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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Idaho commission could expand hunting seasons

HUNTING — Proposals for Idaho's 2015 big game hunting seasons that expand opportunity in many areas will be considered today at the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting in Boise.

Much of the additional opportunity will be available to deer hunters, as another mild winter has kept populations high, wildlife officials say.

Also on the commission's agenda is a series of proposals regarding elk hunts, many of which address depredation concerns. The proposals also include some specific changes in relatively isolated areas.

Reduced price revives popularity of Idaho leftover big-game tags

HUNTING — Hunters have until Aug. 15 to apply for unclaimed Idaho tags for controlled big-game hunts.   Discounted rates are making the tags a hot item.   Here are details provided by Phil Cooper of the Idaho Fish and Game Department:

For a wide variety of reasons, some of the lucky hunters who drew tags in the deer, elk, antelope and bear controlled hunt drawing did not buy their tags. 

Perhaps it was forgetfulness or being overly busy, as the tags had to be purchased by August 1.  It could have been changes to fall work schedules.  Perhaps a medical issue came up; or, some family vacation plans were changed. Regardless of the reasons, these unclaimed tags will make some hunters very happy about having a second chance at drawing limited entry hunt opportunities.    

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will hold a supplemental drawing to allocate the controlled hunt tags that went unclaimed. Hunters must apply between August 5 and August 15 to be in the drawing. A list of the tags available is on the IDFG website, fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Hunters can apply for the controlled hunt tags at any IDFG hunting and fishing license vendor, or online. The supplemental drawing will be held around August 20.  Any tags remaining after the second drawing will be sold over the counter beginning August 25.

Another opportunity that hunters are showing a lot of interest in is the option of purchasing a second deer or elk tag.  For the first time this year, these will be available at a reduced price.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission sets a quota on nonresident deer and elk tags.  Prior to 2000, only nonresidents were able to buy tags from the nonresident quota.  Beginning in 2000, nonresident tags that are unsold after July 31 are made available to residents at the nonresident price until the quota is sold out. This year, the Commission is offering discounted nonresident tags when they are purchased as second tags.  The discounted price is $199 for a second deer tag and $299 for a second elk tag.

Many hunters have a primary objective of filling the freezer with healthy and delicious meat, and they take the first legal animal for which they have a tag. But hunters who shoot the first legal animal that comes along, rarely take a trophy animal.          With the new discount, they can now purchase a second tag at a reduced price in the hopes of taking one for the wall.  Those who are successful may have some meat they can share with friends and neighbors!

The discounted tags are cheaper than traveling to another state, where you must buy a full priced nonresident tag, over and above the travel costs.

Second tags are currently being sold over the counter at all IDFG license vendors until they are gone.  Early sales that started last Friday indicate the reduced price is very popular with hunters. 

Electronic glitch stalls Idaho leftover tag sales

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game’s vendor, Active Network that provides the online licensing system, experienced technical difficulties Wednesday because of the large volume of transactions involving leftover tag purchases and was forced to shut down. 

Idaho Fish and Game forwarded an apology from Active Network, summarized here:

Active extends our formal apology to IDFG and all adversely affected sportsmen/women for the period of unavailability of the IWILD system for transaction processing that was experienced after the sale of leftover tags for controlled hunts commenced at 10:00am MDT on Wednesday, August 6, 2014.  Our records indicate that the outage began at 10:10am MDT and was resolved by Active at 10:34am MDT.  We know that the timing of this outage was such as to cause great frustration and inconvenience to sportsmen/women attempting to obtain leftover tags and consequently to IDFG and its stakeholders. We profoundly regret, accept responsibility, and apologize to IDFG and all adversely affected sportsmen/women for this untimely and highly inconvenient service disruption. 

Idaho controlled hunt permit results available

HUNTING — Results for Idaho’s 2014 controlled hunts for deer, elk and pronghorn have been posted on the Idaho Fish at Game website.  I held off with the notice that came yesterday because high interest in the results was causing delays on the website.

Check your hunting license for your license number, have it ready, and follow the steps.

A new law that goes into effect July 1 allowing 10 and 11 year olds to hunt big game caused some confusion during this application period and resulted in more than 1,000 controlled hunt applications that included 10 and 11 year olds, mainly in group applications, Idaho Fish and Game officials said, with the following explanation:

Even though the law doesn’t take effect for a few more days, and the drawing occurred before then, Idaho Fish and Game decided to allow the applications to remain in the drawing for administrative and customer services reasons.

Because the vast majority of these applications were controlled hunt group applications submitted with other family members, removing those that included 10 and 11 year olds would have disqualified approximately 2,500 additional individuals who otherwise would have been eligible to participate in the drawing.

Removing, and/or correcting all 1,000 plus applications from the drawing, would have taken significantly more time and delayed completion of the drawing and the release of results to our customers.

We apologize to those who wanted to submit controlled hunt applications on behalf of their child but didn’t because the new law was not yet in effect. Given the number of applications received, Fish and Game leaders felt this was the best option available. Because the new law will be in place July 1, 10 and 11 year olds will be eligible to put in for the next controlled hunt application held in August, or they may purchase general season big game tags. 

Interested 10 and 11 year olds must hold a valid hunting license in order to apply for a controlled hunt. Anyone holding a Hunting Passport can purchase general season big game tags

Idaho’s 2014 big-game hunting rules published

HUNTING — Idaho's 2014 Big Game Seasons and Rules brochures are back from the printer and should be available at license vendors and Fish and Game offices in most locations. 

Elk hunters will notice changes to several elk management zones in the south half of the state. 

Wolf hunters will notice that bag limits have been standardized to five wolves per year statewide.  The hunting season was also extended to year-round on private land in Units 8, 8A, 10, 10A, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16A, 17, 18, 19, and 20.

The wolf trapping bag limit has also been standardized to five wolves per season in all units open to wolf trapping.  There are new trapping seasons in 10 game management units, and legally-salvaged roadkill may be used for trapping wolves statewide. 

The minimum hunting age to hunt big game, effective July 1, 2014, will be lowered from 12 to 10 years of age.  Normally a hunter who will be of legal age at the time of a hunt can apply before reaching that age. However, because this law does not take effect until July 1, 2014, hunters who are 9 or 10 cannot apply for big game controlled hunts in the first controlled hunt application periods (April 1 to April 30; May 1 to June 5.)  After the law is enacted in July, 9 and 10 year-olds who will turn 10 or 11 during the season can apply in the second application period in August.

Idaho’s trespass law and use of aircraft law related to hunting have been updated.    Hunters will notice adjustments to seasons have been made in all regions of Idaho, so attention to the current seasons and rules is important.  

Idaho sets 2013 big-game hunting seasons, rules

HUNTING — A general cow elk season will not return in North Idaho, but controlled permits for antlerless elk hunting will be increased statewide under the 2013 hunting seasons for deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion and gray wolf adopted today in Boise by the Fish and Game Commission.

The new seasons also include an increase in pronghorn tags and expanded wolf hunting and trapping seasons. 

Wolf hunting on private lands in the Idaho Panhandle will be allowed year round.

  • Details of the 2013 big game hunting seasons will be posted on the Fish and Game website. The 2013 Hunting Seasons printed brochure will be available at license vendors in late April.

Read on for highlights of rule changes provided by the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

Minor changes offered for North Idaho big-game hunting rules

HUNTING — The general season cow elk hunt is not proposed to return in the Idaho Panhandle this fall as Idaho Fish and Game managers stay fairly conservative with their recommendations for 2013 big game seasons.

Increases in controlled hunts for antlerless elk and deer are proposed, but for the most part seasons will stay the same as last year for mule deer, whitetails and elk.

Biologists will be on hand to explain the season proposals and gather public comment during an open-house meeting 4 p.m.-8 p.m. on March 7 at the Best Western Plus on the corner of Highway 95 and Appleway in Coeur d’Alene

Proposals for Idaho's 2013 big-game hunting seasons and an online comment form have been posted on the Fish and Game Department's Website.

Jim Hayden, IFG regional wildlife manager, said the elk seasons would resemble last year's hunts in North Idaho with minor tweeks to the controlled huntfor antlerless elk:

"The net result for next year's antlerless elk hunting would be no cow harvest in Units 4, 4A, 6, 7, and 9, lower than average harvest in Unit 1, and near average in Units 2, 3, and 5, where depredations are becoming a bit of a concern."

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will set final big game hunting season rules at the quarterly meeting in Boise on March 18. 

Speak up, get on the list

As the old saying goes, the world is ruled by those who show up.

Two years ago, IDFG mailed out a questionnaire on hunting seasons in Unit 1 to a random selection of Unit 1 elk hunters.  The process provided a statistically valid cross-section of hunters’ opinions, and proved to be a tool IDFG jused in decision-making.  That effort is being expanded this year, and 1,000 hunters who purchased hunting licenses in the Panhandle Region will receive a survey in the mail.  Their comments will help make decisions for the 2013 seasons. 

Hunters must file big-game hunting reports

HUNTING — Sportsmen in Idaho and Washington are required to file online or on-phone reports on whether they filled their big game tags.  The information is critical to wildlife biologists trying to manage big-game herds.

IDAHO requires hunters to file a report on their deer, elk and pronghorn hunts within 10 days after harvest or within 10 days after the end of the hunt if they did not harvest.

Hunters are required to file a report for each tag they bought whether they went hunting or not.

Idaho Fish and Game has a 24-hour, toll-free phone line to speak to a live operator when filing reports. Call (877) 268-9365 to file reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Or go to the Fish and Game Website to file a report online.

The information from past years is available online to help hunters plan their hunts.  See the following web pages for the Idaho data.

WASHINGTON requires hunters to submit a hunter report for each big game or turkey transport tag and special hunting permit acquired for the previous hunting season by Jan. 31.

Get the details for online reporting here.

Hunter Reports also can be filed by toll-free phone, (877) 945-3492.

See data compiled from Washington's game harvest reports.

Be frugal with money for elk hunting, but spend lots of time

HUNTING — My friend, John, has bagged two bull elk in Idaho this year, owing to skill, luck and investing in resident and nonresident tags. His friends have made a lot of jokes on how much he's hated for showing us up, but of course we're all envious and praising his effort, if not directly to him. 

Here's his explanation:

Generally I am the beneficiary of the good luck of others in my hunting "co-op". This year I get to bring the goods to larder. Also I may have more say in what sausages and fine meat snacks we decide to make.

Last year I spent about 50 days afield trying to get an elk, nothing in archery, rifle, muzzeloader or late archery, I had to eat tag soup not once but twice, cause I bought the extra non-resident tag to hunt all those seasons. It fosters my belief that you need to spend the days out there to have the luck, then you need to have some skill to capitalize on those lucky situations.

This year the stars aligned. Yee Haw.

Wildlife enthusiasts sign up for Idaho Wildlife Summit

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — More than 800 hunters and anglers, birders and wildlife watchers and others interested in wildlife conservation have signed up to participate in the Idaho Wildlife Summit that starts Friday and runs through Sunday (Aug. 24-26).

“It is extremely gratifying to see so many Idahoans care enough about their wildlife to be involved with the Wildlife Summit,” Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said in a media release. 

The three-day event will convene at the Riverside Hotel in Boise and six concurrent satellite sites in Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Salmon, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. People also may participate online in real time.

The agency hopes to involve as many people as possible in helping to set the direction for how wildlife is managed in Idaho, to find common ground, and ultimately to build a broader base of support for wildlife conservation. 

Part of the conversation involves the question: Where will the funding come from to manage game and non-game critters alike?  Currently virtually all of the funding for Idaho's wildlife management comes from hunter and anglers.

Participation is free, but registration is required because of limited seating.

The Boise venue is at capacity, but an overflow room, which will feature a live video feed, is available.

Click here for more details and background.

Idaho to hold drawing for unclaimed big-game hunting tags

HUNTING — Sportsmen who didn’t draw in the first round of Idaho big-game tag drawings can apply for the second controlled hunt drawing for unclaimed tags.

The application period for the second drawing for deer, elk and pronghorn hunts started Sunday and through Aug.15. The application fee is $6.25 for residents and $14.75 for nonresidents for each species.

The drawing will be Aug. 20. Any left over tags will go on sale Aug. 25.

See a list of available leftover tags.

Apply for the drawing at license vendors or online.

Idaho selling some leftover big-game tags over-the-counter

HUNTING — Because some controlled hunt already have started, Idaho Fish and Game just announced it will not include leftover tags for those hunts in a second drawing in late August.

Rather than include them in the second drawings, which comes near the end of these hunts, Fish and Game has designated certain leftover controlled hunt tags to become available on a first-come, first-served, over-the-counter basis starting Aug. 7 at 9 a.m.

Read on for the list of hunts and numer of tags available.

Idaho controlled hunt drawing results out soon

HUNTING — The suspense is almost over for Idaho big-game hunters.

Results of special drawings for big-game controlled hunt tags will be available any day on the Idaho Fish and Game Department drawings web page.

Postcards will be mailed to successful applicants by July 10.

Ultimately, hunters must bear the responsibility to determine whether they've been drawn, state officials say.

Unsuccessful applicants will not be notified.

Winners must buy controlled hunt tags by Aug.1; any tags not purchased by that date will be forfeit.

Unclaimed and leftover tags from the first drawing will be available in a second application period Aug. 5-15.

After the second drawing, any tags left over are sold over the counter.

Washington already has conducted its special hunt drawings.

Idaho’s online hunt planning tool helps hunters connect

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game has updated its Hunt Planner interactive online tool that allows hunters to search for and create maps for hunting areas of interest.

Hunters simply answer a few questions about what game they would like to hunt, how, where and when they would like to hunt it, and a list of all the available hunts that meet their criteria will be generated.

Select a hunt area from this list and the Hunt Planner will create a map that can be printed or provide links to an interactive map that can be customized further.

The Hunt Planner also generates helpful information for the hunt area selected, such as:

  • General season harvest statistics.
  • Tag, permit and fee prices.
  • Landscape characteristics and access.
  • Weather.
  • Local outfitters and guides.
  • Local services, including lodging, camping and restaurants.
  • How to get there and current road condition.

In addition, hunters may download current and past controlled hunt boundaries, from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System “Open Data” page. It helps to have a little horsepower in your computer, and you'll need to view the information in Google Earth and GIS programs.

Hunters can also download data for game management units, elk and wolf management zones, generalized game animal distributions and current and past Access Yes! property boundaries.

TV Host Explains Idaho Hunting Citation

"On March 20," writes Rich Landers, SR Outdoors, "I devoted my weekly Outdoors column to the case of Oregon hunter Bob Beck, a TV hunting show host, who pleaded guilty to shooting two deer in Idaho even though he had only one non-resident tag. The  case was made a year after the 2010 hunt when a sportsman gave Idaho Fish and Game a tip after seeing the hunt and the killing of both deer on Beck's Extreme Outer Limits program, which aired on the Sportsman Channel. Beck did not own up to the illegal kill until he was confronted by authorities. The guilty plea was entered and the fines were assessed in February 2012. Beck has issues with my reporting and commentary on the case, on which he's elaborated in posts at many online forums. Indeed, he's working to have details on the outcome of the case changed. But as of this week, the ruling remains the same as I reported it on March 20 based on information from Idaho Fish and Game Department investigators and the Benewah County prosecutor." More here.

Thoughts?

Idaho Senate nixes sale of landowner hunt tags

HUNTING — The Idaho Senate, in a rare 17-17 tie vote, killed a bill that sought to allow landowners to sell special hunting tags they receive because their properties provide important habitat for deer, elk, or pronghorn. 

The measure that died Wednesday was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a Republican rancher from Terreton. 

Currently, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission allows eligible landowners to participate in drawings for “Landowner Appreciation Tags.” 

According to the Associated Press, Siddoway wanted to allow landowners the chance to cash in on these controlled hunting tags by letting them sell them to other hunters, at any price they negotiate. 

The bill raised concerns that Siddoway sought to extend to landowners like himself a lucrative new option that violates the spirit of Idaho’s hunting legacy — preserving opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged, the Associated Press reported.
  

Fewer nonresidents hunting Idaho elk and deer

HUNTING — The amount of money Idaho is taking in through the sale of nonresident deer and elk tags is down nearly $3 million from its peak in 2008, state wildlife officials say.

Jim Unsworth, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the agency has put in place a six-month hiring freeze on all open positions, eliminated at least two high level positions, and is looking at cutting some programs, the Associated Press reports.

He said the economic downturn is why fewer out-of-state hunters are heading to Idaho. Most of the agency’s money comes from the sale of tags, licenses and permits.

“It’s hard to put a finger on specifically what’s not happening,” Unsworth told the Post Register. “What’s happening is just less of everything. At some level, somewhere, something’s not getting done, and eventually the public’s going to notice it.”

Unsworth said items that could be cut include aerial surveys of big-game populations. That could lead, he said, to a reduction in the number of deer or elk that game managers would allow to be killed because regional supervisors tend to be more conservative when setting harvest numbers if they don’t have reliable estimates about herd populations.

He said the result is a downward spiral in revenue.

“You do put yourself in a spin,” he said. “At some point you become irrelevant politically. The great old tried and true ‘hit the nonresidents up for revenue’ isn’t working.”

Besides state revenue from out-of-state hunters falling, Idaho guides have seen fewer clients and small communities are losing revenue from fewer hunters.

North Idaho elk trend: more success, less pressure

HUNTING — Check station results indicate slightly more elk are being taken by a slightly smaller number of hunters this year in the Idaho Panhandle.

"In VERY general terms, bull elk success rates are looking decent at both check stations (Enaville and St. Maries), and hunter participation has been declining through both stations since about 1992," said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager.

Hayden says check stations are just one snapshot wildlfie biologists use for gauging wildlife populations. Because of the variables associated with check station results, he prefers the mid-winter aerial surveys for getting the best numbers on big-game populations.

Apply for Idaho turkey, bear hunts by Feb. 15

HUNTING — The application period for  Idaho's spring turkey and black bear controlled hunts is open and runs through Feb. 15.

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

Information on spring hunts is available in Idaho's new upland game and turkey rules. Spring 2011 bear hunts are listed in the 2010 big game rules brochures. New controlled hunt numbers can be found online here.

Online applications can be made here.  You must have a 2011 Idaho hunting license to apply.