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The Game Trail

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Archery growing in popularity

Archery season is right around the corner as I type this. In fact, by the time this prints we’ll be a couple of days into it. If you haven’t been out shooting and tuning up your skills and equipment, now is the time. If you are new to flinging arrows or it’s been a while, there are some great folks in the community who will give you a hand. Join the Sandpoint Archers, and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow shooters, while learning a few things. Or talk to Tom and Calvin at Sandpoint Outfitters and Pete at the Arrow Works in Clark Fork.

There’s no doubt hotter temperatures will follow us well into the archery season. Heat and game meat don’t mix too well, so have a plan to take care of your meat before you head into the woods. Every year I see people make mistakes that can be avoided. Learn to properly dress your animal. With an elk, remove the entire hide, especially the thicker hair that covers the brisket and neck. Also, get the windpipe out. Have some coolers with ice to put the meat on as soon as you get back to the truck.

Unfortunately, with the anticipation of hunting season arriving some degenerates think that they should illegally shoot big game, stealing our resources. A lot of this monkey business happens at night with a spotlight. Fish & Game officers will be deploying their robotic decoys in record numbers this late summer and early fall. This is not a threat, but more of a warning to those that think illegally shooting animals is fun. It may prove to be the most expensive fun you’ve had. We set the decoys to catch folks that are hunting at night, out of season, or on private property without permission. If you are a land owner that has experienced problems with trespass, spotlighting issues, and are interested in having a decoy operation on your property, please call me, or your local officer.

Also, the economy is not doing as well as it has been, and some folks are suffering financially. Financial woes are not an excuse to steal game from the people of Idaho. If you need meat please call me and we’ll do our best to put some meat on your table, legally. Every year I have some poacher tell me they were just trying to feed their family. And in most cases they have a fresh box of beer on the seat, and pack of smokes, and the latest cell phone attached to their belt. Pretty lame excuse if you ask me. For those folks that can spare a little meat this year, please consider taking your extras to the food bank or call me and I’ll find a family that needs the meat. Please remember to attach a proxy statement to the meat when you give it to someone else. Proxy statements can be found in the hunting regulations.

Jim Hayden, your Regional Wildlife Manager here in the Panhandle, put out some interesting statistics on archery hunting. According to Jim, we’re seeing the number of archers (includes both A tag and B tag) increasing at a rate of about 4.7 percent a year in the Panhandle. We now have just under 4,900 elk archers in the region. That’s about 1 out of every 4 elk hunters hunting with a bow. Panhandle archers are doing better now than they did a few years ago as well. That’s probably from a combination of better equipment, better access, improved overall elk herds, and/or a shift of hunting to areas with more elk. In 2001, about 9 percent of archers took an elk in the Panhandle. Last year, it was better than 12 percent. The combination of more hunters and higher success rates led to an all-time record of 594 elk harvested by Panhandle archers in 2007. Just for a comparison, 15 years ago, Panhandle archers took just 128 elk during the 1992 archery season! We’ve also seen a slight increase in the number of nice bulls taken by archers. From 2000 to 2004, archers took about 65 six-point bulls a year. That’s improved now, and last year, archers took 118 six-point bulls in the region.

Unit 1 has really come on strong, and is a big part of the reason that the region-wide harvest is so good. Archery elk harvest in Unit 1 has more than tripled in the last 8 years, growing from about 40 to about 130 elk per year. You still can’t just go up and wander around and find elk necessarily, but the elk herd is growing, and folks are finding them. Archery hunting in the Panhandle has never been better. There is no doubt that we will see a decrease at some point in the success rate as hunter numbers increase. Regardless, it will be another outstanding season. So get out there and enjoy it! Follow the rules, respect private property and other hunters, and take care of the harvested meat properly.

School is starting soon, and our schedules will be even more hectic. Have you made the effort to spend quality time with your kids in the outdoors this summer? Grab the kids and hit the woods.

Leave No Child Inside.


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

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