In the Field
By Phil Cooper - Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Hard as it is to believe, summer is already coming to a close, and some Idaho hunting seasons have already opened.
These include what are called "green-field hunts" that are intended to provide some relief to crop producers experiencing damage by big game. Many additional seasons open in the very near future for big game as well as small game.
Archers should take note that the general archery deer season opens before the general archery elk season. Prior to last year, both opened August 30 in the Panhandle.
As was the case last year, general season elk hunting for both archery and firearms hunters is only open for antlered elk. There is no general cow season in the Panhandle at this time.
At the fair last week, I was asked numerous times when the cow season would return. Nobody has a good answer for that question other than to say that it cannot happen until overall elk numbers and cow-calf ratios improve. Calves must survive in better numbers than they currently are before general cow hunting can be available.
Idaho Fish and Game will continue to monitor populations using aerial and ground surveys and monitor harvest by reviewing mandatory harvest report data, mail and phone surveys and check station results to keep track of population changes.
While we are talking about check stations, it is important that hunters and anglers know what to do when they come upon a check station. Idaho Code requires that "all sportsmen, with or without game, must stop at Fish and Game check stations." All those who are hunting or fishing that day, or are returning from an overnight hunting or fishing outing, are required to stop.
Each year, a few sportsmen do not stop at check stations because they were not successful on that specific trip. They see the signs but think the instructions don't apply to them and continue on their way. However, information about a trip where nothing was harvested is also recorded. Citations can be issued to those who have spent the day in the field and do not stop.
Idaho Fish and Game runs two types of check stations. These include wildlife management check stations and enforcement check stations. Both types are important, and sportsmen can help Fish and Game gather information useful to managing both fish and game.
"Management Check Station" data is most accurate and meaningful when all hunters and anglers comply with the requirement to stop. It is important that hunters stop to give biologists information relating to the trip they are returning from. The management check stations serve as a helpful immediate measure of how the season is going. The information provides the short term ability to compare hunter success to previous years.
Final season success and harvest figures are derived from the final mandatory checks on some species, harvest reports, check station data and telephone surveys.
Sportsmen driving on less traveled roads may also encounter impromptu check stations that stop all vehicles and divert hunters or anglers aside to answer additional questions.
These "Enforcement Check Stations" may be set up by conservation officers at any time of the day or night, and are intended to enforce Idaho wildlife laws and orders.
When at either type of check station, hunters and anglers are asked a series of questions about how many occupants of the vehicle were hunting or fishing, which big game unit they were in, and how many animals of which species have been harvested. At a check station, you are required by law to produce all fish or game in possession for inspection. It usually takes just a few minutes.
Those species for which a tag and mandatory check is required will be checked, and data such as age and sex recorded. This can save you a trip to check in your animal at a later date.
You may also complete your requirement to file a harvest report if you have harvested a deer or elk, or if you are done hunting for the season. Simply complete the form and drop it off at the check station and you will be finished with reporting your hunting results for that species for the year.
Please stop in at every check station you encounter as you travel to or from hunting and fishing outings. The information you provide is important to successful management of the wildlife resource we enjoy in Idaho. You can also ask questions and get information about how the season is progressing.
All hunters, both big game and small game, are encouraged to carefully review the hunting regulations before heading into the field. Nobody wants to violate a rule because they were not aware of a change. Sportsmen looking for answers to questions about regulations or seasons can contact the local Fish and Game regional office.
Fish and Game employees had a great time visiting with people about hunting and fishing at the North Idaho Fair, and at the Boundary and Bonner County fairs. It was obvious that hunters in the Panhandle are excited about getting ready for the upcoming hunting seasons.
Phil Cooper is the regional wildlife educator for the Panhandle Region