Despite months of drought and weeks of fire, the fall hunting season is shaping up to be a great one, regardless of the game you plan to pursue. Here's a rundown of this year's hunting predictions in Southwest Idaho by Fish and Game Wildlife Manager Lou Nelson: Big Game Deer - Fawn survival was excellent in the Boise River drainage (unit 39) this year - 88 percent compared with the average of 44 percent. Nelson predicts good hunting for mule deer in the Boise and Payette River drainages. In the Weiser River and Brownlee areas, deer populations are doing very well, but the number of bucks will not be as high as in past years. A shortened deer season in these areas will help improve future buck numbers. The two-point buck hunt in Owyhee County (units 40, 41 and 42) should be good again this year. This mule deer population has slowly increased since 1993. That factor, in combination with good fawn survival last winter, should translate into plenty of yearling, two-point bucks to pursue this fall. Elk - Herds are in good shape throughout Idaho's Southwest Region. With last fall's dry (and noisy) conditions, many hunters experienced difficulty finding elk. This year appears to be similar and that could mean low success rates again this fall. However, if moisture arrives in October, elk harvest should be better. Bull harvest in the Boise River Zone (unit 39) has exceeded production for the last several years, so hunters will have a tougher time finding a mature bull. Remember, there is no A-tag rifle hunt in this zone! Fish and Game is looking at ways to reduce bull harvest in the Boise River Zone. If you hunt this area, your input is needed to help develop workable management options. Give Lou Nelson a call at 465-8465 to find out more.
The 2,500-acre wildfire which burned in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) last weekend has led to the closure of Highland Valley Road effective at midnight on Monday, October 2, 2000. The closure includes all motorized and non-motorized vehicle traffic. Walk-in traffic is not affected by the closure. For bicyclists, the closure encompasses Trails F and 11 from the start of Cobb Trail to State Highway 21. The closure will ultimately benefit wildlife by allowing burned areas to recovery more quickly. "Public safety is the primary reason for the closure," Fish and Game wildlife biologist Jerry Scholten explained. "We'll have habitat rehabilitation equipment operating along the road for the next few weeks." As restoration efforts continue, the closure will offer protection to the burned area from off-road vehicle use. Idaho Power crews will also be using the road, repairing a powerline damaged during the wildfire. Vehicle access to the Boise River WMA is still allowed via Squaw Creek Road/Trail (also known as Trail 12) or from Rocky Canyon Road using Trail E located near Aldape Summit. Trails 8 (Squaw Creek Ridge Trail), 12 (Squaw Creek Trail), 13 (Cobb Trail), 9 (Hornet Loop) and E (Shaw Mountain Road) to the junction of Trail 8 will remain open to vehicle use until the normal road closure in December. For more information regarding the road closure, contact the Fish and Game Nampa office at 465-8465.
Get ready for some great fall fishing at C.J. Strike Reservoir. "We stocked 17,000 catchable rainbows in C. J. Strike Reservoir late last week," Fish and Game fisheries manager Dale Allen explained. "These trout should really boost fall fishing and should also make for great fishing in the spring." The fish came from Fish and Game's American Falls Hatchery. Thanks to good survival and limited stocking requests, the fish were made available for stocking in other waters. There's more to this story than just great fishing. Strike anglers have a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to the sporting goods store of their choice should they be lucky enough to catch a specially marked trout at the reservoir. "As part of an ongoing study, we have placed 8,000 jaw-tagged trout in C. J. Strike Reservoir," Allen said. "Our objective is to improve trout survival and thus, improve fishing for C. J. anglers." Anglers play a big role in the success of the study. "We'd like any angler who catches one of the jaw-tagged trout to return the tag to any Fish and Game office, together with information regarding where and when the fish was caught," Allen said. "As an incentive, folks returning tags to us will be eligible to win the $100 gift certificate in a drawing we'll hold later this year." For more information regarding the tagged trout study, contact Allen at Fish and Game's Nampa office, 465-8465.
More than 2,500 acres of wildlife habitat in the Boise foothills went up in smoke last week as a result of a wildfire. Rehabilitation of that burned area is now underway, as is an effort to rehabilitate a 30,000 acre burn just north of Mountain Home. Fish and Game is asking for volunteers to play a key role in both ventures. "We need sagebrush and rabbitbrush seed and lots of it," Fish and Game volunteer coordinator Mary Dudley noted. "One of the ways to get that seed is to have plenty of volunteers collecting it." Volunteer crews will take to the Boise Foothills and the Bennett Mountain area near Mountain Home to collect seed nearly every Saturday from October through December. "We've designated October 7, 14, 21 and 28, November 4 and 18, and December 2, 9 and 16 as seed collection dates," Dudley said. "We want to invite individuals and groups to come out one or more of those days to help us in this very important effort." If you'd like to help, contact Dudley at 327-7099. Because of the magnitude of the collection effort, weekday seed gathering can also be arranged. After collection, the seed will be dried and stored, then aerially seeded on burned areas during the winter months. "That technique offers the best chance for the seeds to get established in the spring," Dudley said. Sagebrush, rabbitbrush and bitterbrush are important shrubs for deer and elk that browse on the native plants in the winter when other foods remain snow covered. These shrubs benefit many other wildlife species by providing shelter from the elements, nesting habitat and food. Because of their deep-rooted nature, the shrubs also help stabilize soils. The habitat rehabilitation effort doesn't end with seed collection this fall. "We will be planting thousands of bitterbrush seedlings next February and March again using volunteer help," Dudley explained. Look for more information about this project early next year.
Callers to the Citizens Against Poaching hotline will hear a human voice during evenings and weekends through December 10. The hotline will be manned Monday, Thursday and Friday evenings and all day on weekends. Callers to 1-800-632-5999 can report wildlife law violations anonymously, if they wish. Rewards for tips leading to convictions are paid whether the caller is anonymous or not. Funding for the reward program comes from voluntary contributions to CAP. During most of the year, a recording is heard by off-hours callers, but during the hunting seasons, calls tend to increase sharply. Citizens who wish to report a wildlife violation are encouraged to note as complete a description as possible of people and vehicles involved as well as time and location of the incident. The more information Fish and Game enforcement personnel have, the more likely a poacher will go to court.
The Nature Center at Idaho Fish and Game headquarters celebrates its tenth birthday September 29 through October 1 with an activities-filled program. The public is invited; there are no fees to attend. The Nature Center is located at 600 South Walnut. Activities will include fish printing, face painting for kids, beginning casting skills, and bull trout identification. People will be welcome to inspect hatchery trucks and see trout eggs, fry, and catchables. A new 12-minute video showing how fish hatchery operations have changed over the years will be debuted and old photos of "the way we used to do it" will be on display. The feature event will be a historical hatchery exhibit. Staff will constructing an old hatchery, with its associated feed room, rearing room and tool shed. Hourly tours of the outdoor streamwalk area will be conducted each day. Hours are 4-7 p.m. September 29; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. September 30; and 12 p.m.-5 p.m. October 1. The Nature Center draws more than 250,000 visitors each year. It is one of the few, if not the only, large public attraction in Boise that does not charge admission. The Nature Center was constructed as a gift to the state of Idaho in honor of the state's centennial.
The implications of massive wildfires in the central Idaho wilderness were assessed by wildlife biologists Mike Scott and Greg Painter September 18. Their report: Yesterday afternoon, we were able to arrange a two-hour helicopter reconnaissance flight over the wilderness fires, courtesy of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Departing from Challis, we toured the Pistol Creek, Norton Ridge, Sheep Creek, Flying B, and Big Creek burn areas, returning to Challis via Camas Creek and the Aparejo Fire. Our general overall assessment is that we probably had some animal losses in the fast intense fire runs in Pistol Creek, Brush Creek, Sheep Creek, and Big Creek; but that winter ranges remain at least adequate (Big Creek) to relatively unaffected (Pistol Creek). At least in Unit 27, there does not appear to be a strong biological justification for re-arranging the big game survey schedule to include Unit 27 this winter instead of the regularly scheduled survey in winter 2001-02. Pistol Creek The lower third of the Pistol and Little Pistol drainages burned with a moderate to high intensity, as did the west face of Little Soldier Mountain (across the Middle Fork from Pistol Creek.) The fire burned lightly across the face from Pistol Creek to Indian Creek, due in part to a controlled burn conducted around the Indian Creek airstrip by the USFS this spring. There was some fire on the south side of the Indian Creek drainage, producing a nice mosaic of burned and unburned areas. Overall, this fire was located on the upper fringes of where big game can winter; winter range impacts were insignificant. Shellrock Fire
Fish and Game reservists from eastern Idaho are to be honored by Blue Cross of Idaho in Boise September 27. Blue Cross of Idaho has acknowledged active reservists Wendell Dunn, Pocatello, and Frank and Lucille Columbo, Ovid, as Ageless Heroes. The awards celebrate individuals who find ways to good health in mind, body, and spirit at every life stage. Dunn, 69, a pharmacist, is a reservist/volunteer retired in 1988. "I decided to volunteer for Fish and Game because of my love of the outdoors and the desire to give something back to fish and wildlife. Volunteering gave me a chance to learn new and exciting things," Dunn said. Dunn has volunteered almost weekly with the Fish and Game's Southeast Region program. He has donated more than 200 hours of his time each year in a variety of projects involving wildlife habitat restoration, waterfowl surveys and banding, teaching youth about fishing and the outdoors, and other activities. Regional Supervisor Dexter Pitman, said "Wendell has a strong desire to be active and a most wonderful, upbeat attitude. His interest and willingness to take on new experiences has had a tremendous impact on wildlife resources and other people in Southeast Idaho." The Columbos, Lucille, 76, and Frank, 80, are active volunteers in the hunter education program having taught more than 85 Montpelier area hunter education students and volunteered more than 915 hours. Their efforts began in 1997. "We wanted to do something productive and worthwhile the rest of our lives, so we decided to get involved in teaching outdoor ethics and hunter safety," Lucille Columbo said.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission honored a Forest Service request to close more than half of Unit 28 to hunting in a conference call meeting September 18. Part of Unit 28 was burned in the 200,000-acre Clear Creek fire. Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor George Matejko asked the Commission to consider the closure, citing fire-caused dangers to hunters, further damage to forest resources and potential hazard for workers doing rehabilitation in the burn. The Commission voted unanimously to close the burned area for the rest of this year, beginning immediately. The closure affects about 60 percent of the popular hunting unit. These are the boundaries of the closure requested by the Forest Service and approved by the Commission:
Beginning at Myers Cove, thence NE along Silver Creek Road #108 to its junction with the Panther Creek Road #055, thence SE along the 055 road to Morgan Creek summit, thence NE along Unit 28 boundary to Trail #093 south of Hat Creek lakes, then north along 093 to Iron Lake, thence NE along the Ridge Road #020 to the Wallace Lake junction #391, thence W along the Stock Driveway which follows the hydrologic divide to the Moose Creek Road #061 (same as the #300 road), thence NE along the 061 road to the junction with the 023 road W and N to where the 023 road crosses East Boulder Creek just north of East Boulder Meadows, then down East Boulder Creek to the Salmon River, then west and south following the Unit 28 boundary back to Meyers Cove.
Q. How come the silly two-day split in duck season? A. The federal framework allows only a certain number of days in duck season. By putting the two-day split in midweek, the Commission gained another weekend at the end of the season.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds steelhead anglers that fall-run chinook salmon will be found in area rivers this fall. Some of these fish will have missing adipose fins, similar to hatchery steelhead, but all fall chinook must be released immediately. Snake River fall chinook salmon are federally listed as "Threatened" and are protected throughout their range in Idaho waters. The easiest way to distinguish a chinook salmon from a steelhead is by checking the lower gum line of the jaw. If the lower gum is black, it's a chinook. Using the gum line test, identification can be made quickly without taking the fish out of the water. Another feature that helps differentiate chinook salmon from steelhead is the spotting on the back and tail. The dark spots on the back of a chinook are blotchy and irregular in shape. On a steelhead, the spots are rounded and more uniform. The black spots on the upper part of the tail fin of a chinook are large in comparison to the spots on the tail of a steelhead. Fall Chinook may range in size from 5 to 40 pounds. By November, most fall chinook salmon are so dark in color that the spots have become obscured. Fall chinook spawn in November in the lower mainstem Snake, Clearwater, and Salmon rivers. Most will spawn and die by the end of the year.
The Idaho waterfowl hunting rules for the 2000-2001 season will be available this week. The rules booklets will be available at Fish and Game offices and license vendors. The rules can also be found on the Fish and Game web site at www.state.id.us/fishgame for Internet users. Duck and goose seasons begin October 7 in Idaho, except for a portion of the southeast that includes Fort Hall. Hunters will note a closed season for ducks October 19-20 and a closed season for geese October 19-27 in most of the state. The splits in seasons were created by the Fish and Game Commission in order to offer the maximum of weekend hunting within the period authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There is no split season in the Fort Hall area where the goose season runs October 14, 2000 to January 19, 2001 and the duck season will be October 7, 2000 to January 19, 2001. Included in the rules booklet are legal shooting hours for each day of the season.
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