Despite months of drought and weeks of fire, the fall hunting season is shaping up to be a great one, regardless of the game you plan to pursue. Here's a rundown of this year's hunting predictions in Southwest Idaho by Fish and Game Wildlife Manager Lou Nelson:
Deer - Fawn survival was excellent in the Boise River drainage (unit 39) this year - 88 percent compared with the average of 44 percent. Nelson predicts good hunting for mule deer in the Boise and Payette River drainages. In the Weiser River and Brownlee areas, deer populations are doing very well, but the number of bucks will not be as high as in past years. A shortened deer season in these areas will help improve future buck numbers.
The two-point buck hunt in Owyhee County (units 40, 41 and 42) should be good again this year. This mule deer population has slowly increased since 1993. That factor, in combination with good fawn survival last winter, should translate into plenty of yearling, two-point bucks to pursue this fall.
Elk - Herds are in good shape throughout Idaho's Southwest Region. With last fall's dry (and noisy) conditions, many hunters experienced difficulty finding elk. This year appears to be similar and that could mean low success rates again this fall. However, if moisture arrives in October, elk harvest should be better.
Bull harvest in the Boise River Zone (unit 39) has exceeded production for the last several years, so hunters will have a tougher time finding a mature bull. Remember, there is no A-tag rifle hunt in this zone! Fish and Game is looking at ways to reduce bull harvest in the Boise River Zone. If you hunt this area, your input is needed to help develop workable management options. Give Lou Nelson a call at 465-8465 to find out more.
The Weiser River Zone's (units 22, 32, 32A) very productive elk herd should translate into a good hunting season. Remember the season opens later in this zone (October 25) and there is no A-tag rifle hunt. The Sawtooth Zone (units 33, 34, 35, 36) elk herd is doing equally well which bodes well for November's A-tag muzzleloader antlerless hunt in this zone.
Chukar - Brownlee Reservoir area surveys indicate a 23 percent increase in chukar numbers over last year. Other areas have shown similar improvements. Hunting for chukars and gray partridge should continue to be great throughout the fall.
Quail - Consistent spring weather resulted in great quail chick survival. As a result, quail populations are doing very well again this year. Hunters are finding good numbers of birds so far. This should continue until season's end.
Blue Grouse - Blue grouse numbers are way up, with more wings turned in at Fish and Game wing barrels on this year's opening weekend than all of last season. Most of the region's open forest ridges will hold blue grouse until the snow flies.
Ring-necked Pheasant - Like all upland game birds, quality habitat remains the key to good pheasant numbers. Conditions this fall are very similar to last year. Hunters pursuing their quarry in good pheasant habitat areas should find reasonable numbers of pheasants.
Ducks - Duck numbers in the Pacific Flyway remain at near record high numbers. Hunter success will hinge on weather conditions to concentrate birds. A split season will allow waterfowlers to pursue their quarry until late January.
Geese - Both resident and migratory Canada goose numbers are very high this year. The goose season opens with the duck season and runs late into January, a design that will give hunters a better chance to bag geese.
So there you have it. Have a fun, safe hunting season!