Press Release

November 2003

Commission to Meet December 4

Permanent funding for the new access program that pays landowners to allow hunting and fishing will be discussed when the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets December 4.

The meeting will be held at the Nampa Research Office Building, 1414 East Locust Lane in Nampa. A public hearing will be held at that facility on December 3 beginning at 7 p.m.

Access Yes! began this year by providing access to 107,000 acres of private land and access through private land to an additional 240,000 acres of public land. The department spent $117,000 on the program in 2003.

Currently, Access Yes! funding is limited ($300,000 is budgeted for the program in 2004). Fish and Game is currently paying for Access Yes! by reducing budgets for other programs.

Expanding Access Yes! to provide more hunting and fishing access on private and public land will require additional funding. Approximately 1.2 million dollars is needed to provide Idaho hunters and anglers access comparable to access programs in other western states.

The Commission will also set turkey seasons and rules for 2004.

Comments Sought on Deer, Turkey, Access

Fish and Game is seeking comment on white-tailed deer management, turkey hunting and the new Access Yes! program.

The department is holding open house meetings at regional offices around the state to give information and take comment. Those meetings are announced in local media and on the department web site at www2.state.id.us/fishgame in the "What's News" section under "New Additions". Comment can also be submitted through the web site or in writing to IDFG, P.O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707.

The new management plan for white-tailed deer deals with the species statewide rather than only in northern Idaho. The species has expanded to all regions in Idaho in recent years.

Proposed turkey rule changes include expanding youth hunting opportunities in both general seasons and controlled hunts. During spring general hunts, the proposals would allow youths 15 years of age or younger to hunt on Saturday and Sunday immediately prior to the April 15 opener in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions. The department also is requesting comments on hunting turkeys with rifles in the fall season.

The Access Yes! program is intended to increase hunting and fishing access to private lands and to public lands that would otherwise not be accessible through private lands. It compensates willing landowners who provide access to private land or through their property to public lands. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering the future of this program, including several options for increased funding and expanding the program.

The deadline for all comments is 5 p.m. on Friday, November 21. Comments will be compiled for consideration by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission when it meets in Nampa December 4.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. I heard that 80,000 coyotes or more are killed in Idaho each year. Is that correct? Is Fish and Game involved?

A. The Legislature, in Idaho Code section 36-201, named the coyote as unprotected and predatory wildlife. Therefore, Fish and Game does not manage coyote populations and keeps no harvest information except what is reported by trappers. In the 2001-2002 season, trapper harvest was 1,647 and the next year it was 2,478. Aside from the occasional biological study, such as to measure the impact of removal of coyotes on populations of deer, pheasants and sage grouse, Fish and Game is not directly involved in killing coyotes. IDFG does contract trappers to reduce predators, including coyotes, to protect nesting waterfowl at wildlife management areas. Their harvest is included in the trapper harvest mentioned above.

Wild Turkey, Access Yes!, White-tailed Deer Open Houses Slated

Because it's not too early to be thinking about next year's turkey hunting seasons, Fish and Game is inviting the public to attend an upcoming open house to discuss the topic.

On Monday, November 24, Fish and Game will host two open houses in the Southwest region to gather public input regarding proposed changes to 2004 turkey hunting seasons and the Department's newly unveiled Access Yes! program. Proposed goals for the Department's revised white-tailed deer management plan will also be available for public review and comment.

Fish and Game's Nampa office (3101 S. Powerline Road) and McCall office (555 Deinhard Drive) will serve as open house locations. Fish and Game staff will be on hand, and interested persons can attend anytime between 3:00 and 7:00 pm.

Under current Department proposals, no changes would be made to turkey seasons in Southwest Idaho. A special youth wild turkey hunt has been proposed for the weekend prior to the April 15 general season opening date. Visitors can also comment on a proposal to raise the turkey bag limit from two to three birds and on the idea of allowing rifle hunting for wild turkeys.

In its first year of operation, Idaho's Access Yes! program has proven popular among some hunting enthusiasts. The open house will afford everyone an opportunity to comment on the program and offer suggestions for making the program more effective.

Comments will also be sought on the Department's new preliminary white-tailed deer management plan. "White tails are now found in every region of the state," Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Jeff Rohlman said. "The time is right to build a comprehensive management plan to effectively manage this popular game animal. What we need now is public input on white-tailed deer management goals."

Report Waterfowl Bands With A Free Phone Call Or On-Line

LEWISTON - With Idaho's waterfowl season in full swing, hunters should remember to report bird bands if they harvest a bird wearing one of the metal tags.

Waterfowl hunters can report banded ducks and geese 24 hours a day by calling (800) 327-BAND (2263). An operator will ask for the band number and how, when and where it was recovered. Callers will receive a Certificate of Appreciation with information on the bird's age and where it was banded. Hunters can keep the bands.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Habitat Biologist Miles Benker said whether hunters use the toll-free number or mail in the bands, the important thing is to get the information reported.

"Band recovery information is critical to waterfowl management," Benker noted. "Band information helps determine migration routes, production of young, survival and even harvest rates."

Hunters can also report bands on-line by visiting the Bird Banding Laboratory website at

http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl.

Birders Needed For Thanksgiving Day Count

LEWISTON - The annual Thanksgiving Bird Count is fast approaching and once again, bird watchers are needed to help collect information on their feathered friends.

The count lasts for only one hour on Thanksgiving Day, and counters can tailor the time to fit their busy holiday schedule. The count is made in a count circle chosen by the counter. The circle can be considered a cylinder, since all birds seen on the ground or water, in vegetation or flying over or through the circle should be counted. Individual birds are to be counted only once during the hour, and flocks should be estimated or counted with the highest number at any one time used.

Count circles are usually located around whatever attracts birds--feeders, baths, cover, etc. Most participants establish a count area visible from a comfortable indoor spot near a window. Some even select water areas or choose a favorite birding area and make it an outdoor event. The same count circles should be used each year, and participants are asked to send in reports even if they didn't observe any birds. .

Not as well know as the Christmas Count or Breeding Bird Surveys, the Thanksgiving Bird Count was begun in 1966 by Dr. Ernest Edwards and the Lynchburg Bird Club of Virginia. It has grown across the nation, with 448 participants conducting 452 counts in the eleven Western states and Alaska. Most numerous were House Sparrow, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee and European Starling.

Bird enthusiasts can pick up report forms at the Idaho Fish and Game Office located at 1540 Warner Avenue in Lewiston, by visiting www.palouseaudubon.org/, or by contacting Tom Weber, Palouse Audubon Society, at (509) 334-3817.

Next Sportsmen's Breakfast Meeting Scheduled December 2

LEWISTON - Outdoor enthusiasts are invited to the monthly Idaho Department of Fish and Game breakfast at the Helm Restaurant in Lewiston, Tuesday December 2, at 6:30 a.m.

The meeting agenda will include reports on the urban goose hunt, steelhead season, big game check station results, enforcement activities and the new Access YES Program. Local outdoor groups are also invited to give reports of their current activities.

The breakfasts are held the first Tuesday of each month at the Helm restaurant in Lewiston. They are open to anyone and are designed to stimulate informal discussion about wildlife issues in the Clearwater Region. The breakfasts run until 8:30 a.m., with coffee provided by Fish and Game.

Comments Sought on Whitetail Management Plan, Turkey Proposals and Access Yes

LEWISTON - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) will host an open house meeting in Lewiston to gather public comments on the new Whitetail Deer Management Plan and proposed changes to the 2004 wild turkey season. IDFG also wants to know what the public thinks about the new Access Yes program.

The meeting will be held at the Clearwater Regional Office, 1540 Warner Ave in Lewiston on Friday, November 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The public can review and provide comments on the newest Whitetail Deer Management Plan. Past plans focused only on the northern portion of the State, but since whitetails have expanded their range considerably, a new statewide management strategy is needed.

Proposed turkey rule changes include expanding youth hunting opportunities in both general seasons and controlled hunts. During spring general hunts, the proposals would allow youth 15 years of age or younger, to hunt on Saturday and Sunday immediately prior to the April 15 opener in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest regions. IDFG also is requesting comments on hunting turkeys with rifles.

The Access Yes program is intended to increase hunting and fishing access to private lands and to public lands that would otherwise not be accessible through private lands. It compensates willing landowners who provide access to private land or through their property to public lands. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering the future of the Access Yes program, including several options for increased funding and expanding the program.

Steelhead Limits

Steelhead limits for this fall and the coming spring seasons are three daily, nine in possession and 20 for the season.

Idaho Fish and Game license vendors have reported some confusion about the limits on the part of anglers, apparently because of the higher limits that were in effect for the last spring season. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission did increase the limits for steelhead for the fall 2003 to three, nine and 20.

Steelhead do not live by the calendar year, anadromous program coordinator Bill Horton said. Idaho steelhead that have the urge to spawn in 2004 started their migration back home in the last half of 2003. Remember that they have a minimum of 464 miles to travel, and some may travel as far a 924 miles to reach the stream where they lived as juveniles. So steelhead have a run-year or migration-year from the fall of one year to the spring of the next. Season limits valid for the spring of 2003 do not apply for the fall of this year, Horton said.

The steelhead limits for 2004-2005 were set by the Commission at the higher levels of 3, 9, and 20 because of the relatively strong hatchery returns anticipated during the next couple of years.

"So go out and enjoy your fishing, but remember your fall limit is 20 steelhead. Starting January 1 you can start on another 20 steelhead season limit for the spring." Horton said.

Licenses Go On Sale December 1

Hunting and fishing licenses for 2004 go on sale beginning December 1, 2003.

Residents can also be issued receipts which they can exchange for tags when they become available next summer. Nonresident tags are issued at the time of purchase.

Current licenses are valid through the end of the year. Hunters whose seasons stretch into the next year, including seasons for waterfowl and chukar, must have a new license in their possession when they are in the field after December 31.

Steelhead anglers need a new fishing license on January 1 and thereafter as well as a new steelhead tag. The spring steelhead season begins January 1, 2004.

Fees for licenses and tags are the same for 2004 as they were this year. Big game hunters, however, are required to file a hunter harvest report on the current season. Those who have not filed before they purchase a new license will be charged a $1.50 transaction fee.

Licenses and tags are available at Idaho Fish and Game offices and more than 400 vendors statewide. They may also be purchased-with a small additional service fee from private entities under contract to Fish and Game-by phone at 1-800-554-8685. For online sales, refer to the department Internet web site.

Filing Easy for Harvest Report

Hunters who have not yet filed their mandatory big game harvest reports can do so quickly and easily on the Internet.

Filing on the Idaho Fish and Game Internet web site takes no more than a minute or two, costs nothing and does not require a trip to the post box or regional office. The form is found in the Hunting section of the department web site at www2.state.id.us/fishgame. Filing the report this way also helps avoid the $1.50 fee that will be charged - beginning March 1, 2004 - if the report is not filed until hunters go to a vendor for their new licenses. You may also file by calling 1-877-268-9365. This is a toll-free call.

Big game hunters who do file their mandatory hunter harvest reports on time place themselves in the pool to be drawn for a Supertags next year.

Those who do not file within 10 days of the end of their hunt or kill date will each have to pay a $1.50 transaction fee when they buy their next hunting licenses. The fee will be imposed because filing at the time of buying a new license is a separate transaction on the Point of Sale Machine (POSM) and, like other transactions on the system, subject to a charge.

Timely filing is rewarded by placing hunters' names in the hat for a chance to draw one of 10 Supertags. These deer or elk tags are good for any open hunt in the state, regardless of the elk hunting zone system. Those tags will be drawn early in 2004.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. I just want to catch and release steelhead, not keep any. Do I still have to have a steelhead tag?

A. You do need a steelhead tag if you are targeting steelhead, whether you release the fish or not. A fair number of anglers do release most or all of the steelhead they catch, but they must have a valid tag in their possession.