The second super tag drawing!

August 21, 2009 by  
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Second Super Tag Drawing

A big congratulations goes out to the latest Idaho Super Tag winners.  Have a wonderful year!

Super Combo

Larry Lansdowne – Boise


Richard Ruth – Boise

Carl Rey – Meridian


Ramon Lizaso – Boise

John Silva – Anderson, CA


Donald Colter – Boise

Doug Howard – Castleford


Robert Downing – Hayden Lake

Thanks, to my little busy bees down at the Fish and Game.  You are great help!

Idahoans not happy with the wolf Quotas

August 18, 2009 by  
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By Roger Phillips


Some hunters say the harvest limit set by Idaho Fish and Game commissioners Monday isn’t high enough. Environmental groups, meanwhile, think the limit is too high and may ask a judge to block hunting.

In addition to the sport harvest of 220, the Nez Perce Tribe could take 35 of Idaho’s estimated 1,000 wolves.

The group Defenders of Wildlife said in a news release Monday that it plans to seek an injunction to stop the hunt.

Wolf hunting in some parts of the state will start Sept. 1 unless Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental groups can stop it. Tags are scheduled to go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.

The Fish and Game Commission voted 4-3, with the minority favoring a larger harvest limit that would have allowed hunters to kill almost 50 percent of Idaho’s wolves.

Some commissioners were concerned that the higher limit would provoke a judge to stop the hunt, which happened last year.

“An injunction did play a role. It was a tough decision,” commission chairman Wayne Wright of Twin Falls said.

Wright was in the minority that favored the higher harvest limit of 430 wolves.

Another Fish and Game commissioner said Idaho hunters probably won’t reach the 220 limit anyway, and setting it higher would invite more outrage and legal opposition.

“We will be lucky to hit probably half the hunter harvest limits,” Commissioner Tony McDermott of Sagle said.

Fish and Game officials predict very low success rates for wolf hunters despite expecting to sell 70,000 tags. Resident tags will cost $11.75.

That’s too many dead wolves for the environmental groups that filed a lawsuit to put them back on the endangered species list.

“We believe that any level of hunting an imperiled wolf population is inappropriate,” said Jenny Harbine, attorney for Earthjustice, which represents the environmental groups that filed the lawsuit.

Harbine cited the 2008 federal court ruling that genetic exchange between individual populations of wolves throughout the region wasn’t adequate. Increased mortality under state management would limit genetic exchange, she said.

Montana already has set its quota at 75 wolves, or about 15 percent of that state’s population.

Fish and Game officials say Idaho’s wolf population is growing at about 15 to 20 percent annually. The department wants to reduce the population to about 520.

Nate Helm, Idaho president of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, favors reducing wolf numbers nearer to the 150-animal minimum outlined in the state’s federally approved wolf management plan.

Tell O’Neal, an Idaho elk hunter who started the Web site, said it’s time to maintain a balance between wolves, elk and hunters.

“People are ready to start hunting wolves,” O’Neal said.

“I think it (wolf hunting) is inevitable, and this is the year they need to set a precedent.”


Idaho intends to manage wolf populations in 12 different zones. Each zone has its own harvest limit. When a zone limit is met, wolf hunting will stop in that zone. When the statewide harvest limit of 220 is met, all wolf hunting will stop.

  • Panhandle    30
  • Palouse-Hells Canyon   5
  • Lolo    27
  • Dworshak-Elk City    31
  • Selway   17
  • Middle Fork   17
  • Salmon   16
  • McCall-Weiser   15
  • Sawtooth   55
  • Southern Mountains   10
  • Upper Snake   5
  • South Idaho   5

Idaho sets Quota for Wolves

August 17, 2009 by  
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Idaho Fish & Game Commission Sets Wolf Hunt Limits
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, Monday, August 17, set harvest limits for Idaho’s first public wolf hunting season this fall.

Fish and Game models indicate Idaho now has at least 1,000 wolves. The population increases at a rate of about 20 percent a year, without hunting.

The commissioners adopted a strategy that would help meet the state’s wolf population objective, as outlined in the 2008 Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan.

Hunters will be allowed to take up to 220 wolves this fall and winter. Wolf tags go on sale at 10 a.m. August 24, at all license vendors. A resident tag costs $11.75, and a nonresident tag costs $186.

One of the commission’s top considerations is retaining state management of Idaho’s growing wolf population. Idaho has an approved wolf management plan, developed with public involvement. The plan was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and found acceptable by a federal judge.

The commissioners’ decision is consistent with the population goals set out in the plan.

In 1995 and 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced 35 wolves to central Idaho. Since then they have increased in numbers and expanded their distribution.

Fish and Game has a responsibility to manage those wolves in balance with their prey and their habitat – just as the agency manages other fish and wildlife species. As with other species, hunting seasons on wolves would be part of managing the population.

A wolf hunting season gives Idaho Fish and Game an opportunity to learn how public hunting fits into managing wolves. As Fish and Game learns how effective regulated hunting is, seasons can be adjusted in areas where wolves are causing unacceptable problems for big game herds or domestic livestock.

Wolf managers will use the harvest limits the same way already used effectively with other species that Fish and Game manages. When limits are reached, the season ends.

The commissioners set harvest limits for each of the state’s 12 wolf management zones. When the limit is reached in a zone, the season would close in that zone.

Commissioners want to manage the wolf population toward the 2005 level of 520 wolves through regulated hunting (five-times higher than the federal recovery goal). The 2005 wolf population figure was used as a target number because wolf conflicts both with wildlife and livestock increased significantly that year.

Wolves in Idaho and Montana were removed from the endangered species list in May and have been managed under state law since then. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule delisting wolves, however, faces challenges in federal court. The outcome of those challenges could affect Idaho wolf hunting season.

Idaho Fish and Game to allow Kill Permits?

August 7, 2009 by  
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Fish & Game approves plans that include kill permits

By Eric Barker

Plans for managing wild and domestic sheep herds are certified as required by law passed last year

Idaho Fish and Game Director Cal Groen approved 11 plans Thursday aimed at keeping domestic and bighorn sheep from coming into contact with one another.

Some of the plans, known as best management practices, include kill permits that allow ranchers and sheep herders to kill bighorns if the wild sheep are seen mixing with domestic sheep. The kill permits were included so ranchers can help ensure wild bighorn sheep that come in contact with domestics do not have a chance to carry disease back to their herds and infect other wild sheep.555439813_430581100_mbr_9318_wsl-1

Jim Unsworth, deputy director of Fish and Game, said in several cases the department also has permission to kill and remove domestic sheep that wander into areas where they could come in contact with bighorns.

“We have allowed kill permits for bighorn sheep, and the opposite of that is permission is given to Fish and Game to kill domestic sheep if they are in the wrong places,” he said.

In May, a bighorn ram was seen in close proximity of domestic sheep near Riggins. Afterward the ram showed signs of pneumonia, and the department decided to kill it to prevent it from spreading disease to other bighorns. But the ram eluded the department’s efforts for about three weeks while it ran with a group of bighorn rams.

A law passed by the Idaho Legislature last winter mandated the department to seek out the agreements with all domestic sheep ranchers who run their animals in areas where they could come in contact with bighorns. According to the law, those plans were to be certified by Groen by Thursday.

Most wildlife managers and biologists believe bighorn sheep are highly susceptible to contacting pneumonia when they mix with domestic sheep that carry the disease. Cases of die-offs and chronic pneumonia have been documented in wild sheep herds throughout the West after they have had contact with domestic sheep.

Groen said the department determined 18 sheep ranchers in the state operate in areas where contact with bighorns is possible. The plans range from simple to complex, and a range of measures are outlined depending on the threat of contact on each of the allotments. Participation by the ranchers is voluntary, and Groen said four declined to work with the department to craft the plans. Another four did opt to participate but the department and ranchers have not yet been able to craft plans acceptable to both sides.

“We will move forward on the ones we are still working on and hope to get something accomplished on them,” Unsworth said. “We may or may not. This is a voluntary deal on the producers’ side. They may decide the (best management practices) we suggest are not appropriate.”

In certifying the plans, Groen said the department is saying the plans “provide for the separation that reduces the risk of disease transmission between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep to a level that is acceptable to bighorn sheep viability.”

The law, written by Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, who is also a sheep rancher, was prompted by a process on the Payette National Forest that could reduce domestic sheep grazing in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River canyon by about 60 percent. Bighorn herds in both areas have been documented with pneumonia and the Salmon River herds have declined by more than 70 percent in the past 20 years.

Officials on the forest are in the process of finalizing that plan, and in passing the law legislators hoped to influence their final decision. But the agency could decide to disregard the plans and reduce or end domestic sheep grazing in areas occupied by bighorn sheep.

Last week, Region Four of the U.S. Forest Service, which includes the Payette National Forest, added bighorn sheep to its list of sensitive species. The designation means the agency will work to preclude bighorns from advancing to threatened or endangered status under the Endangered Species Act, and all forests in the region will have to consider what effects proposed actions have on wild sheep.

Keith Lawrence, director of the Nez Perce Tribe’s wildlife department, said the sensitive species designation is both appropriate and important.

“I think the recognition says that the trends are not headed in the right direction and that it needs to change,” he said. “When you are talking about the population being 10 percent of what it historically was, I think that is a huge recognition that we are in trouble and we need to fix this.”

555439898_430581164_crw_1075_rt16-mThe tribe is opposed to the law calling for the best management practices and instead believes domestic sheep should be kept out of areas where bighorns roam.

“We have not had a chance to review the plans that have been developed. We hope that they do not advocate continued domestic sheep grazing in or adjacent to occupied bighorn sheep habitat, as it has been shown that the (best management practices) approach is ineffective when applied to occupied bighorn sheep range,” said Samuel N. Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee.

Lawrence said similar plans to those envisioned by the law were in place along the Salmon River in May, when the bighorn ram came in contact with domestic sheep.

“There was still contact and after the contact the provisions in place in the (best management practices) agreement to contain the risk of disease transmission failed.”

Lawrence went on to say agreements with kill permits might well stem the spread of disease after contact occurs, but the end result is still dead bighorns.

“The root problem is you still have domestic sheep too close to bighorn sheep. If you have to have a kill permit to make separation then you are probably way too close.”

Preditors and Predation

July 24, 2009 by  
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Predators and Predation

by: Todd A. Black

Photo Credits: Vincent Martinez

You don’t have to talk to very many landowners or even sportsmen and mention the word predator to get them excited.  “There’s way too many predators out there”, “predators are the problem”, and “what are we going to do about all the predators out there”are statements I hear all too often.  Are they justified?  Are they true statements or are they just pointing a figure at one thing that we can do something about and see the results?542725806_fmd08_9969-ws

Its basic ecology,a predator that kills its prey impacts that animal directly andto some extent may impact the population of a given area. The big question is how muchand what is that impact? If an individual animal’s death has noeffect on the population such that it is replaced by another and numbers stay the same or increase, its death is termed ‘compensatory mortality’on the other hand its death has an impact on the population such that the overall population continues to decrease, its death is termed‘ additive mortality’.  There havebeen volumes of research published on predators and prey and as with most research the data shows mixed results in some cases predator populations are too high and impact their prey, other studies show no evidence of predation being a limiting factor on a population and some are just ‘inconclusive’ in the findings.  Because there is rarely a clear definitive answer, one of two opinions/sidesusually surfaces. Those who oppose the underlying reasoning attack the researchand conversely, those who support its conclusions beat the drum even louder. Simply stated, if the research shows coyotes impact mule deer, people who like coyotes have problems with the results, but to the landowners and sportsmen who have claimed that coyotes are killing the deer, the research shows exactly what they have been saying all along.

My Perceptions on Predators

In my lengthening career with I think I have come almost full circle, especiallywhen it comes topredation on mule deer. Back when I was a teenager and knew it all, I subscribed to the rural red neck philosophy that “the only good predator isa dead one”. I spent hours hunting predators, especially coyotes. I did this simply because I thought it would create more ‘muleys’. When I started my career at college, I found out I really didn’t know it alland started to learn about predators and prey. I was taughtthatpredators don’t always impact our game populations, because they only take the sick and weak, predators can’t and won’t eat themselves out of house and home, there are cyclic relationships between predator and prey.  As I learned more about predation and actually digested the research/data I started making observations and applying those observations with what I was learning.

So what have I learned, first as I pointed out research isn’t always convincing and conclusive, research isn’t done long enough, it doesn’t always ask the right questions, and doesn’t always use the best methods.  From what I have observed, read, and studied, I now believe what we are seeing more of here in the west, especially with our deer herds, is that predators can and arehaving a negative impacton localized populationsin many areas. As I think about this, I think I have twopretty good theories to support myideas, so, I will tell you why I am going down the predators are impacting our deer herd road. First, there has been big changes in how we implement our predator management strategies, and secondhas to do with elk and the predator pit hypothesis.

Predator Management; Now and Then

How we view and ultimately manage predators has changed significantly over the past 40 years. There isn’t enough room in this issue to paint the picture of how Wildlife Services (USDA Dept of Agg. APHIS) poisoned, killed, gunned, trapped, and addressed predators in the 50’s through the early part of the 1980’s.  Long and short of it, we don’t even come close to taking the number of predators now that we did then.  To think that this intensive predation management didn’t greatly improve or increase our deer herds is comical.  In fact there is evidence that shows we likely had deer populations well over carrying capacity such that they were impacting their own. habitat.  We likely had artificially high populations of deer herds in many areas but that is when mule deer were king and everyone hunted and the days that many of us remember and wish we had again.542758998_fmd_7128-c2_wsl

While predation management practices still continue, fewer people pursue, trap, and hunt predators. Wildlife Services arekilling fewer predatorsbecause of environmental restrictions (but mainly because we have fewer sheep ranchers) and a predatorbountiesonly happen in selected counties in one state that I knowof. In contrast, less than twenty years ago many states allowed unlimited harvest of bears and lions, most had some sort of bounty system for coyotes and foxes. Twenty years ago, it was a rarity for me to see a bear let alone a lion, now it seems a rarity if I don’t see severalbears and at least onelion on my various outings each year. Today, bears and lions are intensely managed in most western states today. Most states now manage bear and lions are managed as a big game species, have quotas or limited opportunity units where the sex, age, and area of harvest are closely monitoredas to not allow too many animals to be harvested. To a certain extent even the way we as sportsmen select the large mature males in our harvestare allowing them to increase. Every biologist knows you control population numbers through the harvest of females, not the males. But, by continually selecting against the big mature tomsand boars, which everyone wants to throw on their wall, are we are allowing their population to increase by taking awaytheir own population regulators. Certainly, one could make a valid argument that our predator management philosophies and practices havehad a direct impact on our deer populations over time while allowing the predators to increase.

Elk, Elk, and more Elk555437098_em_2733_pfws-1pm-1

If you read my last article you will know I talked about elk.  I really didn’t talk about elk in the sense of them being a secondary prey source for our larger predators but let’s discuss it now.

So elk are everywhereand their populations are escalating.  What does this mean for the predator? Simple answer really, there are more groceries on the table. Normally there is an intricate balance between predator and prey(one predator and one prey). However, when there is a secondary prey source to choose from at the store, it is unlikely a predator will starve to death even if itsprimary prey decreases. I think this is what we are seeing with our deer and elk herds. Deer numbers are down and are fewer and farther between but elkare plentiful. This shift makes it possible for predator numbers to remain stable or even increase when deer numbers continue to decline.

This alteration in the predator prey relations is called the ‘predator pit hypotheses’. It states, when a primary prey (in this case mule deer) are reduced in numbers by a natural or even unnatural event (over harvest, winter kill, drought, loss of habitat, etc.), a predator species can increase or remain stable and continue to suppress their primary prey if they have a secondary prey (in this case elk) which they can switch to. How can we have increasing populations of coyotes, lions, bears, and elk and expect our deer to remain stable? The system is out of balance and it doesn’t favor mule deer. Predator management is an important aspect of mule deer management and steps need to be taken to keep predation in line with current deer populations.

What can be done?

For the past several years, one of my favorite researchers to read when it comes to predators is Guy Connolly of the USDA Wildlife Services in Colorado.  Guy pretty much shoots straight when he says, “ predator control is justified when it will produce substantial increases of game at a reasonable cost, when the extra game production is worth more than the monetary and non-monetary cost of producing it and when the increased game production will be used”.  What leave us hanging and are difficult questions to answer is.  What is justified?  What is substantial, and what is worth it?  I don’t think any of us would argue that we could use more mule deer but is it worth the cost is our habitat in condition to support more game, if we are using public tax dollars to address predators is it justifiable to the non-hunting public?

Predation management isa complex issue and we have to be realistic about how we implement predation management programs. With all the animal rights groups and the public opinion out there we just can’t declare an all out war on predators like we once did. We can’t just go out and eliminate all of the elk either. So what can be done? What can we do to help? I think we need to work hard and close with our state and federal land management agencies to support and encourage some sort of predation management particularly in those areas that are below objectives in fawn do doe rations and in those areas that are highly fragmented.  We need to work to identify funding mechanisms that will help to defray the cost and we need to develop sound monitoring techniques to determine if our efforts had any positive results.  The key as was pointed out is economics, social aspects, and monitoring. The stresses and issues that mule deer face and will have to overcome into the next generation are almost saddening.  Our management actions now will almost assuredly solidify their fate into the next 10-20 years.  While predation management isn’t the only issue and obstacle that mule deer face, it’s certainly one that every state and private management plan should have as part of their tool box.

Is habitat management the answer for predators555437132_em_2746_pfws-1pm

A parting thought about habitat and predators.  As we look across the landscape, I think it is easy to identify certain changes in habitat.  A large portion of it has changed to houses while other has burned up and been converted to seas of cheat grass.  Other changes have occurred so slowly that we may not really see the changes or understand what impacts these changes may have on game populations.  Truthfully, if we had ‘good’ habitat, management predators would likely be less of an issue.

To manage predators we need to manage our habitat.  Habitat is the primary factor we need to concentrate on in maintaining ‘good’ sustainable populations of mule deer.  Believe me, spending money on habitat improvement projects is far better spent than on a quick fix of killing predators.

Idaho Super Tag Drawing

June 15, 2009 by  
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Ross Rackliff and his 2008 SuperTag Buck

Thanks to the sweetest little fly on the wall down at the Fish and Game Headquarters I was able to get the last names of the lucky winners of the Deer and Elk Super tag drawing that was held today at 10 a.m.  The winners of the deer super tags are as follows:

 Dave Posey, Jones, Anderson, Reoloffs, Demar, Santucci, Hedrick, Bell

 They only gave me the last names so far, but tomorrow I will get full names and cities of the winners.   I know One winner is Dave Posey because he called me as soon as he got the call from the Fish and Game.  I have known Dave for the past 12 years as he has been one of my neighbors.  Congrats Dave on the Tag, you are in for a great season so start getting in shape!  Santucci, if it is the Ron Santucci that had the tag a few years ago,  I know where he will be hunting!  Congrats Ron, if indeed it is you. We will find out tomorrow and will have to reminisce about that landowner that chased off the deer you were going to shoot last time and shot it for himself.

As for elk the winners were:

Roth, Sean Burch, Nell, Griffiths, Moser, Cloud, Caywood, Wassell.

Sean Burch, now that is a surprise.  He has drawn three Super tags in as many years.  Sean definitely has his priorities straight and those priorities are drawing super tags.  Good luck to Sean, I hope he anchors a monster.

If your last name was not mentioned you always have the regular draw which will be out on the first of next month.

Good luck to all those that have drawn the tag of a lifetime.



Here is the updated info on the Super Hunt- drawing held June 15th, 2009


Brett Harris                    Pocatello Idaho               Super combination winner

David Posey                   Meridian Idaho                               Deer

Jack Jones                       Burley Idaho                                   Deer

Joshua Anderson          Folsom Cali.                                   Deer

Arie Roeloffs                   Wendell Id.                                     Deer

Chaun Demars               Becker Minn.                                 Deer

Ron Santucci                     Eagle  Id.                                      Deer

Bryan Hedrick             Santa Paula Cali.                            Deer

Matt Bell                      Snoquaimie Wash.                          Deer

Jon Roth                         Middleton Id.                                  Elk

Sean Burch                       Nampa Id.                                      Elk

Philip Nell                     Hanover Penn.                                Elk

Collin Griffiths               Missuula Mt.                                  Elk

Steven Moser               New Plymouth Id.                            Elk

Levi Cloud                           Napa Cali.                                   Elk

Mark Caywood                  Hailey Id.                                     Elk

Jeremy Wassell               Lewiston Id.                                  Elk

Kyle Poppleton               Twin Falls Id.                            Antilope

Ryan Turpin                      Meridian Id.                             Antilope

Lonnie Austin                  Princeton Id.                             Antilope

Larry Hoff                         Middleton Id.                            Antilope

Michael King                     Rexburg Id.                              Antilope

John Robinson                    Kuna Id.                                 Antilope

Gerald Young                  West Point Cali.                        Antilope

Cameron Oler                   Twin Falls Id.                           Antilope

Mark Cornelius         Kingstown Tasmania                     Moose

Siddoway’s Bill Threatens Idaho’s Wild Sheep!

June 4, 2009 by  
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New Legislation Threatens Bighorn Sheep
Populations Across Idaho
For Immediate Release;May 29, 2009
Lapwai, Idaho — On May 7th, legislation that dictates state policy for managing domestic-
bighorn sheep interactions was enacted. The bill was sponsored by Terreton domestic sheep
producer Senator Jeff Siddoway. A previous bill with similar language proposed by Sen.
Siddoway had been vetoed earlier in the legislative session this year. Domestic and bighorn
sheep are incompatible when occupying the same range, as domestic sheep transmit fatal disease
to bighorn sheep, causing them to die of pneumonia. However, the new law directs the
Department of Fish and Game to develop allotment management plans based on “best
management practices” (BMPs) to justify continued domestic sheep grazing within occupied
bighorn sheep range; and then requires the IDF&G Director, to certify that implementation of
BMPs will provide separation between domestic and bighorn sheep and reduce the risk of
disease transmission to acceptable levels for continued bighorn sheep viability. rocky-mountain-bighorn-sheep1

“We are disappointed this legislation went forward”, said Samuel N. Penney, Chairman for the
Nez Perce Tribe. “The Tribe advocated for the bill to be vetoed as the previous legislation had
been because we are convinced it would lead to continued bighorn sheep declines. The recently
passed bighorn sheep legislation holds domestic sheep grazing harmless, continues status quo
grazing within and in close proximity to occupied bighorn sheep range, encourages continued
bighorn sheep population declines, and precludes opportunities for bighorn sheep recovery,”
added Chairman Penney.
As called for in the new legislation, the State of Idaho and the allotment permittee have
developed allotment management plans based on BMPs for federal grazing allotments
administered by the Nez Perce National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management within the
Salmon River canyon. Despite implementation of BMPs, on May 19th, twelve days after the new
legislation went into effect, the permittee for these allotments reported a bighorn ram in close
proximity to his domestic sheep. An investigation by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game
confirmed the presence of a sick bighorn sheep showing clinical signs of pneumonia that was
suspected to have contracted disease through contact with domestic sheep. The IDFG has
decided to remove the ram to confirm cause of illness and hopefully reduce the risk of this ram
spreading disease through the bighorn sheep population. Removal efforts have, so far, been
unsuccessful and ongoing monitoring indicates the ram has interacted with other bighorn rams in
the area, potentially spreading disease to other bighorn sheep. “This unfortunate incident is a
living example of the ineffectiveness of BMPs, and a clear message of the devastating
consequences of implementing this flawed legislation,” said Mr. Baptiste, Vice Chairman for the
Nez Perce Tribe. “We are hopeful this incident will not result in a disease outbreak, but at this
point all we can do is sit back and hope for the best,” concluded Mr. Baptiste.big-sheep-glacier-picture
“Although we will not know for sure until the sick ram can be collected and tested, if this ram
has pneumonia, this fits the classic pattern of comingling between domestic and bighorn sheep”
said Keith Lawrence, Wildlife Management Director for the Nez Perce Tribe. “The fact that the
ram was already showing signs of illness when first observed suggests to us that the initial
contact must have occurred sometime prior to this sighting and was undetected,” added Mr.
Lawrence. “Monitoring efforts during May, have documented straying of unattended domestic
sheep into areas close to bighorn sheep,” added Mr. Lawrence. “The demonstrated inability to
detect contact, control straying domestic sheep, and removing bighorns that may be infected, are
all indications of the ineffectiveness of BMPs to provide separation and reduce the risk of
contact and disease transmission,” concluded Mr. Lawrence.
“It is unfortunate we are placed in the position of having to kill bighorns to save them. This is
not a sustainable strategy for recovery or even persistence, but can only lead to the eventual
extirpation of these magnificent animals,” said Chairman Penney. “Clearly, by relying on
ineffective BMPs, this new legislation will fail to protect bighorn sheep and is an obstacle to our
efforts to recover bighorn sheep; a culturally significant species to the Nez Perce Tribe and an
iconic species to wildlife enthusiasts across Idaho,” concluded Chairman Penney.
The Nez Perce Tribe is opposed to the new law because its prescription is not based in science.
“BMPs have not been proven effective,” explained Mr. Baptiste. “It is not possible to measure
the effectiveness of management tools that are not based upon scientific principles or research,
and past experience by other state and federal agencies have shown BMPs to be ineffective at
maintaining separation or reducing the risk of disease transmission,” added Mr. Baptiste. “We fear this new law insures continued risk of contact between these two species resulting in a
continued threat of fatal disease outbreaks in bighorn sheep populations. In addition, this flawed
legislation will result in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game having to exercise their policy
of outright killing of bighorn sheep that come into contact with domestic sheep when BMPs fail
to provide separation,” concluded Mr. Baptiste.
The Nez Perce Tribe is actively working with federal agencies to restore bighorn sheep
populations within a reach of the Main Salmon River upstream from Riggins, Idaho. Salmon
River bighorn sheep are the last remaining native populations of bighorn sheep in Idaho and
population numbers have declined to remnant levels over the past decades and the Nez Perce
Tribe would view it as a tragedy to see them disappear and is working to avoid such an event.

It all starts with the bucks?

May 27, 2009 by  
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By Todd A. Black

I’ve really had to bite my tongue these past few weeks with all the internet chatter about Utah’s mule deer management plan. It just seems so much of it has all been about more and better ways with more opportunity to harvest mule deer. That is a hunting plan not mule deer management. I really believe strongly if we don’t put management 1st we won’t be hunting at all 20 years down the road.542779156_mmd06_9911ws

Photo by Vincent Martinez Photography

A few years ago, Terry Messmer (my boss) wrote an article titled ‘It all starts with fawns’. In this article he discussed the importance of fawn production and survival being the key to success for your deer herds. In the last two paragraphs he discussed the importance of buck age structure within a given population and the role they play in the fitness of a population. He stated, “reduced numbers of mature breeding males in breeding populations could further disrupt mule deer reproduction if immature bucks are unable to breed (or might not know how to court and breed) available females”. Having a good number of mature bucks in the population is a very important part of mule deer biology. So my question is, does it really start with the fawns, or does it start with the mature bucks? I guess this is kind of like asking which came first the chicken or the egg. No doubt the health and fitness of the does is equally important as well. If does are not ‘fit’, they likely won’t even be breed. Terry goes on to say that the timing and strategies of our harvest and the increased recreational access during the fall and winter months could possibly be disrupting the biological mechanisms regulating mule deer reproduction. These factors may inadvertently be contributing to reported declines in deer abundance.

How about we discuss the importance of age structure amongst the population of bucks and the role the older bucks play in mule deer population. Then we’ll briefly discuss how you and I fit into the mule deer management equation.

Does it all starts with the bucks?

Have you ever wondered what goes on in bachelor groups of bucks during the long summer months? While I do spend a fair amount of time watching them, I would love nothing more than to spend an entire summer or four day in day out watching one group of bucks interact, establish a dominance hierarchy among themselves, and learn new and undocumented behaviors; what a great summer job. A close friend and partner theorizes that during this time the younger bucks are learning form the older bucks how to be bucks. This might sound kind of silly but there is likely some truth to this theory. Much like the males in the human population there is a great deal of learning and maturing gleaned from the younger bucks observing older males. They learn what to eat, where to water, where to hide, how to act, how to treat the ladies and generally just how to be a buck. Without a doubt, these type of learned behaviors are crucial and key to the survival of the species. So just what is a mature buck? How do we know they are there?

Some biologist may classify and tell you a mature buck is a 2 year old buck. This is mainly because this buck is sexually mature. All this really means is that its testicles have dropped and it can produce viable sperm. However, a buck really doesn’t become ‘mature’ until he’s somewhere around 5 years old. Not only are many physical characteristics of the buck fully developed but the buck has had time to grow and mature and knows how to be a buck. The question now is, are we losing some of these important learned behaviors because we don’t have the mature bucks we once had?

So what does all this mean?542756376_mmd07_1d0619-ws

The natural history of cervids dictates that the females will select and breed with the dominant mature male. Generally, this is determined by body and or antler size. This selection takes place during what we call ‘the rut’. The rut of mule deer, in most western states peaks around the third/forth week in November. Mating with a mature buck should ensure a strong/’fit’ offspring and builds a healthy population. At least that’s the theory. Unfortunately with the declines of deer in the west, there aren’t too many places where you find ‘mature’ bucks doing the bulk of the breeding. Habitat fragmentation, highways and roads and urban sprawl have isolated and fragmented traditional winter ranges and breeding grounds. With these groups of does scattered hinder and yawn, it’s next to impossible for one or two mature bucks to breed 30 does let alone 100 or more. What is more typical in many of our herds is the two and three year old deer or even yearlings are doing the majority of the breeding. Are they capable of doing so? They are. The genes are still there, it can’t be bad for the population, right? Well, it might be and here’s why.

Could it all start with the Does?

A doe likely won’t breed with a scrawny pencil neck buck during her first estrus cycle. However, if she is still ‘fit’ she will come into estrus again 3-4 weeks later. Now, she may just decide that pencil neck is better than nothing if Goliath is still absent. This really isn’t helping our deer herds.542782859_mmd06_9646ws

The gestation period of a doe is 200 days give or take a week or so. Given that, lets do some math I know it hurts but it’s simple. Lets say doe ‘A’ is bred on November 18th, given a 200 day gestation, the fawn should hit the ground right around the 30th of May. Doe ‘B’ is bred on December 23rd (her second cycle) given the same gestation period, the fawn hits the ground on Independence day. Does anyone see what is happening here? Fawns born in May/June are likely to weigh more, be more ‘fit’, and better to withstand predation and make it through a bad winter than those born in July/August. These fawns go into the winter being less ‘fit’, weighing less, making them more susceptible to disease, predation, and extremes in weather. Which can lead to higher fawn mortality, less recruitment into the population and lower doe to fawn ratios? Ask yourself when the last time you saw a fawn with its spots still in late August/September. This really shouldn’t be happening if all the does were bred in late November early December, but I see it with more and more frequency.

Could we a part of the problem, does it start with us?

This is a tough question. It’s a biological, social, and economic issue. What are we to do? For starters, we just can’t continue to manage for quantity during these times of famine. Maximum sustained yield goes out the door with extremes in weather. One solution might be to manage for quality rather than quantity; another might be to simply reduce the number of tags sold and reduce harvest. Obviously this presents a few problems. Who is going to be the first to give up their tag for a year or three? I know in Utah it would be cut throat to give up a tag. Ask your state agencies how much money they can live without.

In summary, I don’t think we can continue to allow our immature bucks to do most of the breeding. We need those mature males in the population. We need ‘fit’ healthy fawns to make it through the dry summers and the cold wet winters. We can’t be harvesting 70-80% of our yearling bucks during these harsh times and expect things to recover over night or from year to year. We must manage for an even age distribution of bucks in the population through restrictions and reductions. It’s important for us to realize this. We as hunters just can’t continue to kill anything that has antlers and expect our mule deer population to increase. I’m not saying we all need to be trophy hunters either. But just maybe we don’t have to kill a deer every year to be a real hunter.

What Deer See!

April 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Articles

Can I see you? 

 Article By: Todd  A. Black

Photos By: Vince Martinez


I have been asked by clients, friends, and other hunters what I think is the best 

type of camopattern available out there on the market today.  What camo I buy and why. 

Now I will admit that I have my preference for a particular camo patter but in the interest 

in advertising and marketingI’m not going to tell you what it is, those of you that really 

want to know can visit our web page to find out.  I’m not even going to talk about what is 

or isn’t the best camo out there but what I am going to do is talk about ungulates  (deer, 

sheep, elk, moose goat) in general and what and how they see.mdc-velvet1

It’s funny to watch how the camo industry has exploded in the past 20 years. This 

explosion has occurred despite little knowledge and without much consideration of what 

deer, elk, and other game animals actually see.  It used to be that the good ‘ol army camo’

was good enough for everyone and every where. Now we have specialized winter, spring, 

fall, hardwoods, sagebrush, aspen, dark timber, and everything in betweencamo—we 

have gone ‘camo crazy’. I guess we hunters are just suckers for camo, I know I tell my 

wife all the time that it’s my favorite color and like most of you I feel comfortable 

wearing it to church or out in the field. My brothers and I still have a running joke about 

camo and every time we get all decked out we always make the comment that ‘I can’t see 

you’ or we ask ‘can you see me now’?  Really though what it comes down too is how 

well we break up our Homo erectus form not if we look like the closest bush or tree out 

there in the woods.  I wonder if we really think about this or just how good we think we 

look in the mirror, to our hunting buddies, or to those of us that are really lucky to our 

wives. Too understand what it means to break upthe human form, I think we first must 

understand how and what an ungulate sees.  Read more


April 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Articles

Poached buck

Greg Milner with Poached buck

We got the skinny on the poaching of this awesome mule deer.  It was poached on October 27, 2004, by Gary Lihnherr of Wisconsin.  He was accompanied by Ron Gardner of Wendell, Idaho and two other individuals.  Ron and Gary’s story was that they chased the buck from a muzzleloader hunt into a rifle hunt where they lost it.  Three days later they found the buck, still in the rifle unit, where they proceeded to hunt and kill this great animal.  Unfortunately for Gary and Ron, there were a couple of other hunters that had muzzle loader tags and had been hunting this same buck when it just disappeared.

These hunters had run into Mr. Lihnherr and crew in the muzzleloader hunting area using high powered rifles.  Concerned that the buck was illegally taken, these individuals contacted the Fish and Game Department.  Officer Rich Holman was assigned to investigate.  With picture of the kill site and buck, Officers Holman and Milner met again with the concerned parties.  The individuals told the officer that the deer pictured was the buck they had been chasing.  They also described the area the buck called home.  Holman and Milner then served a warrant on Ron Gardners house to get more field photos.  They wanted to see if they could try and locate the kill scene from these new photos.

Lehnherr pictured center w/ Gardner on right

Lehnherr pictured center w/ Gardner on right

While at the residence of Gardner, Ron went into great detail on how they killed the deer with a rifle because Lihnherr couldn’t hit it with his muzzleloader. He also went into great detail that they had chased it into the rifle area where he actual shot the animal a few days later.  Gardner even offered to take them to the kill scene, but he couldn’t do until a week later, due to other miscellaneous reasons.  New search warrants were obtained that night for the Gardner residence and for the taxidermy shop that held the hide.

While the warrants where being served here in Idaho, State and Federal officers in Wisconsin were seizing the antlers from Mr. Lehnherr.  Now armed with field photos, antlers, and hide the Fish and Game Department just needed to prove where it was shot.  On Thanksgiving Day, officers Holman and Olson combed the desert floor trying to place the kill scene photos to the actual location.  Five hours later they hit pay dirt.  Much to their surprise there was plenty of evidence to gather.  You see, the perpetrators moved the deer up on a rock outcropping to clean and quarter it.  There was no dirt to absorb the blood so evidence was left all over the rock flat. Over 100 individual hair samples and blood where gathered from the scene located approximately four miles inside the muzzleloader hunt boundary.

On January 24, 2005, the DNA samples were concluded to be from the same individual deer.  For the next two years the case would grind slowly through the Idaho State court system and eventually wind up in Federal court because the antlers where transferred across state lines violating the Lacey act.

What a beast of a buck!

What a beast of a buck!

Lehnherr and Gardner with both charged with violating the lacey act (the transferring of illegally taken game across state lines).  In addition, Lehnherr was charged with providing a false writing statement to Federal authorities.  The two other individuals turned states witness and were granted immunity for their testimony in the grand jury hearings.

On October 22, 2007, the two men plead guilty and were sentenced in Federal Court.  Lehnherr  lost his hunting privileges nationwide for a period of three years.  He was ordered to pay a $2,300 fine and $1,700 in restitution to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.  Gardner was given the same three year license revocation and was ordered to pay $2,500 in fines and $1,000 in restitution.  This sentence was a mere slap on the hand for what they had done.  The Fish and Game had  a total of over 413 hours in this investigation at twenty dollars an hour.  That ends up being over $8,000 in restitution that should have been paid, not to mention the fines.  You can’t even find a guided hunt for that cheap let alone one that would produce one of the largest bucks ever taken in the state with a muzzleloader.

This buck officially makes the Boone and Crocket book both ways. As a typical it netted 195 6/8 and as a non-typical it netted 231 6/8  This buck is know on display at the Magic Valley Fish and Game headquarters in Jerome.   I would like to send out my thanks to Officer Holman, Milner and others, for all their hard work on this case and for not giving up on the battle!  I just wish there would have been a little more justice in their fines at the end of it all.

Steve Alderman

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