Press Release

December 2003

Craig Mountain Now Open To Snowmobilers

LEWISTON - With the recent snow prompting big game to lower elevations, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) reminds winter recreationists that the access gates on the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area are now open.

The access gates remained closed past the opening date of November 21 because of the lack of snow. This date was selected in cooperation with local snowmobile groups and hunters to allow snowmobile use of the area after hunting seasons have closed, and big game animals have moved to lower elevations. The gates are designed to enhance wildlife security by preventing unauthorized motorized use of the area, not to restrict snowmobile use.

Snowmobilers are urged to use caution in avoiding hidden obstacles such as rocks, stumps and other hazards. IDFG will close the gates March 15, 2004.

The Lewis and Clark Snowdrifters annually groom and remove obstacles on almost 200 miles of trails on Craig Mountain and surrounding area to enhance access and improve safety.

Please contact the Clearwater Regional office at 799-5010 if you have questions concerning snowmobiling on Craig Mountain.

Public Comments Sought On Proposed Non-Biological Hunting Rule Changes

LEWISTON - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is seeking comments from hunters regarding a number of proposed changes to the hunting regulations including archery and muzzleloader hunting methods and several other non-biological rules.

All information collected will be presented to the Fish and Game Commission for their consideration at their January 21-23, 2004 meeting. Non-biological rules do not include season length and permit levels that will be addressed at the March Commission meeting.

Comments are wanted on proposals to allow the use of "209" shotgun primers or musket caps as a muzzleloader ignition device and the elimination of the no more than 65 percent let-off restriction for bows during archery-only seasons.

Fish and Game also wants to gauge public opinions on proposals concerning the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV's) on primitive hunts, the check-in process for mountain lions, regulations regarding the transporting lower jaw of elk and deer, the legality of hunting wild big game inside enclosures, and clarification of "accompanied" in relation to adults hunting with young hunters.

Additionally, the Department is continually looking for better ways to administer the selling of licenses, tags, and permits, and would like to see what hunters think about modifying the rules regarding controlled hunt permits, how to best sell leftover nonresident tags, and how to sell nonresident junior mentored hunting licenses.

Hunters can provide their comments and complete a related survey by visiting IDFG's website at www2.state.id.us/fishgame and going to "What's News" then "New Additions." The deadline for comments is January 9, 2004.

"We encourage hunters to complete the on-line survey and provide their comments through our website," said Jay Crenshaw, IDFG wildlife manager. "It's probably the quickest and most convenient way for them to give us their thoughts."

Christmas Bird Count Marks 104 Years

Christmas means many different things to different people, but for bird enthusiasts, it means it is time to check on the state of North America's birds in the 104th Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Local volunteers around Idaho and the rest of the country organize the counts each year at roughly the same time and place. Observations are recorded and compared with the records of previous years in each area.

This year, the focus of the 104th count will be the status of birds of the Boreal Forest-the great northern forests extending from Alaska to northeastern Canada. Many of these species winter in areas well covered by the Christmas Bird Count, and are familiar to winter bird watchers across North America.

In southwest Idaho, the Boise count has been continued each year since 1966 while the Nampa count began in 1953 and a Bruneau count was organized in 1984. Counts from these areas and others in Idaho will be compiled for analysis by early 2004.

More Critters than Folks at Nature Center Now

Winter is a great time to visit the MK Nature Center if you're a duck, a deer, a mink, or a beaver, or maybe a songbird on your way south.

But people do not seem to feel the same wintertime attraction to the nature center that animals feel. The hardy few who stroll through the nature center (600 South Walnut in Boise) as the temperature drops are rewarded for their efforts. For example, the few visitors willing to walk in the recent rain may have crossed paths with six mule deer that decided to hang out at the nature center. One little girl, Noel, and her dad were able to have a close encounter with them. By being quiet, slow and respectful, Noel and her dad came within 20 yards of the bravest of the mulies and neither party seemed in a hurry to leave.

"Wood ducks and mallards are with us daily and the heron is likely to be here as well," center manager Dave Cannamella said. "Geese are always in earshot and are often overhead. I saw mink tracks on the bridge twice in the last two weeks, and caught him in his tracks' last week in the shelter window_fish in his mouth, no less. Ah, the ecosystem at work is a beautiful thing."

If the weather is too brutal, visitors can always watch wildlife from the comfort of the nature center education building. The wildlife viewing is hot, even if the weather is not.

Reminder Letters Delivered

Letters intended to remind big game hunters to file their mandatory harvest reports have gone out to about 104,000 tag holders.

Whether or not a hunter actually tagged a deer or elk this fall, the harvest report is required. A new license cannot be issued until the report is completed. Reporting should be completed no more than 10 days after an animal is taken or the hunt ends.

Some hunters who have filed their reports in a timely way have received the letter anyway, mainly because the list of nonfilers had to be pulled well before the mailing actually went out. For those who did receive the letter and are sure they had already filed, the most convenient way to check is on the Internet. Hunters can go into the hunting section of the Idaho Fish and Game web site at www2.state.id.us/fishgame and check their report record by entering their hunting license numbers. If the report was not filed, filing online is quick and easy. Those who do not have Internet access can call their regional office.

Fish and Game wildlife biologists are trying to compile harvest report records as quickly as possible so that they will have the best possible information before hunting seasons are set for 2004. Before seasons are set in March, report records must be analyzed, season proposals developed using report information and other data, public comment taken on those proposals and final recommendations prepared for Commission action.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. OK, so I go into your handy dandy web page to enter my harvest report, type in my tag number and nothing happens. Now what?

A. You are not the only one to run into this situation, but we must point out that the form does say hunting license number. It does not ask you for the tag number. Your hunting license number will let you fill out the report in about 60 seconds and you are good for another year. The form for making a big game mandatory report is found in the hunting section of the Idaho Fish and Game web page at www2.state.id.us/fishgame.

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.

New Licenses Required Before Going Afield

Lewiston - Before going afield in the New Year, hunters and anglers are reminded a 2004 license and appropriate permits are required. However, both the federal migratory waterfowl stamp and trapping license are valid through June.

"Even though fishing and several hunting seasons continues into the New Year, 2003 licenses expire December 31," said Connie Stevens, office manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Lewiston. "New licenses went on sale December 1, so hunters and anglers should have plenty of time to get them before the New Year arrives, " she said.

Licenses are available at all vendors and Fish and Game offices throughout the state.

Lifetime license holders can obtain their new licenses by mail from the Headquarters office in Boise or by visiting their local Fish and Game office.

Along with a new hunting license, waterfowl hunters need a new $1.50 Federal Migratory Harvest Information Program validation and remember to keep their federal stamp through the end of the season.

Hunting Methods Call for Public Comment

Fish and Game wants to hear from you.

Should Idaho rules regarding archery and muzzleloader hunting mirror changes in the equipment used for these hunting methods? These and other issues (termed non-biological rules) will be the focus of discussion at two upcoming public open houses hosted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Biologists will also have a draft of the white-tailed deer management objectives and data analysis areas for the white-tailed deer species management plan available for review.

On December 29 from 4:00 to 7:00pm, Fish and Game personnel will host open houses at the regional office in McCall (555 Deinhard Drive) and Nampa (3101 S. Powerline Road). Compiled information from the open houses will be presented to the Fish and Game Commission for consideration. The Commission will set final rules for the 2004 seasons in March.

By Commission rule, archery hunters are currently limited to compound bows that have a 65 percent let-off. Let-off is the amount of pressure needed to maintain the bow at full draw. Many compound bows now on the market have an 80 percent let-off making it easier to hold the bow at full draw for a longer time while the archer aims. Pope and Young, the archery club that monitors archery hunting records, recently changed its rules to allow animals harvested by archers using 80 percent let-off bows to be entered in the record book.

Some muzzleloader hunters have requested that Fish and Game consider allowing the use of "209" shotgun primers or musket caps rather than be limited to the current No. 10 or 11 percussion caps as a muzzleloader ignition device. Shotgun primers and musket caps produce more dependable powder ignition than percussion caps.

Egin-Hamer Area Closure Goes Back Into Effect Again On January 1st For 6th Year

IDAHO FALLS - What started out as an idea by local county commissioners to reopen a popular farm to market road six years ago has continued to be a success not just for humans, but also for wintering wildlife. The lack of human disturbance created by the closure has allowed herds of deer, elk, and moose to spend more time down on the desert between St. Anthony and Dubois during crucial portions of the late winter and early spring.

For the sixth year, the Egin-Hamer Area Closure places nearly 500 square miles of land off-limits to human entry for the protection of wintering deer, elk, and moose herds. The closure begins on January first and lasts through the end of March on lands south of the Egin-Hamer Road and until April 30, north of the road.

This arrangement was agreed upon when county commissioners approached the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with the idea of the area closure in return for the re-opening of the Egin-Hamer Road for winter travel. State agencies such as the Department of Fish & Game and the Department of Lands also have land involved in the closure and play an active role in management. Individual landowners accessing their own private lands are exempt from the closure. The active St. Anthony Sand Dunes are also exempt from the closure.

Boundaries of the closure are posted and free detailed maps are available from the BLM or IDFG in Idaho Falls. The Fremont and Jefferson County Sheriffs' Offices also have copies of the map available. According to IDFG observations, the increased number of animals staying down on the desert later into the spring is a sign of the success of the project.

Idfg To Implement Existing Closure Agreement To Benefit Wintering Elk In Teton Basin

DRIGGS - Five years ago, two Teton Basin landowners decided that they could help deer, elk, and moose that winter on their private property by reducing the human disturbance caused primarily by snow machines and x-country skiers. The landowners took the initiative to approach the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) for help with signs to post their areas as well as the adjoining IDFG Rainey Bridge Access Site. According to Regional Habitat Biologist Kim Ragotzkie, "Last year was a light winter and the elk never ended up in that area, so we didn't enact the closure. This year conditions are starting to look like we could expect elk in the area, so we're going to post the closure that will start on January 1 and run through March 31."

According to Ragotzkie, "The landowners were aware that human disturbance could cause big game animals to move off traditional winter range areas. The sites total nearly 1,500 acres that will be restricted to access with permission only. Several properties lie directly adjacent to the Rainey Bridge Access Site. Another site encompasses land currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and is important because it occupies part of the migration corridor between the Big Hole Mountains and the winter range at Rainey Bridge. " Because these access restrictions are self-imposed, the ranchers who own the land will still retain full control of their property and will be able to use it as they like. To help facilitate these activities, IDFG will be providing signs to help post the boundaries of this voluntary action.

Christmas Bird Counts Scheduled For Moscow-Pullman and Lewiston-Clarkston Areas

LEWISTON - From novice birder to seasoned ornithologist, everyone is welcome to participate in the 104th annual Christmas Bird Count to be held December 20 in the Moscow-Pullman area and January 3, 2004, in the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the all-day count of early winter bird populations gives participants the opportunity to see wintering birds rarely seen by most people. Held annually, the Christmas Bird Count has also become one of the most popular birding events of the year.

"This is a great event for anyone interested in learning more about birds," said Joel Sauder, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Non-game Biologist and avid bird enthusiast.

The results are compiled into the longest running database in ornithology, which represents 100 years of unbroken data on trends of early winter bird populations across America. The data from 100 years of Christmas Bird Counts, yield valuable insights into the shifting patterns, distributions, and population trends of bird species during the count period, which is from mid-December to early January.

Novice birders can take advantage of the count by teaming up with experienced bird counters. All observers must do their counting within a designated area on the given count day.

Contacts for Christmas bird Counts in the Moscow-Pullman area are Tom Weber or Dave Holick at 509-334-3817 or 208-882-5556. For the Lewiston-Clarkston counts contact Charles Swift at 208-883-0553.

Anyone wishing to census birds at their feeder and does not live within a Christmas Bird Count circle, can still get involved with Project Feeder Watch. More information on both counts is available at www.birdsource.org and www.palouseaudubon.org.