Press Release

October 2001

More Pheasants Released on WMAs

Pheasant hunters will find more roosters on Fish and Game Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) this fall, along with more information on the release program and more enforcement of rules.

Game farm reared pheasants are being released regularly in 10 areas of southern Idaho. The program will offer about 16,000 pheasants this year, compared to about 14,000 planted last season.

Hunters will find improvements in the signs explaining the program at release sites. Some 40 new signs have been added.

More emphasis on enforcement of the rules will also be added this fall. In particular, hunters are reminded that they are required to validate their permits immediately after killing a program pheasant, not when they return to their vehicle or later. Rules for hunting WMAs for released pheasants are found in the current upland game rules booklet.

Each permit allows a hunter to take up to six pheasants and hunters are not limited on the number of permits they can buy in one season. The permit fee goes toward buying game farm reared birds.

Hunters are encouraged to wear hunter orange, to use trained hunting dogs to retrieve downed birds, and to give waterfowl hunters plenty of room in those areas where both kinds of hunting take place.

Areas where pheasants are released include the following:

  • Fort Boise WMA near Parma
  • Payette River WMA north of New Plymouth
  • Montour WMA nine miles west of Horseshoe Bend
  • C.J. Strike WMA three miles west of Bruneau
  • Sterling WMA five miles northeast of Aberdeen
  • Market Lake WMA two miles north of Roberts
  • Mud Lake WMA five miles northeast of Terreton
  • Minidoka and Cassia County wildlife tract
  • Magic Valley Region between Gooding and Rupert
  • Cartier Slough WMA 10 miles west of Rexburg

A schedule of stocking locations and amounts will be located on the Fish and Game website.

Get the Lead Out of Waterfowling

Even after a decade since lead shot was banned for all waterfowl hunting in the country, some people have not made the switch.

During a saturation patrol of waterfowl hunters on the Snake River last year, Fish and Game conservation officers found lead shot in the possession of several people checked in the sweep. Lead shot violations were the most common reason for citations and warnings issued. Less common violations included use of unplugged shotguns, shooting from boats under power, and not having or not validating federal stamps.

Non-toxic shot was required in all duck and goose hunting after studies concluded that spent lead shot was poisoning millions of puddle ducks where heavy gunning allowed lead pellets to build up. At least one recognized study done since lead was banned found that the new law has been effective in saving ducks from lead poisoning.

Soft iron shot, commonly called steel shot, was the only alternative to lead shot for several seasons after lead was no longer legal for waterfowling. Many hunters objected that steel shot was not as effective and damaged older, sometimes classic, favorite shotguns. Other hunters found steel's limited effective range (steel is less dense than lead and loses its retained energy more quickly, generally by about 45 yards) offset by higher velocities and more consistent patterning.

Several alternatives to steel have entered the market and been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in recent years. Some of the new pellets are safe to use in old shotguns, some appear to be superior to the best lead loads. The disadvantage is that all are more expensive than steel shot.

Whatever alternative to lead shot a hunter may choose, the only legal choice is anything but lead. Fish and Game as well as federal wildlife authorities will continue to cite those found hunting waterfowl while in possession of lead shot.

Correction to Waterfowl Item

In the article titled "Duck Season Reopened, Goose October 26" dated October 22, the October 26 goose opener date was incorrect due to a typo. The correct date is October 27. We regret the error.

Report Wildlife Crime

With most hunting seasons underway Idahoans should be alert to the poaching activity that usually increases this time of year. Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) is in place to take information and pay rewards to callers who report wildlife crime.

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.

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.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. Why does Fish and Game sell those leftover nonresident tags at nonresident prices? Why not sell them to residents at the lower resident price?

A. Nonresident tags may be sold only at the prices specified in Idaho Code section 36-416, which are set by legislation. The law doesn't make a provision for lowering the price when the tag is sold to a resident.

Deer Tags Still Available, Hunter Success Up from 5-Year Average

Most Magic Valley deer hunters have only until October 31 to put venison in the freezer for the winter. There are antlerless deer tags still available in some northern game management units of the region.

Antlerless deer hunts number 1057 (unit 43) and number 1060 (unit 48) have controlled hunt tags left. There are 63 tags left in unit 43 and 29 left in unit 48. These hunts close the last day of October.

Controlled youth hunt number 1087 still offers 151 tags for units 44, part of 45, and 52. This hunt opens October 25 and closes November 9.

The overall deer hunter success rate for the Magic Valley Region on the opening weekend, October 6 and 7, was 26%, considering all hunts (controlled, general, antlered and antlerless). This information was collected at eight deer check stations run by regional personnel and reservists.

Success rates ranged from a high of 32% at the Gooding check station to a low of 14% at Rock Creek. Although this year's opening weekend hunter success rate was lower than in 2000 (32%), it is still higher than the previous five-year average (21.5%). When considering the general antlered hunts, where most hunters participated, there was no change from last year's 23% success rate.

A noteworthy item was the percent of yearlings in the harvest. In general antlered hunts that figure increased to 54% from 45 % in 2000--- a 20% increase in that age group of deer. This translates to an increasing population. Also, the percent of yearling bucks with greater than a 20-inch antler spread went from 15% last year to 23% this season.

Two hundred and fifty-four youth hunters (ages 12 - 15) were checked with 87 deer, for a 34% success rate. Last year only 26 youth hunters with deer were checked through the same eight stations.

Duck Season Reopened, Goose October 27

Duck hunting reopened Saturday, October 20, but goose hunters have to hold their fire until October 27.

The season splits were arranged to allow as many weekend days of hunting as possible while starting early in order to take advantage of locally reared waterfowl and keeping the seasons open late enough to give more opportunity to hunt late northern flights. The federal season framework permits fewer days for goose hunting, so the goose hunting split is longer. There is no split in the Fort Hall area.

Duck hunting will now remain open until January 20 everywhere except the Fort Hall area (Area 1) where it will end January 18. Goose hunting also ends January 20 except in the Fort Hall area where it will end January 11.

Waterfowl hunters are anticipating low numbers of birds from southwest Alberta, an important source of Idaho ducks, because of severe drought there. Waterfowl that overflew the dried up prairies for better-watered parklands further north apparently had a better nesting season.

Favorable weather patterns, not a feature of the last two waterfowl seasons in Idaho, could still bring a fair number of ducks. Geese tend to nest and feed where drought has not been so much a problem, so Idaho goose hunters may do about as well this season as they have in the last several years.

Encounters of the Feline Kind: Mountain Lions and You

What do you do if there is a mountain lion on your property? An increasing number of incidents have been reported in recent years. More are likely to be seen as lions follow deer to winter range or simply move to unoccupied habitat adjacent to or overlapping with urban areas or agricultural land. A new housing development on the edge of winter range is a near-perfect setting for these problems.

If You Meet a Mountain Lion

If you encounter a mountain lion on your property, or in the outdoors, information from several western states suggests the following ways to deal with the situation.

  • Do not approach a mountain lion. Most lions will try to avoid a confrontation so give them an escape route. A loud voice, banging pans together, or a single shot fired in the air will usually convince a mountain lion to run.
  • Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate its instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Try to make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up or gather them near you so they don't panic and run. Try to do this without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
  • Do all you can to appear large and aggressive. Raise your arms, open your jacket, throw rocks or other objects but avoid crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak in a firm, loud voice.
  • Fight back if attacked. When attacking, lions target the head or neck, so try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. Use rocks, sticks, jackets, garden tools, camping gear or anything else available to fend off the attack.

Backyard Tips

Let's Be Careful Out There

By Phil Cooper, Panhandle Region Conservation Educator

Fall in Idaho is synonymous with hunting seasons for many people. In fact, Idaho ranks third highest of the 50 states in the percentage of the adult population participating in hunting.

Many people have the mistaken impression that hunting, because firearms are used, is a dangerous activity. While there is always the potential that a hunter will be involved in an accident, statistics show that a hunter is far more likely to be involved in an accident while traveling in the car to a hunting location (or to school, work or church), than while actively hunting.

While nearly a quarter of a million people hunt in Idaho each year, one accident is too many because every one can be prevented. Only human error or human inattention can result in a firearms accident.

Here are a few gun handling rules that Idaho Hunter Education Instructors stress in their classes.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. What are the limits for steelhead?

A. The Commission increased the limits in August to three per day, nine in possession and 40 for the season. An angler must purchase a second steelhead card keep the season limit of 40.

Youth Pheasant Hunt And Workshop

Idaho Fish and Game is sponsoring a free youth pheasant hunt and workshop at Sterling Wildlife Management Area near Aberdeen on November 3. The workshop starts at 9:00 a.m. and goes until 3:00 p.m. depending on the number of youths attending.

The pheasant hunt and workshop is for young hunters age 12-16. Preference will be given to first time hunters since the workshop is aimed at enhancing basic hunting and shotgunning skills. Reservations are limited and participants must call fish and Game at 232-4703 to reserve a space in the workshop. Two sessions will be held during the day if enough youths sign up.

Sometimes the hardest part of any sport is getting started in a safe and instructional environment. Hunting or non-hunting parents, guardians or mentors are invited to bring an interested youth hunter to the workshop and then kick back and relax. The youth hunt is designed to provide first time youth hunters with an opportunity to learn more about hunting, firearms safety, conservation and hunting with dogs.

Conservation officers and biologists will conduct shooting instruction and safety classes. Pre -registration is required for the workshop. Students with their own shotguns can pattern their shotguns. Firearms safety will be stressed.

A limited number of dog handlers will be available to work with students while pheasant hunting. A portion of the wildlife area will be reserved for student hunters. Youth hunters do not have to purchase any stamps or permits to hunt on the Sterling Wildlife Management Area. Adults accompanying youth hunters will not be able to participate in the workshop or hunt during the youth hunt in the youth only area.

Further information and directions will be provided for the youth pheasant hunt and workshop upon calling the Fish and Game office between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Disease Suspected in Cambridge-area Mule Deer

Two mule deer fawns found dead north of Cambridge recently probably died of a common viral infection. Additional deer in the area may be infected and Fish and Game is asking area hunters to report any sick or dead deer they find while in the field.

Lab reports have not yet been completed on the two fawns, but the most likely cause of death is Epizootic Hemmoragic Disease or EHD. A virus similar to blue tongue, EHD is common in deer herds especially in southern states. The disease is cyclic in deer and causes increased morbidity and mortality when deer populations are high and a large proportion of the deer have not been previously exposed to the virus. "White-tailed deer are more prone to the disease than are mule deer," Fish and Game wildlife veterinarian Mark Drew noted. "And because of their weaker immune systems, fawns are more susceptible to the virus than are adult deer." If EHD is confirmed in the two deer, Drew expects additional mortality to occur.

Clinical signs of EHD in deer include lethargy, bloody droppings, dehydration and mouth ulcerations. Infected animals tend to remain close to water and drink frequently.

While the disease can be fatal to deer, it is not contagious to humans. "The virus poses no risk to humans and the meat from an animal infected with EHD is safe for consumption," Drew said. "However, deer that are extremely sick are not animals that hunters should consider harvesting."

Fish and Game recommends that hunters take the following general precautions when dealing with any harvested big game species: avoid shooting obviously sick animals; wear rubber gloves when field dressing game; take excellent care of the meat from field to freezer; and cook the meat well before eating it.

Hunters finding dead deer near the Cambridge area are asked to report their findings to Fish and Game's Nampa office at 465-8465.