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The Warden's Words

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Warmer weather can make hunting even easier

I am beginning to think I brought out my winter gear way too early. One would think I have been around the valley long enough to not have any pre-conceived notions of just when the seasons should be changing. It would appear the snowbirds fled south way too early. Finding bees flying around or garden slugs heading into the garage during the third week of November is certainly not the norm.

Of course there are quite a few folks very happy with this weather pattern. My mother thinks this nice weather is just fine and quite possibly will erect a shrine to this “El Nino” thing. The rush to put on the snow tires has slowed and everybody’s fuel bill should be less.

However, for some there is a downside to this warm weather. Snowmobilers are getting a little anxious and skiers are talking of seeding the clouds. Deer hunters keep telling each other it will surely snow by Thanksgiving. Elk muzzleloader hunters are gearing up to hunt on the elk’s summer range! The one great aspect of this weather pattern, and the greatest benefit, is the fact that our wild critters don’t have to expend their winter reserves too early. A warm pattern like this could be enough to get our marginal animals through the winter.

Quite a few hunters are taking advantage of the fact that they can drive high into good mule deer country. Especially since a great many of the closed gates are opened after Nov. 15th and this saves a lot of hiking. A word of caution for those hunting the upper Lightning Creek drainage - please remember that the East Fork crossing will be low in the mornings only!! Deer hunters in general are finding it difficult to find a critter standing in its tracks. Activity has been quite slow and not many big bucks have been taken yet. As usual, ten minutes after shooting time most of the deer climb down the trees and start wandering along the roads. I have no doubt this is a plot to drive hunters insane.

This behavior doesn’t affect the poachers because this is what they plan on. They can spotlight the fields with their headlights… shoot… leave and return later to pick it up. That is, of course, if the animal they poached dies immediately. A poacher is not going to waste any effort looking for an animal that wandered off a little way. Recently Officer Larry Miller, while investigating a deer poaching, spotlighted, found a dead cow elk in the trees that had been shot through the neck. This critter slowly bled to death and was left to rot because the scrote that shot it was too lazy to go find it. Most of you have recently read in the newspapers of several young men from Bonners Ferry that have been spending their nights spotlighting and killing deer in Boundary County. These boys were caught because landowners and citizens were tired of what was going on and were willing to do something about it. Getting license plate numbers and calling your local Warden will generally produce results.

I wanted to give you some numbers from this year’s hunting activity. Our biologists have been collecting the mandatory check-in reports and processing them ASAP. It seems our bear harvest was up 16%, 318 bears harvested, from last year with Units 1 and 4 providing the for the increase. As of now it would appear the elk harvest will at least equal last year's take. The number of hunters were down this year. We still have the muzzleloader seasons and the late archery season to go yet.

Speaking of muzzleloading I need to go check my gear and my boy, Jason’s. It seems for the first time in a while he will make it home to Clark Fork during the deer season. All he has been thinking and talking about for the past few months is going hunting “in snow up to his armpits” for deer in the rut. I haven’t had the courage to tell him to pack his scuba gear. But we will have fun anyway. The timing was pretty nice.

Here it is Thanksgiving and I sure have a lot to thankful for. The wife will be doing what she loves doing, for the next four years, and I am still doing what I love doing. My mother is still as feisty as ever and my father-in-law is still going strong. My kids are making their own way and both love to come back to Clark Fork. We all have our health and the football team went to the State Championship. Things could certainly be better, but they could just as certainly be worse. So I will be thankful for what I have as I hope all of you will be thankful for what you have.

May this Holiday be one of your best. Be sure to enjoy what you have, enjoy it with the family and leave things better than when you found it. JJ SCOTT


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JJ Scott JJ Scott was a Fish & Game warden for the state of Idaho, now retired

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