Idaho Big Game Update for 1999
The Same or Better
by Ed Mitchell
Where big game hunters did well last fall, they should do well again. Where there are problems, there are still problems.
The good news is the same as it has been for several years: minimal winterkill and good moisture for forage on the ranges.
The only well-noted winterkill, which involved a relatively few elk, happened on the South Fork of the Boise where it appears some animals simply
stayed too high too long because of easy conditions and were caught out when the snow finally did come. This scene may have played out in a
few other places less well observed but, overall, winter conditions were never severe enough to affect many animals.
Conditions over the last several years have promoted good reproduction and, in most places, a gradual strengthening of numbers. This is
illustrated in the southwest where mule deer have come back to the point that the first large controlled hunt for antlerless is being offered
after many years. In this region, deer seem to be hitting about as high a point as carrying capacity (political and biological) will stand.
Mule deer in general are holding their own or coming back on a gradual slope but the fact remains that this species is still way below the levels
many of us old-timers would like to see. And this is not just in Idaho. Every state game agency in the West is looking at the same situation and
wondering how to raise numbers. Everyone is trying something different, which is a good thing. Game managers do get together and talk so, if
someone finds a key, the word goes out quickly.
Idaho is doing some interesting predator studies that have the potential to give us significant new knowledge. Some of the early results are
eye-opening but, like all things scientific, studies take long enough to try our patience sorely.
Anyway, for the last several seasons, classic hunting weather has not been the general story. Falls have been long, nice and warm. The only
folks who fault this kind of weather are big game hunters but, when our November hunt feels like September and the elk are fattening happily
at 8,000 feet, we can be a little grumpy.
Who knows when this pattern will change? I have tried to push my own big game hunting as late into
the fall as I can and I would recommend that strategy generally if it were not for the fear that we will see the biggie hit the hills the first week in
October one of these years. Nobody is in control of this factor; all we can do is be prepared for whatever happens.
If hunter numbers is a concern, the good news is that those figures are down this year. Idaho has ordinarily sold all out of state
elk tags in the first few months of the year. As of August 1, Fish and Game was still
holding several hundred non-resident elk tags. Tough hunting weather, complicated rules, new hunting zone plan, aging hunter culture-all may
be factors but the thing we do know is that there just are not as many folks in the hills as there were a few years ago.
Another factor in Idaho’s elk hunter numbers is the problems in the Clearwater country,
for 50 years one of the top elk areas in the country. Fish and Game, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others have gone to work to fix the
habitat and whatever else has changed there but herds will certainly be down for some years. Folks are still finding some of the best bulls in the
country there but it is no longer the gimme it once was when most of that area was in young, post-fire shrub growth.
What’s New at Idaho Fish & Game
Idaho Fish & Game/Wildlife
1998 Big Game Harvest Reports
Links are provided to books mentioned below.
They are for sale through Idaho fish ‘n’ hunt in association with Amazon.com
Mule Deer : Hunting Today's Trophies by Jim Van Norman, Tom Carpenter
Hunting Open-Country Mule Deer by Idaho author, Dwight Schuh
Bugling for Elk by Idaho author, Dwight Schuh
Hardback -- High Pressure Elk Hunting : Secrets of Hunting Educated Elk by Mike Lapinski
The Elk Mystique by Mike Lapinski
Deer Talk : Your Guide to Finding, Calling, and Hunting Mule Deer and Whitetails, With Rifle, Bow or Camera by Don Laubach, Mark Henckel, John Potter (Illustrator)
Advanced Whitetail Hunting by Idaho authors, Ron L. Spomer, Gary Clancy
Self Defense for Nature Lovers : Handling Dangerous Situations With Wild Critters
by Mike Lapinski
Copyright ©1999 Spring Creek Communications