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General hunting season kicks off in Idaho

Idaho Fish and Game sees an increase in hunting licenses this season
Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 3:37 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - This weekend the “Super Bowl” of hunting kicked off for hunters across the Gem State, as general hunting season for deer started on Saturday.

"It is very definitely a big weekend. People have marked this weekend on their calendar since last hunting season, " said Terry Thompson communications director for Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Regional Office.

He said overall license sales for residents are up, and out of state nonresidents sales of deer and elk tags sold out much earlier than normal this season.

According to Idaho Fish and Game website, general hunts provide a lot of flexibility, and in most cases, there’s an unlimited number of tags for residents, who were unable to draw a controlled hunt tag, but controlled hunts have a higher success rate. In 2018 elk hunters who participated in controlled hunts had 42 percent success versus 18 percent in general hunts. Mule deer hunters in controlled hunts had 55 percent success versus 27 percent for general hunts.

Thompson said fish and game was seeing Memorial Day weekend numbers for hunters in April and May, and even though officials are seeing a lot more people out and about, Thompson said they can’t definitively say if it is due to COVID-19.

However, Caleb Drake, owner of Advantage Archery in Twin Falls said he thinks COVID-19 is the reason more people are out in the fresh air hunting.

“I think we have been busier due to that. People got sick of being cooped up inside and are looking to get outside,” Drake said.

He said one of the popular areas to hunt in Southern Idaho is unit 54, which is a controlled hunting area and located in the Sawtooth National Forest area of South Hills.

“I love hunting in unit 54 in Idaho South Hills region. I have grown up hunting for deer there and stuff like that,” Drake said.

Thompson said one of the things that makes a good hunting unit is a lot of opportunities, meaning a lot of animals on the landscape.

“Many hunters are looking for that big buck, big Bull Elk. That’s the reason why Unit 54 is so popular. It grows really big Bull Elk,” Thompson said.

Unfortunately, a small portion of Unit 54 is closed to hunting due to the Badger Fire. Thompson said the Sawtooth National Forest has put a closure in place for a significant portion of forest land within unit 54, and it might reopen it later this month.

“Right now the forest service is saying October 30th. We (fish and game) rely on the forest service to make that determination,” Thompson said. “The one thing we want people to know is unit 54 is open, but also respect the forest closure that the Sawtooth National Forest has put into place”.

Drake said the small portion of Unit 54 that is closed has been a “hot topic” in his store, because “a lot of guys are asking what other areas they can go to”.

However, Thomspon said the dry conditions and weather might have a bigger impact on hunting than anything else this weekend and in the upcoming weeks. He said the dry conditions might make it a little bit noisy when hunters get out in the field pursuing deer or elk, but he and others are looking forward to some precipitation.

“This new weather that is coming in it will bring animals down out of the high country. I’m not sure it’s going to impact this weekend’s hunt that much in terms of bringing animals down, but it will definitely make hunting conditions better on the landscape (upcoming weeks),” Thompson said.

Drake said because of the hot and dry conditions a lot of hunters are trying to find alternative areas to go hunt because of there normal spots aren’t producing.

But no matter what the circumstances might be, Drake said hunters like himself just like the overall aspect of getting away.

“Just pursuing an animal, seeing nature, and getting to watch animals do what they are naturally doing,” Drake said.

He said his most memorable moment is his life as a hunter was drawing a Bighorn Sheep tag a few years ago and harvesting it.

“That was pretty epic for me, but watching my son shoot his first deer(this season) will probably replace that moment,” Drake said.

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