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In The Field

Hunting seasons are upon us and this is a good time for hunters to take some time to review this year's regulations. While the seasons are all similar to last year, a few changes are important to note. I will highlight a few changes here. The Unit 1 rifle hunt for deer has a very significant change this season. Whitetail and mule deer bucks are both legal game. However, only whitetail does may be taken, mule deer does are now protected from harvest during the rifle season. Sportsmen in Boundary and Bonner counties had expressed concern about mule deer populations for several years. Sportsman's clubs circulated petitions and asked the Commission to close the area to mule deer doe harvest. The Commission considered the petitions circulated in the far northern counties of the state, and agreed to closing mule deer doe harvest by rifle hunters. I have personally seen whitetails and mule deer standing together in a single group in Unit 1. While it is not difficult to determine species among bucks, does present greater difficulty unless the deer are spooked. Frightened whitetails often exhibit their characteristic, name-sake raised white tail flags when they run. Because it is not logical to spook the deer to identify them, hunters must pay close attention to other details. Whitetails have a tell-tale white circle around their eyes, and smaller ears than their mule deer relatives. Whitetails normally have a white bib which runs all the way across the base of the neck, whereas mule deer tend to have a white goatee under their chins. Both have some black on the visible side of the tail. My recommendation is to shoot a buck if hunting in Unit 1 so you don't need to make the distinction! Two very popular rule changes this year include the elimination of the requirement for state waterfowl and upland game stamps. These are now included in the hunting license. Hunters 16 years of age or older are again required to have a signed federal duck stamp, available at post offices. All hunters of migratory birds, regardless of age, are required to have a validation for the Federal Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program available at any license vendor. The validation costs $1.50, and enables the federal government to conduct bird harvest surveys to estimate annual harvests of waterfowl, shore birds, and doves to gain a better understanding of bird populations. Saturday, September 23 and Sunday Sept 24 are Youth Waterfowl Days. These two days are set aside to allow young hunters 12-15 to hunt ducks and geese. The regular season limit of seven ducks and four geese is in effect. This is a great opportunity for youngsters to learn how to waterfowl hunt, with a high likelihood of taking home dinner.