Press Release

December 2007

Fish and Game seeks bids for 2008 Access Yes! program

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is looking for landowners interested in providing access for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities in the Magic Valley Region.

Access Yes! is in its fifth year and continues to gain popularity with landowners and hunters and anglers. The program compensates private landowners who provide public access to or through their property.

"Compensation can come in the form of direct monetary payments, habitat improvement projects, and access development projects, but other types of compensation or assistance are considered," said Brad Lowe, landowner-sportsmen coordinator for Idaho Fish and Game. "The program also provides signs to landowners to help inform the public about access conditions or permission requirements."

The program operates on a competitive bid process. Bids are reviewed by a local Sportsman's Review Committee, which recommends properties for funding based on criteria such as diversity of use, the number of acres, hunting opportunities available, and bid price. The number of properties enrolled is limited by the availability of program funds.

"Landowners do not give up control of their land," Lowe said. "The program is designed to allow landowners to stipulate access conditions, such as foot, horse or vehicle access, and manage the types of activities that sportsmen can participate in on their property. We can design any type of program the landowner wants. Annual contracts are the most common, but multi-year bids are welcomed."

In 2007, Idaho Fish and Game enrolled a total of 43 landowners in Access Yes! in the Magic Valley Region, providing public access to 193,550 private acres at an average cost of $1.09 per acre. These properties also provided access to 351,810 acres of public land. Enrollment this year was up from 37 landowners and 183,000 acres in 2006.

Commission to Consider Muzzleloader Rules

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is expected to take up a proposed change to muzzleloader rules at its annual meeting January 16 - 18 in Boise.

The proposed change would allow the use of some inline weapons during muzzleloader-only seasons.

In January 2007, the commission adopted new equipment rules for muzzleloader-only hunts. The most controversial change was the requirement for a pivoting hammer, functionally prohibiting the use of many inline muzzleloaders in muzzleloader-only hunts.

Additionally, the pivoting hammer requirement has been confusing to many hunters, generating numerous requests to Fish and Game to clarify whether individual muzzleloaders are legal to use.

Inline muzzleloaders have no ballistic or overall range advantage over "side-lock" muzzleloaders.

The annual meeting kicks off with a public comment period at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 16.

Commissioners are expected to consider nonbiological rules for all big game animals, September seasons for goose and sandhill crane; rules for wild turkey; and rules for doves, upland game and animals, falconry and furbearers.

Bighorn Working Group to Meet Again in January

On October 12, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter asked the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to assemble a working group to develop a statewide policy addressing issues of domestic sheep and bighorn sheep in Idaho.

To start discussions, the two agencies invited the following list of agencies and groups to participate in the working group. Representatives of those agencies, who spoke at the group's first meeting December 3, included:

  • Kurt Houston of the Idaho Department of Lands.
  • Nate Fisher of the Idaho Office of Species Conservation.
  • Tom Rinkes of the Idaho office U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho.
  • Pete Grinde of the Payette National Forest, U.S.D.A. Forest Service - Intermountain Region.
  • Stan Boyd of the Idaho Wool Growers Association.
  • Josh Tewalt of the Idaho Cattle Association.
  • Wally Butler of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
  • John Caywood of the Idaho chapter of Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.
  • Lloyd Oldenburg of the Idaho Sportsmen's Caucus Advisory Council.

Also attending the first meeting were Stephen Goodson of the governor's office; Chuck Middleton of the national Foundation for North American Wild Sheep; Cathy Bourner of the Idaho Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism; Vince Moreno of U.S. Rep. Bill Sali's office; and Dustin Miller of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig's office.

The group's co-chairmen are Brian J. Oakey, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, and Jim Unsworth, chief of Fish and Game's wildlife bureau.

"It is in the interest of everyone in this group to work toward decisions that maintain both Idaho's land-based economy and Idaho's natural resources," Unsworth said.

He encouraged everyone to attend the Bighorn Sheep Symposium in March, 2008.

No Penalty for Filing Harvest Reports Early

Why wait? File mandatory harvest reports now, save yourself some hassle and save Fish and Game expenses by filing early.

All deer, elk and antelope hunters must complete and submit a report for each tag issued within 10 days of harvest or within 10 days of the close of the season for which their tag was valid.

The easiest way is to submit the harvest report card online at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov, and click on the logo below the photo. Or go to https://www.idaho-hunt.com and use your hunting license number and the first four letters of your last name.

Submitting online is the surest way to have hunt information included and the only way to get confirmation that the report was received.

Reports also may be mailed to: Idaho Fish and Game, Hunter Harvest Reports, P.O. Box 70007, Boise, ID 83707-0107 or called in toll-free at 1-877-268-9365 or faxed to 775-423-0799.

Hunters will not be able to purchase a license the following year until the report is filed.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Want to find your outdoor enthusiast a gift that's always in style, never the wrong size or color, and useable every day of the year?

Go to any Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional office around the state and buy them a gift certificate for a 2008 hunting and fishing license. They make good stocking stuffers.

A gift certificate is the only way to buy hunting and fishing licenses for a resident age 18 and older for Christmas. Residents age 18 and over have to show proof of residency in person to buy a license. They can redeem the Idaho Fish and Game gift certificates in person at Fish and Game regional offices.

Several options and price ranges are available. Lifetime licenses cost from $276.75 to $1,113.00, depending on the age of the recipient. Seasonal licenses sell from $7.25 for junior hunting to $117.25 for the Sportsman's Package.

The Sportsman's Package includes hunting and fishing licenses, tags for deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, turkey, salmon and steelhead as well as archery and muzzleloader permits. That is nearly a $70 savings over buying each item separately.

If playing a game of chance is more your style, the Idaho Fish and Game also offers tickets for Super Hunt drawings for individual deer, elk, antelope or moose hunts, and Super Hunt Combos for deer, elk, antelope and moose. The money raised from the purchase of these tickets goes to the Access Yes! program. The tickets can be purchased at any license vendor.

Super Hunt tickets cost $6.25 each; $24.95 for six, and $49.95 for 13. Super Hunt Combo tickets cost $19.95 each; $99.95 for six, and $199.95 for 13.

The drawings for the all Super Hunts will be held in 2008.

For more information, or to purchase gift certificates, stop by any Fish and Game regional office or headquarters in Boise.

New Year Means New Rules For Ririe Reservoir

Ever since 1995, the winter fishery at Ririe Reservoir has been restricted to fishing through the ice only, but all that is about to change thanks to rules that take effect on January 1, 2008.

Often, anglers complain that Idaho Fish and Game never listens to them, but the recent streak of nearly iceless winters prompted Fish and Game to make a change. Starting with the New Year, Ririe Reservoir will be open to year-round fishing, as long as the water is free of ice.

"Historically, the fishery was in effect closed for much of the winter because there was no ice," Regional Fish Manager Jim Fredericks said. "With the new changes, if there's no ice anglers will still have the opportunity to fish."

As long as the water's open, angler can fish anywhere. Once it freezes, then it's back to the current regulations of only fishing through the ice within one mile of the dam. For the last dozen years, open water meant no fishing.

The special season was created to ensure anglers didn't compromise this important winter range.

"Because wintering wildlife does not appear to be impacted by angler in boats the same way that they are by anglers moving around on the ice by ATV or even foot, we were able to get these modifications approved," Fredericks said.

According to original agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, the area at the upper end of the reservoir is closed to protect critical winter habitat for deer and elk. In addition no snow machines or ATV's are allowed within a quarter-mile buffer zone around the entire reservoir.

To ensure angler safety, no snow machines are allowed on the frozen lake surface as well. The road that leads from State Highway 26 to the Juniper parking area is plowed to allow vehicle access. Anglers still need to walk or ski to their fishing spots once the reservoir freezes over.

Ask Fish and Game: Ice Fishing

Q. Is there enough ice for ice fishing yet anywhere?

A. Yes. Many reservoirs are now ice-covered. Some have enough for ice fishing.

Though all reservoirs but one in the Southeast Region have ice, they may not all be safe yet for ice fishing. Ice also is expected to be thick enough soon for ice fishing on Cascade Lake, Magic Reservoir and other high-elevation lakes and reservoirs in most regions of the state. Anglers must use their own discretion when deciding whether or not the ice is thick enough for ice fishing. Early season ice anglers should check ice before walking far from shore. Drill a hole and measure thickness. Four inches of solid ice - not mushy or porous - is generally considered safe.

Fish with a partner, take extra dry clothes and take a throw rope along just in case. Some experienced ice fishers suggest carrying a knife or other sharp instrument on a lanyard around the neck. It would give a person who has fallen through something to grip the ice to help pull themselves out, or at least something to hang onto as they await help.

Anglers also should pay attention to weather trends. If the weather warms up, ice may become less safe for fishing. And remember the reservoirs are filling through the winter, so be careful around the shoreline, as the ice is often thin on the edges. Check with local Fish and Game offices for updates on ice fishing.

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

Question: "I heard a couple of guys talking about pheasant hunting and observed some hen pheasants they had taken. Isn't it unlawful to kill hens?"

Answer: Generally you are correct, hen pheasants are protected. To hunt and kill wild hen pheasants would be a violation of Idaho law.

However, to be sure if there is a violation, several questions must be answered. These questions are focused on the origin of the birds and location they were harvested.

Idaho law allows entrepreneurs to develop a business on private property called a "shooting preserve." Shooting preserves are licensed by Fish and Game for the release pen-reared game birds such as, pheasant, quail, and chukars. Properly licensed hunters may hunt pen-reared game birds for a fee on these preserves.

Shooting preserves have liberal hunting seasons and state laws allow them to essentially set their own bag limits, including allowing harvest of hen pheasants. All pen-reared birds harvested from a shooting preserve must be marked. This can be with either a leg band, a healed toe clip performed when they were a chick, or a nasal scar showing the bird was raised in captivity with blinders in place to prevent parasitism.

I recommend all shooting preserve operators provide their clients with a receipt when they leave the preserve showing how many and what kind of birds were harvested. The shooting preserve is also required to keep detailed records of who hunted and the composition of each hunter's harvest. Hunters that kill a wild, unmarked bird on a shooting preserve must purchase an additional "wild bird band" from the Department.

Chlorine Leak Kills Fish in Grace Hatchery

About 200,000 young rainbow trout were killed Tuesday afternoon, December 11, at the Idaho Fish and Game hatchery in Grace when a chlorine pipe began to leak.

Hatchery manager Phil Coonts was disinfecting vats during routine cleanup, when a standpipe began leaking chlorine. The chlorine flowed into the large raceways at the hatchery where it came into contact with fingerlings and small trout.

Officials still are investigating the cause of the leak.

No dead fish were seen in the settling ponds or in Whiskey Creek near the southeast Idaho hatchery.

Fish and Game notified nearby landowners, the state Department of Environmental Quality, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency of the incident.

Hatchery personnel are cleaning up, and Fish and Game is looking at fish production at other hatcheries to determine whether other fish can be brought to Grace Hatchery.

"We will make every effort to ensure there are minimal impacts to the local fisheries which rely on the support of Grace Hatchery," said Tom Frew, resident hatcheries supervisor. "Standard hatchery practices were being followed before and at the time of the accident. We are investigating the techniques and equipment used to determine the exact cause of the chlorine leak."

Restoring Life to Squaw Butte

By Mary Dudley, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The 2006 fire season didn't make headlines like this year's, but it was no less significant in its impact.

In August 2006 alone, more than 60 square miles of wildlife habitat, on and around Squaw Butte north of Emmett, went up in smoke as a result of lightning strikes. The largest blaze - the Cherry fire - burned more than 60,000 acres from Squaw Butte north beyond Ola on both sides of Butte Ridge.

In the fire's aftermath, local volunteers responded, working with Fish and Game to collect seed, plant seedlings and donate time and money to the restoration effort.

Gina Thornton of Black Canyon Sporting Goods in Emmett helped publicize the need to restore bitterbrush and sagebrush to the burned areas to the local community. She collected donations to buy native shrub seedlings and organized volunteers to help collect sagebrush seed last November. She also helped organize volunteers to plant bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings on the burn in March 2007.

Squaw Butte and Willow Ridge are well known for providing critical big game winter range for thousands of deer and elk. The "Butte" as locals call the long north-south ridge from Squaw Butte to Mill Creek Summit, provides critical transition range for deer and elk during their fall migration from the higher forested mountains to the east to the lower slopes on the west side of the Butte and Willow Ridge.

Each spring, beginning in March, those same animals move back along the ridge to West Mountain and other mountains to the east for the summer. These age-old cycles of movement through transition, summer and winter ranges depend upon healthy native habitats.

Craig Mountain Gates Remain Closed Until More Snow

With the lack of snow on the Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Lewiston, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reminds winter recreationists that several access gates will remain closed until more snow accumulates.

The area opens annually to snowmobiles November 26. 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, not to restrict snowmobile use.

Snowmobilers are urged to use extreme caution. Because of the Chimney Complex wildfire, many trees are expected to fall in the next few years, and several new fences were built under power lines and several other areas to deter illegal off-road vehicle use. Salvage logging also will take place during the winter months so users are asked to be cautious of the increased traffic.

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 Region Fish and Game office in Lewiston at 208-799-5010 concerning snowmobiling on Craig Mountain.

Wolf Report: Escaped Wolf Killed

In early December an 80-pound escaped captive wolf was killed in remote southwestern Idaho, ending a week long search for the animal that killed at least one sheep and injured two others.

The captive wolf had bolted from its pen in Owyhee County near the Snake River on October 29. The female wolf was sighted west of Murphy several times since it escaped. It was seen attacking some sheep on November 22.

The Owyhee County sheriff on November 28, asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services for help. Wildlife Services confirmed that one ewe had been killed by a wolf-like canine, and two others had been injured.

Wildlife Services set traps and worked with the county sheriff and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to find the wolf. A kill permit had been issued because the wolf had killed livestock and eluded capture attempts.

Idaho has about 800 wild wolves, all protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The captive wolf, however, was not protected under the act.

Elsewhere in Idaho, Wildlife Services, the predator control arm of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspections Service, was busy in late November and early December.

On November 19, federal officials confirmed that wolves killed a calf on Boise National Forest land north of Sweet. But because the calf was a straggler that should have been off the national forest by the end of October, no control action was authorized.

On November 23, they confirmed that wolves killed a calf on private land northeast of New Meadows. Traps were set with the intention of capturing and removing two wolves. On November 29, an adult, gray male wolf was captured and killed.