Recent Articles: hunting

Upland game bird reports are rolling in...

Chukar

Forest grouse seasons have been open since late August and all other species opened on October 1. 

Most hunters have reported that forest grouse population are 'spotty' and locally abundant. 

Both the sage- and sharp-tailed grouse seasons are now closed.  Most hunters reported that populations were down from 2010 levels across the range.

Chukar, gray partridge and quail hunters seem to be faring much better.  Hunters in the Southwest Region have reported seeing healthy populations of birds.  Of the wings that have been turned in thus far, many are juveniles; suggesting that production was good this past spring/summer.  Many hunters have reported seeing 'small' birds which would suggest there were some late hatches.  Reports from the Southeast Region are that gray partridge numbers are down from 2010 levels when they were quite abundant.  I have not heard any reports from the Clearwater, Magic Valley or Salmon regions yet.

Happy hunting!

Panhandle Check Station Results

Elk Harvest
Frankly, I’m not a big fan of check stations.  They’re spot checks at a single location and there are a lot of factors that influence the data other than the size of the elk herd.  (That’s why I do like the mid-winter flight data, even though it’s a lot more expensive.)

We’ve run two stations pretty regularly since 1974 (a few scattered before that as well).  Hunting seasons have changed a lot, so I truncated the data at 1991 in the graphs below.  That’s the year we moved from a September either sex opener, to a standard October 10th bull opener.  You could probably make a decent argument that the graphs should only go back to 1998, when we started the A/B tag system.

So, in VERY general terms, bull elk success rates are looking decent at both check stations, and hunter participation has been declining through both stations since about 1992:

I gave up on trying to make comparisons for cow harvest.  Sometimes the cow season opened on a Friday, sometimes on a Saturday; sometimes it was 7 days long, sometimes 3, etc.  That analysis will just have to wait for the report card data to come in.

Wolf Harvest
From October 1-24, 2009, hunters took 7 wolves in the Idaho Panhandle.  Hunters have taken 9 wolves during this same period this year.  We also had an earlier opener this year (August 30th) with 6 wolves taken prior to October 1.  If we follow the same pattern of harvest as 2009, we would have a final hunter harvest of about 40 wolves.  In general terms, this would take care of most, if not all of the expected reproductive increase.  Trapping should result in a decrease in the Panhandle’s wolf population.

Helpful Map Web sites for Hunters

I wanted to look up the boundaries on some state land the other day and went to the Kootenai County website.  It’s a dang good site for those of us wanting to know who owns what land.  Basically, just go to the Kootenai County website. http://kcearth.kcgov.us/map/default.html.  Click on the layers button (to the right of the green i) and make sure at least the parcel polygon layer is checked.  Zoom into whatever are you want to look at.  The thin blue lines are outlines of property boundaries.  Now you can click on the blue i and click on any of those parcels.  The program should bring up land ownership in a box on the right.  A lot more here, and I’ll leave it to you to explore.  Good site.

Most (not all) counties have their own website and it’s a toss of the dice whether you can easily find maps and land ownership.  None of the other 4 Panhandle Counties had wonderful sites (Bonner County was ok.)  If you want to see what’s available in your own hunting area, go to http://www.idcounties.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={DA621DF6-70BE-4437-BE02-B1431FDA93CA} for a list of county websites.  Good luck.

North Idaho Bears and 2011 Huckleberry Crop

About 50 of you responded with an opinion on the huckleberry crop this year – THANKS!  I got results back from several parts of Idaho, and some from Washington as well.  Looking just at the Idaho Panhandle, individual experiences ranged all the way from “A” to “F” grade.  When it was all said and done, as a group you rated the 2011 huck crop as a C minus.  Not particularly good, but not totally out of whack either.  Units 1, 4 and 4A stand out with the poorest crops this year (in general), while Unit 5 was the only unit to get a B average:

Overall C-
1 D+
2 C-
3 C+
4 D+
4A D
5 B
6 C
7 C
9 C

 

Bears do just fine with serviceberries, buffalo berries, raspberries, elderberries, etc., but huckleberries are key.  In poor huck years, several things happen the next winter:

  • Cubs (and some yearlings) survive poorly in the den that winter.  In real bad years, very few cubs will make it and we’ll lose most of an age class.  We can track this for years from the ages of harvested bears (we get the age from that tooth we swipe from you by counting the rings just like a tree).
  • Few new cubs are born the next year.  Female bears generally have to reach 100 lbs before their body will allow them to have cubs, and you’d be surprised at how many come up short of that in poor berry years.  It’s not surprising to lose most of this age class as well after a bad berry year.
  • The second year’s cub crop can also be affected a bit by poor female body condition.  Often we’ll see a reduction here as well, even though another year has gone by.  It seems that some females can’t recuperate in just one summer and birth rates can still be somewhat lower that second year.

The population dynamics of bears depends a lot on the amount of available food.  In Idaho, the means berries to a large degree.  Our bears are relatively small, and reproductive rates are slow.  In the eastern US, adult bears are substantially larger.  There, they have plenty of berries, but they also have a lot of “hard mast” and in particular acorns and beechnuts.  These are packed with oils (calories) and bears there can put on weight fast.  We can’t compete with that, but then again….they don’t get to live out here!

Generally, with a poor huck year, we see an increase in the fall harvest, as well as complaints of bears in towns.  Often this increase is mostly made up of male bears, for whatever reason (males generally move around more than females, so maybe that’s tied in somehow).  Based on the huck report, we might see a bit of an increase in the fall harvest, but maybe not as much as I was anticipating based on my own observations.

Hunting seasons are underway in many units, and finally we’re getting some cool weather late this week.  It’ll probably go right from hot and dry to cold and wet, but who cares – time to hit the field.  Best of luck to you!

Sportsmen Fall for Idaho's Snake River

  • Fall Chinook fishing season is heating up in the Snake River
    Couse Creek Ramp to Sheep Creek is the "hot spot" with 27.5 hours per fish kept. Learn More
     
  • Steelhead fishing is also good in this area of the Snake River
    The current rate is 19 hours per fish kept. Learn More
     
  • Try bird hunting when you want a break from fishing. 
    Mourning Dove season is open now, and starting Saturday, October 1, upland bird hunters will be able to hunt all five grouse species in addition to chukar and gray partridge and quail within the same week. Learn More

Get your rod, gun, and dog and go out and enjoy Idaho's abundant fish and wildlife resources during the beautiful fall weather!

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