Comments Sought in Outfitting for Turkeys
Idaho's wild turkey population and hunting opportunity have increased greatly over the past decade. Tag sales increased from 1,333 in 1989 to 16,781 in 1999. The Idaho turkey harvest increased from 228 to 5,458 during that period.
While turkey hunting is not particularly technical in nature, some hunters have expressed an interest in hiring an outfitter to take them turkey hunting as an enhancement to their spring or fall turkey hunting experience. To date, no licenses have been issued in Idaho to outfitters which would allow guided turkey hunting trips. The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA), a statewide organization, supports the addition of licensed guided turkey hunting as an opportunity to diversify their operations.
Historically, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has been opposed to outfitting for upland game birds and waterfowl because of the potential loss of access to private property for non guided bird hunters. Turkeys have been classified as game birds since their introduction into the state in 1961, and turkey hunts have never been eligible for outfitting.
Members of the IOGA would like to see guided hunts become available to those who wish to employ the services of a professional guide.. Some hunters have indicated they would like to enlist the services of an outfitter for turkey hunting if such services were available. Other hunters have expressed a concern they may lose access to private property because private leases for hunting access would exclude them.
Biologists with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game do not view outfitted turkey hunts as a potential biological problem at current turkey population levels. The question is the social issue of how outfitting may or may not impact access to private property. The impacts are to date unknown.
In March, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission appointed a task force to evaluate the possibility of allowing some form of outfitting for turkey hunting in Idaho. The task force was comprised of four turkey hunters, two outfitters, two IDFG staff members, the IOGA Executive Director, and the Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board Director. The task force came up with four proposed options. These include: (A.) No outfitting for turkey hunting. (B.) No outfitting for turkey hunting except licensed outfitters on their own deeded ground. (C.) Up to 25 existing outfitters licensed to guide turkey hunters on private and public land for a test period of three years. (D.) Unlimited (w/license) outfitting for turkey hunting.