Idaho Makes Substantial
Changes to Big Game Rules
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission made substantial changes to big game hunting rules and seasons for the 2001 hunts when it met in Boise on March 14-16.

The Commission decided to cap rifle hunting for bull elk in Unit 39 at 3,300 B tags to be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Unit 39 includes most of the Boise River watershed. Commissioners agreed to cap bull elk tags for rifle hunters in an attempt to maintain quality elk hunting in the unit. In recent years, bull harvests have been too high to maintain management goals for the male segment of the herd.

"We looked at this hard last year and did nothing, hoping it would improve, and it didn't," Southwest Region Commissioner Don Clower said.

The 3,300 tags are divided so residents can buy 3,013, nonresidents will have 269, and outfitters will receive 18.

Commissioners also added a traditional muzzleloader elk hunt in Unit 39 from September 15 to September 30. Muzzleloader hunters will have to buy a Boise River Zone "A" tag to participate. Traditional muzzleloaders were defined as those with external hammers, cap or flint, flowable powder or synthetic, iron sights, and patched round balls .50 caliber or larger.

The Commission ruled that no motor vehicles can be used during traditional muzzleloader or archery hunts. Fish and Game staff yhave been instructed to draft regulations that will restrict off-road use of motor vehicles while hunting during a traditional-weapons season. Commissioners also approved a definition for traditional archery equipment, which includes recurve and longbows only, no mechanical sights, and only wooden arrows with natural fletching. All other current archery rules also apply.

Archers were given access to all of Unit 39 during archery deer hunts. A portion of the unit in Ada County east of Idaho 21 and north of Arrowrock Reservoir to Thorn Creek was reopened to archery hunting.

Mountain lion hunters also will have more hunting opportunities. The Commission approved a change to keep the season open to harvest of male lions after the female quota is reached. This rule will apply to all southwest Idaho units.

Fall bear season in Unit 39 will be open from August 30 through October 31, which will make it the same as other units in the state. Last year, Unit 39 opened September 15.

The Commission reinstituted mandatory big game harvest reports for all deer, elk and antelope hunters. All hunters will have to report whether or not they harvested deer, elk and/or antelope. They will not have to carry report cards in the field, and Fish and Game will accept reports by phone, fax, mail and online. Everyone who reports on time will be eligible for a drawing for 10 "Super Tags" which allow a person to hunt deer or elk in any open unit in the state.

Hunters will not be allowed to buy a 2002 hunting license until they have returned their report card information for 2001.

Commissioners approved either-sex deer hunting for youths ages 12-15 in much of southern Idaho. The change is an attempt to encourage youths to hunt. "I think we need to bend over backwards to get kids out in the field," chairman Fred Wood said.

The Commission decided to continue rifle hunting in Owyhee County for two-point bucks, and controlled hunts for larger bucks, but shortened the
general deer season by 13 days. The general, any-weapon season will run October 5 through October 18 in units 40, 41 and 42. The idea of changing to a traditional weapons style of hunting deer in the Owyhee units was presented to the public but was not favored by the majority of those who commented. Clower encouraged the Commission to revisit deer hunting in the Owyhees this summer and seek ways to improve the deer herds there so two-point restrictions could be removed in the future.

"If I've heard one thing, it's that nobody likes the two-point restriction," Clower said.

Commissioners decided after considerable debate to add point restrictions to elk hunting in Unit 27. The new rule will be that only bulls with brow tines will be legal.

Other actions included allowing resident and nonresident elk hunters to purchase unsold nonresident elk tags as second tags and cutting prices of nonresident bear tags in the Lochsa area from $235 to $31.50 for the first tag in an effort to encourage hunting where Fish and Game is attempting to study the effects bears have on elk.

Seasons and rules were otherwise accepted as proposed by Fish and Game staff and presented to the public in this spring's series of public sessions in each of the seven regions. The rules brochure should be available by mid-April.

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