Copyright ©1999 Peter Fischer
Good Hunting in WMAs
Idahoans are, in general, a laid-back bunch. They let life go by without getting too excited – until someone brings up the subject of hunting or fishing. Instantly, the attitude changes; necks start to swell, faces redden and fists clench. The reason is not surprising: the outdoors is the one subject almost every Idahoan takes seriously.
By Peter Fischer
Given this outlook, it should be no surprise that one of the popular pastimes in our state is "Fish and Game Bashing" – finding fault with those who are burdened with the responsibility of maintaining, even enhancing our outdoor opportunities in the face of competing and often mutually exclusive demands.
There is one area, however, where nearly everyone seems to agree that Idaho Fish and Game has done a terrific job: the establishment and improvement of Idaho’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). This program is one of the best examples of Fish and Game’s use of sportsmen’s’ fees to actually improve hunting opportunities.
Many people aren’t aware of the fact that the state’s land mass is more than 60% controlled by state and federal agencies (Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Reclamation, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others). All provide public access to Idaho’s great hunting areas.
Even though the major emphasis of each of Idaho’s Wildlife Management Areas varies with the property, most of the WMAs are focused primarily on waterfowl. These resources, which are located all over the state, have been selected and managed for nesting and habitat, but are open for public hunting during the waterfowl season and can provide some of the easiest access and best hunting in the state.
Many people are not aware of these areas, even if they are located right in their own backyards. Only a few WMAs are heavily used. It is even tougher for folks coming in from out of state to get the information they need to realize they may hunt these areas. (Many WMAs in Idaho also offer excellent fishing opportunity – editor’s note)
There are 29 WMAs currently in the Idaho system. And, don’t forget, Idaho Fish and Game is always on the lookout for new properties which would make good WMAs and to provide sportsmen and sportswomen with more quality hunting experiences.
Tom Parker is the key contact at Idaho Fish and Game. His title is "State Wildlife Habitat Manager" and he can be reached at Idaho Department of Fish and Game Headquarters; 600 South Walnut St. (P. O. Box 25, 83707); Boise, ID 83712. Call the Wildlife Bureau at (208) 334-2920.
One of Parker’s goals is to develop a complete set of brochures for the WMAs. Eleven excellent guides have been completed so far. They contain information on the setting, history, management plan, wildlife and public uses of the lands. They also include large maps of the areas, highlighting trails, access points, boat ramps and docks, and parking areas. Copies can be requested at the Fish and Game Information Desk. Call: (208) 334-3700.
Another good Fish and Game publication is the Idaho Sportsman’s Access Guide, which contains maps of each of the regions in the state plus complete information on the locations and facilities of the sportsmen’s access points. This includes all access points in Idaho for anglers and hunters and not just those within the WMAs. A copy can be requested from the Information Desk mentioned above.
If you have a Fish and Game office in or near your Idaho town, please stop by to pick up these items in order to save the department the postage fees.
I’ve been hunting Idaho’s WMAs for years and I always call Fish and Game before I hunt a WMA. In my experience, the regional offices are very cooperative in providing the most current information. Weather patterns can be particularly important, and how much pressure hunters have given the area. If possible, also visit the area before hunting season to get some ideas about where to place your waterfowl hunting blind, boat limitations and restrictions, bird population concentrations, and a hundred other details. And, be sure to beat your competition by being out there at O’Dark Thirty!
It is through the fees you pay Fish and Game for the privilege of hunting in Idaho that makes WMAs even possible – for purchase and management. So, do a little homework and give one of Idaho’s Wildlife Management Areas a try this season. You’ve earned the right to do so.