By Dave Koehler - Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Although Idaho's big game hunting seasons remain months away, the telephones at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) are ringing off the hook with anxious hunters wanting to plan their fall hunting vacations.
In March, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted the 2006 seasons. Hunters planning to hunt in the Clearwater Region will find relatively few changes made to the elk, deer, and bear seasons. No changes were made in the mountain lion season in the region.
The 2006 Seasons and Rules Booklet is currently at the printers and will be made available April 10 at all license vendors and IDFG regional offices. Hunters can also view the seasons and rules by visiting the department's website at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.
Deer hunters in the Clearwater Region will find two changes. The first is an increase of 150 permits for the Big Game Management Unit 11AX controlled antlerless hunt. This hunt is an extra controlled hunt for antlerless deer of either species, whitetail or mule deer. The justification for this change is to address chronic depredation problems on agricultural crops by mule deer. The number of antlerless mule deer involved in these depredations appears to be increasing.
The second change involves the clarification of a hunt boundary for the Unit 15X hunt, which is also an extra controlled hunt for antlerless white-tailed deer in portions of Units 15 and 16. This hunt is also designed to address depredations by antlerless whitetails on private property in the western portion of these two hunt units. A wording change in the boundary description now directs hunters to the western portions of these units and away from a block of private property around Elk City where no depredations exist.
Elk hunters will find four changes made to the Clearwater Region elk season. The first is an increase in the number of permits for antlerless elk in Unit 11. Additionally, to avoid concerns involving overcrowding of hunters, this additional opportunity would be provided as a split season. The first hunt would have 125 permits and run from October 20 through November 3. The second hunt, also with 125 permits, would run from November 4 through November 20.
The Unit 11 elk herd has grown substantially in recent years, nearly doubling from 1994 to 2002. It is desirable to stabilize this population at current levels to maintain habitat quality and reduce the chance of negatively impacting mule deer populations.
The second change in regional elk hunts is an expansion of the Unit 11 green-field hunt boundary for antlerless elk. The boundary has been expanded to include additional areas on Webb Ridge and in the Red Bird area. This adjustment will provide relief from elk depredations to agricultural producers outside of the old boundary.
The third change to the elk season is an expansion to the Unit 14 controlled hunt boundary which is open for antlerless elk. This change will help focus harvest more on private land and address on-going elk depredations south of Slate Creek.
The fourth and final change involving regional elk hunts is to restrict antlerless archery harvest in the Lolo Zone, comprised of Units 10 and 12. Although the elimination of archery cow elk hunting will result in saving less than ten cows per year, this change is being implemented based on the Department's commitment to take every course of action available to aid in the recovery of elk in the Lolo Zone.
The only change to black bear seasons for 2006 is to allow bait to be placed up to seven days prior to the bear take season in Units 10 and 12. This change will bring the Lolo Zone into line with the Middle Fork (Units 20A, 26, and 27) and Selway Zones (Units 16A, 17, 19, and 20) with respect to baiting regulations. It will allow bears to become more accustomed to bait sites before the opening of the take season, thus increasing harvest opportunity. This change is consistent with other efforts to increase bear harvest in these backcountry areas in an attempt to increase sub-par elk calf recruitment levels.
Dave Koehler worked as a senior conservation officer and regional wildlife biologist in Southeast Idaho before transferring to the Clearwater Region in 2002.