Press Release

July 2008

Waterfowl and Sage-grouse Seasons Proposed

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, during a regular meeting Thursday, July 24, in Post Falls, heard recommended waterfowl and sage-grouse seasons for 2008.

It's been a dry year in the prairies, and that will affect some waterfowl seasons, Fish and Game biologist Tom Hemker told commissioners.

Overall the Canada goose population continues to be strong and Fish and Game is proposing no change in the goose seasons from last year with a 107-day season. It is expected to run from October 4 through January 16, 2009, in northern and eastern Idaho and the Fort Hall Reservation; and to run from October 11 through January 23, 2009, in the southwestern part of the state.

The bag limit would be four geese.

Some changes are expected in the duck seasons. For most ducks, the season will be 107 days, running from October 4 through January 16, 2009, in northern and eastern Idaho and the Fort Hall Reservation; and from October 11 through January 23, 2009, in the southwestern part of the state.

The bag limit would be seven ducks.

For scaup, a shorter season will be required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when a final decisions are made on August 1. The 2008 season will be closed for canvasbacks.

The proposed youth waterfowl season is September 27 and 28.

The federal endangered species status review, West Nile virus and the 2007 Murphy fire all cast their shadows over the sage-grouse season.

After discussion with Idaho's 11 sage-grouse local working groups, Fish and Game recommended no change from 2007 to the season in southwestern Owyhee County for a 23-day season with a bag limit of two birds. The recommendation for northwestern Owyhee County is a seven-day season with a limit of one bird is recommended. The eastern part of the county would be closed.

In the Magic Valley, a seven-day season with a limit of one bird is recommended.

Wolf Concerns Aired

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission got an earful on the wolf issue during the public comment period of its meeting Wednesday evening July 23 in Post Falls.

Many people expressed their concern to commissioners that wolves in Idaho were returned to endangered species protection by the federal district court in Montana on July 18. People attending the open public meeting expressed concerns about the effects of wolf predation on game species and the loss of hunting dogs - some accused Fish and Game of lying about hunting seasons.

The federal court injunction issued July 18 put Idaho's planned wolf hunting season on hold and returned management authority to the federal government under the 10(j) section of the Endangered Species Act. The federal rules still allow livestock and property owners to protect their private property from attacking wolves under some circumstances.

Meanwhile, Idaho state officials are considering the state's legal options. Commissioners met in a closed session with attorneys to discuss those options.

The injunction elicited passionate responses, but it is not a final determination, deputy attorney general Clive Strong told commissioners following the closed session. Strong is the chief of the natural resource division of the attorney general's office.

"This is not the end of the road," Strong said. The injunction means only that the judge thinks the plaintiff is likely to prevail at trial. But it's premature to conclude that the injunction predicts the final outcome.

State and federal officials will have an opportunity to present to the court the adequacy of delisting and wolf management plans.

The court's injunction put the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's delisting on hold until a full hearing on the merits of the case. But the judge found Idaho's wolf management plan adequate, and he noted that Idaho Fish and Game has demonstrated the ability to manage wolves.

Fish and Game Commission Adopts New Rules

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, during a regular meeting Thursday, July 24, in Post Falls, adopted rules that will affect hunting equipment, handling of game meat and bear baiting.

The commissioners adopted five nonbiological hunting rules that:

  • Eliminate evidence-of-sex requirement for meat being transported from a commercial meat processor.
  • Allow disabled archery hunters to use crossbows with nonmagnifying scopes having battery powered or tritium lighted reticles during archery-only hunting seasons.
  • Allow visually impaired hunters to use nonmagnifying scopes during muzzleloader-only hunts. This change allows a small percentage of people whose eyesight cannot be corrected by glasses to participate in primitive weapons hunts.
  • Allow holders of senior combination and disabled combination licenses to apply for, and participate in, over-the-counter leftover permits after the second drawing for youth-only deer and elk controlled hunts.
  • Include bait containers in the current commission rules on black bear bait placement.

Nonbiological rules include equipment restrictions, controlled hunt application and eligibility requirements, possession requirements and motorized vehicle use restrictions. They do not include seasons, bag limits, size limits, sex restrictions, or species restrictions.

These rules take effect for the 2009 hunting seasons if approved by the Legislature.

Revenue Increase Sought, Steelhead Season Forecast

Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners approved a proposed 20 percent revenue increase and several legislative proposals, and they heard a forecast for the steelhead season and proposed white sturgeon management plan.

The prospect for a steelhead season is nearly the same as last year, fisheries bureau chief Ed Schriever reported to the commissioners.

The forecast return to Idaho this year is for about 144,000 hatchery and wild fish - only a little less than 2007, which saw a return of just over 153,000. Of the fish returning this year, about 123,000 are hatchery fish.

Chinook season this year was "some of the best salmon fishing we've had in Idaho," for the parts of the river open, Schriever told commissioner. The statewide average was 13.3 hours per fish kept.

Sockeye also are making news this year. More than 800 sockeye have crossed Lower Granite Dam, the last of eight federal dams the fish must pass on their way back to Idaho. An estimated 25 percent of those are jacks, Schriever said.

Fishery officials attribute the increase this year to good production, migration conditions and ocean conditions, he said.

The number of sockeye that make it to the Stanley Basin depends on stream flows and water temperatures. This year the stream flow is good and temperatures are low, meaning more fish than average are expected to return to reach the Sawtooth Valley.

The Fish and Game Commission approved releasing a proposed white sturgeon management plan for public review and comment.

The white sturgeon is the largest freshwater fish in North America, reaching lengths of 15 feet and living up to 100 years. They once inhabited the Snake River up to Shoshone Falls, fishery biologist Scott Grunder told commissioners.

Repeat Poacher Sentenced

By Evin Oneale, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Less than a month after his hunting privileges were reinstated following a previous poaching conviction, a Boise County man poached again.

And this time, it really cost him.

Gregory Wayne Powell, 44, of Horseshoe Bend, recently was sentenced in Boise County Court in Idaho City on felony elk poaching charges stemming from a December 2007 incident.

Powell, initially charged with unlawful possession and waste of two cow elk, trespassing, and using the elk tag of another, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of possession of two or more big game animals within a 12 month period.

In December 2007, Powell trespassed onto private land, shot and killed two cow elk. He left both animals where they fell, returning under the cover of darkness to field dress both animals partially. Powell hauled the carcasses to his residence in a horse trailer. He left both animals in the trailer until mid-afternoon the following day, by which time the meat had spoiled. Powell placed a friend's elk tag on one of the illegal animals.

When initially contacted, Powell denied any wrongdoing, concocting the story that he and the friend killed the elk somewhere else. DNA evidence sealed the case against Powell.

During sentencing, Fish and Game conservation officer Rob Brazie testified about Powell's eerily similar 2004 poaching conviction.

In 2004, Powell was convicted of killing a five-point bull elk several weeks before the season opened. He left the elk on the hill and later sneaked the animal out under cover of darkness. Left in a horse trailer for most of the following day, the unskinned elk spoiled.

When officers arrived to investigate, Powell convinced a friend to claim the elk as his own. Powell was charged with possession of a closed season elk, waste of an elk and using the elk tag of another. His hunting license was suspended for three years.

Ask Fish and Game: Duck Stamps

Q. Where can I get a federal duck stamp for this fall?

A. Duck stamps are no longer available directly from Fish and Game. They are available at U.S. post offices, and they can be ordered by buying a receipt good for 45 days from Fish and Game offices, license vendors or on the Internet at: https://id.outdoorcentral.us/.

Anyone 16 or older who hunts migratory game birds, such as ducks, geese or brant, must have a valid Federal Migratory Bird Stamp in their possession and signed in ink by the holder. The stamp costs $15 and is in effect from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2009.

Ask the Conservation Officer (CO)

by Gary Hompland, Regional Conservation Officer

This is the second article in a series about the history of the conservation movement in the Magic Valley and the activities of the Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association. This article is a continuation about the history of the Rock Creek fish hatchery as described in a brochure entitled "Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association: History" produced by Lorayne O. Smith with the assistance of Les Hazen, Don Zuck, and Larry Drexler.

In the last article I discussed Walt Priebe, the "grand old man of wildlife conservation" in southern Idaho. Walter Priebe was instrumental in developing water sources for the Rock Creek hatchery from tunnels constructed by the Twin Falls Canal Co. to drain irrigation seepage from farm land south of Twin Falls. This water provided the life blood for the beginning of the Rock Creek hatchery.

During the same time Walt Priebe and the Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association was working on the Rock Creek hatchery, another group calling themselves the "B Club of Sportsmen," was forming and headed by Lud Drexler. After a series of meetings about similar goals the two organizations merged into the Southern Idaho Fish and Game Association.

Walter Priebe was quite concerned about adequate fishing opportunity in the new community around Twin Falls and began raising fish to help meet those needs. The Rock Creek hatchery began raising fish in washtubs. The hatchery expanded to dirt ponds and then to cement raceways. Walter Priebe would volunteer four hours each Sunday cleaning ponds. Despite his lack of formal aquaculture training fish flourished and were soon planted in area waters to enhance public fishing.

Hunter Education Classes Offered in Challis and Salmon

Aspiring hunters can sign up for an August Hunter Education class in Challis or a September class in Salmon.

Students can register on-line at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov if they use a credit card to pay the $8 class fee. Debit cards, cash, and checks can be used when registering a student at the Idaho Fish and Game office. Students who register the first night of class will be required to pay by cash or check that evening.

The Challis Hunter Education class will meet from 6 to 9 p.m., starting Monday, August 18, at the Land of the Yankee Fork. The class will continue on the evenings of August 19, 21, 25, 26 and 28.

The field exercise will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, August 30.

This will be the last Hunter Education class in Challis before hunting season. Contact Dan Smith at 833-5244 for more information.

The Salmon Hunter Education class will be from 6 to 9 p.m. September 3, 4, 10 and 11, and from 1 to 4 p.m. September 12. The class will meet at the Fish and Game regional office at 99 Highway 93 North.

On-line and workbook independent study classes are also available. Students who complete an independent study Hunter Education course are required to attend a Field Day. Field Days include about three hours of classroom time, a test, and a shooting range field exercise.

Field Days have been scheduled in Salmon on July 26 and August 16. There will also be a Field Day in Challis on August 15. Bowhunter Education students who have completed the on-line course may also attend any of these Field Days.

Anyone who would like more information about upcoming Hunter and Bowhunter Education classes, may contact Bonnie Jakubos at 756-2271 or go to the Idaho Fish and Game website.

Salmon Fishing Closed for the Season

Salmon fishing in Idaho closed for the year at the end of the day Thursday, July 17.

Jeff Thomasen had been fishing from the rocks at Sunbeam Dam since fishing opened on the last day of the first season in 30 years on the Upper Salmon River. He and his fishing buddy Mike Nelson hauled in two jacks and a nice female Chinook. Nelson also hooked a wild fish, and they let it go.

"It's a big damn deal," Thomasen said. His parents bought the Sunbeam store in the 1950s, and he grew up fishing at the dam. But with the demise of salmon fishing they sold the store and it has since closed.

Thomasen hasn't stopped fishing there. He would like to see a salmon fishing season every year - even if it has to be done on a lottery basis, such as controlled hunts for elk or bighorn sheep. It would give a boost to the local economy, he said.

"Salmon fishing, there's nothing like it," Nelson said.

Like a lot of other anglers fishing on the Upper Salmon, the two look forward with hope to another season on the Upper Salmon River next year.

Statewide, anglers caught and kept 10,062 adult and 4,078 jack Chinook this year. They caught 2,412 adults and jacks last year.

Spring and summer Chinook salmon counted at Lower Granite Dam in southeastern Washington through July 15 totaled:

  • 70,799 adults and 15,726 jacks in 2008
  • 28,619 adults and 11,630 jacks in 2007
  • 27,958 adults and 1,456 jacks in 2006
  • 33,141 adults and 2,108 jacks in 2005

The 10-year average by July 15 is 59,054 adults and 6,145 jacks at Lower Granite. Jacks are fish that return from the ocean after only one year.

Though not always an accurate forecast, the jack count is a good indictor of a large return of adults in the following year. The high jack count this year bodes well for next year's salmon season.

Idaho Bighorn Lottery Drawing

Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen and Lt. Gov. Jim Risch will be on hand to draw the winning ticket in Idaho's special bighorn sheep drawing permit at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, at Idaho Fish and Game headquarters in Boise.

The drawing is run by the Idaho Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and other hunters.

Hunters pay as little as $10 for a ticket to enter the annual drawing for a permit to hunt bighorn sheep. Permits for bighorn sheep are among the most desirable in Idaho. Another tag will be auctioned at the foundation's annual convention next February.

The special lottery tag allows the winner to hunt in any open bighorn sheep hunting area in Idaho during established seasons. Money raised by the permit drawing supports Idaho's Wildlife Health Laboratory in Caldwell.

"This permit has raised $650,000 to support the Wildlife Health Laboratory since this program was begun in 1992" said Dale Toweill, trophy species coordinator for Idaho Fish and Game and the supervisor for the Wildlife Health Laboratory. "This is a shining example of how sportsmen raise funds to give something back to all citizens of Idaho, hunters or not. These funds allow wildlife veterinarians to work with the Department of Agriculture on topics of concern to both the wildlife community and livestock interests, providing direct and indirect benefits to all Idahoans."

The lab investigates tests for wildlife diseases, such as brucellosis, chronic wasting disease, West Nile virus and other pathogens of concern to hunters and the livestock industry.

The tags are released by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. The foundation is allowed to keep up to 25 percent of the money raised to pay for expenses, such as marketing the lottery and paying for the tag and a hunting license for the winner.

Commissioners to Meet in Post Falls

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet in the conference room in the Cabela's store in Post Falls July 23 and 24.

The two-day meeting will start with a field trip to the Pend Oreille Wildlife Management Area and the Pack River Delta on Wednesday, July 23.

A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in Cabela's Conference Room, 101 N. Cabela Way, Post Falls.

In the morning of July 24, commissioners will consider rules allowing a disabled applicant to self-certify that they are capable of holding, or holding and firing, without assistance from other persons, legal hunting and fishing equipment.

Commissioners also will consider a Fisheries Bureau request for a 30-day public comment period on a draft white sturgeon management plan, and they will consider the release of auction and lottery bighorn sheep tags for 2009 to be marketed by the Wild Sheep Foundation.

They also will hear an update on the Chinook salmon fishery.

After lunch, commissioners will consider rules for vendors and lifetime licenses, and they will hear an overview of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board. Next they will take up five proposed nonbiological rule changes.

Nonbiological rules include equipment restrictions, controlled hunt application and eligibility requirements, possession requirements and motorized vehicle use restrictions. They do not include seasons, bag limits, size limits, sex restrictions, or species restrictions.

The proposed changes are posted on the Fish and Game Website - http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/public.

Other items on the commission agenda include a review of the 2008 status of Idaho's duck, goose and sage-grouse populations as well as Department proposals for 2008 seasons. Commissioners also will consider the expenditure of Animal Damage Control funds, legislative proposals, and an update on the Farragut shooting range.

Ask Fish and Game: Hunter Education Classes

Q. How can I get my kid into a hunter ed class in time for hunting seasons this fall?

A. Idaho hunter education and bowhunter education are offered in all parts of the state, but availability varies by region. To find out when classes are offered, check the Idaho Fish and Game Website, click on the bar labeled "Hunter and Bowhunter Education" below the picture in the center of the page. Then click on the bar labeled "Register/View Courses Here" below the map. Scroll down and pick the course and then select the nearest town from the list provided to find out what's available.