Idaho Fish and Game Clarifies Muzzleloader Rules

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The Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners Thursday, January 11, approved rules that change the definition of muzzleloaders in an effort to maintain muzzleloader hunt opportunities.

The commissioners adopted the new muzzleloader rules during their annual meeting in Boise January 10-12.

Idaho hunters are losing muzzleloader opportunities in part because of a decline in the mule deer population and more efficient muzzleloaders mean fewer opportunities, Idaho Department of Fish and Game's big game manager Brad Compton told commissioners.

The new rules require that muzzleloaders must:

  • Use all-lead bullets at least within 10/1,000 of the bore diameter.
  • Have open sights, and use only loose black powder or synthetic black powder.
  • Have an exposed, pivoting hammer and an exposed ignition using only flint, musket caps or percussion caps.

Muzzleloading weapons also must be at least .45 caliber for deer, antelope or mountain lion; and at least .50 caliber for elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or black bear.

All muzzleloader hunts are limited to weapons meeting these restrictions. Other muzzleloader weapons still can be used in short-range weapons and any-weapons hunts.

Commissioner Wayne Wright recommended the commission adopt the stricter definitions to maintain muzzleloader hunting opportunities. Some technology advances have improved the effectiveness and range of muzzleloader rifles.

Commissioners also adopted new restrictions on archery equipment that allow let-off up to 85 percent and arrow weights down to 300 grains and increased arrow lengths from 12 to 24 inches.

They also adopted baiting rules to make rules the same for furbearers and black bears. The changed rule bans the use of any domestic or wild game species as bait.

The commissioners did not adopt a proposed restriction on the use of .50-caliber or larger ammunition.

"If you want to take on long distance shooting, this is not the way to do it," Commission Chairman Cameron Wheeler said.

During Thursday afternoon the commissioners approved proposed rules for moose that add 50 bull permits and 10 antlerless permits, and that modify the moose hunting season framework in a portion of the Panhandle region.

The rules also add three new bighorn sheep hunts, reduce permits in Unit 27-1 from 15 to 8 permits, ultimately resulting in two additional bighorn sheep permits statewide. The adopted rules also cut nine mountain goat permits, closed hunts in Units 27-3 and 30 and added two permits in Unit 67 and two in a new hunt in Unit 27-5.

The commission in an effort to protect wild elk from the risks of disease and genetic impurities adopted a formal policy on domestic elk.

Under that policy the commission:

  • Encourages the state of Idaho to enact legislation and establish and fund appropriate policies to protect wild cervids from disease and genetic risks posed by domestic elk.
  • Does not recognize the shooting of domestic elk for recreational purposes within confined facilities as "hunting."
  • Advocates the principles of fair chase and ethics in the harvest of wild game.
  • Is opposed to spending sportsmen's dollars on the management or control of domestic elk.

The commissioners also heard an update on the planning for a hunting and species management plan for wolves in anticipation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's intention of removing federal protection for the grey wolf under the endangered species act.

Large carnivore coordinator Steve Nadeau has assembled a planning team that includes the Fish and Game wildlife bureau, the agency's wolf biologists and regional wildlife biologists, Nadeau told commissioners.

The process would include public surveys and meetings with public groups. Nadeau anticipates a first draft of the plan to be ready for commission approval in May. The plan would also be submitted for public comments. He expects to have a final plan for hunting delisted wolves in Idaho ready in November.

Before wrapping up the three-day meeting, the commissioners recognized that the department and the commission needed to come up with a proposal for a wolf tag and fee structure, which must be set by the Legislature. Department officials agreed to come up with some numbers, and Chairman Wheeler said he would look for someone to sponsor legislation.