“I could use any tips or directions on where to start looking,” he said in an email announcing his lucky draw.

“I had forgotten I even bought a raffle ticket until they called me last week. For awhile I thought someone was playing a joke on me until I got the certified letter in the mail. 

“The chance at the raffle was only $10 but after my trip to Cabela's last night I see this moose is going to cost me.

“I told the wife I needed new stuff to hunt moose. She rolled her eyes like she always does.”

And he hadn't even got around to mentioning that they'll probably need a bigger freezer.

Youth pheasant hunting clinic set near Moscow

HUNTING – Moscow-area youths ages 12-15 can register for a Youth Pheasant Hunting Clinic scheduled Oct. 1 in Genesee.

Shotgun skills will be practiced at the local trap range followed by hunting pheasants on nearby private land.     

“This will be a great opportunity to introduce young hunters to the sport of pheasant hunting,” says Jay Roach, North Idaho Chapter President of Pheasants Forever.  “The goal is to make hunting a fun priority among all the other activities that vie for a teenager's time.”

Along with hunting pheasants, the youth will learn about wildlife conservation, pheasant ecology, dog handling, and the importance of respecting landowners.  Safety, ethics, sportsmanship and the hunting tradition will be given special emphasis.

The free clinic is intended for first-time hunters who have completed a hunter education course and hold a valid 2011 Idaho hunting license.  An adult supervisor must accompany each young hunter throughout the clinic.  

Advance registration is required and space is limited to 20 youth. Contact the Clearwater Region Fish and Game office, (208) 799-5010.

Sponsors include the Pheasants Forever, Flying B-Ranch, Idaho Fish and Game, Snake River Gun Dog & Sportsmen's Association, and Clearwater Point Dog Club.  

Poet pens ode to hunting season’s Opening Day

HUNTING — On the even of hunting seasons opening for species such as black bear, archery deer, doves and forest grouse, a hunter cooled his jets by writing a poem. He just sent it to me, so here it is to help the rest of you pass the time until shooting hours arrive tomorrow morning.

Read on:

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.

Wave of hunting seasons kick off in September

HUNTING — Fall is in the air, and hunters are gearing up for the woods.

Although black bear seasons already have opened in some areas of Washington, Sept. 1 it the big kick-off day for bears hunting in notheastern Washington along with mourning dove hunting and forest grouse seasons in much of Washington and Idaho.

Archery big-game seasons also are opening throughout the region. Idaho's wolf season opened Tuesday.

In Montana, the general season to hunt black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose begins Sept. 15. The general hunting season for antelope begins Oct. 8, followed by the general season for deer and elk on Oct. 22.

Dove hunters: non-toxic shot required a some state areas

HUNTING — Starting this season, hunters are required to use non-toxic shot in their ammunition while hunting any type of birds at 29 pheasant release sites in Eastern Washington.

Please note if you are a dove hunter who will be looking for birds near these designated areas when the mourning dove season opens Thursday.

The first state-land non-toxic shot requirements in Eastern Washington were enacted last year near Pasco, where hunters of pheasants, quail and partridge as well as mourning doves in three units of the Sunnyside-Snake River Wildlife were no longer are allowed to use lead shot.

This year’s East Side restrictions at pheasant release sites are the latest in the state’s phase out of lead for hunting and fishing uses.

It was a federal rule that banned lead shot for use in waterfowl hunting nation-wide starting in 1986.

Idaho ends chukar survey flights that gave hunters forecast of season

BIRD HUNTING — The last good barometer Snake River region hunters have had on the hatching success of upland birds has ended. Idaho Fish and Game biologists will no longer conduct aerial chukar surveys, the agency has announced.

The agency has conducted annual chukar surveys since the mid-1980s primarily to provide a ‘forecast’ for the upcoming season. The data was not biological data used to set seasons, officials said in a press release.

Washington ended it's aerial chukar surveys in the 90s, mostly for reasons of expense.

The flights were axed after the officials scrutinized the agency's use of aerial surveys following a fatal helicopter accident last year along the Clearwater River last year that killed two fisheries biologists and the pilot. Several aerila surveys have been eliminated after a review was conducted to assess risk and cost in relation to value of biological information collected

Since 1984, Fish and Game biologists conducted helicopter surveys in late August or early September along a portion of Brownlee and Lucky Peak reservoirs to monitor chukar population trends.  The surveys laster expanded to other portions of the Snake and Salmon rivers.

The surveys offered sportsmen useful general trends in the fall population.

Without the surveys, biologists will rely more on collecting wings from harvested birds to obtain an index to production and estimate harvest from annual hunter harvest surveys.

Hunters warned about stumbling into marijuana plots

HUNTING– Elk hunters heading to the Blue Mountains are being warned to stay off the grass.

Enforcement agents last week busted a 25,000-plant growing operation in the Eckler Unit of the Blues Mountains southeast of Dayton, according to the Tri-Cities Herald.

Hikers who use trails are not likely to see the hidden plots of the illegal product.  But hunters who often bushwhack to find game are more likely to stumble into plots, where trouble could occur.

The  Seattle Times last week published an in-depth story on illegal marijuana growing operations on tribal lands in the Northwest.

Another recent bust occurred in Clackamas County, Oregon, and just this week a bust on plants totaling $25 million occurred on private timberlands in Northeast Oregon, the second of the year in Wallowa County, according to Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Bucks looking ragged as they shed velvet

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Whitetail bucks are making that transition from growing velevet-covered antlers to hardened racks that will play into their stature for breeding.

Outdoor photographers Jaime and Lisa Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., keep track of such things. 

Check out their gallery.

Idaho wolf hunting season opens Tuesday; nonresident tags marked down

HUNTING — Idaho's second wolf season in history opens Tuesday, and it's a bargain for nonresidents.

Last month, the state Fish and Game Commission reduced the price of non-resident wolf tags to $31.75 to encourage more hunters to buy them.

Sales of resident and nonresident tags are down significantly from the first season, which was held two years ago.

There’s no quota on wolves this time around in most units controlled trapping will be allowed.

Idaho Fish and Game has all the details at its website here.

  

Court rejects appeal to put Idaho, Montana wolf hunts on hold

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A federal appeals court on Thursday denied a request by environmental groups to halt wolf hunts that are scheduled to begin next week in Idaho and Montana, the Associated Press reports.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other groups. The groups were seeking to cancel the hunts while the court considers a challenge to congressional action in April that stripped wolves of federal protections in Montana and Idaho, and in parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula reluctantly upheld a budget rider that was inserted by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. It marked the first time since the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973 that Congress forcibly removed protections from a plant or animal.

Read on for more details.

Idaho sets fall waterfowl hunting seasons

HUNTING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a 107-day waterfowl season for 2011-2012 during its meeting Wednesday.

A youth hunt was set for Sept. 24-25.

Read on for other details of bag limits and other seasons that begin in October.

New elk bowhunting rules cost Montana millions of dollars

BIG-GAME HUNTING — The 2011 archery elk permit drawing results are in, and for some it was a day of reward and excitement. For others there was disappointment in not drawing a permit for this year. For Montana it was an economic bloodletting.

The details are spelled out in an op-ed piece published in the Missoulian by Mac Minard, executive director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

“More than $16 million in economic activity has been lost due to residents and nonresidents who wanted to archery hunt in Montana but could not draw the permit. Limitations on permits are not based on conservation concerns, as all of the hunting districts involved are either at or over published population objectives for elk.

“In 2008, in a very controversial decision, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided to move from unlimited to limited archery elk permits for the Missouri Breaks. The rationale given included a number of factors, none of which had to do with abundance (or lack) of elk as populations are larger than desired. This action spurred a furious debate, but in the end it passed with no one really knowing what the impact would be.

“Then in 2010 the commission further reduced archery hunting opportunity in 22 additional hunting districts where elk were at or over the management objective. Taken together, 29 hunting districts, or 36 percent of the land mass of Montana, are now managed under a limited permit system. All of them enjoy an abundance of elk.

“Now, in 2011, we find that 1,854 resident hunters and 1,989 nonresidents, who had already obtained hunting licenses, put in for archery permits but were not drawn. These 3,843 hunters would have come to rural Montana to hunt and would have spent money on motels, restaurants, travel and incidentals that provides desperately needed economic activity and benefits families in communities that are struggling financially.”

Read on for more of Minard's commentary.