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Disturbing the Winter Range?

This topic brings up a long list of thoughts and opinions…What exactly does disturbing the winter range constitute and if or when is it okay? We live in a free country, right? Why can’t I get out and enjoy the outdoors whenever and wherever I please? Well, here are some thoughts to ponder and I personally think both the animals and us freedom loving Americans can have our way if done correctly! 

IDFG recently sent out a reminder for us two-legged meat eaters to ease-up and let wildlife rest-up. I have actively researched and written outdoor articles for over a decade, I can safely say that over the years, research has pointed towards backing off and allowing animals to rest providing positive results. This can be applied to deer resting near highways and neighborhoods being bothered by pets or overly curious people. Bucks dropping antlers while being pushed by over ambitious shed hunters, to mountain goats and bighorn sheep hanging at lower elevations and being pushed around by snowmobile riders/backcountry skiers. 

These examples and many more highlight real issues for big game animals and their overall health and sustainability. Wildlife in general need a rest during the winter season. But more specifically, big game animals have recently pushed through the trials of summer and fall along with the physical perseverance required to get through the breeding season. After which they are often minimally equipped for a long winter ahead and that is not considering exceptionally hard winters that take a much heavier toll. Statistically during average winters about 90% of the adult deer survive, while in contrast roughly 40% of the fawns will die! And as to be expected, severe winters drop the rate of survival significantly. Thus, anything we can do to help during this season is an added benefit to overall herd health and viability

Here are some tips to consider while you’re out and about this winter:

  • If you are moving animals around because of your physical presence you are too close
  • Keep dogs on a leash or under control
  • Snowmobile and ski in areas that aren’t showing fresh animal sign. It’s easier for us to move than for the critters to relocate.
  • When shed hunting give the animals space and don’t push them to drop or crowd them while you shed hunt.
  • Roads become easy travel paths when large snow accumulations occur. Therefore, driving requires more caution than “normal”

These concepts may seem obvious to some, but each year there are issues that arise from the conflict between people and animals especially during winter and as the contrast between hunters and activists grows more stark we that truly carry the mantle of sportsmen and women need to sharpen our techniques, stay educated, stay involved and continue to pave the way for the next generation of hunters behind us. Enjoy the season, rest-up, practice lots and we’ll see you in a moment for application season. 

About Jordan Breshears

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2 comments

  1. As in any issue there are positives and negatives. Thousands of PUBLIC acres are shut off each winter to protect wildlife winter ranges( so we’re told).I suspect there’s more reasons like budgets, lack of manpower to patrol etc. This shuts off those desiring to hunt lions , wolves and coyotes giving the predators a competition free landscape. I brought this up at a GnF meeting years ago and the biologist looked stunned obviously never thinking about this fact. How much less mortality would occur with hunting access to these areas? Common sense and respect for wintering ungulates Is practiced by the vast majority of sportsman, act accordingly and open up access to our public lands.

    • chuck Tarinelli

      You do bring up a good point. I would guess that the addition of predator hunting in those sanctuaries might add more stress than removing some of the predators would make up for. I am curious to hear how the biologist answered your question.

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