Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions. We post here answers to questions we're being asked frequently. If you have a question not answered here, please contact us. Urgent questions should be directed to your nearest office. Some answers change over time; please take note of the "answered" date.

Displaying 1 - 25 of 46 questions

Q: can you use a muzzleloader as a shotgun for upland game birds like grouse and quail

So I was wondering if you could use a muzzleloader with small shot (size 8-6 lead shot) for hunting grouse and quail during the end of the hunting season for them?


In Idaho, upland game birds (except forest grouse) may be taken with a firearm as long as the firearm is classified as a shotgun.  This can be found on page 18 of the 2014-2015 Upland Game, Furbearer and Turkey regulations. 
18 USC 921 states:
The term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.
This means that only smooth bore shoulder fired firearms are legal for the taking of upland game birds (except forest grouse).  If a firearms contains a rifled barrel, this firearm is not classified as a shotgun and would be illegal for the taking of upland game birds (except forest grouse) regardless of the projectile(s) fired.
A smooth bore muzzleloader would be legal in this instance.
The same is also true of handguns chambered in calibers such as .45 long colt.  Although this firearm is capable of firing .410 shot shells, the barrel is rifled.  Federal law requires all barrels under 18 inches in length to contain rifled bores.  This firearm would not be classified as a shotgun and would be illegal for taking upland game birds (except forest grouse).

answered 1/6/2016

Q: Lost permits. Do I have to have them in possession during hunt?

I did not print out my permit for sharp tailed grouse or the controlled turkey when I bought them. Do I have to have them in possession if asked for it in the field? I do have a copy of the permit numbers that I can show.


Yes, you must have your license and tags on your person while in the field. Sage Grouse and Sharptail validations print on your license. Tags cannot be printed via the internet, and must be mailed, or picked up in person at a vendor. If you have lost your license or tag, you may purchase a duplicate at a Regional Office.

answered 9/5/2015

Q: Air Rifle Hunting

I was wondering what game are allowed to be taken with Air Rifles, and if there are caliber restrictions? (.177 - .50) (Small Game-Big Game) (Varmint)


You can hunt forest grouse with an air rifle with a valid hunting license and when they are in season. You can shoot preditory animals such as starlings, ferral pigeons, english sparrows, and Eurasian Collared doves. There are no other species or seasons for air rifles.

answered 8/9/2015

Q: Harvest statistics source

I would like to know exactly how hunting harvest statistics are determined. Is it taken entirely from harvest reports or is it from a "computer model", or some other method?


All of Idaho Fish and Game’s wildlife harvest statistics are estimated from surveys of hunters.
We get the most questions about deer or elk. I think this is what you are asking about. For deer, elk, and pronghorn, each hunter is required to fill out a Hunter Report form, either online or by phone.  Statistics are used to estimate the number of animals harvested, because not all hunters file their report. The number harvested is broken out in 1400 different ways, by zones, by units, by weapons, by controlled hunts, etc.  In 2014, about 170,000 hunters bought tags to hunt these species.
From the Hunter Reports, we calculate the number who hunted in each area, the number of animals harvested, the success rate, as well as a breakdown of the harvest by sex, antler size, weapon used, deer species, number of days hunted, and harvest date.
There is a lot of high-powered computer analysis used, but we are not using computer “models” to estimate what the harvest is. The data only come from the hunters who file their reports, but we are not predicting something about those who do not file reports.  The harvest estimates are then put on the web site, where both biologists and hunters can use them in planning next year’s hunting.
In contrast, for moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain lions, and wolves, any hunter who harvests an animal is required to bring the carcass in for inspection, measurement, and tagging. For these species, the number harvested is taken directly from these carcass inspections.
For all other small game species, survey questionnaires are sent to a random sample of hunters who purchased the appropriate tags.  We sell licenses to about 250,000 hunters that allow hunting for most of these small-game species.  Questionnaires are sent to between 3,000 to 8,000 of these hunters for each type of hunting. Their answers about hunting and harvesting are used to extrapolate to all the hunters who purchased. These species include snow geese, turkeys, sandhill cranes, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, forest grouse, quail, chukars, huns, pheasants, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hares.
We also sometimes use these same hunter questionnaires to ask the hunter’s opinion on a few questions, such as about proposed rule changes or about the quality of the hunting season.  Thank you for asking about our survey methods.

answered 1/13/2015

Q: Taking Grouse with a crossbow if you have a disability crossbow permit

I brought this to officers' attention in Pocatello as I am a program instructor for both firearm and Bowhunter education. I also have a crossbow permit for bow season due to severe back and shoulder disabilities. The book says that you cannot take a grouse with a crossbow.... Period. It would seem to me (and agreed to also by officers in the southeast region) that that should read "unless hunter is in legal possession of a disabilty crossbow permit." As I only bowhunt, and usually take my one or two grouse a year during archery season, how do we have that rule reworded to include those of us whom are carrying a crossbow instead of a bow due to disability status? If there is a very good reason why this is not to be, please pass it along so I can answer students questions about this matter. Thanks so much!
Robert "Radar" Orth


This is a question that comes up now and then and it has been answered in the past at this web site.  You are correct in that you cannot use a crossbow to take upland game birds. The disabled archery permit is specifically for crossbow use in an archery only season specifically for big game. There is no archery only seasons for upland game birds. The disabled archery provisions speak directly to the establishment of special archery only seasons in order to allow the use of a crossbow. 

answered 1/3/2015

Q: What types of animals live on Red Ridge?

I am doing a research project in elementary school and my question is whether or not turkeys, grouse, pheasants and cottontail rabbits live on Red Ridge near McCall. So I thought it might be a good idea to ask you experts. Thank you, Jack Mcmanus


Hi Jack,
I can answer one of those species pretty simply - there are no pheasants that I know of on Red Ridge.
However, it is likely that there are grouse - perhaps blue (now called dusky) grouse and/or ruffed grouse.  There may be cottontails, although snowshoe hares are likely more common.  And there are likely some turkeys, although probably in low numbers.
If you have any other questions, you can ask them here or call me at the McCall office: 634-8137.
Regan Berkley
Regional Wildlife Manager

answered 11/4/2014

Q: Is a non-resident big game license valid for hunting varmints?

I will be making a mule deer hunt Oct. 20-24 of 2014 in southeast Idaho through a licensed outfitter. Will my non-resident license allow me to hunt varmints (i.e. coyotes)?


Yes, your hunting license is also valid for hunting of other game animals and birds, such as coyotes, rabbits, forest grouse, pheasants, etc.  

answered 9/23/2014

Q: Grouse seasons 2014

When does the grouse seasons open?


You can find grouse season information in the Upland Game seasons and rules.
The season length differs depending on what part of the state you are in but all seasons open August 30 for 2014.

answered 8/27/2014

Q: Unit 37 elk

I drew a unit 37 bull tag. Where would be a good area to get into elk?


Consider the following 3 options:
Most of the elk reside in the southern portion of the Unit, from Grouse Peak to the southern boundary of the unit.  This area is mostly public land, topographically diverse and high elevation.  You are likely to find elk in any drainage, particularly those with perennial creeks. There is good motorized access to much of this area with the opportunity to hike into remote areas as well.  Consult the Forest Service and BLM travel plan maps.
Along the north end of the unit adjacent the Salmon River, elk can be found in the dry foothills during the day.  They move to fields along the Salmon River at night.  Access is more restrictive here and landowner contacts would be helpful in this area.
The Pahsimeroi River lies within the eastern boundary of the unit.  The riparian zone is quite extensive and elk are common.  Access to private property is required here to hunt the private lands.

answered 8/4/2014

Q: Hunting/fishing opportunities

Where can I find a combination hunting/fishing trip somewhere within driving distance of Boise. Waterfowl/upland bird/deer/elk or any combination thereof?


There are a number of locations a person could experience a comintation hunt that could include 2 or more of the groups you are looking for.  Many folks hunt the South Fork of the Boise for Mule deer and chukar, or later in the year you could hunt for elk and chukar.  Parts of Unit 32 and 32A would provide elk/deer/and upland bird hunting in the form of forest grouse or other upland species.  The Fort Boise WMA can provide an opportunity to hunt deer, waterfowl, and upland.  There are many more such combinations that could be outlined.  The best thing to do is to come into the SW region and sit down with a map and discuss with a biologist what your priority species is and any other preferences.  Best to call and set up an appointment (465-8465) to gurantee that a bioloigst is in.

answered 5/2/2014

Q: Can a .44 magnum pistol be used to hunt pheasant w/shot loads?

Provide as many specifics as you can to help better answer your question. Please omit personal information in this area.


No.  A handgun is not considered a shotgun even though you would be shooting shot in the cartridge.  The law reads unlawful method of take: with a trap, snare, net, crossbow, or firearms EXCEPT a shotgun using shells not exceeding three and one-half (3-1/2) inches maximum length, slingshot, hand-held or thrown missiles, EXCEPT forest grouse. Forest grouse shall not be taken with a trap, snare, net, or crossbow. 

answered 4/7/2014

Q: Can I hunt grouse and upland birds with the nonresident hunting license? [Or do I also need a small game license?]

If I buy an out-of-state hunting license ($154.75) can I hunt upland bird and grouse and small game with it or do I need the small game license, too? Thanks


The nonresident license that costs $154.75 allows you to hunt any game (big game, upland game, upland game birds and waterfowl) that is legal to hunt plus varmints and unprotected species. 
Big game and turkey hunting requires the addition of a tag for the animal to be harvested.

answered 3/25/2014

Q: Is it legal to hunt turkey with a rifle?

Provide as many specifics as you can to help better answer your question. Please omit personal information in this area.


You can use a shotgun with shells not exceeding 3 1/2 inches maximum length for turkeys:
No person shall take upland game birds:
• With a trap, snare, net, crossbow, slingshot, hand-held or thrown missiles, firearms except a shotgun using shells not exceeding 3 ½ inches maximum length,
except forest grouse. Forest grouse shall not be taken with a trap, snare, net or crossbow. 

answered 3/23/2014

Q: What follow up research will be conducted after reducing raven numbers

How will you determine raven mortality when using corvicides in planted eggs? How will you determine if raven populations have the ability to increase after you lower the population. How will you determine if the Sage grouse brood numbers increase after you destroy ravens.


Because of the propensity for ravens to remove and cache the poison egg baits, it is often difficult to directly locate ravens that have died due to the poison.  The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, has conducted previous work that determined that it will take 4 egg baits to kill 1 raven.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has initiated standardized raven surveys in the raven control areas to track raven numbers and trends.
The identified raven control area is only 1.4% of the land area in Idaho and we do not anticipate having a negative impact on ravens statewide. 
We will track the response of sage-grouse populations by continuing to monitor lek trends in the control areas, and compare that to the statewide trend.

answered 3/23/2014

Q: Burned Desert [Replanting habitat burned in the Dietrich area]

Why don't you guys replant or recreate the pheasant, sage grouse, and partridge habitat that was burned outside of Hunt and Dietrich.


Idaho Department Fish and Game's efforts to assist with fire rehab efforts are coordinated with private, state, and federal landowners/managers.  Usually rehab efforts happen during the first 3 years following a wildlfire.  During that period federal agencies have funding available for stabilizing burned areas, and it is also the most opportune time to try and establish desired vegetation prior to less desirasble vegetation gaining a foothold and then having a competitve advantage over plants that are seeded in the future.
If the burned lands in the Hunt and Dietrich areas are on public lands, such as BLM or IDL, you can contact those agencies to see what options are available to rehab them.  If it is on private lands, the landowner can contact the local NRCS, or you can contact IDFG at the Magic Valley Regional Office in Jerome.  IDFG has some funding available via our HIP program for improving upland bird habitat on privately owned properties.  

answered 3/11/2014

Q: Sage Grouse Season? [With decreasing numbers, why do we still have seasons?]

There aren't many sage grouse in Idaho anymore. They are decreasing in number year by year. Why still have a season on them? Same with pheasants. We need to start some farms for these birds.


Here is some information on sage-grouse and hunting:
In 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) concluded that listing the greater sage-grouse range-wide as a threatened or endangered species was warranted, but precluded by higher priority listing actions.  Therefore, sage-grouse are a “candidate” species and remain a state-managed species.  Thus, hunting a candidate species is still legal. 
When the USFWS evaluates a petition to list a species as threatened or endangered, they examine the best available data in relation to five factors.  These are:• Factor A.  Present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the habitat of the species.• Factor B.  Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or education purposes.• Factor C.  Disease and predation.• Factor D.  Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.• Factor E.  Other natural or manmade factors. 
The USFWS concluded that Factors A and D were significant threats to sage-grouse, resulting in their conclusion that listing was warranted.  Hunting falls within Factor B.  The USFWS concluded that,
“The present level of hunting mortality shows no signs of being a significant threat to the species.  However, in light of present and threatened habitat loss (Factor A) and other considerations (e.g., West Nile virus outbreaks in local populations), States and tribes will need to continue to carefully manage hunting mortality, including adjusting seasons and harvest levels, and imposing emergency closures if needed.” 
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) has been carefully reviewing and managing harvest of sage-grouse since 2008, when we began following the hunting season and bag-limit guidelines in the 2006 Conservation Plan for the Greater Sage-grouse in Idaho.  Each year IDFG evaluates population trends in 14 sage-grouse hunting zones and compares the data to these guidelines.  In addition, IDFG and 11 sage-grouse local working groups consider whether there are other issues of concern that may be currently impacting sage-grouse (for example, the current fire season and West Nile virus outbreaks).  The Commission sets the sage-grouse season in August after considering population trends, local issues, and public input. 
Since implementing these guidelines, annual harvest has decreased significantly.  In the past three years, harvest has averaged 2,900 sage-grouse per year.  Compare that to 1985–1995 when an estimated 37,500 sage-grouse were harvested annually in Idaho.  IDFG’s sage-grouse hunting season process utilizes annual evaluations at the local level that considers circumstances that can change annually. 
It allows for hunting opportunity in areas of healthy sage-grouse populations, while also closing areas to hunting where population numbers are low or are impacted by large fires or other habitat issues.  This past year, the sage-grouse hunting season was limited to seven days in 12 of the 14 hunting zones, with 2 zones being closed to hunting. 
In the meantime, the state of Idaho, sage-grouse local working groups, and our federal partners continue to work cooperatively on sage-grouse habitat conservation issues throughout the state.  Projects such as re-seeding after wildfire, fire breaks, and weed control are critical for maintaining sage-grouse and the sagebrush ecosystem.  For more information on sage-grouse and cooperative conservation, visit the sage-grouse pages on the IDFG website:

answered 3/10/2014

Q: Improving upland game habitat

Does the fish and game department offer information on ways to improve upland game habitat on private ground?


Yes, the Department has a number of ways in which a landowner can get assistance with improving habitat on private property.  The Department has 6 private lands or mule deer initiative biologists located in Lewiston, American Falls, Pocatello, Preston, Jerome and Idaho Falls.  If you live near any of those locations you can contact the IDFG regional office and they can give you their contact information.  
The Department also partners with USDA, USFWS and Pheasants Forever to staff 3 biologists located in the Burley, Mountain Home and Rexburg NRCS offices.  These positions primarily focus on helping landowners with habitat projects targeting sage grouse, but they can answer questions and direct landowners to other resources.
In addition to these staff, any of the Department's habitat biologists can assist landowners.  The easiest way to get help, is to contact your local IDFG regional office and explain what you need and they will direct you to the correct person.
In addition to technical help the Department  can also assist landowner with cost-share to conduct habitat projects.

answered 3/7/2014

Q: what is the minimum caliber pistol you can use to hunt with?

Min cal pistol to hunt big game, small game, unprotected species


Please refer to our rules for additional information regarding weapon restrictions.
For Big Game.
No person shall take big game animals with any rimfire rifle, rimfire handgun or any muzzleloading handgun, EXCEPT for mountain lion and trapped gray wolf.
For unprotected species.
No person hunting permissible furbearing animals or predatory or unprotected wildlife shall hunt with any weapon the possession of which is prohibited by state or federal law.
For upland game animals.
No person shall take upland game animals with a trap, snare, net, or shotgun using shotgun shells exceeding three and one-half (3 1/2)inches in length.
For upland game birds.
No person shall take upland game birds with a trap, snare, net, crossbow, or firearms EXCEPT a shotgun using shells not exceeding threeand one-half (3-1/2) inches maximum length, slingshot, hand-held or thrown missiles, EXCEPT forest grouse. Forestgrouse shall not be taken with a trap, snare, net, or crossbow.

answered 2/25/2014

Q: Clarification of Answers: Lawful Methods of Take Upland Game Birds indicated expandable broadheads are legal.

Why is it on Friday Nov. 29, 2013 question was asked..
Q. Can I use expandable broad heads to hunt turkeys? ?

the answer was
A: No. Expandable broadheads are not allowed in Idaho for any species or any hunt.

However on question asked on Sunday Mar. 24, 2013
Q: I drew on a turkey tag can I take it with a crossbow?

the answer of
Lawful Methods of Take Upland Game Birds 
To take upland game birds in Idaho, all hunters may use a bow, muzzleloader shooting shot or shotgun with lead or steel shot with shells not exceeding 3 ½ inches in length. Shotguns are not required to be plugged when hunting upland game birds. Hunters also may use dogs to locate, flush and retrieve upland game birds. (but not turkey, except during fall hunts) Mechanical (i.e. expandable) broadheads are legal for hunting turkeys in Idaho

indicated expandable broadheads are legal.
What is the right answer?


The short answer is no. From the Idaho Administrative Procedures Act:
01. Taking of Upland Game Birds. No person shall take upland game birds:
With a trap, snare, net, crossbow, or firearms EXCEPT a shotgun using shells not exceeding three and one-half (3-1/2) inches maximum length, slingshot, hand-held or thrown missiles, EXCEPT forest grouse. Forest grouse shall not be taken with a trap, snare, net, or crossbow.

answered 2/4/2014


Yes, you can.

answered 10/2/2013

Q: How does permit validations help the intended species? i.e sage-grouse/sharp-tail

What is this money for? Are biologist given this data?


In the case of sage and sharp-tailed grouse, that is critical information for our management program. 
The purchase of a permit for these birds tells us how many people hunted for these species in Idaho during the current year's hunt.  We can then go to our database and query this specific group of hunters to find out how many birds they harvested, general information on where the birds were taken, and how many other sage or sharp-tailed grouse they observed.
We then add the information to our trend data set to generate comparison information to past years.  This is a critical piece to our management decision making process.

answered 9/29/2013

Q: Can I use an air rifle to hunt grouse around the lake Lowell area??

I had someone tell me that I could do it with an air rifle around lake Lowell but I know that it's a wildlife refuge so I just wanted to be sure before I did.


You can use any lethal means for forest grouse except they shall not be taken with a trap, snare, net or crossbow in Idaho.  However, the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge is federally run and they have their own rules in addition to IDFG state laws.  You must contact Deer Flat Refuge managers to get the answer to this question as it relates to the refuge.

answered 9/19/2013


The Idaho hunting license that you purchase to buy your elk tag also covers hunting forest grouse.  You can harvest forest grouse during your elk hunt.

answered 6/26/2013


No person shall take upland game birds [including turkeys]:
- From one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. Upland game shall not be taken before 10 a.m. on Fort Boise, C.J. Strike, Montour and Payette River WMAs, during the pheasant season. Turkeys shall not be taken from sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.
- With a trap, snare, net, crossbow, slingshot, hand-held or thrown missiles, firearms except a shotgun using shells not exceeding 3 ½ inches maximum length, except forest grouse. Forest grouse shall not be taken with a trap, snare, net or crossbow.
- From any watercraft.
- By the use or aid of any electronic call.
- By the aid of baiting. Bait is defined as any substance placed to attract game.

answered 3/8/2013

Q: What hunt could I use my .44 mag revolver (short range?)

what are the rules for a hunting with a handgun during short range hunt or when can you use a handgun
.44 mag ruger superblack hawk 7.5" barrel


In addition to hunting forest grouse, unprotected nongame, and predatory wildlife (e.g. coyote) you can hunt big game species during any weapon and short-range weapon hunts.

answered 1/9/2013