At their recent meeting in Boise, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission set waterfowl seasons for 2000 - 01, and established a two day Youth Waterfowl Hunt for September 23 and 24. This season's arrangement will maximize the number of weekend days for hunting, and extend the closing date to the latest possible allowed under the federal framework.
Duck season will open on October 7 and run through October 18; there will then be a two-day split (closed season) to accommodate the youth hunting days. Seasons will reopen on October 21 and run through January 21, 2001. This gives waterfowlers a 93-day season after the 2-day break in October.
Goose season will run from October 7 through the 18th with ducks, but then does not reopen until October 28. The final day of goose hunting will also be January 21, 2001. There will be no change this season in the Mini-Cassia goose closure area.
The Commission decided to allow outfitted turkey hunts in a limited fashion. Outfitters will be permitted to outfit and guide for wild turkeys (an upland game bird) on deeded ground owned by them. This will be for an experimental period, but no set length was established.
On other upland game bird notes, hunters are preparing to go into the field on Friday, September 1, for the opener of forest grouse and dove season across the state. Dove season dates, bag and possession limits, and all other pertinent information about doves are included in the Idaho 2000 and 2001 Upland Game Seasons brochure this year.
Dove hunters need a plugged shotgun and the federal migratory game bird harvest information program (federal HIP) validation for $1.50. All hunters of migratory birds (dove, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes) are required to have this. This puts all licensed hunters into a sampling system and allows a standardized harvest survey to be used nationwide. The information collected lets migratory game bird managers more accurately estimate the annual harvest to gain a better understanding of bird populations.
In Idaho, a similar validation is required this year for anyone hunting sage grouse or sharp-tailed grouse. This $1.50 permit will also put those hunters into a database that will be surveyed after the seasons. Sharp-tailed grouse have been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Populations of sage grouse are declining throughout the West and could be considered for listing also. Because of budget cutbacks, there has not been a systematic and statewide telephone survey of upland bird hunters since 1996. The only information we have been able to obtain comes from check stations and wing barrels.
The Fish and Game Department will contact hunters after the seasons to determine their harvest success, where they hunted, and other valuable information. This data could help us in keeping these species off the endangered species list and keep hunting seasons open.
To help hunters find parcels of public land for upland bird hunting, there is a new map available from Fish and Game (IDFG), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). The map is titled South Central Idaho Wildlife Tracts; it shows the locations of the many pieces of BLM and USBR land managed for wildlife and public hunting access in the Magic Valley Region.