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Turkey Proposals Go to Public

Turkey hunters could see expanded hunting opportunities next year as turkey populations continue to expand in Idaho. Turkey hunters will have an opportunity to voice their preferences for 2001 hunts before the Fish and Game Commission sets seasons when it meets in Orofino December 6-8. A round of open houses at Fish and Game regional offices will begin soon. Those who wish to participate should watch for notices in their regions. New seasons have been added in recent years as wild turkey numbers have expanded in Idaho. Tag sales grew from 1,436 in 1990, when the total turkey harvest was 291 statewide, to more than 16,000 in 2000 when more than 4,400 birds were taken. The 2000 figures include the estimated number of Sportsman Pack (a package of tags and permits that includes turkey) who actually hunted turkey. It also includes buyers of second spring tags, which were not offered until 1999, but does not include fall hunts which are still being tabulated. Proposals prepared for consideration by the public and the Fish and Game Commission are as follows: PANHANDLE: Spring Controlled Season: April 15-30 (525 permits) Spring General Season: May 1-25 (2nd tag valid May 10-25) -or- Spring General Season: April 15-May 25 (2nd tag valid May 10-25) Rationale: Turkeys tend to remain concentrated on their winter grounds until May 1 in the Panhandle. Offering an early spring controlled hunt ensures a low hunter density that reduces access conflicts on private property, improves hunter safety, and reduces the frequency of hunter disturbance from other hunters. Alternatively, if a general hunt began April 15 more hunters would have the opportunity to hunt during the peak of gobbling activity, the cost would remain at $18, and general season dates would be consistent across the state. Fall General Season: October 20-31 -or- Fall General Season: September 15-30 Rationale: Both fall general seasons are a change from the controlled hunt last year, reduce the cost of the hunt to $18, and do not overlap with big game rifle seasons in the same area. The October season would occur when poults are larger in size, possibly improving the quality of the hunt. Alternatively, the September season is four days longer and would run concurrent with other fall seasons in the state. CLEARWATER (Add Unit 10) Spring General Season: April 15-May 25 (2nd tag valid May 10-25) Fall Controlled Season: September 15-30 (300 permits) -or- Fall General Season: September 15-30 Rationale: There were 221 first-choice applicants for 200 controlled hunt permits in the Clearwater Region last fall. Maintaining a controlled hunt season a second year will prevent the possibility of too many hunters showing up unexpectedly. Increasing permits to 300 will provide additional opportunity. Alternatively, maintaining a controlled hunt inflates the cost of the hunt to $31 and may be unnecessary based on the low number of applications received last season. Converting to a general hunt might not have much impact on the number of participants and would hold the cost down at $18. SOUTHWEST (Add Unit 24) Spring General Season: April 15-May 25 (2nd tag valid May 10-25) Spring Controlled Season: April 15-May 25 (75 permits-Unit 38) Fall Controlled Season: September 15-30 (500 permits) -or- Fall General Season: September 15-30 Rationale: There were 539 first-choice applicants for 250 controlled hunt permits in the Southwest Region last fall. Maintaining a controlled hunt season but increasing permits to 500 will prevent any possibility of too many hunters. Alternatively, maintaining a controlled hunt inflates the cost of the hunt to $31 and may be unnecessary based on number of applications received last season. Converting to a general hunt would likely increase participation, but not much more than the 500 permit option. A general hunt would also hold cost at $18. SOUTHEAST Spring Controlled Season: April 15-21, April 22-30, May1-14 (135 permits, 6 hunts) Rationale: First-choice applicants increased from 1,016 in 1999 to 1,253 in 2000. These application rates reinforce the growing popularity of turkey hunting in the Southeast Region. Spring controlled hunts are necessary in these small areas to keep hunter numbers within safe and tolerable levels. Retaining the three staggered seasons will minimize hunter densities. Fall General Season: September 15-30 Rationale: Preliminary data indicated that 300-400 hunters participated during the October 1-31, 2000 general fall season. Although this hunt was received well by hunters and landowners, landowner tolerance levels may be exceeded if participation increases. Shifting the season to September 15-30 would reduce the season by 15 days, create more consistency among regions, and keep the cost at $18. Currently There will be five types of turkey tags available December 1, 2000. General Spring, Controlled Spring, Second Spring, General Fall, Controlled Fall Sportsman Pack buyers and general tag buyers will be issued a receipt that they can redeem starting March 10 for a controlled hunt tag and April 3 (two days after over-the-counter sales of spring controlled hunt tags begin) for a general tag. Spring tags are not valid for fall hunts unless exchanged prior to April 15.