BOTH THE GOOD AND THE BAD
A Wildlife Officer’s View of Hunting Season 2006
By George Fischer – Idaho Department of Fish and Game
For many hunters the 2006 season is winding down, yet for others the season is just beginning with whitetail rut hunts and late season elk hunts. Many bird hunters are just starting to hit the field as temperatures cool and upland birds concentrate in thicker cover. Below is a quick run down of what officers in the Grangeville area have observed this fall.
ELK – It’s been a real hit-and-miss season for elk hunters. Some have found lots of bulls and some real trophies, yet others have worked hard just to find a track. As you would expect, wolf issues have weighed heavy on many hunters though out the season. Wolves are changing elk behavior patterns and appear to be concentrating elk in small areas.
When visiting with hunters this fall, it was common to hear many hunters finding elk bunched up in small areas with many traditional hunting areas devoid of elk. Generally, back-country elk hunters found the elk moved down low early this year. Hunters have been doing great the past several years heading high for early bulls. However this fall, hunters down low had some of the better success.
DEER – Deer hunters are enjoying average success. White-tailed deer are still rebounding in lower elevations from the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) outbreak of several years ago. Does and small bucks are plentiful in most areas, but as the rut approaches the larger mature bucks will begin to show themselves more.
MOOSE – Many hunters are concerned about moose numbers in many of the local units, especially in Unit 15 and the backcountry areas. Moose herd health is on the biologist’s “radar” screen. A data check shows hunter success and antler size is about the same as it has been historically. But hunters are most concerned with the number of wolf kills they are finding and the lack of cow and calf moose observed while they pursue other game.
WILD TURKEY AND UPLAND GAME BIRDS – Turkeys continue to expand into new territory in the region with numbers increasing to stabilizing. Chukar, Hungarian partridge and quail numbers are also decent. While overall numbers are down from the glory days in the early nineties, they are up from a few years ago. Pheasant numbers are about average where you can find good cover to hold them. Forest grouse made it into a good number of stew pots this year, as numbers appeared to be a little better then average in many areas.
This fall, our officers have spent the majority of their time visiting with hunters, responding to citizen calls of poaching incidents and patrolling to detect and deter poaching. Overall, most of the hunters and anglers we contacted were having a great time and doing their best to do things right. A major enforcement check station was also conducted on Highway 95 near Riggins in which several hundred hunters were checked for law compliance. Only 28 game violations were detected. For the number of hunters that passed through the check station, officers were pleased with the overall compliance.
Unfortunately, we have also responded to several “drive by” shootings of deer on private land with several animals shot and left to rot or just shot with only the antlers taken. Like it or not, there area a visible minority out there that are destroying the hunter image. They don’t care about ethics, sustaining game populations or helping assure that the tradition of hunting continues for future generations. Most poach for bloodlust and greed.
Many hunters and non-hunting citizens alike are no longer tolerating the abuse of our local wildlife treasures. They are reporting the crimes to authorities, providing crucial information that has helped bring many poachers to justice.
Please don’t tolerate poaching, even in your friends and family. To report a wildlife violation, a phone call to your local conservation officer or sheriff’s department is often the quickest route. A call to Citizens Against Poaching 1 (800)632-5999 can assure your call is kept confidential and you may be eligible for a reward.
Some of the best hunting of the year is still to come. Please do your part to help the future of our great heritage by obeying all game laws, practicing ethical hunting and passing on the tradition by taking a youngster or new hunter afield.
George Fischer is a District Conservation Officer for IDFG stationed in Grangeville.