Changes in Big Game Seasons

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Big game hunting seasons and rules in Idaho will remain mostly the same this fall as they were last year.

Meeting in Boise March 13-14, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted most of the recommendations of department biologists for the upcoming fall hunts. One exception came when the Commission decided to retain the Clearwater deer tag but will add 800 "X tags" for antlerless deer in the region to attempt to deal with depredation problems. The Commission also directed staff to finish a management plan for whitetail deer before next year.

Rules for motorized travel restrictions while hunting will be established in 16 southern Idaho hunting units for the first time. Those units are 32, 32A, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 58, 59, 59A, 70, 72, 73, 75, 77 and 78. Units 75, 77 and 78 restrictions apply only in muzzleloader hunts and 72, late archery only. The new rules call for hunters using ATVs including four-wheelers, motorcycles and other motorized off-road vehicles to be limited to "established roadways open to motorized vehicle traffic capable of full-sized automobiles." The Commission authority to set this rule falls under "method of take" requirements and the rule does not apply to users who are not engaged in hunting.

Hunters can still use vehicles to recover game and pack camps and gear into remote areas as long as they are in compliance with travel rules on public lands.

The restriction will apply to private lands as well as public lands. Disabled hunters, however, will continue to be governed under separate rules and will not be affected by the new rules.

Fish and Game will encourage hunters to retrieve downed game during midday and not carry hunting weapons while retrieving.

As ATV use has grown greatly in recent years, comments about that use from the hunting public have also grown to become the largest category of complaints registered with the department. The new ATV rules were included in department efforts this winter to inform the public and gather comment.

In general, this fall's seasons will see a decrease in deer hunting opportunity in eastern Idaho, slight increases in north central Idaho, relatively little change in elk hunting, a general decrease in pronghorn hunting and a general increase in black bear and mountain lion hunts.

In elk hunting areas that have drawn particular attention, this winter's elk surveys in the Middle Fork Zone show populations about the same but, in Unit 10, cow numbers have dropped by 50 percent while bull and calf numbers are stable.

Pronghorns are below goals for numbers and horn length in the Upper Snake Region where hunting will be trimmed but a new hunt will be offered in the Magic Valley.

Other changes include:

  • Boundaries will be better defined in a Unit 32 short-range weapons hunt where confusion over hunt boundaries caused complaints last fall.
  • Mule deer seasons in the Upper Snake Region will be shortened to October 5-19.
  • An extra deer controlled hunt for whitetails will be added in Unit 23.
  • Quotas for female mountain lion harvest will be removed in the Upper Snake Region and changes will be made in quotas in some other areas.