Most of the major big game hunting seasons are now over. Successful or not, hunters are already starting to think about next season. So are we at Fish and Game!
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is encouraging everyone who purchased a deer, elk, or pronghorn tag to report the results of their 2013 big game hunts as soon as possible. As always, sooner is better! The information contained in the reports is critical to the (soon to begin) season setting process.
Reporting by phone at (877) 268-9365 or online is required either 10 days after a deer, elk or pronghorn is harvested; or, 10 days following the end of the last season for which a tag is valid.
The report is called a "Mandatory Hunter Report" because hunters cannot purchase a tag for 2014 until they complete a report for tags that were valid in 2013. However, Fish and Game would prefer to receive the data in the very near future. Information collected when hunters purchase big game tags next fall is included in final figures but is not available for the important season setting process.
Prior to 2010, hunters had the option of completing paper reports that could be mailed in or dropped off at a Fish and Game office. Very few hunters were using that option and when they did, each had to be entered manually in Boise. Due to the associated costs and the low number of hunters using that process, that option was discontinued.
In recent weeks, tag purchasers across the state received a bulk-mail post card reminding them to report. In most parts of the state, the seasons had concluded when the cards were sent. With seasons in the Panhandle running later than most of the state, many hunters here received reminders before seasons ended.
Hunters who do not report after 10 days of the close of the season will receive a phone call. The caller will ask the same questions that are in the online report and completion of the call will meet the mandatory report requirements.
The final hunter report statistics, combined with mid-winter aerial flight data are used to develop proposed seasons for the following year. Public meetings are held in early March when hunters review and comment on the season proposals.
Harvested moose, sheep, mountain goats, cougars, bears and wolves must be brought in to a fish and game office or check point so that biological samples and measurements can be taken for management purposes.
Fish and Game calls this process a "mandatory check." During the mandatory check, cougar, bear and wolf hides are permanently tagged. These tags provide a paper trail to show where and when the animal was taken.
Bobcats and otters must also be checked in and they are also tagged. Bobcats are tagged as a requirement of international trade laws. Otters are tagged because there is an annual regional quota and an annual individual quota on otter harvest.
Bighorn sheep receive a permanent pin metal in one horn to document when and where the sheep was taken. For deer, elk and antelope only the "mandatory hunter report" is required.
When you are cleaning guns and putting your hunting gear away, please take a moment to go online or phone in your mandatory hunting report so that your data can be included as Fish and Game sets season proposals for 2014. We appreciate your help in managing Idaho's natural resources.
Phil Cooper is a wildlife conservation educator in Coeur d'Alene for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.