Mule deer fawns appear to be surviving the winter in normal numbers across southern Idaho except in southeast Idaho. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission heard a report on winter fawn mortality when it met in Boise March 13-15. Fawn mortality trends and causes are sampled in a large study involving the capture and radio-collaring of significant numbers of young mule deer across the southern part of Idaho. The report noted that mortality had increased in the last two weeks in most sampled areas, a trend expected toward the end of a long winter. Most of the increase in mortality was attributed to malnutrition and lion predation. Low fawn mortality was noted in units 32, 36B, 39 and 50. Compared to previous mild winters, units 39 and 54 were at normal survival rates for the time of year while unit 67 mortality was slightly worse than normal. Mortality has been high in units 56, 72 and 73A where biologist Mark Hurley estimates total losses could be 80 percent or more before summer. Unit 67 might lose 60 percent of last spring's young. Biologists are not seeing significant losses of adult does in these units, however, an indication that the effects of this particular winter will be shortlived. Biologists cautioned that fawn losses do not end as soon as spring greenup starts.
Firearms incidents associated with hunting showed about the same pattern in 2001 as in recent years. In Idaho last year, 13 firearms incidents involving hunting were reported; one was fatal. Statistics have varied only slightly over recent years and continue to indicate a great improvement in safety over hunting seasons before 1980. Even though the number of hunters and general population in Idaho is much higher than in the 1950s when statistics first were kept, the number of incidents has dropped dramatically since then. The decline has been especially steep since hunter education was established. The 2001 reports indicate that no particular type of hunting produced more injury than another. Two incidents happened in quail hunts, two in duck hunts, two in pheasant hunts, two in deer hunts, two in squirrel hunts and one each in elk, turkey and forest grouse hunts. Two incidents involved nonresidents, the rest involved Idahoans. Counties that submitted reports included Boise (1), Caribou (2), Canyon (1), Gooding (2), Lincoln (1), Kootenai (2), Nez Perce (1), Custer (1), and Idaho (2). The fatality occurred during a duck hunt when the shooter swung on his partner at close range. Other causes listed included two other cases of careless swinging of a gun by shooter, unloading a gun carelessly, a ricochet, two cases of a victim out of sight, two cases of a victim in the line of fire, an insecure rest, one victim mistaken for game, and an accidental discharge with the victim in the line of fire. One victim, in the case of the ricochet, was wearing a red hat. In other cases where note was made of the victims' clothing, camouflage was a popular pattern involved in three of the cases. Blue and green garments figured in the other cases.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission made final changes in this fall's big game seasons but stayed close to the recommendations the department presented to the public prior to the meeting in Boise March 13-15. The timing of seasons in the Boise River Zone, Unit 39, will be changed this fall but the number of rifle hunt bull B tags will not be capped. Instead, the general rifle season will run November 1-9. A tag archery season will be Nov. 10-30, and traditional muzzleloader seasons will be Sept. 9-30. The Commission discussed several other options including some suggested in their public hearing March 13 but decided finally to stay with the department recommendations on Unit 39. The proportion of bulls to cows in Unit 39 has gradually dipped below the Commission goal of at least 10 mature bulls per 100 cows. Capping bull tags could be considered in the future if season changes do not bring bull numbers up in this popular elk hunting zone. The Commission did cap B tag sales in the Elk City and Dworshak zones. Dworshak will be limited to 2,380 tags and Elk City will see 1,790 bull tags. Caps on other elk hunting zones established before this year remain. Commissioners dropped the sale of second antlerless elk tags in the Middle Fork Zone and extended the A tag muzzleloader hunt in the Sawtooth Zone by one week. Youth hunts for antlerless deer were dropped in Region 5 because of higher than average winter kill there. Black bear season in units 10, 12, 16 and 17 will open two weeks earlier on April 1 and run through June 30. In units 66 and 69, the female mountain lion quota was removed while the quota was lowered on females in units 63A, 64, 65 and 67 from seven to four, but male lions can be taken there after the female quota is met. There will be a five percent increase in youth hunts, and the definition will be changed to include anyone who has a junior license, increasing the age from 15 to 17.
Ten hunters who filed their mandatory hunter harvest reports in a timely fashion can hunt anywhere in Idaho they want to hunt this fall. "Supertags" were drawn by computerized lottery from the 93,620 hunters who filed their harvest reports on time. The timely filers made up 39 percent of all tagholders. Nine of the winners were from Idaho, one from Michigan. Four women hunters were among the lucky. A supertag allows a hunter to hunt in any open deer, antelope or elk hunt. Those who are drawn must choose either a deer, antelope or elk tag.
Q. Is it ok to carry a two-way radio while hunting in Idaho? A. A proposal to ban the use of electronic communication devices in the taking of game did recently come before the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, but department staff did not recommend a change in current law. The department cited public comment in opposition to the ban. The Commission agreed with the recommendation and kept rules as they were, allowing unrestricted use of electronic communications devices in the field.
IDAHO FALLS - While there may not be a turkey behind every bush yet, IDFG has been busy this winter translocating wild turkeys from other parts of the state into the Upper Snake Region. This year a total of 416 new birds were released at sites along the various branches of the Snake River around Idaho Falls. The growth of Idaho's turkey population has been truly incredible! Back in the early eighties there were only a few hundred birds in the state. Today, Idaho boasts around 30,000 gobblers. While turkeys are prodigious breeders, IDFG wildlife biologists have helped things along through an aggressive program of trapping and translocating birds. Last year, 91 turkeys were released in the Archer and Roberts area. Some of this year's birds were released to supplement last year's release sites, along with sites first attempted in the early eighties. According to Regional Wildlife Biologist Dave Koehler, "It seems that the Merriam's subspecies being released now are better suited to the region than the Rio Grande subspecies that was tried in the eighties." While no formal studies have been conducted on turkeys released last year, according to Senior Conservation Officer Bruce Penske, "I've seen lots of birds and it's obvious that some reproduction has occurred. The males are already starting to strut around in preparation for breeding this spring." Translocation efforts in the Upper Snake Region from the late nineties are already starting to pay off. This spring, ten permit holders will be heading out for the first controlled hunt on turkeys introduced to the Mackay area back in 1997/1998. Biologists are hopeful that the newly established Snake River populations will be at the point where controlled hunts will be available in the very near future.
A trash cleanup along one of the more popular stretches of the Snake River is planned for Saturday, March 23, weather permitting. Additional volunteers are needed to help with this effort, hosted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The river cleanup will be conducted from the Walter's Ferry bridge downstream to the Marsing bridge. "Ducks Unlimited volunteers are helping with the cleanup effort as are some local Fish and Game volunteer reservists," Fish and Game utility craftsman Dennis Hardy said. "But we'd love to have additional volunteer help." Volunteers are asked to meet at the Fish and Game regional office (3101 S. Powerline Road, Nampa) at 8:00 am on Saturday or at the Map Rock access site at 9:00 am. Hardy noted that lunch and refreshments will be furnished to all who volunteer. "A few workers will be assigned to boats for a portion of the cleanup effort," Hardy said. "But most of the volunteers, and we hope to have a bunch of them, will be working along the banks of the river." Trash will be hauled to a central location for transport to a landfill. Because of a waterfowl nesting closure, federally-owned islands will not be part of the trash collection effort this year. Area landowners are encouraged to note the cleanup effort date. "We wanted to inform land owners in advance of the activities planned for that day," Hardy noted. "So when they see a flurry of activity along the river, they will know what's going on." For more information regarding the Snake River cleanup, contact Hardy at Fish and Game's Southwest region office, 465-8465.
LEWISTON - - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds trappers of the March 15 season closure for river otter in the Clearwater Region. Trappers have 48 hours following the closure to check in additional trapped otters for pelt tagging. Trappers will be allowed to keep otters taken within this 48-hour period until the maximum allowable regional harvest of 17 is reached. Following this deadline, any incidentally taken otter must be surrendered to Fish and Game for a $5.00 reward. To evaluate the harvest, trappers must surrender the skull with the lower jaw to IDFG. Trappers are strongly encouraged to bring in fresh skulls for jaw removal. A fee of $2.00 will be charged for each pelt, and an additional $1.50 vendor fee will be charged to each license holder. Sportsmen can save money by checking all their pelts in at one time, as the vendor fee of $1.50 applies whether one pelt or ten are checked. Current otter harvest information may be obtained by calling 1-800-323-4334, 24-hours a day or the Clearwater Region office at 799-5010.
Turkey trappers had a busy winter across Idaho. Fish and Game's continuing efforts to establish wild turkeys in appropriate habitats in Idaho were boosted this winter by good trapping weather. Trapping and transplant operations are carried out in winter months because wild turkeys gather then into large flocks that can be baited with food. This is a time when some landowners ask Fish and Game to reduce the number of birds on their properties. In most cases, this occurs in areas where deep snows limit food for turkeys. Rather than encourage people to feed wild turkeys, Fish and Game will relocate birds to areas where conflicts are not anticipated. By the end of this trapping season, 656 wild turkeys were caught and moved. Trappers caught 480 turkeys in the Panhandle and 135 in the Clearwater Region. An additional 41 Rio Grande turkeys were caught in California and shipped to Idaho. About 375 turkeys were translocated to the Upper Snake and released in Unit 63A along the South Fork of the Snake, lower Henrys Fork, and Main Snake River below the confluence. These turkeys were released at or near the same locations where 91 turkeyswere released the previous winter. The turkeys have remained close to their release areas and are expected to move along the riparian corridors during the spring, summer and fall. It is possible that this population may be hunted during the spring of 2003. An additional 41 turkeys were released in Unit 67 near Swan Valley along the South Fork of the Snake River. Another 135 turkeys were introduced to three new locations in Unit 71 in the Southeast Region. Turkeys have not been released in this area before, so a sample of hens was marked with radio transmitters in order to monitor them more effectively. Three of 30 radio-marked hens (10 percent) have died during the first six weeks.
Bidders across southern Idaho bought some adventures that are only available through the annual Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation radio auction. The March 5 auction ran on KIDO-Am 630 in Boise, KID-AM 590 in Idaho Falls, KWIK-AM 1240 in Pocatello and KLIK-AM 1310 in Twin Falls. The auction raises funds for Fish and Game habitat and educational projects. Bids were made for trips that included a three-day stay at the Stonebraker Ranch during restoration of those facilities, sturgeon fishing and research in Hells Canyon, fawn capture and collaring, and many similar back country trips involving Fish and Game work. The auction raised $7,290.
Hunters who apply early for this fall's controlled hunts for deer, elk, black bear and antelope can get big bucks in two ways: draw a tag and hunt one in the field, or be the lucky winner of a drawing worth $600 or $400. The applications are accepted during the whole month of May, but only those received by May 10 will be entered in the $600 drawing to be held May 14. The next deadline is May 20 for the $400 drawing to be held May 25. The drawing is sponsored by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funded by GTECH Corporation. By encouraging the early application process, the Foundation and GTECH hope to prevent overload on the computer terminals at license vendors in the final days of the application period. The same incentive was offered last year and proved popular with hunters. Applicants for controlled hunts may still use the mail-in procedure but most will find it more convenient to drop by any one of about 430 private license vendors where their application will be entered on the Point of Sale computer system. They can also apply in person at Fish and Game offices. Many residents, as well as nonresidents, prefer to use a credit card and call in their application (1-800-554-8685) or the department's website www2.state.id.us/fishgame. Either adds a transaction fee of three percent of the transaction, plus $3.50 in order to pay the contractor who processes the telephone and internet applications. Applications for controlled hunts must be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee of $6.50. Fish and Game accepts personal checks. All applications must be received or postmarked no later than May 31. The drawing for controlled hunts is conducted by computer and all successful applicants are notified by mail following the drawing. Applicants who cannot wait for their notice can check the department. Information on the drawing can be found in the controlled hunt information section of the 2001 big game seasons booklet.
Q. I plan to apply for a sheep hunt in April but does that mean I can't go for another big game controlled hunt? A. That's what it means. If you apply for a moose, goat or sheep hunt, you cannot also apply for other big game controlled hunts in the same year. The reason for this is to limit somewhat the number of applicants for moose, goat and sheep so that the odds are more reasonable. Now the exceptions to the rule (you knew there would be some, didn't you?): after applying for moose, goat or sheep, you may go for an unlimited controlled deer hunt, participate in a second tag deer controlled hunt, buy a leftover controlled hunt tag on July 15 or take part in a depredation hunt.