By Evin Oneale, Regional Conservation Educator, Southwest Region. Just one of the major challenges faced by big game managers is how to meld the biological needs of the managed species with the social desires of those who enjoy pursuing that species each hunting season. In each case, a species' biological needs must remain first and foremost. After all, without healthy herds, hunting is not an option. Yet in some situations, different seasons can lead to the same biological end result. That's where you - the hunter - come in. Your input helps shape big game seasons in these situations. This spring's flurry of public involvement illustrates this point. When rule changes fail to go their way, it is easy for individual sportsmen to think the department simply does not listen. These examples help illustrate that this is not the case. Thanks to everyone who participated in crafting these seasons by providing input to department personnel. Fish and Game hosted seven open houses across the region to gather season-shaping input from hunters and other interested folks. Meetings were held in Boise, Council, Emmett, McCall, Mountain Home, Nampa and Weiser. More than 250 attended one of the meetings and 450 others provided input via a random mail survey. Everyone providing input received a summary letter outlining the results of the effort and the subsequent season recommendations submitted to the Fish and Game Commission for final approval. While meeting participants were free to address any wildlife issue, the department sought input on three specific issues; Weiser/Council-area deer management, Owyhee County deer management, and elk management in the Boise and Weiser River Zones. Weiser/Council-area Deer Management For biological and social reasons, a change was needed in deer hunting seasons in units 22, 31, sportsmen 32 and 32A. For the past few years, it has been painfully evident that the department's goal of 15 bucks per 100 does has not been met in these units (during the most recent aerial surveys of these units, biologists documented an average of nine bucks per 100 does). Hunter input confirmed this fact. The trick was deciding what to do to improve this buck/doe ratio. Four options were floated and each received a measure of support. They were:
- No change to the general 27-day season;
- A two-point buck restriction;
- A 10-day "any buck" general season;
- A 16-day "any buck" general season.
- Maintain the current two-point general season and a late-season controlled hunt.
- Scrap the status quo and switch to a five-day "any buck" general season.
- Switch exclusively to a late-season "trophy buck" controlled hunt.