Press Release

August 2006

Fires Close Backcountry Trails, Road

Several large fires burning in Idaho's backcountry have raised concerns about public safety and hunter access.

In the interest of public safety the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have closed some areas. Other areas may be closed as fires grow or new fires start.

These closures may affect some hunting units, or access to hunting units. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will not close any hunts or change season dates in response to fire restrictions. But the department will accommodate hunters unable to participate because of fire.

Hunters whose hunting area was inaccessible because of fire closures during the entire hunting season may submit a written request for a refund or rain check to the License Section at the end of the season. The request must include details of the situation and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The only up front option for hunters is to voluntarily exchange a controlled hunt tag for a general tag in another area before the season opens. Hunters are encouraged to use their licenses and tags this year. Many areas not affected by fires are open for hunting and many seasons are long.

In conjunction with the Idaho Department of Lands policy, Fish and Game will prohibit open fires and campfires on all Fish and Game public access sites in Southwest Idaho, effective after midnight August 31, until the order is otherwise rescinded.

Hunters, as well as anyone else heading into the backcountry, are advised to check with Forest Service Ranger District offices before heading out.

Horsethief Reservoir to be Drained/Treated

Horsethief Reservoir's yellow perch population, offspring of their illegally stocked ancestors, will soon get the boot thanks to action taken by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The reservoir's once robust trout fishery has suffered since the illegally planted yellow perch were first spotted in Horsethief back in 2003. "We've been monitoring the perch population since then," Fish and Game Fisheries manager Dale Allen noted. "This summer, fishing for trout has been severely impacted by the stunted perch population, and the only remedy to restore Horsethief's trout fishery is to drain the reservoir down slowly after Labor Day until it is dry, and restock the reservoir with trout next spring." Fish and Game has taken this same control action twice before at Horsethief, both times because of illegally introduced perch.

Fish and Game is now requesting comments and concerns about the proposed draining of Horsethief Reservoir. Correspondence related to this project should be sent to Dale Allen -Regional Fishery Manager at the Fish and Game McCall Office, 555 Deinhard Lane, 83638 or by phone at 208-634-8137.

Allen expects the removal process to take about two months, concluding sometime in late October. Some perch will be salvaged and the reservoir will be opened (sometime during the process) to fish salvage by anglers. Once the reservoir is drained, biologists will apply rotenone, a fish toxicant, to any remaining waters behind the dam. In the spring of 2007, the reservoir will be restocked with catchable rainbow trout and brown trout fingerlings.

Horsethief Reservoir, a Fish and Game-owned reservoir, is managed for trout fishing, and is as popular a destination for campers as it is anglers.

Illegal introductions of fish, including yellow perch at Horsethief, are extremely costly to Fish and Game, and ultimately to license buyers both in terms of direct monetary costs as well as lost recreational fishing opportunities.

Antlerless Seasons Closed in Some Units

With the archery season set to open August 30, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds hunters that Units 33, 34 and 35 are closed to antlerless white-tailed and mule deer hunts.

In May, the Idaho Fish and Game commissioners closed antlerless hunts, including youth and archery hunts, in the three southwest Idaho units. They also closed the youth controlled hunt in unit 78 in southeast Idaho.

The move was in response to lower than average fawn survival over the winter of 2005-2006 in some southern Idaho game management units.

The hunting season changes could not be noted in the hunting brochure, which already had been 1, but they are detailed on the department's web site:

Upland Game Seasons Open

Fall upland hunting starts September 1 with seasons for mourning doves, forest grouse and sandhill cranes as well as cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares.

Hunters will find upland hunting rules and shooting times in the rules brochure at license vendors and Fish and Game offices as well as on the department website at

Shooting hours for doves and sandhill cranes are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset with legal times for each day of the 30-day season listed on the flyer. Sandhill crane hunting is limited to controlled hunts.

Dove limits are 10 daily with 20 in possession after the first day.

A $1.75 federal migratory bird harvest information program validation is required for dove and crane hunting.

The application period for controlled sandhill crane hunts has passed.

The season for forest grouse, which includes ruffed, spruce and blue grouse, runs from September 1 through December 31. The daily limit is four, whether all of one or mixed species, and eight in possession after the first day. Only a valid hunting license is required for hunting forest grouse.

Seasons for cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hares runs from September 1 through February 7 for cottontails and through March 31 for hares. The daily bag limit for both is eight, with 16 in possession after the first day.

There is no season on pygmy rabbits. To distinguish, note that cottontail tails are dark above and white underneath, and the pygmy's tail is buffy gray with no white. The cottontail is more than a foot long, and the pygmy is less than one foot.

Contact your local regional office to determine whether pygmy rabbits are found in your hunting area.

Steelhead Season Set to Open

The steelhead harvest fishing season for most steelhead waters opens Friday, September 1.

The run numbers are not as far behind last year's numbers as they were a week ago as the counts at Bonneville Dam show. By August 15, 2005, about 156,000 steelhead had crossed Bonneville; this year only about 133,000 crossed the dam by the same date. But between August 16 and August 27 in 2005, about 42,000 fish crossed Bonneville; this year that number as up to about 56,000 fish.

The pre-season run forecast of 312,600 steelhead is nearly identical to the actual run in 2005. The total across Bonneville through August 27 in 2005 was 197,825, and this year is 189,781. The 10-year-average for this date at Bonneville is 212,000 steelhead.

The early season counts over Lower Granite Dam, the last dam before the fish reach Idaho, also are improving. As of August 27, only 2,526 steelhead had been counted at Lower Granite. Last year at this date, more than 5,000 Idaho-bound steelhead had passed Lower Granite. The 10-year average for this date is 7,687 fish.

The numbers may mean fewer steelhead caught early in the fall fishing season, but that doesn't always mean it'll be a bad year. The average harvest during the fall seasons from 2002 to 2005 is 36,000 steelhead. Of that, about 2,000 were caught in September, 13,000 in October, 14,700 in November and 6,400 in December, said Bill Horton, anadromous fishery coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

So even if the fish are a couple of weeks late getting back to Idaho, the fishing still should be best in October and November as it has in past years.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will continue to assess the size of the 2006 run relative to the pre-season forecast. Run timing and run size suggest that changes in the season or creel limits are unlikely, Horton said.

Land Use Summit Planned

Idaho's vanishing rural lands and booming development will be the focus of the Idaho Land Use Summit, September 14 and 15 at the Nampa Civic Center.

The two-day event promotes conservation of Idaho's rural quality of life and wildlife resources by bringing experts in western land-use issues together to find a balance to the accelerating growth and development occurring across Idaho.

"What is important to know about the summit is that we are looking for Idaho solutions to balance growth with Idaho's rural lifestyles," said Gregg Servheen, chairman of the summit steering committee.

The summit starts at 9 a.m. Thursday, with U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, providing opening remarks about his Farm Bill provisions to help farmers, ranchers and wildlife conservation.

Other speakers from New Mexico, Montana and Colorado will relate their efforts to conserve working farms and ranches, wildlife, open space and rural qualities of life, shrinking every day across much of the West.

Panelists, including agency directors, legislators, county commissioners, developers, land owners and land managers, will discuss changing rural communities, the New West, and the role of government in helping to balance development with rural lifestyles, wildlife conservation and working farms and ranches.

The Idaho Association of Counties "supports the summit because counties across Idaho are struggling with this issue," said Kelci Karl-Robinson, speaking for the association. "Counties have one of the most important roles to play but have too few resources and their role is politically threatened by such initiatives, such as Proposition 2."

Idaho Salmon & Steelhead Days Marks 10 Years

Idaho Salmon and Steelhead Days, a special event for Idaho fifth-graders, will mark its 10th anniversary at Idaho Fish and Game Headquarters in Boise, September 6 through 8.

The three-day event celebrates Idaho's salmon and steelhead. Nearly 2,500 5th graders, parents, and teachers are expected to attend the event. Students participate in hands-on activities while learning about these unique fish, their habitat and the past and present relationship between humans and salmon.

The event is dedicated to the students, but one evening is set aside for a salmon barbecue that is open to the general public.

The Idaho Salmon & Steelhead Days Salmon BBQ runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, September 6, at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 600 South Walnut St., Boise. The barbecue raises money to pay for next year's daytime activities.

Activities during the barbecue include live music by the Bitterbrush Blues Band, gyotaku fish printing and Kids In the Creek. The Morrison Knudsen Nature Center stream walk will be open for viewing live Chinook salmon and kokanee salmon.

Tickets for the barbecue are $10 for adults and $3 for children. They are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, at Fish and Game Headquarters; and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Nature Center, behind the headquarters building.

Tickets are limited and sold first-come, first-served.

The three day event is noncommercial, nonprofit and not politically oriented. A partnership of agencies, organizations, businesses and corporations finance, plan and execute the annual event.

Ask Fish and Game

Q. How can an out-of-state hunter meet Idaho's transportation rules that require leaving evidence of sex attached to a big game carcass when California, Oregon and Washington prohibit importing whole carcasses or carcasses with backbone or brain?

A. Hunters may be allowed to transport the skull cap with antlers if no meat or tissue is attached. And they may transport the cut and packed game-with the receipt and tag-by taking the carcass to a commercial meat packer. They can meet the evidence of sex requirement by leaving it naturally attached to the largest piece of meat.

Hunters: Give Us Your Jaws

If you're a big game hunter, Fish and Game would like your jaw; the jaw of your cow elk or doe mule deer that is. The jaws are needed as part of an effort to better estimate the age structure of certain elk and deer populations across Idaho.

"If we can collect enough lower jaws from female elk and deer, we can estimate the age structure of the female segment of several elk and deer populations," Fish and Game wildlife research biologist Craig White said. "That information is critical to better determine the status of these big game populations."

Hunters harvesting cow elk or doe mule deer from hunt units 23, 28, 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 36, 36A, 36B, 39, 43, 44, 45 (deer only), 48 (elk only) and 50 are asked to leave the lower jaw from their harvested animal at one of three locations: a Fish and Game check station, Fish and Game regional office or a jaw barrel. Barrels will be placed at strategic points for jaw collection, and information cards will be available at all collection points to record simple information such as the unit where the animal was harvested.

Please contact the Fish and Game Nampa office (465-8465), McCall office (634-8137), Jerome office (324-4359), or Salmon office (756-2271) with questions regarding the big game age structure study.

Prescribed Fires Improve Forest Health

By Miles Benker

Thick, white smoke is seen high above the ridge. The fire crew walks along the freshly dug fire line, watching carefully as the brush snaps and crackles. The flames are moving slowly and the crew is pleased.

Far different than several current wildfires burning out of control, this fire was intentionally set this spring by fire experts and is called a controlled or prescribed fire.

In some areas where fire has been prevented from conducting its natural role, state and federal agencies have set prescribed fires to mimic natural fire and improve landscape health and community safety. These managed fires are timed to occur, generally in the spring and late fall, when conditions are favorable and fire danger is low.

There is a need, and a place for allowing fire to play out its historical role on the landscape. The Forest Service has allowed some lightning-ignited fires to burn for habitat benefits. Many of these fires occur in a rugged area that are very remote, inaccessible and have low risk to people and property.

Of course, during the hot, dry summers, some fires need to be aggressively attacked, especially those near forest communities and private property.

Earlier this month, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho toured the Clearwater Region by airplane and pledged to see more fires be allowed to burn on federal lands to benefit elk habitat. Sen. Crapo was also instrumental in forming the Clearwater Elk Collaborative through an elk summit in Lewiston three years ago. This working group provided several recommendations to improve elk habitat, including the use of fire and some logging.

Sagebrush Wildlife Film Festival

Scott Ransom, Pocatello Zoo Director, (208) 234-6264

Imagine seeing beautiful outdoor scenery featuring up-close encounters with some amazing wildlife from all over the worldÉ without leaving Idaho. It's possible if you attend the second annual Sagebrush Wildlife Film Festival which will showcase award-winning films featured at the world famous International Film Festival in Missoula, Montana.

The festival will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Idaho State University's L. E. & Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. Saturday's event will start at 6:00 pm with a no host bar, followed by dinner at 7:00 pm. After dinner, the feature film, "People of the Sea," and the short film, "Spirit Mandala," will be shown. For tickets to Saturday's event, please call ISU's ticket booth at 282-3595. Tickets are $20 per person. Advance reservations only.

The festival will continue at 7:00 pm on Monday, Sept. 11 at the ISU Bengal Theater. The night will highlight two special guests: filmmaker, Liz O'Connell, and six-year old narrator, Zachary Clifton. The evening will also feature the children's film, "Alaska's Coolest Birds," narrated by Zachary when he was just five years old, and another showing of "Spirit Mandala."

On Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the ISU Bengal Theater, "Spirit Mandala","Dune", and "10 Days to Paint the Forest" will be shown beginning at 7:00 pm.

Tickets for Monday's and Tuesday's events can be purchased at the door. $2 for patrons 12 and over; $1 for children under 12; $1 for ISU faculty, staff, and students.

The Season Never Ends in Outdoor Photography

By Eric Stark

Idahoans are luckier than most in having bountiful fish and wildlife and a variety of hunting and fishing seasons. There is one season that never ends for Idaho's outdoor enthusiasts,however, and that is photography season.

Whether capturing the breath of a bugling bull elk, the snow-capped peaks of the Seven Devils, or the morning dew on a huckleberry, the click of the shutter can be every bit as rewarding as firing your rifle or setting the hook.

With today's technology, it is easier than ever to capture great images of your hunting and fishing experiences or whatever you enjoy the most in Idaho's outdoors. Today's digital cameras allow you to capture many more photos without having to haul around bulky lenses and several rolls of film. And you don't have to worry about getting that perfect shot because if you don't like the result you can always delete it. In addition, many digital cameras are very small and light, yet surprisingly versatile, so you can easily bring your camera along on any outdoor adventure without loading yourself down.

Depending on your interests and outdoor hobbies, there's a camera to fit your needs. Point-and-shoot cameras are small and compact with a built-in lens, flash, automatic exposure and focus. The cameras are the least expensive and are great for snapshots, but they have limited creative control.

Advanced compact cameras offer more features, particularly manual controls over exposure and focus, yet are still small and fairly inexpensive. And single-lens reflex (SLR) digital cameras are larger cameras that offer interchangeable lenses, external flash, high quality sensors and processors, a wide range of sensitivity settings, and virtually unlimited creative control.