Copyright ©1999 Spring Creek Communications
Idaho’s 1999 Big Game Hunting Opportunities
Idaho is surely among the top two or three big game states in the entire U. S. It offers mule deer, whitetails, and elk in such abundance that (controlled hunt) drawings are not needed for residents wanting to hunt in general units. Many drawings are available, however, for areas considered to be prize trophy areas, or in units where hunting needs to be carefully controlled for research and protection purposes.
By Sharon Watson
Ten-percent, or roughly 10,000 first-come elk tags become available each December 1 to non-residents for the following year, with a similar 10% limitation on non-resident deer tags. Available deer tags to non-residents come to about 23,000. Non-resident deer tags have not sold out in the past 3 years.
When ordering elk tags, you must know the zone you will be hunting in and whether your tag is an A or a B tag. You will be restricted to your zone, and to the hunts offered on the A or the B tag, whichever one you choose. You will be asked also which Unit within your zone where you think you will be hunting. You will not be restricted to just that Unit, unless your A or B tag has specifically restricted you.
To date (8/26/99) there are about 600 General Season elk tags still left for non-resident hunters. Due to the more complicated zone system, prices going up, and bad winter kill a couple years back, elk tags have gone a little slower. In the recent past, though, Idaho was sold out of elk tags by April or May.
When ordering deer tags, you need to know whether it is a Clearwater deer tag that you want, or a Regular deer tag. If you choose a Clearwater tag, you will be restricted to Units 8 through 20. The Regular deer tag is good for anywhere else in the state. You will be asked, however, what Unit you think you will hunt in, but it does not restrict you to that Unit. You can keep hunting in different Units in later hunts – until you harvest your deer. You cannot harvest two deer in Idaho unless you draw for a controlled Extra-Tag hunt (The Hunt Unit will have an "X" after it).
There are two exceptions to the above: The Lolo Zone B-tag for elk (only 1600 tags will be sold) and the Southeast deer tag (for Units 75, 76, 77, and 78). Non-residents must specify they want this deer tag, the number of tags are limited, and they are usually sold out in the first few weeks. They go on sale December 1, 1999 for the year 2000.
All licenses and tags for hunting big game in Idaho go on sale December 1, 1999 for the big game season year 2000. Residents, however, receive only a receipt for their tags and are not allowed to designate their tags until after the controlled hunt drawings are over for deer, elk and antelope (July 1). If a non-resident pre-purchases a tag in order to insure that he has one, and then applies for, and gets, a controlled hunt, he or she merely exchanges the pre-purchased tag for the controlled hunt tag by returning it to
F&G Headquarters office (P. O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707) with $1.50 controlled hunt permit fee and $3.50 exchange fee, explaining the required exchange. All information concerning the hunter will be in the F&G computer system, including that he has drawn a controlled hunt and needs to exchange a tag -- but provide your phone number in case they have any questions.
Black bear roam everywhere in Idaho, crossing highways, coming down into valley farmlands, and even entering small towns on occasion. And, thousands of rarely-seen cougars frequent our vast backcountry and de facto wilderness areas, and also sometimes our range lands and backyards.
General Season spring black bear hunts open about April 15, with fall hunts opening about September 15 in northern Idaho, and about August 30 below the Clearwater region.
Any non-resident purchasing elk or deer tags in the Lolo, Selway or Middle Fork Zones this year can purchase bear and mountain lion tags at a special rate = $21.50 each (normally $226.50 each)!
If you want to get in on the Spring Black Bear controlled (draw) hunts for the year 2000, the application period is January 15, 2000 through February 15, 2000. Application period for the controlled fall bear hunts is the same as for controlled deer, elk and antelope hunts: May 1, through May 31. If applying by mail, your application needs to be postmarked by the last day of the application period.
In the case of elk and deer, if there are any controlled hunt tags left over, they can still be purchased after the May 31 application deadline -- until sold out. Last I heard there were still some controlled hunts left over for 1999, but they are generally the more difficult-to-access hunts, plus some Youth Hunts.
This year, Idaho has opened new youth hunts, also by drawing only. Some of the controlled-hunts for young people are still left, however, because it’s a new thing and not enough folks have heard about it. Youth-Hunt applicants must be 15 years or younger on May 31, 1999. Call Idaho Fish & Game Licensing for information: (208) 334-3717.
Several thousand any-antelope permits are available each year through a drawing. The only general season (non-draw) hunts for antelope in 1999 are for archery-only.
Moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat drawings must be applied for in the month of April, so those drawings are over. Only Idaho residents can hunt moose. However, rumor has it that the Idaho Fish & Game Commission is looking into the possibility of a non-resident moose hunt for the fall of 2000.
You may ask, "Is all this great hunting locked up in private lands? Are Idaho’s great forests laced with roads and hordes of gun-happy hunters?" Absolutely not. Roughly two-thirds of our state is public lands, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), State lands, and Forest Service lands, with hunting access open to anyone with a hunting license. Camping space is abundant, often by a burbling trout stream, or along the shores of an 8,000’ alpine lake. If you really want to get-away-from-it-all, Idaho boasts the biggest contiguous pure-wilderness region this side of Alaska (bring your horse, backpack, llama, or rubber raft – all motorized vehicles and mechanical devices are strictly forbidden in our several sprawling wilderness regions).
Some areas are harder to access due to private land, but this year Idaho has created, in cooperation with landowners, a Landowner Permission hunt in Unit 39 to alleviate localized wildlife problems. This hunt is being carefully controlled, so is treated as a controlled hunt, but is sold on a first-come, first-served basis only at three Idaho Fish & Game offices (Nampa, Boise, and McCall). Each hunter has to get a special permission-form filled out from the landowner first. The landowner must own 159 acres or more in Unit 39. This is controlled hunt #2101 for the 1999 season.
Note of caution: Never assume that one year’s controlled hunt numbers are going to be the same for the following year. If Fish and Game adds any new hunts, all the following hunt numbers after that are changed to a new number. So, before making application for controlled hunts, always wait until the New Big Game Regulations/Seasons booklet comes out in April of each year, or you may get drawn for a hunt you do not want. There is no advantage in trying to be the first one in for a controlled hunt. Our understanding is that they take all the applications that arrived during the month of May and each application is given a number by the computer and then sometime in the month of June, the applications are randomly drawn by number. When your application is drawn, but, let’s say, your first choice is already filled up, you are automatically given the opportunity to receive your second choice at that time. You are not thrown "back in" to wait for your number to come up again for a chance at your second choice. Your second choice IS important, so choose it as carefully as you choose your first choice.
There is also something called Landowner Appreciation Permits. They are special hunts for landowners and their family members. Certain acreage and other requirements must be met.
Depredation hunts are also available – for residents only. Contact any F&G regional office for hunts available. See page 78 of the Idaho 1999 Big Game Seasons booklet for application forms.
In the final analysis, Idaho has numerous hunt possibilities for both residents and non-residents with a variety of season dates, plus permit drawings allowing for trophy hunts. Wilderness elk can still be bugled in to rifle and bow, big whitetails can be "rattled in" to concealed stands during mid-November, and outsized muleys can be bagged in late fall as they lose some of their daytime caution to rut fever.
Plenty of big game awaits easy access by good back roads. In fact, most of my family’s 30 or so Idaho big game animals have been taken within easy packing distance of vehicles.