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The Game Trail

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The rut has arrived


The whitetail deer rut is here and what a great time to be in the woods.  A skiff of snow underfoot and the chance to glimpse a thick-necked buck strut by your favorite hunting spot make it an exciting time of the year. November brings more deer hunters than any other time during the hunting season.  

During the heat of the whitetail deer season your local Conservation Officers receive hundreds of calls related to trespassing.  This year I received more calls about trespassing in the general weapon season elk than I have in years past. I hope this is not a growing trend because it looks bad on hunters and it’s the reason we see more land posted for “No Trespassing.”

Here are a few reminders of Idaho’s trespass laws.  If your land is not cultivated, you must post your land with signs or fluorescent orange paint. The paint or signs must be 100 square inches (10”x10” square). The signs must be posted every 660 feet along the property boundary, and at any reasonable access points (trail, driveway, gate, etc.) If someone disregards the signs and enters your property they are in violation. Please call the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office dispatch to report this immediately. They will dispatch your local Conservation Officer, or a sheriff’s deputy.  

If you post your land “No Hunting”, does that mean you and your friends can’t hunt your own property? Of course not! It’s just letting folks know that you don’t want them hunting your land without permission.  However, I really recommend you do not use the “No Hunting” as that implies that it’s okay to trespass, just not to hunt. Use the “No Trespassing” sign to cover your bases.

One of the ways conservation officers combat trespass problems in areas is to deploy a decoy deer or elk, or what we call Artificial Simulated Animal or A.S.A. Wildlife decoys were first used by game wardens in Wisconsin in the 1940s, and they have been used by other wildlife agencies across North America ever since. They have been readily accepted by the courts as a legitimate tool for wildlife law enforcement officers. 

The use of decoys has many benefits, but most important is they reduce the number of live animals lost to poachers. Additionally, the decoys bring the wildlife thieves to us rather than conservation officers using valuable resources to find violators across thousands of miles of landscape. The aim of decoys is to discourage shooting game animals before a season opens or after it is closed, after legal shooting hours, or on private property or other land closed to hunting, hunting with an artificial light, or shooting from or across a public road. If you’re not engaging in such activity you don’t have to worry about running into us or our deer decoys.

Jim Hayden, our Big Game Manager in the Panhandle, has sent out some preliminary check station data. Jim provided us with some graphs; it’s easier to look at data than to talk about it. (See PDF attachment to the right of this article.) Jim reminds everybody that this type of data is soft because there are a lot of factors that affect success rates; i.e., number of elk available, elk behavior, lousy (or good) hunting weather, length of the season (especially for cows), whether the opener is on a weekday or weekend, etc. At this stage, things are looking pretty decent both in the Coeur d’Alenes and in the St. Joe, for both bull hunting and cow hunting. Of course, more data needs to be collected and analyzed, such as the Big Game Mortality Reports and flight survey data, before the total picture of elk population trends are apparent.

Happy Veterans Day to all our vets out there. Thank you for your service to our nation and the sacrifices you and your families have made. For those brave souls who never made it home to their loved ones, you are not forgotten. The Sandpoint District conservation officers wish you all a happy Thanksgiving as well. Remember to take the time to be thankful for the natural resources we have here. It’s all our jobs to take care of it responsibly.

Leave No Child Inside


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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

elk, wildlife, hunting, whitetail deer, trespassing, decoys

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