Press Release

April 2000

Hunters Help Craft 2000 Big Game Seasons

By Evin Oneale, Regional Conservation Educator, Southwest Region.

Just one of the major challenges faced by big game managers is how to meld the biological needs of the managed species with the social desires of those who enjoy pursuing that species each hunting season. In each case, a species' biological needs must remain first and foremost. After all, without healthy herds, hunting is not an option.

Yet in some situations, different seasons can lead to the same biological end result. That's where you - the hunter - come in. Your input helps shape big game seasons in these situations. This spring's flurry of public involvement illustrates this point.

When rule changes fail to go their way, it is easy for individual sportsmen to think the department simply does not listen. These examples help illustrate that this is not the case. Thanks to everyone who participated in crafting these seasons by providing input to department personnel. Fish and Game hosted seven open houses across the region to gather season-shaping input from hunters and other interested folks. Meetings were held in Boise, Council, Emmett, McCall, Mountain Home, Nampa and Weiser. More than 250 attended one of the meetings and 450 others provided input via a random mail survey. Everyone providing input received a summary letter outlining the results of the effort and the subsequent season recommendations submitted to the Fish and Game Commission for final approval.

While meeting participants were free to address any wildlife issue, the department sought input on three specific issues; Weiser/Council-area deer management, Owyhee County deer management, and elk management in the Boise and Weiser River Zones.

Weiser/Council-area Deer Management

Ask Fish and Game

Q: When are the new fee increases going into effect? I keep hearing May 1 but most new laws go into effect in July.

A. New laws do generally go into effect July 1, but in the case of these license and fee changes, the effective date is indeed May 1. Lawmakers understood that the financial crisis at Fish and Game needed urgent remedy and agreed on a May 1 effective date. If you buy before May 1, you may save significant money on this year's licenses and tags. A lifetime license is a particularly attractive deal before May 1.

Commission Approves Salmon Season

Meeting by telephone conference call April 28, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved a staff recommendation for a season on the hatchery segment of the spring chinook salmon run. There are an estimated 10,000 chinook which are excess to the needs of the hatchery program. Biologists are projecting a total run size at Lower Granite Dam of 25,571, hatchery salmon and 2,808 wild, or natural salmon. The wild fish are protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The season will open May 5 in the North Fork and main Clearwater River. In the South Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa rivers, the season will open May 27. Fishing hours on these streams will be from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Both will close July 31, but could be closed earlier if projected run numbers fail to appear. In the Lochsa River, no bait is allowed in order to keep the salmon rules the same as the general fishing rules. It is also limited to artificial flies or lures with single barbless hooks.

Boundaries on the main Clearwater River will be from Memorial Bridge at Lewiston upstream to the confluence with the South Fork, excluding the perimeter of Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. The North Fork of theClearwater will be open from its mouth upstream to Dworhshak Dam, again excluding the perimeter of Dworshak National Fish Hatchery. The South Fork of the Clearwater will be open from its mouth upstream to Hungry Ridge Bridge at Mill Creek, and the Lochsa River will be open from its mouth upstream to Papoose Creek.

The season on the Little Salmon River will open May 12 or later if specified by the National Marine Fisheries Service. A permit from that agency is required because of the presence of wild salmon in the run and Fish and Game has not yet received the permit. The season is set to run through August 4, but could close earlier for biological reasons. Fishing hours in this season are from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Nonresident Salmon License Changes May 1

As part of the new Fish and Game license legislation that goes into effect May 1, nonresident salmon and steelhead anglers will see two changes to current law.

Those changes affect the three-day nonresident license only. One change allows holders of this license to fish for resident fish, such as trout. Prior to the change, the license was good for salmon and steelhead only.

The second change entitles the license holder to the salmon and steelhead bag and possession limits allowable by Fish and Game Commission regulation. Before the change, nonresident holders of the three-day license could take only two salmon or two steelhead. This means that, for example, a nonresident license holder could harvest three spring chinook on each of two days and have a total of six spring chinook in possession. The limits will be whatever the Commission sets for the three-day period the license is valid.

The changes may be of particular interest now because a limited season on spring chinook appears possible in Idaho this year, perhaps beginning in early May.

Radio Auction Set May 9

Horseback riding in the Sawtooth Mountains, fishing for sturgeon in Hells Canyon, flying into the Middle Fork of the Salmon to stay at a wilderness ranch are among the trips to be sold at auction on the radio May 9 beginning at 6 p.m.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has teamed with the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to host a radio auction on four AM stations across southern Idaho. The program will be broadcast on KID-AM 590 Idaho Falls, KWIK-AM 1240 Pocatello, KLIX-AM 1310 Twin Falls, and KIDO-AM 63 in Boise. About 20 trips will be offered with 10 auctioned off each hour of the two-hour radio auction. Proceeds will be used to improve wildlife habitat.

During the broadcast, the announcers will describe each trip.

Examples of the trips offered include the Overnight "Photo Safari" in Bear Valley _ a weekend trip for two with Boise National Forest Supervisor Dave Rittenhouse. Stay at Dave's cabin and photograph elk calves and possibly wolves in Bear Valley. Meals will be provided.

Hagerman Heaven: an overnight trip for four at the Nature Conservancy's historic stone house at Thousand Springs where bird watchers have recorded 158 species over the last eight years. Enjoy four gourmet dinners at the Snake River Grill in Hagerman where Chef Kirt Martin of the French Cordon Bleu school specializes in wild game. Included in this package are two of Kirt's wild game gourmet cookbooks featured on his nationally broadcast cooking show "Cooking on the Wildside".

Hells Canyon Pony Express: a 100-mile mail run journey for two by jet boat through Hells Canyon. It will take two days to cover all the gorgeous scenery along the mail run with guides Jim and Jill Koch of Beamers Hells Canyon Tours.

Controlled Fires Can Help Wildlife

Controlled, relatively cool-burning fires can reinvigorate wildlife habitat on forest lands.

The Boise National Forest has begun its prescribed fire season. Foresters see it as a way to maintain a healthy forest, but a "cool" burn within the forest can bring back shrubs that feed many kinds of wildlife, most visibly deer and elk.

Fish and Game wildlife biologist Neil Johnson said springtime burns in a forested area can enhance wildlife habitat. "Prescribed burns in a closed canopy forest can provide patches of more mountain shrubs and grasses. The fire promotes better growth, better nutrition and better vegetation. This benefits elk that are grazing animals. It also provides spring and summer range for deer."

In addition, the mineral content of the ash after a burn enhances the soil and increases the nutritional content of the plants, according to Johnson.

Horsethief Reservoir Slowly Refilling

If your weekend fishing plans include Horsethief Reservoir, don't expect to use the boat ramps. The popular fishing hole is refilling much more slowly than anticipated following last year's yellow perch eradication. Even with the low water, Horsethief will be stocked with rainbow trout before April 29 and on a regular basis throughout the spring and summer.

The low water has left boat ramps high and dry, 30 feet from the water's edge. "Float tubes, canoes and car toppers will all be able to get on the water, but the bigger boats will have some difficulty," Fish and Game regional fisheries manager Don Anderson noted. "Still, there are more sandy beaches than usual for shore anglers and the face of the dam is easily fishable."

Weather conditions last winter and this spring have kept the reservoir from filling. "We had snow cover last winter before the ground froze," Anderson noted. "And with steady snowmelt this spring, most of what normally would be runoff has simply soaked into the ground." Water flows from Horsethief Creek - the only tributary feeding the reservoir - have already begun to slow down, with very little snow left in the hill country. "This even snowmelt year is generally considered a good thing, unless you have to fill a reservoir," Anderson added. "At this rate, Horsethief may not fill completely until next year."

Vandals illegally stocked the perch which quickly took over the reservoir, ruining the trout fishing. "In addition to thousands of sportsmen's dollars, that thoughtless act of vandalism has cost anglers some spring fishing opportunity," Anderson said.

Big Game Proclamation Late

The proclamation booklet for this year's big game hunting seasons will not be available until after May 1.

Changes in license and tag fees came later than estimated and a few crucial changes in seasons made by the Fish and Game Commission set the booklet production schedule back.

Proclamation booklets will be delivered to Fish and Game offices and license vendors as quickly as possible when printing is complete.

Super Tags Drawn

Winners of the 10 "Super Tags" for this fall's deer or elk seasons have been selected from hunters who turned in their 1999 hunter harvest reports.

The special tags were offered to encourage timely filing of the harvest reports. The program will be discontinued after this year because the Fish and Game Commission has decided to require hunter harvest reports in deer and elk hunts only from successful hunters.

The tags can be used in any open elk or deer hunt in the state, general or controlled hunt, until the last hunt for that species is closed. Winners must decide whether to buy an elk or deer tag by May 1.

Winners are Jennelyn Byrne, Hollister, CA; Shane Orr, Twin Falls; Steve Henderson, Meridian; John Peppersack, Boise; Brenda Terry, Terreton; Leslie Vale, Lewiston; Ryan McCorkle, Pinehurst; Daniel Quinn, Post Falls; Thelbert Lenz, New Plymouth; and Tanner Leaton, Boise.

Be Safe in the Turkey Woods

Despite some rainy weather that discouraged wild turkey toms from strutting on opening weekend, Idaho turkey hunters took to the woods in large numbers, according to field observations.

There are a few basics to keeping the growing enthusiasm for turkey hunting safe, offered here by Panhandle Region conservation educator Phil Cooper:

Turkey hunting is a sport rich in tradition that was begun long before settlers ever arrived in North America. Native Americans hunted the wild turkey for food as far back as 4,000 years ago.

When European immigrants arrived, they hunted this abundant bird for both food and sport. Populations declined with colonization and reached near extinction by the early 1900s following a century of habitat destruction and unregulated harvest. The few remaining turkeys lived in the most inaccessible habitats. By the Great Depression, only about 30,000 wild turkeys remained.

The regeneration of forest stands after the depression set the stage for the return of the wild turkey. Today, thanks to our nation's hunters, game agencies, and wildlife conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, there are more than 4.5 million wild turkeys roaming the continent in huntable populations in every state of the U.S. except Alaska.

Turkeys have been transplanted into suitable habitats in states where they did not naturally occur, including those in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains. Today, turkey hunting is one of the most popular types of hunting in the U.S. with close to 2.5 million sportsman pursuing turkeys annually.

Open House Set for Upland Bird and Furbearer Regulations

An open house will be held at the Magic Valley Fish and Game Office, Jerome, to take public input and comments regarding the upland bird and furbearer regulations for the years 2000 - 2001. This open house will be on Thursday, April 27, from 8 am to 5 pm, at 868 East Main, Jerome.

For all practical purposes, there will be absolutely no changes in upland bird rules for the next two years in this region. Season lengths, bag and possession limits, and areas open to hunting will be the same for pheasants, forest grouse, gray and chukar partridge, quail, sage and sharp-tailed grouse. In other areas of Idaho, it has been proposed to lengthen the sharp-tailed grouse season by two weeks to coincide with the 30-day season in the remainder of the state. It is also recommended that the Southeast, Upper Snake and Salmon Regions standardize their partridge seasons to align with the rest of the state, mid- September through mid- January.

A proposed furbearer harvest rule change would eliminate the yearly bobcat jaw turn-in requirement. Jaws would be required for two years in a row, then not required for four years. Jaws would not be required in 2000; turn-in would resume in 2005.

There is a proposal to open the raccoon harvest season on a year-round basis statewide, and to authorize the use of dogs to take raccoons year-round, including during the rifle season for deer and elk. In the Magic Valley Region, we are recommending removal of the exceptions to the fox season in Blaine and Camas Counties. Under this proposed rule, there would be a July 1 through June 30 fox season throughout the region.

Ask Fish and Game

Q: My son is now old enough to attend a Hunter Education class. Where and when can he sign up?

A. The next sign up for the Boise and surrounding areas will be July 12, 2000 at the Southwest Region Office, 3101 South Powerline Rd. in Nampa, and July 13, 2000 at the Hunter Education Center, 109 W 44th Street, in Garden City. Students can sign up between noon and 8:00 PM on those days. All classes offered at the April registration have been filled.

For other registration dates and times contact your local regional office