With many upland game bird seasons opening soon, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is asking hunters to donate a fully feathered wing for each bird they harvest.
Because juvenile and adult birds molt their wing feathers differently, biologists can use this information to estimate chick production that year.
Hunters can provide their wings to Fish and Game in a variety of ways, one being by mail. Close to 3,000 hunters who hold a Sage/sharp-tailed grouse permit will receive a packet in the mail with specific directions and a pre-paid return envelope. Hunters, who did not receive a mail-wing envelope, can still participate by contacting their nearest Fish and Game office.
Hunters can also drop their wings off at department-run check stations or in "wing barrels" located at popular access routes throughout the hunting season. Unfortunately, check stations and wing barrels sometimes miss grouse hunters in more remote areas of the state. The mail-in wing program targets those hunters that may not pass by a check station or wing barrel.
For sage-grouse, the story biologists can read in a wing is even more detailed. By examining the shape, condition, length and color patterns on wing feathers, biologists can determine the bird's sex and whether it was an adult or juvenile. If the bird was an adult female, biologists can even tell if she successfully produced chicks that year. This information helps Fish and Game understand population trends and improves management of the species.
For sharp-tailed grouse hunters that receive wing envelopes or encounter a wing barrel and kiosk at their favorite hunting site, Fish and Game also wants to know where the bird was harvested, date of harvest, days hunted, and number of hunters if hunting in a group.
The forest grouse hunting season is already open. California quail, chukar and gray partridge hunting opens Saturday, September 16. The sage-grouse season also opens on September 16, but is only open for seven days and some parts of the state are closed to hunting sage-grouse. Sharp-tailed grouse hunting starts October 1. See Fish and Game's upland game rules booklet for details, or go online to https://idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland.