Answers to hunters' questions about the new zone tag system.
1. What units are you trying to protect and what is wrong
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Last fall the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a minimum management criteria of 10 mature (3+ years old) bulls per 100 cows to ensure productive, healthy elk populations for the future. If too few mature bulls are present in an elk herd, younger bulls end up doing most of the breeding, and fewer cows are likely to be bred. As a result, fewer elk calves are born each year.
Also, if cows are not bred the first time they come into heat, they come into heat again about a month later. This means some calves are born a month after the others. These calves tend to be smaller going into winter and are less likely to survive than calves born earlier, which are larger going into winter.
Likewise, cows that nurse calves later into the summer will be in poorer condition for winter than cows that gave birth earlier in the year. Second-heat cows are less likely to become pregnant during the breeding season and, if they do, will have poorer odds of surviving the winter.
In short, elk herds with at least 10 mature bulls per 100 cows are more productive than herds with fewer bulls.
IDFG biologists have determined that 14 game management units (8, 10A, 11A, 15, 16, 19, 22, 28, 32, 32A, 36B, 64, 66, and 69) are not meeting the minimum criteria of 10 mature bulls per 100 cows (see Biology of it All). In the Lolo Zone units 10 and 12 ,after arial surveys in the winter of 1997-98, the Commission restricted sales of B tags to 1600.
2. I hear there are more cows than ever, so why not kill
more of them to correct the bull:cow ratios?
Killing more cows will “improve” bull:cow ratios by reducing the number of cows with respect to the number of bulls. This is the most appropriate solution if the intent is to reduce the total elk population in a given area because of crop depredation or because the population is higher than available habitat can sustain.
If the elk population is not limited by the condition or amount of available habitat or by social concerns, reducing hunting pressure on mature bulls is a better solution. It can result in an increase in the number of older bulls in the population without reducing the herd’s size or productivity.
3. “Either-sex” means I can kill an elk or a deer, right?
Wrong. In an “either-sex” elk hunt, you can kill either an antlered (bull) or an antlerless (cow or calf) elk. In an “either-sex” deer hunt, you can kill either an antlered (buck) or antlerless (doe or fawn) deer.
4. If I don’t get an elk with my bow, can I hunt with my rifle?
In most cases, yes. Although opportunity to hunt during the archery season and the general rifle or “any weapon” season with an A or B tag varies among zones, most zones that offer an archery hunt also allow you to hunt during the general season if you don’t get an elk with your bow. Consult the 1998 Big Game Rules booklet to see what seasons are offered in the zone where you would like to hunt.
5. Can I buy more than one zone tag as long as I only kill
No. You can buy only one elk tag per year.
6. My outfitter’s area covers more than one zone. Can I
hunt in both of them?
No. You are allowed to hunt only in game management units in the zone in which your elk tag is valid. You can hunt only in the part of your outfitter’s licensed area that lies within that zone.
7. My property covers more than one zone. Can I hunt in
both of them?
No. You are required to choose one zone at the time you purchase your elk tag for the year. That elk tag will be valid in only one zone.
8. My cousin moved from where he used to live in Salmon
so I want to trade the zone tag I had for that area when
I planned on staying at his place. Can I do that?
Yes. You can exchange your Salmon zone elk tag for a different zone up until August 29, or until the season in your current zone opens if it is prior to August 29. There is a $3.50 fee for exchanges. If you are a nonresident and you are exchanging from a zone to a limited quota zone, there must be tags still available in those quotas to allow the exchange.
9. Does this mean I can hunt in only one zone?
Yes. Your tag will be good for only one zone during the season.
10. Is there going to be a cap on numbers of tags in zones?
There will be a cap on the number of B tags available in 1998 in the Lolo Zone only. The Panhandle Zone also has a traditional cap on nonresident tags.
Beginning in 1999, it is likely that the number of B tags (good for any bull during the general season in most zones) will be capped in problem zones. If the number of B tags is capped, the available tags will be issued first-come, first-served.
11. Can I hunt deer at the same time as elk?
Many zones offer deer seasons that at least partially overlap with elk seasons, allowing you to hunt both species at the same time. Check the deer and elk season dates for 1998 to see if the seasons overlap where you’d like to hunt.
12. Can I get a tag from an outfitter?
A limited number of nonresident tags are reserved for outfitters’ clients. Ask your outfitter about their availability.
13. I’m a nonresident. Can I get a refund if I can’t make it
Only under certain circumstances. In the event of illness or injury that disables a nonresident licensee for the entire applicable hunting season, military deployment due to armed conflict, or death, the hunting license and general season deer or elk tags may be refunded minus issuance fees and a $50 processing fee. Tags and licenses must be returned with proof (death certificate, obituary, written justification by a licensed medical doctor or copy of military orders). Hunting license fees will not be refunded after the license has been used to apply for a controlled hunt or to purchase a turkey, mountain lion or bear tag. The request must be postmarked by Dec. 31 of the year in which the license was valid.
If a refund is requested for any other reason, only the general season deer and elk tag fees (not the license fee) may be refunded, at the following sliding scale rate:
Date Postmarked - Percentage of Fee Refunded
Before April 1 - 75%
April 1 - June 30 - 50%
July 1 - August 31 - 25%
September 1 - December 31 - 0%
14. Can I hunt from my ATV?
Not unless you are disabled and have a disabled person’s motor vehicle hunting permit, available at IDFG offices. Some areas, such as designated Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas, have restrictions on types of travel. Be sure to check road and trail restrictions with the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management office for your area if you plan to use any mechanized conveyance, such as a bicycle, motorcycle, ATV, etc.
15. What about bear tags? Does zone management affect
No, bear tags are not affected by zones. A general-season bear tag is good in any open general bear season. If you are interested in hunting bears while hunting elk, check the 1998 Big Game Rules for specific dates in your elk hunting area.
16. How does the zone tag setup affect my chances of
We won’t know for certain how harvest success is affected until we have a couple years of harvest data in hand to see how hunters distribute themselves under the new system. Then we can compare zone success rates with those under the present system. Hunters can expect to see a mandatory harvest report required in 1998.
The main effect is expected to be a decrease in hunter density, and thus hunting pressure, overall. In theory, as hunter numbers/hunting pressure goes down, success rates should increase. How much is difficult to say. Essentially, there should be fewer hunters competing for the available number of elk in a given area.
Although measurable improvements in a hunter’s chance of harvesting an elk may be negligible, the “quality” of the hunting experience will likely be better for many hunters because of fewer encounters with other hunters.
17. What’s the difference between controlled hunt and
A general season allows anyone with the proper tag, such as a regular deer tag or elk tag, to hunt without having to draw a special permit. In controlled hunts, you must apply for one of a (usually) limited number of permits.
Controlled hunts usually limit the number of hunters in the field. Hunters in these “draw” hunts have a higher success rate. They are desirable because of timing, such as a controlled bull elk hunt during the rut; location, like elk permits in the high desert country of southwest Idaho; or species and sex, such as cow elk permits, which appeal to folks whose first interest is filling the freezer. When you are selected for a controlled hunt permit, you are limited to hunting that species in that hunt.
18. If I draw on a controlled hunt, do I need to have a zone
No. Your controlled hunt permit and tag take the place of a zone tag. You can hunt only during the specified season and within the controlled hunt area specified for that hunt.
19. Must I have a zone tag for the controlled hunt I want?
No. If you purchase a zone tag and then draw a controlled hunt permit, you can exchange your zone tag for the controlled hunt permit and tag.
20. I’m a nonresident. Do I have to buy a zone tag for the
area I want before I apply for a controlled hunt, or can
I apply for a hunt in a different zone?
You must have a hunting license to apply for a controlled hunt. You are not required to buy an elk tag before applying but most nonresident hunters do, so they can hunt general season if they don’t draw a controlled hunt permit. You do not have to apply for a controlled hunt that is in the same area as your zone tag. License fees are not refundable after you use the license to apply for a controlled hunt permit.
21. I’m a nonresident. I bought a zone tag to apply in a
controlled hunt, but didn’t get a permit. Can I exchange it for a tag in a different zone?
Yes. You can exchange your zone tag for a tag in another zone up until August 29 or until the season in your current zone opens if it is prior to August 29. If you are a nonresident and you are exchanging from a limited quota zone to any other zone or visa versa, there must be tags still available in those quotas to allow the exchange. There is a $3.50 fee for exchanges.
22. What’s the difference between “A” and “B” and the
benefit to me to choose one over the other?
The simple explanation is: The A tag is muzzleloader/archery-rich and centerfire-poor; the B tag is centerfire-rich and muzzleloader/archery-poor. The advantage to you is that, in general, you can get more open-season days for your favorite hunting method by choosing the tag that favors one or the other.
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