With hunting seasons just around the corner, big game hunters around the region are asking themselves the same question: does my rifle shoot straight? That question can be positively answered on Saturday, September 9 at the annual Sight In event, to be held at Black's Creek Rifle Range, 2420 E. Kuna-Mora Road east of Boise. From 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, qualified experts will help participants get their favorite hunting rifle zeroed in on the bullseye. Cost for entry to the rifle range is $5. The Sight In event is sponsored by the Treasure Valley Chapter of the Idaho Hunter Education Association and serves as the Chapter's primary fund raising event for the year. For more information, contact Glenn Wing at 343-1492.
IDAHO FALLS - As the opening day for the sandhill crane controlled hunt season approaches, hunters are reminded that in addition to sandhill cranes, Eastern Idaho is also host to endangered whooping cranes. While whooping crane population numbers are still low, these cranes have been known to hang out with their more numerous relatives the sandhill cranes. This week, IDFG employees spotted an adult whooping crane mixed in with a larger flock of sandhill cranes near Ashton, Idaho. According to Ashton Hatchery Manager Mel Sadecki, "We saw a lone adult whooping crane working the fields with a whole flock of sandhills, just outside of Ashton near the area that will be open for a controlled hunt soon." According to Sadecki, "The whooping crane really stood out because of its white color." While coloration is a good way to determine the difference between adult whooping and sandhill cranes, juvenile birds are closer in color and require greater attention to identify by species. Both types of birds appear similar in flight, but whooping cranes have black wingtips, sandhills do not. Sportsmen heading into the field are encouraged to learn the differences between the two types of crane before heading out to hunt. Whooping cranes are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act and carry a stiff penalty for anyone who kills one, even accidentally. Over the past four years a number of controlled hunts have been established across Eastern Idaho to attempt to keep sandhill cranes dispersed and help reduce conflicts with agriculture. A limited amount of leftover controlled hunt permits for sandhill cranes go on sale at 10:00 A.M. on Wednesday, August 30, at all IDFG license vendors. The attached page contains information to help distinguish between whooping and sandhill cranes. Anyone seeking further information can contact the regional IDFG office at 525-7290.
Cooler nights, county fairs, pick-ups hauling firewood, fields and roadsides turning brown...all are reminders that Idaho's great fall hunting seasons are just around the corner. Hunters are sighting in rifles, poring over maps of hunting areas and in general "gearing up" for good times ahead. There is one other important item hunters cannot overlook, and that is making contact with private landowners on whose property they may wish to hunt. According to a survey of rural Idaho landowners, 88% will allow hunting on their property if hunters ask permission first. In addition, the vast majority of those landowners are more likely to grant access to their land to people who ask well in advance. I suggest hunters contact landowners at least two weeks before a hunting trip. I like to ask even sooner on prime properties because some landowners set a "quota" on their property. I want to be included on that list because the limit they place on the number of hunters makes for a high quality hunting experience. Now is the time to make sure you are included. Certainly every hunter has asked for permission at least once when the landowner said he/she had already given permission to as many hunters as they would allow for the season. That can be frustrating, but as they say in Idaho water law..."First in time, first in line!" Sportsmen may pick up free hunter courtesy cards at Fish and Game offices. These contain spaces for the hunter's (or angler's) name, address etc. to be given to landowners who grant access to their land. Landowners in turn sign a card the hunter keeps which verifies permission to access the property. The cards do not increase the landowners liability in the case of an injury. These simply provide proof that the landowner has been personally contacted prior to entering private land.
Judge Lynn Brower of Bear Lake County sent a clear message to offenders of fish and game laws with fines and penalties totaling $6113 and jail time handed out to two men who confessed to poaching two mule deer in Bear Lake County. On Wednesday August 16 th 2000, Josh Christensen, 22 and Nathan Humphreys, 24 both of Montpelier appeared in a Bear Lake County court in front of the honorable Judge Lynn Brower. The two plead guilty and were sentenced for the illegal taking of two mule deer out of season. Acting on an anonymous tip Fish and Game Officer Blake Phillips located the kill site of a doe deer and other evidence corroborating the report. Based on this information officer Phillips obtained Search Warrants for two violators residences. Both Christensen and Humphreys gave full confessions. Humphreys killed a two point buck while Christensen killed a doe. Both animals were shot with a Smith and Wesson .22 caliber magnum pistol equipped with a swift 2x20 scope. The deer were field dressed, taken to town for processing and the remains were thrown into the Bear River.
They're back... and on Cascade's trout. Small, whitish copepods less than one-quarter inch in length are once again being found on fish taken from Lake Cascade. The worm-like organisms are the reproductive stage of Lernaea cyprinacea, a crustacean related to freshwater shrimp. "Many Idaho waters contain these copepods," Fish and Game fisheries manager Don Anderson explained. "Lake Cascade simply has a higher concentration, making them more noticeable to anglers." The parasitic stage eventually drops away from the fish, growing into the free-swimming "shrimp-like" adult. At this life stage, the copepods find the tables turned; they are a favorite fish food. The parasites are rarely lethal to their host fish. "They must reach concentrations of dozens on the gills of a half-pound fish to cause any damage," Anderson noted. "And we usually see fewer than ten copepods per fish." Anglers may also notice a reddish tint around the site where the copepods are attached, the result of skin irritation. The crustaceans are as common as "fleas on a dog" according to Anderson and pose no threat to humans. Because only their small mouthparts actually penetrate a fish's skin, simply skinning and/or filleting the fish will effectively remove the parasites from the edible portion of the fish. Adapted to cold water, the copepods die quickly if cooked; human body temperatures are also lethal, providing peace of mind to those who accidentally ingest the organism. There are no plans to attempt eradication of the copepods from Lake Cascade. "In fact, we wouldn't want to," Anderson said. "The non-reproductive stage is a critically important food item for all of Lake Cascade's fish, particularly young trout and perch."
Dove and forest grouse hunters will find rules for their seasons in the upland game proclamation booklet, available at license vendors as well as Fish and Game offices. Hunting seasons for mourning doves and forest grouse begin September 1. Hunters should monitor current wildlands fire situations. Restrictions on travel and use of fire may still be in place when these hunting seasons begin. Dove hunters as well as crane and early season goose hunters need a $1.50 federal harvest information validation on their hunting licenses. No special fees are charged for hunting forest grouse, which include blue, spruce, and ruffed grouse.
The Idaho Department of Lands led the way August 17 in announcing more stringent fire-prevention rules on state and private forest land. The rules include a ban on discharge of muzzle-loading weapons. The restrictions do not apply on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. The restriction will not affect too many hunters. There is some state and private land in a current short-range weapons elk hunt in Units 23 and 24. The rule will take the muzzleloader segment out of those areas, but the entire hunt is still open to hunting with a bow, crossbow, or shotgun. Other changes were also adopted by the federal land management agencies. The new restrictions prohibit fires, including campfires in developed campgrounds. Gas and propane stoves are allowed. Motor vehicles may not be used off of designated roads at any time. Previously this applied only to afternoon/evening hours. The restrictions are in place because of the tinder-dry condition of potential fuels. Hunters are encouraged to use extreme caution in the field.
The state Attorney General, on behalf of the Department of Fish and Game, has filed an appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court to open the Antelope Creek in Bonneville County. The county has filed a similar appeal to open the road, which it maintains. The road is an important access route to lands of the Caribou National Forest and the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area. The road was historically used by the public, but in 1990 a new landowner closed a six-mile stretch through private property. Bonneville County conducted an investigation and found it to be a public road, but an appeal to district court overturned that decision. The issue has been in litigation since then, going all the way to the state Supreme Court and back to District Court, where a July 4 decision ruled it private. The current appeals are intended to open the road to provide access for hunters and other recreationists.
Q. I heard there is a grouse permit required now. What's the deal? A. Beginning this year, hunters out after sage grouse or sharp-tailed grouse need to have their license validated for those species. The $1.50 validation is not just another permit. Sharp-tailed grouse have been proposed for listing as an endangered species, and sage grouse numbers have declined and they could be considered for listing soon. The Fish and Game Commission adopted the permit requirement to allow Department biologists to get more detailed information on Idaho sage and sharp-tailed grouse hunting. The Department will contact hunters with the validation after the season to determine their harvest and where they hunted. Gathering this information is aimed at keeping these species off the endangered species list and available for hunting.
Fish and Game fisheries biologists predicted at least 100 sockeye would return to the Sawtooth Basin in this summer's run and now the figure stands at 165. On August 11, 165 of the endangered salmon had returned some 900 miles from the ocean through the Columbia, Snake, and Salmon Rivers. The sockeye run this year far outpaces any recent return and is larger than the total of all runs since the fish was placed on the federal endangered species list. The adult fish in this run left Idaho as smolts in 1998. Most were raised to that stage in an unusual captive breeding program. In 1998, an estimated 143,000 sockeye salmon smolts left the Sawtooth Valley in route to the ocean. That year 81,000 yearling smolts were released into the Upper Salmon River and into Redfish Lake Creek to head immediately downstream. Another 60,000 smolts migrated from Redfish, Alturas, and Pettit Lakes where they had been planted in 1997 as sub-yearlings. About 2,000 wild or natural smolts, most of which came from adult or eyed-egg plants to Redfish Lake also headed downriver in 1998. Fisheries biologist Paul Kline said most of the adults will be released to spawn naturally in the three lakes while 10 to 20 may be kept and incorporated into the spawning program at Eagle Hatchery. Additional hatchery-produced adults will be available to plant this year as well. The sockeye recovery program is a cooperative effort with IDFG, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the University of Idaho sharing responsibilities. The project is funded entirely by the Bonneville Power Administration.
With forest fire ash drifting in the air and temps in the toasty range, most Idahoans are probably not thinking about the whistle of wings on a chilly morning breeze, but duck hunters are a breed apart. This is the time of year when the size and composition of fall waterfowl flights become clear and the possibilities for this year's migrations are outstanding. Overall, production this spring was the third highest on record. Last year's North American production of 105 million ducks was the highest since scientific waterfowl counts began. This year 90 million ducks will make up the fall flight, just off the 1997 figure of 92 million. Hunters and bird biologists knew last fall that they were seeing a one-time thing. Mallard numbers are down from last year's record of 13.6 million to 11.3 million. As last season in Idaho demonstrated all too clearly, having record numbers of birds on the breeding grounds does not necessarily guarantee good hunting here. Balmy temperatures extending north over the border with Canada delayed migration from waterfowl staging areas. When weather did finally arrive, the pattern was not helpful for bringing ducks to Idaho. Duck hunters wait and hope for more normal weather patterns. No major changes in seasons or bag limits will be proposed to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission for this year. They are scheduled to approve waterfowl seasons at the August 24-25 meeting.
Unsold Idaho nonresident deer and elk tags will be available to residents September 1. The tags will be sold at nonresident prices, $235 for deer and $338.50 for elk, and can be used as a second tag. Fish and Game Commissioner Don Clower said he looks forward to taking a mule deer early in the fall in southern Idaho, then using a nonresident tag to bag a whitetail in the Clearwater Region in the late hunt. The tags will be available through the Fish and Game telephone contract sales service at 1-800-554-8685. Hunters can also purchase a "temporary" tag at Fish and Game regional offices and some of the 400 vendors in the state. Fish and Game will select enough vendors to cover all areas of the state. To learn which vendors in any area have the tags, call the regional office or the licenses section at headquarters, 334-3717. By October 1, every vendor should be equipped to sell the tags on their licensing equipment. Tags will not be available for areas which have a quota that has sold out. This includes the southeast Idaho deer tag and elk B tags in the Lolo and Selway zones and A and B tags in the Middle Fork Zone. As of August 11, there were 6,923 nonresident deer tags available, 826 Panhandle elk tags and 1,331 elk tags which could be designated to other zones.