Idaho Fish and Game is adding three proposals for the 2019-20 big game hunting season for eastern Idaho mule deer hunts and elk hunts in the Weiser and Brownlee zones in response to new information.
Wildlife managers simultaneously propose changes to big game hunts for the upcoming season while also doing winter surveys and gauging big game populations and herd compositions. As new information becomes available, it’s necessary to alter hunting season proposals.
People who already commented on the 2019-20 hunting season proposals will be notified of the changes and invited to comment again. Others who wish to comment on big game season proposals will have through Feb. 24.
Wildlife managers are proposing the following changes:
Weiser Elk Zone
In the Weiser Zone, the goal for several years has been to increase cow harvest and decrease the the herd to align with elk management plan objectives. Two years ago, general cow hunts were added to Weiser Zone A and B tags, and late antlerless controlled hunts were added to target elk causing problems on private agriculture land.
The 2019 aerial survey indicates the efforts had the intended effect, and although the population is still above objective range, it is no longer growing.
Proposed changes include decreasing 400 Weiser River Zone antlerless elk tags, plus one week removed from A-tag cow hunt.
The goals for the latest proposals in the Weiser River Zone are to continue to move elk numbers towards management plan objectives, but at a slower rate, and use survey and radio-collared elk data to focus hunting pressure on elk involved in private land conflicts. The latest proposals meet these goals.
Brownlee Elk Zone
Fish and Game surveys and reports from local residents indicate that overall elk numbers, and particularly bull numbers, are above objective in the Brownlee Zone.
With high calf/cow ratios, additional harvest is needed to move the population back toward objectives. Wildlife managers estimate that the population is currently recruiting about 200 bulls per year and harvest is about 100 bulls per year, suggesting that to stop growth in the bull population (hold current population stable), additional harvest of about 100 bulls per year would be needed.
Similarly, the population is recruiting approximately 200 cows per year. Current harvest is about 170 cows per year, suggesting that to stop growth in the cow population (hold current population stable), additional harvest of 30 cows per year is needed. To slightly decrease the cow population, and move it back into the objective range, additional harvest of 50-60 cows per year would be needed. Managers are proposing more hunting opportunity in 2019-20 to meet these goals.
Unit 66/69 mule deer hunts
Winter surveys showed that mule deer populations in 66 and 69 are 38 percent lower in 2019 than they were when last surveyed in 2013.
As a result, as well as concerns raised by hunters about low numbers of deer and decreased harvest over the last couple of years, wildlife managers are recommending elimination of either-sex hunts in units 66 and 69.