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The Game Trail

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Photo by Laura Shreck Photo by Laura Shreck

Determining the Seasons

This time of year the IDFG staff gets numerous inquiries regarding the pending hunting season. Folks are interested in two things; when will the regulations be out in print, and did the hunting seasons change? Some get frustrated that we are not doing it fast enough, so I want to remind sportsmen of the process that our biologists and commissioners go through to produce the seasons.

Every two years big game population data is reviewed along with harvest data (thus the importance of submitting your harvest reports) and certain trends surface; for example an increase in cow to calf ratio, or a decrease in bull to cow ratio. Our biologists and officers take on the task of flying in helicopters to collect data they need to plug into population models and analyze changing trends. Now some folks have complained that we should be on the ground counting animals because it’s much more efficient. Malarkey! To be honest with you it really makes me see red when someone states that, because we have lost good biologists and friends in helicopter crashes. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t the best way to collect data.

All the data and trends were analyzed and our hard working biologists roughed out season proposals by February 22. The proposals were sent out by email and posted on the web for public input. The first two weeks of March we will set up public meetings to gain input from you, the sportsmen. After all the recommendations are looked at, the proposals are modified and sent to the IDFG Commissioners for approval. On March 28 and 29, the Commission will meet and set the big game seasons for 2011 and 2012. The regulations will be immediately sent off to the printer and on the shelf of your local vendor by mid-April. 

You can peruse the proposals on our website and make comments in the lower right hand corner. In addition, come on out and join us at the Bonner County Fairgrounds on March 10 at 7 pm for a public input meeting. 

Some of the trends we are seeing indicate that Units 1–5 are doing well for elk numbers; cow to calf ratios are above 30 calves per 100 cows which means (insert drum roll) we can return to most of the 2008 hunting regulations. 

Unfortunately, Units 6, 7, and 9 are not faring so well with numbers indicating less than 20 calves per 100 cows. Most likely we will have to cut cow seasons in those units. On the bright side our folks who flew those Units saw lots of older bulls—big bulls if you know what I’m saying! In addition, you will see a huge reduction of spikes and raghorns so you won’t hear those satellite bulls screaming and carrying on like they do during the rut. 

What’s the reason for this reduction in cow to calf ratio? Well, there are always many aspects to the changing trends of wildlife populations, but the two big ones are quality of habitat and of course... wolves. Habitat has taken a seat behind wolves, but we need to continue to think about it and the long term impacts on our herds. With the lack of logging and minimal forest fires, the Panhandle has a tough time growing elk. 

Speaking of habitat, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is hosting this year’s banquet on Saturday, April 16, at Bonner County Fairgrounds. Doors open at 4:00 pm and you can begin enjoying the “social hour” with drawings, raffles, games, drinks, and the silent auction and then enjoy a nice dinner followed by a live auction!

So, you might ask, what has the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation really accomplished for elk? Since 1984 the Elk Foundation has: permanently protected more than 1,486 square miles of critical elk habitat, opened more than 590,000 acres to the public to hunt, fish and roam, improved habitat across 4.9 million acres of elk country, and funded more than 7,000 projects to promote conservation education and North America’s hunting heritage. Being an “elk state,” Idaho actually receives more money from the foundation than we as Idahoans put in; that’s a darn good deal! 

RMEF is so efficient with our money they can boast a four star rating (out of four stars) from the Charity Navigator. The Charity Navigator is an independent evaluator of charity organizations to better determine what they are doing with the monies that are generously given to them. 

If you are interested, there are some incentives to becoming a member and attending the banquet. You will receive a new Buck knife made right here in the good ole’ USA and also be entered to win a Ruger 10/22 Rimfire Rifle with a synthetic snow camo stock.

If you would like to purchase tickets or have questions please contact Karen Hanna at (208)304-6303 or email northidahormef(at)yahoo.com. I hope you all can come out and have a good time while supporting elk and their habitat. See you there!

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Author info

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

Tagged as:

elk, wolves, hunting, hunting seasons, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, wildlife habitat

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