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Idaho Tags Gone In A Flash


Many of us have either been a part of or heard about the recent buzz of the Sawtooth Elk Zone tag sales and herd management. Over the years this area has taken a substantial population hit yet the hunt popularity for these zones has remained quite high and now that herd health is looking up we are seeing a hunter opportunity issue. Due to popularity, these tags have sold out very quickly and many hunters are expressing frustration about the fairness of the current process for purchasing tags.

Currently IDFG has a quota/cap on the A & B tags to help prevent over harvest in these units and in turn allow elk herds to continue growing towards IDFG objectives. According to biologists this plan is working to increase elk numbers, but as always Fish and Game has to balance between herd health and hunter opportunity. Thus, IDFG has proposed two separate options to help resolve this issue.

Option 1 – Is to convert the current system into controlled hunts, offering archery-only controlled hunts broken into two areas, with a total of 575 tags. The B tags would also break into two separate areas offering 975 tags for units 33, 34 and 35. And 575 tags for unit 36.

Option 2 – Removes the cap on the A tag hunts and converts the B tag into a limited quota hunt for units 33, 34 and 35, but keeps a cap on unit 36. This would keep the general archery season “as is” in regard to hunt areas and season dates, but would release the cap and effectively bring back a “normal” archery only season. For B tags, unit 36 would keep its current cap of 1,000 tags, while units, 33, 34 and 35 would be combined into one area and be allocated 675 tags.

These options help address the “fairness” issue, but create a list of cons; hunters would be limited to applying for “antlered-only” hunts in these units and could not apply for moose, sheep or mountain goat in the same year. If successfully drawn, hunters would have a one year waiting period before applying again. Both options set precedents for how we see these issues handled in the future.  

Fairness is a sensitive subject, but in the big picture we must look around and see what is best for our next generation. Idaho’s elk populations are above objective in most areas, a testament to the current system working. If we look at other state management plans, we can see a trend moving into limited quota hunting and often times the result is a loss in hunter opportunity and subsequently a loss in hunter enrollment. What is fair to our next generation of hunters and what is fair to the elk herds that we need to sustain in healthy numbers?

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  1. yeah other places are going to limited hunts because we have too many freaking NR applicants just look at the amount of NR applying in colorado this year, highest its ever been! Idaho will likely follow suit with more limited tags hopefully just for NR hunters. the statemnet that most areas are above objective is just a plain lie, according to what numbers??? pre wolf or post wolf??? Idaho has too much opportunity for the ever growing population of NR hunters.

    • Jordan Breshears

      Hey Adam, I get my data from the IDFG biologists, coupled with field reports from my own hunts and that of others. No doubt there are still quite a few areas that are sub par, but many are thriving. Recent field surveys show higher populations than the current elk management plan. But we all know that is subjective and cannot account for every herd or sub region. 20 of the 27 zones are either at objective or above objective according to recent surveys. I hope you have a great season, thanks for sharing!

    • Hey Jodan – your data is wrong no matter where you got it. ID F&G uses guessimation data. We have many areas especially in the upper half of ID where the wolves have and are still making a significant impact on our Elk and Deer herds. Over hunting, fires, predators, weather, disease, incrotchment by people and bad decisions by the F&G are impacting our herds. Elk, Whitetail, Mule Deer (in a lot of units) and even Pronghorn numbers down and way down in a lot of unirs.

  2. Jordan Breshears

    Hey Mike, thanks for sharing your opinion. However, If your saying that all of the IDFG data is whacked and only boots on the ground knowledge is accurate then that somewhat binds my hands, there are only so many sources for populations and trends, I have to rely on biologist data somewhat for a baseline and let “boots-on-the-ground” knowledge attempt to fill in in the gaps… With that said I realize states are not perfect and since it is a human run system we can expect errors and oversights. I agree much of the Panhandle and a some Central units have had a hard hits for more than one reason and are by no means recovered. I grew up just outside of CDA and my buddies are super bummer on how the elk are doing for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean those Panhandle units and herds make up the majority of the state’s elk units and populations. MANY of the Southern and Central units are at all time highs and that is tilting the table on the statewide population data for sure. Either way I hope we can agree that there is always room to improve and non of us can keep track of every herd throughout a state with a degree of accuracy we all hope for. Ultimately we want what is best for Idaho elk and our next generation hunters, which is really what the article is about. Long story short Idaho elk, in many units are in excellent shape. Others…not so much! Have a great summer and I hope you have a wonderful season this fall! Also, feel free to email me if you would like to share your input on trends in your area. I spend a lot of time in East-Central zones, but I can only cover so much area! I am always looking for reliable data to help stay on-top of things! Thanks again.

  3. BK Ammenwerth

    I personally have seen the elk numbers in central Idaho go up. Just my opinion but it appears the elk are adapting to the wolves. Granted I’m a firm believer that the wolves need managed. Problem seems to be wolves are tougher to hunt and kill in great numbers. Maybe IDFG should give out free wolf rags in high wolf density areas. I’ve seen, herd, or been very close to wolves the last 5-6 years. Suckers are smart. I’d rather see free tags than the state paying a sniper/pilot/trapper.

  4. BK Ammenwerth

    Btw Jordan. Love your otc Idaho hunts. Gettting it done blue collar like the rest of us. For some guys (me included) stacking points in multiple states just isn’t a option with kids and budget anymore.

    • Jordan Breshears

      Thanks BK! I totally agree, time and money dictate what we can do, so OTC is my playground nearly every year! I actually have come to prefer it! I appreciate your positive feedback and hope you have an awesome fall! Send me pics!

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