The digital 2023-24 Big Game Seasons and Rules brochure is now available and the printed brochures will arrive at Fish and Game offices and license vendors later in April and before May 1 to June 5 application period for big game controlled hunts.
Big game season setting was the culmination of months of effort and discussion between Idaho Fish and Game’s wildlife managers, hunters and Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners.
Here’s an important letter from Fish and Game Director Jim Fredericks regarding that process:
Your participation is a cornerstone to the season setting process and one of the key factors the commission uses to form their final decisions. In total, the department received more than 11,000 comments this year, an astounding number that proves how important these issues are to hunters.
This process began with biologists and managers assessing wildlife populations and the capacity to sustain harvest. The process ended with the Fish and Game Commission considering the Department staff’s recommendations and making the decisions reflected in the upcoming 2023-2024 big game brochure. But the most important part of that process is what happened in between – the presentation of the preliminary proposals to the public, and the opportunity for people to provide feedback.
Prior to the March Commission meeting, regional wildlife staff across the state hosted public meetings to provide interested sportsmen and women the opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss proposals. Recognizing not everyone has the time to attend an evening meeting, Fish and Game staff also prepared videos that summarized proposals. The meetings and presentations included descriptions of each proposed change, and the rationale behind it, and where the ideas came from. In some cases, the proposals are out of biological necessity and in response to changes in wildlife populations. In other cases, proposals were more about meeting the demand for different hunting experiences and opportunities. In the latter case, the proposals often originated from hunters rather than Fish and Game staff.
The public comment process often results in people being split on whether they support a particular proposal. As hunters and anglers, we frequently have different ideas on how we should allocate opportunities for limited resources. In other words, we have competing interests, and it’s rare that everyone is completely happy with any given season-setting outcome. That can lead people to conclude their input wasn’t heard, which is not the case. While we can listen to everyone who provides input, not everyone can get what they want due to competing interests.
People who engage in the process know that Fish and Game staff frequently modify proposals and adjust our final recommendations to the Commission based on what we hear from people, and Commissioners further consider public input before they make final decisions.
The seasons, rules and restrictions are the product of a process that’s meant to balance biology and population objectives with the many competing interests among the hunting public. We welcome and encourage public participation, fully knowing not everyone will be completely happy but recognizing that the opportunity for everyone to have their say will ultimately produce a better final product.
Thank you for your interest in hunting in Idaho, and thanks to everyone who took the time to engage in the season-setting process!
To see an overview of the changes to big game seasons, see this previous media release.
Hunters are also reminded that the draft Pronghorn Management plans is open for public comment until APril 12. People can read and comment on it here.
To learn more about deer and elk management in Idaho, see our dedicated State of Deer and Elk webpage.