Check stations run by Magic Valley Regional personnel on the opening weekend of the deer season revealed an increase of hunters in the field, hunter success, and overall general satisfaction. Most hunters commented on seeing "lots of does and fawns." Check stations were operated near Little Wood Reservoir, at Timmerman Junction, north of Gooding and Mountain Home, at the bottom of Rock Creek in the South Hills, and in the Shoshone Basin. All stations were open from 10 a.m. until sunset, October 7 and 8. Compared to 1999, and to all five previous years, the fall deer opener of 2000 was an extremely good one. The number of hunters checked increased from 1,828 last year to 2,229 -- an increase of 22%. The number of deer harvested, through all check stations and for all units surveyed was 592. That is a 43% increase from 1999, and also the largest number of deer taken in the previous five-year period. The previous high was in 1995, when 502 animals came through seven check stations in the region. Hunter success, or the number of hunters harvesting deer divided by the total number of hunters, was 27% for all check stations and all hunts. That too is an increase from 1999 when the overall success rate was 23%. Success rates do vary considerably when figures are compared between general and controlled hunts. For instance, the hunter success rate for unit 49, a general deer hunt for antlered deer only, was 20%; that is higher than any previous five year success rate. Hunter success for unit 52, a controlled antlered only hunt, was 50%. Youth hunters too enjoyed a high success rate in their either sex hunt that included 10 hunt units. By and large, hunters were very happy seeing lots of deer in the fields and forests. The majority of bucks through all check stations were yearlings, or forked horned deer. The biggest buck measured was 32 _ inches from unit 44.
IDAHO FALLS - Amidst the ongoing flurry of opening days it's easy to let one slip by, but bird hunters are sure to remember that pheasant season in the Upper Snake Region starts this Saturday, October 21. While populations of these exotic birds to be found out in the "wild" remains relatively low, sportsmen looking to bag a ringneck will have more opportunity to do so this year, thanks to increased stocking of game farm reared birds at IDFG Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's). Pheasant hunters in the Upper Snake have a variety of options available when it comes to looking for a place to hunt ringnecks. They can either hunt on private or public lands that are open to hunting or they can hunt at an IDFG WMA. These WMA's are different from wildlife refuges in that while they contain habitat that is critical for wildlife, they also utilize hunting as a management tool. This year not only are more birds being stocked, but Cartier WMA outside of Rexburg is being added to the stocking rotation. In order to help defray the cost of stocking pheasants purchased from private game farms, IDFG instituted a WMA pheasant permit program in 1996. Given that game farms birds cost about $10.00 each to purchase, the permit has always been a bargin no matter what the cost. According to Don Kemner, the regional habitat biologist that runs Martket Lake WMA, "This year the permits cost $21.50 and allows you to harvest a total of six birds. " One major change this year is that hunters can continue to buy additional permits once they fill their existing permit. Another plus for sportsmen is that because of a change in the license structure as a result of the recent fee increase, the upland game validation is now automatically included with all hunting licenses when they are purchased.
About two-thirds of Unit 28 in the Clear Creek burn area near Salmon has been re-opened to hunting. Meeting in a telephone conference call October 12, Fish and Game Commissioners voted unanimously to re-open another section of Unit 28. The hunting unit was closed at the request of the Forest Service so workers could finish containing the huge Clear Creek fire and complete emergency rehabilitation of burned-over areas. Part of the unit was re-opened earlier. The Commission's second action leaves only about a third of the unit closed. The remaining closed portion could be opened before antlerless elk hunting starts if Forest Service operations there are finished. The area remaining closed is mostly a portion of lower Panther Creek and its side tributaries. Effective October 15, the hunting closure is rescinded in the following portions of the unit:
- That area defined on the north by the existing closure, on the east by the Ridge Road 020, and on the west by the Napias Creek Road 242 - Moccasin Creek Road 021 - Deep Creek Road 101 - Panther Creek Road 055 from Deep Creek to Morgan Creek Summit, and on the south by the Unit 28 boundary.
- That area bounded on the east by the Silver Creek Road 108 - Panther Creek Road 055 to Forney, on the north by the Porphyry Creek-bighorn Crags Road 112 - 113 to the Crags Campground and Trails 021 - 045, and the west and south by the boundary of Unit 28.
Q. I've got a two-pole validation. Can I fish for steelhead with two poles? A. No, the rules on fishing specifically prohibit fishing with two poles for salmon or steelhead.
Even with less than ideal hunting conditions, mule deer hunters across most of southern Idaho found more deer on the hunting opener. Hunters generally prefer cooler, wetter weather for pursuing big game than they saw the first few days of the season this fall. Deer are supremely well-equipped to hear humans tramping through dry vegetation. Even so, hunters reporting to Fish and Game check station workers checked in more deer and said they had seen more deer than they had since the early 1990s. Higher hunter success was particularly noticeable in the Salmon Region where deer hunters have struggled for most of the last decade while deer populations were recovering in other regions. Hunter success, as seen at the Carmen check station, was nearly double the highest year of the 1990s. The success rate was 29.5 percent on October 7-8, compared to 14.7 percent last year and 15.4 percent in 1998. Success dropped as low as 5.1 percent in 1997. Carmen check station workers counted 156 hunters with 46 bucks and two does. This is nine percent more hunters that last year and 85 percent more animals. Hunters reported seeing more deer, at least partly as a result of drought conditions that make deer more active and visible. Bucks two years old and older made up 61 percent of the take, a high percentage that may reflect a relative shortfall in yearling bucks. In the Upper Snake Region, both deer hunter numbers and success picked up considerably from last year. The number of hunters grew by 20 percent to 986 checked at four check stations while the count of deer went up 109 percent to 163. The percentage of bucks with at least a 20-inch antler spread went from eight to 14 percent. Hunters reported seeing "lots" of deer, probably at least partly because of dry conditions.
Salmon biologists expected a sockeye return last summer of about 100 fish but 257 actually made the trip back to Idaho. Compared to most years since sockeye captive breeding was established in the early 1990s, this year's return is dramatic. The 1990s saw returns in single digits. Sometimes the digit was 1 or even 0. This year's return is great news for the programs designed to save Idaho sockeye from total extinction. According to fish researchers in charge of the program, however, this run should not be interpreted as recovery of the species. To achieve replacement levels, the return would have to be about 2,000 fish. Considering the number of eggs a female sockeye lays and average survival, that's how many adult fish would be required to produce the 143,000 smolts that left Idaho in 1998, of which the lucky 257 reached adulthood and returned. Biologists expected a 0.08 percent return: that is where the 100-fish estimate originated. The return rate was actually .18 percent. To provide for replacement plus a small buffer, the return needs to be two percent or 2,860 fish. Paul Kline, manager of Idaho's sockeye program, said, "While this in no way means recovery, in terms of the program, it's great! This validates our supposition that we would not lose species productivity by taking the wild population into the hatchery. Sockeye returns were good enough this year to cause me to believe they have a good chance of rebounding when survival conditions improve." Kline provided a detailed account of what happened to this year's returning sockeye:
41 taken into captive broodstock program at Eagle Hatchery (they are here now). 120 released to Redfish Lake. 28 released to Pettit Lake. 52 released to Alturas Lake. two mortalities while holding at Sawtooth Hatchery
A disease outbreak spread by gnats is responsible for the deaths of some 35 deer, discovered in a small area of hunting unit 11A southwest of Orofino. However, authorities at Idaho Department of Fish and Game Fish (IDFG) report the public shouldn't worry because there is no danger of the disease being spread to humans. The disease also appears to be very localized with little risk of it spreading through the region's deer herds. Known as epizootic hemorrhagic disease, commonly referred to as EHD, the disease normally attacks only deer but it can cross with another disease known as Blue Tongue and then infect cattle. Similar to the influenza virus in humans, it is thought that EHD and Blue Tongue are common in the wild, but at times local conditions can cause the diseases to spread more widely. "The biggest point we need to get across is not to push the panic button," said Mark Drew, a state veterinarian in Caldwell. "The disease appears to be very localized and attacks only deer." Authorities believe that the recent hard freeze likely killed most of the gnats and stopped the spread of EHD. However, hunters are encouraged to notify IDFG (208-799-5010) if they come across sick, dead or dying deer in the Orofino area. "We really need to know about it so we know the extent of the effected region," said Drew.
Idaho steelhead enthusiasts tend to be a hardy bunch who can tolerate a little adversity, but this fall-with a large run coming into the rivers early-they have a rare opportunity to go after the big ocean-run fish in shirtsleeve weather. The largest number of steelhead to cross Lower Granite Dam since the 1985 run is on its way up Idaho rivers. Through October 1, almost 67,000 steelhead had crossed the dam. Like last year and the 1985 steelhead run, this year's run appears to be early. On average, about 41 percent of the total steelhead run has crossed Lower Granite Dam by October 1, according to Sharon Kiefer, the anadromous fish program coordinator. However, the run timing this year is probably more like last year's run and the 1985 run, when 60 percent of the run had crossed by the beginning of October. The current forecast for the total runsize still stands at 90,000 to 120,000 steelhead passing Lower Granite Dam this fall and coming spring. As in previous years, hatchery A-run steelhead make up most of this year's run. Almost 67,000 of these fish are expected to cross Lower Granite Dam. However, biologists have been tracking increasing numbers of hatchery B-run steelhead crossing Bonneville Dam where about 28,000 of these big fish have already headed up the Columbia River on their journey back to Idaho and up to 6,000 more are expected. Typically, about 50 percent of the hatchery B-run steelhead that cross Bonneville Dam will also cross Lower Granite Dam, so there should be plenty of opportunity to catch the big B's. Naturally produced steelhead numbers are also expected to be up slightly at close to 19,000 fish, but they are still expected to comprise less than 20 percent of the total steelhead run at Lower Granite Dam. Last year, about 17 percent of the steelhead run at Lower Granite Dam was naturally produced, which was about 11,0000 fish.
The current Big Desert elk hunting zone will be split for next fall's hunting season. The Fish and Game Commission acted in its October meeting in Salmon to leave Unit 52A and 68 in the Big Desert zone, to be managed for quality elk hunting. Units 63 68A and 53 will become known as the Snake River zone where elk populations will be minimized to reduce conflicts with agriculture. The current elk hunting zone system, comprising 28 zones, has been in place for three hunting seasons. Hunters are required to choose one zone and hunt elk within it. This is the first major realignment of the zones.
Meeting in Salmon October 5, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to approve license refunds for anglers who purchased short-term fishing licenses to fish on Salmon River float trips which were subsequently cancelled by Forest Service area closures. Segments of the Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon were closed due to wildfires this summer. Proof for the refund can include a copy of a Forest Service float permit or documentation of a booking with an outfitter for the time the license covers. Applications must be sent by November 1 to Licenses Section, Fish and Game Headquarters, P.O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707.
Q. Are there rules against electronic gadgets on hunting equipment? A. There are for big game hunting. In the state Administrative Procedures Act rules section for Fish and Game, section 13.01.08 is "Rules governing the taking of big game animals." It specifies that it is unlawful to hunt big game "with any electronic device attached to, or incorporated in, the firearm (including handguns and shotguns) or scope." A following line applies similar restrictions to archery equipment.
Your Salmon Region Fish and Game is offering a Youth Pheasant Hunt for budding young upland gamebird hunters on Saturday, October 28th. Participants will begin their day by meeting at the Fish and Game office to spend some time learning about pheasants as well as about hunting with dogs. The group will then move to the Salmon Shotgun Range where members of the Salmon Clay Shooters Association will help participants practice their shotgun shooting and safety skills before heading afield. The actual pheasant hunt will begin in the afternoon at a controlled access site where pen-raised birds have been released. The youngsters will have the opportunity to hunt for pheasants while accompanied by experienced dogs and their handlers. This youth hunt is free of charge and is open to hunters aged 12-17 years. Participants must have a valid hunting license. In addition, each hunter must be accompanied by an adult chaperone that will accompany him or her during the day. This is a popular event and the limited spaces will fill up quickly. For more information and to register, please contact the Fish and Game office at 756-2271.