GRANGEVILLE — Idaho Fish and Game commissioners heard from hunters concerned about whitetail deer, elk and wolf populations at a public meeting here Thursday.
Those who addressed the commissioners said deer and elk numbers have slid over the past decade or more, and changes are needed to hunting seasons to bring them back. They also said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game needs to collect more data on deer herd sizes and composition.
When it comes to wolves, trappers urged the commission to adopt changes that will make it easier to trap the animals and to eliminate what they see as unneeded regulations.
Larry Hatter of Grangeville was one of several hunters who lobbied commissioners to shorten whitetail deer seasons in the Clearwater Region so they end on Nov. 20 instead of Dec. 1 and to eliminate second tags.
“The quality of our bucks have seen a pretty dramatic decline,” he said.
For several years, the department has allowed avid hunters to purchase second deer tags, whether they are residents or non-residents, at the more expensive non-resident price. Hatter and others said the practice has led to more big bucks being taken and they are now hard to come by.
He also urged the department to tweak the way it collects harvest data from hunters. Holding up a small pair of whitetail antlers with four points on each side, he noted the harvest report hunters have to fill out after the fall hunting season only asks how many antler points an animal had, but has no questions asking if the animal was old or young. He called it a “very rudimentary system” for determining age structure.
Dirk Durham, from Orofino and president of Northern Idaho Whitetails Forever, asked commissioners to shorten the whitetail season in other northern Idaho units just as they did with Unit 10A last year.
He said the department’s whitetail deer management plan doesn’t have enough standards to hold wildlife managers accountable. He asked commissioners to make sure a new plan that is in development includes more science-based goals.
“We at North Idaho Whitetails Forever feel there is a lot of room for improvement in the next management plan and urge the commission to hold the department to a higher standard,” Durham said.
Several trappers asked commissioners to do away with a requirement that they use devices designed to keep deer, elk and moose from being caught in wolf snares. They said the regulation requiring diverters was well intended, but doesn’t work.
Diverters are supposed to make deer jump snares or brush them aside. Instead, they are causing deer to try to duck under the devices and that is causing them to become snared.
“Please do whatever it takes to remove diverters,” said Justin Webb, executive director of the Foundation for Wildlife Management.
Paul Snyder of Lewiston lamented the decline of the elk herd in Unit 11 south of Lewiston, and also lobbied for shorter whitetail deer seasons and the elimination of second tags.
“Our deer herd is just a fraction of what it used to be,” he said.
Butch Suor of Stites said the agency does nothing to manage the wolf population and needs to take steps to reduce the population to the benefit of elk.
“There is no meaningful wolf management in the state of Idaho since reintroduction other than incident management,” he said. “They have been running rampant at the expense of our big game.”
Jim Hagedorn of Viola, and a member of the Game Bird Foundation, asked the commissioners to do more to help boost upland game bird populations and the habitat they depend on. The organization raises and releases pheasant chicks and also manages a youth hunting area near Potlatch where it releases adult roosters. He said the agency should scrap its upland game bird management plan that could be passed by the commission today and adopt some of his organization’s practices.
“We are here to ask the commission to toss this so-called upland game plan. We invite you to come to Region 2 and take a look-see at (a) working plan.”
During the public comment meeting, commissioners listen to hunters, anglers and trappers but don’t respond to them. The commission will reconvene this morning starting at 8 a.m. at the Super 8 Motel in Grangeville. An agenda is available at http://bit.ly/2HbAQdq.
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