It seems heaven was getting crowded (kind of like some
of Idaho’s premier elk-hunting units). So St. Peter decided
to give an admission test. His first customer was a nuclear physicist from Boston. “How has nuclear energy benefitted mankind?” asked St. Pete. The physicist explained nuclear power and nuclear medicine advancements and potentials. He was admitted.
The second was a Chicago stock broker. “Explain the role of the free market system in world peace.” The broker eloquently listed the advantages of economic incentives as the basis for raising worldwide production and distribution of food and medicine. He was admitted.
The third was an Idaho resident. The holy gatekeeper thought long and hard, then asked “Got your elk yet?”
Elk hunting and Idaho are synonymous for more than 100,000 dedicated hunters. In Idaho, wildlife management and productive habitats have combined to provide tremendous elk opportunity. Rugged terrain assures that the hunter puts out some effort, making the reward just that much sweeter.
But just like heaven, Idaho is getting more congested. Right here in elk paradise, it has become necessary for the Department and elk hunters to take a hard look at elk management. Productivity of some herds in key areas is declining. In some heavily hunted areas, the ratio of mature bulls to cows is below what it should be to assure healthy herds. In still other areas, the herds are expanding fast—faster than hunting can control—and causing problems for their neighbors.
These are not new issues. The same concerns have, over the past five years, caused wildlife managers and sportsmen to take measures that make hunters less efficient in general-hunt areas. We took away the last week in September for some archery hunts, eliminated most rifle hunters from the rut, and instituted controlled hunts for anterless animals where there were problems.
We think that program had some beneficial effects. But in many areas, these changes were too little or too late. Problems still exist and are predicted to continue unless we do something. But WHAT??!!
Hunters clearly told us what was NOT preferred. Controlled hunts would not let everyone hunt every year. That was unacceptable. So was choose-your-weapon. People want to hunt every year. They want the opportunity to hunt with both archery equipment and a rifle. And, most of all, they want Idaho to continue to have a variety of hunting opportunities, healthy herds and big bulls. That’s a tall order, and one our staff, with thousands of hours of volunteer help from elk hunters and concerned sportsmen, has struggled over how to meet for more than two years.
What is described and explained in this online handbook is the result of that effort. Like all compromises, it won’t please everyone.
What it will do, however, is give us a process to assure the future of quality elk hunting in Idaho without severely restricting hunter opportunity. It gives our wildlife managers the chance to address a wide range of problems. It gives hunters a lot of variety in the type of elk hunt they choose. And it restores some opportunity to hunt both deer and elk at the same time.
The future of elk hunting in Idaho is very bright. The A-B Zone tags provide a framework to reach all the objectives. Please read on.