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More Idaho elk opportunity?

Elk in snowfield
Photo credits: Shutterstock

Last night, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) discussed the possibility of culling cow elk within the Pioneer Elk Management Zone by creating more hunting opportunity and increasing license fees this season during a three-hour public meeting attended by 50 hunters. IDFG also provided an update on how supplemental winter feeding is helping elk and deer herds this winter.

Because elk herds have increased within the Pioneer Elk Management Zone – a region that covers the Pioneer Mountains, the White Cloud Mountains and areas east and north of Trail Creek Summit, IDFG would like to bring the numbers back to a sustainable level, according to the Idaho Mountain Express. To do this, IDFG has proposed bringing hunters in to help them out.

“There’s probably more elk per square mile there than anywhere else in Idaho,” says IDFG Regional Wildlife Manager Daryl Meints, adding that IDFG would like to see the number of cow elk drop from 6,700 to 5,600. To do this, IDFG has proposed the following two options, which, according to the Idaho Mountain Express, will be open to public comment until Feb. 26:

  • Option A:
    12 antlerless controlled hunts (increasing the number of tags from 1,160 to 2,200) with a new unlimited controlled hunt in Unit 50 that would run Nov. 15 through Dec. 7.
  • Option B:
    Adding a general over-the-counter antlerless hunt that would run Nov. 10 to 30 along with an extra controlled antlerless hunt in the northern zone with an additional 400 tags from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 (increasing controlled hunt tags from 1,160 to 1,200).

In addition to the increased hunting opportunity proposal, IDFG requested a license increase of $5 to adult resident hunting licenses, $2 to junior or senior licenses and $10 to nonresident licenses to “help prevent and provide compensation for crop depredation by wildlife and obtain more public-access agreements with landowners,” according to the Idaho Mountain Express. If approved, this will be the first time the license fee has increased for residents since 2005.

Lastly, IDFG discussed the current outcome of the deer and elk supplemental feeding program – a program that boosts fawn survival during harsh winter months. This winter, IDFG has fed hay to 1,700 elk and specially formulated feed pellets to 900 deer at 24 sites within Blaine County, according to the Idaho Mountain Express. While mild winters have helped herds in the past, Meints believes this winter more deer relied on this supplemental food source for survival.




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Mark L. - posted 2 years ago on 03-01-2017 07:31:11 am

i agree with all of you.
i love hunting idaho and as a non resident i think its the best state for my children and youth alike to get involved in hunting. i would like to see herd balancing hunts if needed,,, given more to the youth opportunities.
we need them involved.

Dan D. - posted 2 years ago on 02-25-2017 08:40:24 pm

I'm with Ya Jay. I would gladly pay more more feestablished and tags if we had a solid management and funds layout that would benefit habitat and programs. We both know that the fee increase would only help some new cockamame plan that would mis appropriate funds and we'd be right where we started. I never said or think for a minute that killing cows on a "culling" hunt is a good idea in this case. I just think that we should think about the cycle of a period of variables in a hunting unit. If in 5 years numbers are still too high for objectives, let's do something about it. After a year of good calf survival we have over objective numbers and we jump all over plans to eliminate the herd.. the next year we have a bad winter and all calves die. Now we have some serious issues...basic management ideas here. I want to let it play out and not jump the gun with so many opportunity Hunts.
Let's face it..Idaho Fish and game does not choose to manage the resource like other surrounding states. They think the public wants opportunity over quality though. And by enlarge, I think they are right to assume that. Based on all the recent surveys, majority of hunters in idaho want to hunt every year and will sacrifice long term quality objectives to attain it. Not my pov, but it is the way it is viewed here. Still don't think many people are coming over from neighboring states to kill a late season cow on nonresident prices. So hopefully we don't have to worry about that too much.

Jay M. - posted 2 years ago on 02-25-2017 08:07:42 pm

Ok Dan, $30.75 for an elk tag. Thats a little more than a case of beer and not even a tank of gas. I would gladly pay much more if I knew there would be a realistic opportunity to hunt mature animals in the state of Idaho. IDFG has been trying to push a fee increase for a long time but residents scream bloody murder even though thousands of dollars in optics and electronics line their $500 backpacks and thousands of dollars in atvs and other transportation to access hunting country. Idaho has become a state that people come from neighboring states that only offer quality hunts through a draw. The problem is that they don't respect our land the same as they would in their home state. You wanna wait 7-10 years of killing pregnant cows to see what happens. I'll make it easy for you, that bull calf in the cow's belly you eat this fall could have been a mature 6x6 by then. Now multiply that by the fabricated numbers in the surveys and there ya have it. Those mature, breeding age, bulls will be wiped out this fall before they ever hit the ground.

Dan D. - posted 2 years ago on 02-25-2017 12:40:32 pm

Jay m.. Idaho resident elk tags are over 30 bucks..IMO landowners need to agree to some sort of Hunter opportunity in order to receive crop reimbursement or programs allowing is an ongoing and serious issue facing all within every state. Private lands supporting public herds can lead to drastic measures.. recently 28 antelope were illegally poached in an area where they have been devastating haystack and arrests have been madeveloped, but it is likely some frustrated landowners to be blamed for this incident and not an errant sportsman..

As for more tags in areas that support "too many elk". I don't believe for a second that a once out of 5 year Arial survey for 2 days can give a realistic view of what's really going on in a specific unit, let alone a region..if harvest numbers are up, sighting are up and opportunity is up. Let's keep it that way. So many variables are at play to make drastic tag changes based on a recent "problem" let it play out for 7-10 years to get a better idea of how we can help

Jay M. - posted 2 years ago on 02-24-2017 08:00:08 pm

As this last election has taught us, don't believe everything you read in the news. The truth is that the IDFG biologist for this region altered the last 10 years of flight survey data. The elk in this region that were included in the count actually spend their summer and fall in the Pahsimeroi valley, but winter in the Pioneer zone adding an additional 1600 elk to the count! This is a politically motivated move and we as sportsman need to be concerned. "Culling" elk in Idaho is absolutely the most irresponsible action the fish and game can take. Our elk population is suffering from predation and a brutal winter, the effects of which are yet to be known. To offer additional cow permits will significantly reduce the herd in that area for years to come. As for the "crop damage" issue, I have a hard time feeling sorry for a rancher driving a brand new pickup truck blaming elk for any loss of crops. There are risks with any business, elk should not be "culled" because the only place safe from wolves to feed is down low near a farmers field. How bout this, put limits on nonresident tags, increase resident license fees (ID residents pay less than $20 for an elk tag), increase predator control, and allow "green field" hunts within 1 mile of fields to push elk away from the crops. IDFG claims to manage for "opportunity"? How does killing all of the cows in an area (especially with falsified information) provide opportunity for the future?

Dan H. - posted 2 years ago on 02-24-2017 04:00:18 pm

I agree, Nevada is a prime example. Ranchers have locked up thousands of acres of checker board public land only allowing access to guides that have clients that are rich enough to afford the landowner tags. After watching this progress for twenty years I became disgusted with Nevada game management.

Brent D. - posted 2 years ago on 02-24-2017 09:23:04 am
Parma, Idaho

I cannot get on board with this compensation for crop depredation. Why the sportsman have to help flip this bill. This is no more our responsibility as it would be a hiker, or mountain biker. How is this different then weather damage? That is what insurance companies are for...this should be covered by them. When private landowners lock up their land from public access, or cater to outfitters I have a hard time getting on board with favoring their cause. I have a family to take care of as well...if I suffer some sort of dire circumstances, are ranchers entitled to have to help me out? This is beyond ridiculous in my opinion, and do not support it at all. As for the rest of the proposals...I'm good with them.