The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has rescheduled its January meeting due to the postponement of the legislative session. The Commission will meet at department headquarters, 600 S. Walnut in Boise, on January 27 and 28. The meeting will begin at 10:15 a.m. January 27. A public hearing will be held at the same location beginning at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday January 26. Note: this public hearing is beginning 30 minutes earlier than usual. The legislative Joint Finance and Appropriations is scheduled to review the Fish and Game budget proposal at 8:00 a.m. Jan. 27, and the Commission will attend. The entire legislative schedule was moved back one week following the death of Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Twiggs of Blackfoot. Agenda items include a report on the draft Owyhee Sage Grouse Conservation Plan; a review of the "Utah Predator Plan" and its possible application in Idaho; an update on brucellosis in Idaho wildlife; a report on preliminary 1999 big game harvest figures; and consideration of proposals to liberalize the nonresident hound hunter permit process. They will also consider deer and elk tag allocation and nonresident quotas for next year and landowner appreciation permits.
The draft Owyhee sage grouse conservation plan is available for public review, according to state upland bird manager Tom Hemker. The plan is a product of the Owyhee Sage Grouse Local Working Group, which includes representatives of county government, Owyhee County residents and ranchers, representatives of sportsman and conservation groups, as well as representatives from state and federal government agencies. Other Local Working Groups are addressing declining sage grouse populations in other parts of Idaho. Collectively, they make up the Idaho Sage Grouse Task Force. Sage grouse populations are down in Idaho and the rest of the west, and wildlife agencies are trying to learn what is causing the decline so that it can be stopped before the birds are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Listing could bring restrictions on many activities and uses of public land. The draft plan calls for research to determine lek sites; locations of nesting, brood-rearing and wintering habitat. It also proposes improvement of habitat in locations where it may help, fire protection and improvement of habitat. The draft proposes reducing numbers of juniper trees in some sage grouse habitat; study of predator impacts and possibly predator control; evaluation of the state's hunting program and continuing research and monitoring of sage grouse. The draft plan is available at the Fish and Game headquarters office and will be on the agency web page by Jan. 14. Comments are requested by January 31.
Waterfowl hunters need to make the most of it: Saturday, January 15, is the last day of the Idaho duck season. Managers would rather set a season that runs through the last day of a weekend, but the federal framework allows only 106 days of duck hunting in Idaho. Public comments have consistently favored opening on a Saturday, and letting the closing fall where it may. Chukar and gray partridge hunters must also hang it up after January 15. The only game seasons remaining open will be for cottontail and pygmy rabbits, which closes February 28, and for snowshoe hares, which closes March 31. The cottontail season was set for a 2-year period in 1998 using the standard closing date. The fact that the "last day of February" is the twenty-ninth this year does not extend the season.
Q. I shot a really big buck last fall. I would like to enter it in the record book. What do I do? A. The antlers must air dry for at least 60 days. Then, call Fish and Game at (208) 334-3746 for an entry form which has the rules and minimum measurements on it. Idaho recognizes trophy animals under the Boone and Crockett rules for hunting with firearms, and Pope and Young rules for archery. Your trophy must be measured by an official measurer for one group or the other. When you call for the form, you can learn the name and number of the measurer nearest you. The rules and lists of Idaho records are on the Fish and Game website at www.state.id.us/fishgame/bgrec.htm
Personnel from Fish and Game's Nampa Hatchery will be releasing more than 6,800 catchable-sized rainbow trout at the following locations during January. LOCATION NUMBER OF TROUT Boise River (Boise) 2,000 Boise River (Eagle to Middleton) 1,000 Marsing Pond 250 McDivitt Pond 150 Park Center Pond 500 Quinn's Pond 500 Riverside Pond 150 Veteran's Park Pond 500 Wilson Spring 300 Wilson Spring Ponds 1,500 The number of trout actually released may be altered by weather, water conditions, equipment problems or schedule changes. If delays occur, trout will be stocked when conditions become favorable.
Proposed changes in Owyhee County mule deer seasons and bull elk overharvest in unit 39 are just two issues slated for discussion during a series of Fish and Game-hosted open houses. The public is invited to attend the get together nearest them to help shape this year's hunting seasons in Idaho's Southwest region. Other proposed changes include the alteration of mule deer hunting seasons in and around the open country surrounding Council and Cambridge. "We'd like to invite everyone to attend one of our open houses and share their input with us," Fish and Game wildlife manager Lou Nelson said. "That input will be important in shaping final fall hunting seasons." The open house format allows visitors to come and go during a three-hour period and visit one-on-one with Fish and Game personnel about any wildlife management issue. Written comments collected from open house attendees will be summarized and presented to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for review and consideration. The Commission will take final action on these and other big game issues from across the state at their March meeting in Boise. Open houses will be held at these locations from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.: Nampa, Wednesday, Feb. 2 Northwest Nazarene Univ. J. Wordsworth Meeting Room NNU Student Center 512 Amity Boise, Thursday, Feb. 3 Fish & Game Headquarters Trophy Room 600 S. Walnut Emmett, Monday, Feb. 7 Emmett High School Atrium 721 W. Twelfth Street McCall, Monday, Feb. 7 Best Western Hotel 415 N. Third Council, Tuesday, Feb. 8 Council Ranger District 500 E. Whitley Weiser, Wednesday, Feb. 9 Weiser High School Library 690 Indianhead Road Mt. Home, Thursday, Feb. 10 Mt. Home Bingo Parlor 3285 Airbase Road Contact Fish and Game's Nampa office at 465-8465 or the McCall office at 634-8137 for more information.
If you've ever wanted to "do something for wildlife," the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has a golden opportunity for you. "We are seeking volunteers to contribute some of their precious 'spare' time to plant bitterbrush," Fish and Game volunteer coordinator Mary Dudley noted. Bitterbrush is a primary winter food source for mule deer. This year's planting effort targets a portion of the Boise Foothills adjacent to Highway 21, acreage that burned last summer and during July of 1996. "Planting bitterbrush is the first step toward restoration of this critical deer and elk winter range," Dudley stated. "Volunteers make it all possible, not to mention fun." Through the years, the annual effort has attracted hundreds of people of all ages and from all walks of life. "During the past two years alone, volunteers have planted 88,000 bitterbrush seedlings to help restore big game habitat," Dudley noted. Five weekend planting dates are currently scheduled: February 26, March 4, 11, 18, and 25. To learn more about this and other volunteer projects with Fish and Game, contact Dudley at 327-7099.
As of January 10, the mountain lion hunting season in Hunt Unit 31 has been closed by order of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). "Lion hunting in this unit was scheduled to remain open until March 31, or until five female lions were harvested, whichever came first," IDFG regional wildlife manager Lou Nelson stated. "The fifth female lion was checked in on January seventh." The pursuit season for lions in Unit 31 remains open through March 31. Mountain lion hunting rules require successful hunters to bring the skull and hide with evidence of sex attached to any IDFG Conservation Officer or IDFG regional office within five days of the kill for tagging. A leaflet describing techniques for sexing lions in the field is available from the IDFG Southwest Region office.
Want to know more about ice fishing? Then come to the MK Nature Center's Wildlife Wednesday. On January 19 at 7:00 p.m., the Nature Center, located at 600 S. Walnut in Boise, will be holding a program entitled Ice Fishing in Idaho. Al Van Vooren, the Southwest Regional Supervisor for Fish and Game, will be conducting the free program. Come learn about ice fishing equipment, places to go and the tricks of the trade. Sunset Sports Center is sponsoring the evening and will display an assortment of ice fishing equipment. A few lucky attendees will walk away with ice fishing equipment donated by Sunset Sports Center. For more information, contact Adare Evans at 334-2633.
By Ned Horner, Regional Fisheries Manager, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Although most anglers have heard of the major changes in fishing regulations on Lake Pend Oreille, many are still wondering exactly what the changes were, what those changes were based on, and what more is being done to help rebuild the kokanee population. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission recently passed emergency rule changes for Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River to give anglers the opportunity to harvest more rainbow and lake trout (mackinaw), while restricting harvest of kokanee. Fishing for all species is now allowed year round in both Lake Pend Oreille and the entire Clark Fork River. The rainbow limit was increased to six fish, while there is no limit for lake trout (mackinaw). Kokanee were closed to harvest and bull trout remained closed to harvest. There were no changes in the cutthroat limit of two fish. What all this means is that an angler is allowed a general trout limit of six fish, of which no more than two can be cutthroat. If you had one cutthroat, you could harvest five more rainbow. Any lake trout you catch are in addition to your general limit of six other trout (rainbow, brown, cutthroat). So why the switch from trophy rainbow management to a harvest-oriented trout fishery? Kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille are in serious trouble. We are currently looking at the lowest population levels ever recorded. We only had 280,000 age 3 fish, 80,000 age 2 fish and 250,000 age 1 fish in the fall 1999 population estimate. The average number of kokanee (during the last 22 years of trawling) in these same year classes is 730,000 age 3, 1.23 million age 2, and 1.45 million age 1 fish. Future spawners are going to be scarce and there is no way to "make" more of these older age class fish. We can only try to save what is left.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet at department headquarters, 600 S. Walnut in Boise, on January 20 and 21. The meeting will begin at 8:00 a.m. both days. A public hearing will be held at the same location beginning at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday January 19. Note: this public hearing is beginning 30 minutes earlier than usual. Agenda items include a report on the draft Owyhee Sage Grouse Conservation Plan; a review of the "Utah Predator Plan" and its possible application in Idaho; an update on brucellosis in Idaho wildlife; a report on preliminary 1999 big game harvest figures; and consideration of proposals to liberalize the nonresident hound hunter permit process. Fisheries staff and others will make a presentation on the status of salmon and salmon recovery. Fish pathologist Keith Johnson will make a report on whirling disease.
A Fish and Game Headquarters news release dated 12-31-99 contained a story on the history of chukar partridge in Idaho. It included mention of the 1999 season remaining open until January 15, 2000. It INCORRECTLY stated that a 1999 hunting license and upland bird permit were valid in that portion of the hunt. To legally hunt in the 2000 portion of the hunt, a hunter must have a 2000 hunting license and upland bird permit in possession.