Q. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission recently created several new short-range weapon hunts. What weapons does that include? A. The rule book says: "In big game seasons restricted to short-range weapons, it is unlawful for hunters to use any weapon other than a muzzleloader, archery equipment, crossbow, or a shotgun using slugs or shot of size #00 buck or larger." The book further states that a muzzleloader must be at least .45 caliber for deer, pronghorn, or mountain lion, and at least .50 caliber for elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, or black bear. Handguns are not included as short-range weapons.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission Thursday, March 8, accepted recommended changes to big game hunting seasons with only a few exceptions. Department of Fish and Game staff recommendations included additional muzzleloader hunting opportunities for mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and pronghorn antelope; increased antlerless white-tailed deer hunts to reduce depredations, vehicle collision and urban deer problems; and a quality whitetail hunting area in eastern Idaho. Recommendations also included adjusting elk permit numbers in response to population changes and adjusting antlerless elk hunts to reduce depredation concerns; changes in pronghorn, black bear and mountain lion hunts in response to population changes; and applying the motorized vehicle rule in Unit 57. Commissioners adopted the recommendations with several muzzleloader hunts changed to short-range-weapons to allow the use of inline weapons. Panhandle Region Commissioner Tony McDermott proposed that muzzleloader-only hunts in units 4, 7 and 9 as well as the December 2-9 spike-elk-only muzzleloader hunts be changed to short-range weapons hunts. Clearwater Region Commissioner Alex Irby proposed that muzzleloader seasons in units 10A and 16 be changed to short-range weapons. The changes were approved by the commission over the objections of commissioners Randall Budge of the Southeast Region and Wayne Wright of the Magic Valley Region. Budge and Wright resisted the change, saying it essentially sidestepped the new muzzleloader rules without any discussion of the issue. McDermott agreed it was a band-aid solution, but he suggested the commissioners re-examine the evidence on which they had based their January decision to restrict muzzleloader hunts to more traditional weapons. The commissioners agreed.
Idaho Fish and Game commissioners Thursday, March 9, agreed to take another look at controversial definitions of muzzleloader weapons adopted in January. The new rules have raised a furor of complaints from some hunters whose modern inline weapons no longer are legal in muzzleloader-only hunts. The rules require muzzleloaders have a pivoting hammer, an exposed ignition with only flint or percussion caps, use only loose black powder or loose synthetic black powder, and bullets must be within .010 inch of the bore diameter. So-called modern inline weapons still are legal in short-range weapon and other hunts. Those complaints led commissioners Tony McDermott of the Panhandle Region and Alex Irby of the Clearwater Region to propose the commission examine in more detail the technology and data on which their January decision was made. The decision to reexamine the muzzleloader issue was not in response to complaints, McDermott said. But if that decision was based on inaccurate or incomplete information, perhaps it should be changed. But any changes would not take effect before the 2008 hunting seasons. In setting big game hunting seasons, McDermott and Irby proposed changing several muzzleloader hunts to short-range weapons hunts in their regions that would allow the use of inline weapons. Short-range weapons include many modern inline muzzleloaders, archery and shotguns. The commission adopted the big game seasons with the changes to short-range weapons hunts over the objections of commissioners Randall Budge of the Southeast Region and Wayne Wright of the Magic Valley Region. Budge and Wright resisted the change, saying it essentially sidestepped the new muzzleloader rules in two individual regions without any discussion of the issue.
As basketball fans gear up for March Madness, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is getting ready for its own "big game day"-one that is sure to bring some exciting final scores of its own. Wednesday, March 21st, is Big Game Scoring Day at the Southeast Region office of Fish and Game at 1345 Barton Road in Pocatello. Measuring for Boone & Crockett, rifle/pistol; Pope & Young, archery; and Longhunter's Society, muzzleloader, will be conducted for entry into the big game record books. Interested hunters must bring their antlers, horns and skulls to the regional office by 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 20. Items being brought to be measured must be free of flesh and skin, and must have been air-dried-which is not the same as freezer storage-for 60 days. "We are so lucky to have three official measurers with over 30 years of experience," said Jennifer Jackson, Regional Conservation Educator for Fish and Game. "The service is free, so even if you are not sure your item is record worthy, bring it by anyway. We will be happy to rough score it." Information required at the time of drop off includes: - Hunter name. - Date of harvest. - Location of harvest, including big game unit, county and state. - Owner name, address, and telephone number. - Guide's name and address, if applicable. All items must be picked up by 5 p.m. March 22. For more information, please contact the Fish and Game Southeast Region office at 208-232-4703.
Winter winds are still gusting, and it's almost three months until anglers will be able to legally hook a fish. But when you're responsible for managing a world-class fishery like Henrys Lake, you can't afford to turn your back on things for even a minute. Idaho Department of Fish and Game assistant hatchery manager Damon Keen maintains a vigil over the lake and its scaly residents throughout the long, cold Island Park winter. Some of the same factors that have made Henrys Lake such a productive place for trophy trout can also lead to major problems when a variety of negative factors coincide. The lake is shallow, averaging only about 16 feet and full of aquatic vegetation. But when the lake freezes over and sunlight cannot penetrate, the vegetation can use up much of the dissolved oxygen in the water. This winter the ice was about 20 inches thick. "We start taking oxygen readings at the end of December and use an oxygen depletion model to forecast whether or not we will see low oxygen conditions," Keen said. "Due to the readings this winter, aeration was not deployed." Not only is this good news for the fish and the anglers, it's also good news for Fish and Game's wallet. Operating the aeration system can cost tens of thousands of dollars in electricity. Keen is also watching the behavior of the fish. "The fish ladder will be open for spawn take on March 1," he said. "March is the best time to see the fish in the fish ladder." Visitors to the facility can take advantage of large informational signs, posted outside near the fish ladder, that explain the hatchery operations. In addition to keeping an eye on oxygen in the lake, fishery biologists have been keeping their ears to the ice as well, or at least figuratively speaking. This year Fish and Game, in cooperation with the Henrys Lake Foundation, has outfitted 43 trout with radio tags to help track seasonal movements of the fish.
As more and more anglers enjoy steelhead fishing in the upper Clearwater River drainage, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds anglers to review the current steelhead fishing rules and respect private property. The past several weeks, Fish and Game has responded to reports of trespassing, property damage, litter and fishing in closed areas. "Knowing the current fishing regulations and respecting private property owners are a must," regional conservation officer Dave Cadwallader said. "Know before you go, be respectful of others, and always ask first before entering private land." Anglers are reminded that steelhead fishing is closed on the Clearwater River above Clear Creek, at milepost 76 on Idaho State Highway 12. There is no spring catch-and-release season for steelhead above this boundary. "This boundary has been consistent for several years and should not be confused with the salmon fishing boundary, which can vary annually depending on the number of Chinook salmon returning each year," Cadwallader said. The Clearwater remains open above Clear Creek only for the winter stream season, which allows fishing for whitefish and catch-and-release of trout until March 31. This also includes the Lochsa River upstream to Wilderness Gateway Bridge, and the Selway River upstream to the Selway Falls cable car. The Lochsa and Selway rivers require artificial lures or flies and barbless hooks. Bait is not allowed. Nez Perce tribal members have treaty rights to fish for steelhead above the Clear Creek boundary. "If you see someone steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River above Clear Creek, do not assume that you can too," Cadwallader said. The 2006-2007 fishing rules brochures are available at all Fish and Game regional offices and more than 400 license vendors statewide. Steelhead anglers also may visit Fish and Game's Website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov for season rules and limits.
Six conservation and education programs throughout Idaho were awarded 2006 Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation project funding at the January 2007 board meeting. Funding for the selected projects totals more than $20,000. Among the selected projects, the Four Mile Creek riparian restoration-with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Southwest Region volunteer program-received $2,000 to help improve the salmon and steelhead habitat along rivers and streams in the Little Salmon River watershed by planting 800 native shrubs and trees along a one-quarter- to one-third-mile stretch of Four Mile Creek. "All of the projects funded this year are in keeping with the foundation's mission to sustain our state's incredible outdoor legacy for future generations," Foundation Executive Director Gayle Valentine said. "They emphasize conservation education and that's a message we carry to every corner of Idaho." Other projects funded through the 2006 IFWF funding awards are: - Lower Teton River corridor wildlife habitat restoration-$5,000 to the Teton Region Land Trust to establish better nesting and brood-rearing habitat on the Lundquist conservation property in Teton Valley to help breeding wetland birds. - Trail Creek stream bank restoration-$2,500 to the Friends of the Teton River to help stabilize and maintain a channel for passage of Yellowstone cutthroat, plant vegetation and install erosion control along the banks. - Trail of Coeur d'Alene interpretive signs-$3,375 to the Fish and Game Panhandle Region for a series of interpretive signs to help more than 100,000 annual trail users identify and understand area wildlife. - Tommy Robinson Pond restoration-$5,000 to the Upper Clearwater Community Foundation to help re-establish the pond as a public fishery and wildlife habitat, including a permanent restroom, parking lot, picnic area, interpretive signage, fishing docks and paved handicapped pathways.
Scott Turner thinks family ties could get a little stronger by learning to tie flies, and Turner, a local fly-tying enthusiast, will be teaching parents and their children this fun family activity at an upcoming class in Salmon. The Family Fun Fly-Tying class is open to children age 8 - 16 accompanied by at least one parent or guardian. Fly-tying activities will run over four evenings from 6:30 to 9 p.m. starting Tuesday, March 27. The class will continue on March 29, April 3, and April 5. Registration is $5 per family, and classes will be at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game office, 99 Highway 93 North in Salmon. "This is a beginner's class," Turner said. "We'll cover fly-tying basics and use some easy patterns that actually catch fish around here." Fly-tying kits will be provided, but participants can bring their own equipment. All materials, including a study guide book, will be provided. After completing the four sessions, children and parents should each have about a dozen personally tied flies. They may also be the winner of one of two fly boxes donated by Silver Spur Sports and 93 Outdoor Sports. Better yet, families will have had fun together. "Not to mention that they'll be ready to go fishing," Turner said, with a smile. The Family Fun Fly-Tying class is limited to a total of 16 participants. Parents may register their family at the Fish and Game office. For more information, please call Bonnie Jakubos, regional conservation educator, at 756-2271.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to set seasons for deer, elk, antelope, black bear and mountain lion during its Boise meeting, March 7-9, at Fish and Game headquarters, 600 S. Walnut. The three-day meeting kicks off with a public comment period at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, in the Trophy Room at Fish and Game headquarters. Thursday they'll tackle the outfitter controlled tag allocation issue to accommodate legislative rejection of the previous rule, and proposed changes to big game seasons and rules. The first item they'll tackle Friday will be the proposed Yellowstone cutthroat trout management plan, followed by action on the proposed 2007-2012 Fish Management Plan for the state. They also will consider four land acquisitions in northern Idaho and wind up the meeting with an update on wolf management. For agenda details see Fish and Game's Website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/about/commission/. Times on the agenda are approximate and subject to change.
By Rick Carlson-Idaho Department of Fish and Game With winter starting to loosen its icy grip, it's time for spring steelhead fishing. Hardy anglers will brave unpredictable weather-often standing shoulder to shoulder-in search of the elusive steelhead. Everyone has his or her favorite lure, bait or technique. Even avid anglers, however, may forget some of the following tips for legal and enjoyable steelhead fishing:
- To fish for steelhead, anglers must have a valid fishing license and steelhead card, available at Idaho Department of Fish and Game offices or license vendors.
- The person who hooks the steelhead must card the steelhead. If a fish is hooked and the rod passed to another to land, the fish must still be counted on the limit of the person who hooked it. Fish that are released immediately and unharmed back into the water do not need to be carded.
- Once a steelhead is landed and reduced to possession it must be carded immediately. Remove one numbered notch from the permit and write the date and river section in the appropriate places.
- Barbs must be pinched on each hook.
- Steelhead with an adipose fin must be released immediately. Some hatchery raised steelhead still have their adipose fin, but they still must be released immediately and unharmed back into the water.
- Steelhead that are not hooked in either the mouth or jaw must be released immediately.
- Remember: pack it in, pack it out. Leave the river banks better than you found them.
Mule deer in the Magic Valley are getting a helping hand, and anyone can be part of that effort. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game invites area residents to join them in planting bitterbrush on mule deer winter range throughout the region. The project is part of the department's Mule Deer Initiative, a statewide effort to improve habitat and boost deer populations. "Bitterbrush is a preferred food source where it occurs on winter range," said Mark Fleming, regional wildlife habitat manager. "Fire has impacted much of our deer habitat. By planting seedlings, we're giving these areas a head start. Without our intervention, it could take a generation before we see bitterbrush begin to thrive again." The department officials say volunteers are a key component in efforts to preserve fish and wildlife for future generations. "When a person works on the landscape, they've made an investment in that landscape," said Ed Papenberg, Fish and Game volunteer coordinator. "People tend to protect their investments. We're planting seedlings, but we're also cultivating a community which values its natural resources. "Besides, it's just plain fun," Papenberg said. "You get to spend time in beautiful country, and we provide a hot lunch to boot." Each planting effort runs from about 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Planting will take place at various sites from Carey to the South Hills on Saturdays from March 24 through April 14. Volunteers need to prepare for any weather, wear sturdy shoes, gloves, and work clothes. For more information or sign up to volunteer, call Ed Papenberg at 324-4359.
Idaho has lots of varied terrain, including forests, wetlands and deserts. But what makes these places different? And how do those differences affect the animals and plants that use them? On Tuesday, March 20th, Idaho's school children can ask experts those very questions on Idaho Public Television's Dialogue for Kids. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the federal Bureau of Land Management are cooperating with Idaho Public Television on a series of science shows that air at 2 p.m. Mountain Standard Time and 1 p.m. Pacific Time the third Tuesday of every month. It's a call-in format featuring scientists-in this case biologists from Fish and Game-who will answer students' questions live on the air. But the live television show Dialogue for Kids is just part of the package. There is another component to the project. Teachers and students can find activities and lesson plans on the Internet to prepare for the show at http://idptv.state.id.us/dialogue4kids/. In addition, they can log on to past shows and watch them on the web. Wolves will be the featured topic on Tuesday, April 17. Biologists Michael Lucid and Jason Husseman will discuss how they trap and radio collar wolves and why they keep track of Idaho's wolf packs.