Daily gobbler bag limit may increase

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Photo by MARY STONE A tom turkey struts his stuff on private property in North Idaho. Proposals by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game would increase daily bag limits on the birds that many private landowners call a nuisance.

By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

Turkey stories usually fall along the same lines.

There are stories of the toms that sneak to a decoy using silence and stealth, and the ones with heads the color of Minnesota Vikings football helmets that strut toward a decoy with tails fanned like the Queen of Sheba.

Hits and misses are recalled.

The hits end with hunters carrying birds out of the woods on their backs, as spurs bite into their palm and banded wings expand like a crucifix.

A lot of rural property owners, especially the ones with tractors and a barn full of hay, have a different view of the Merriam turkeys that hunters call game.

It’s less romantic. More caustic.

They refer to them as a nuisance.

Turkeys roost in landowners’ trees and outbuildings, defecating on stored crops and equipment, and move through grain fields in large flocks damaging crops.

Since turkeys were introduced in North and Central Idaho and the season opened to hunters around 40 years ago, the state game department has been selective in how many birds a hunter could bag, where the shooting would be done, and during what days.

Lately however, a lot of those rules have been shrugged off.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game proposes to increase the daily bag limit for turkeys from one per day to two per day in both the spring and the fall. The department wants public comments on the proposed changes to next year’s turkey season, as well as its upland game and furbearer rules.

The proposals can be viewed on the department’s website (http://idfg.idaho.gov/comment) after Dec. 1.

Fish and Game spokesman Roger Phillips said the department has fielded a lot of complaints over the years from property owners regarding the birds, especially in the Clearwater and Panhandle regions. Those complaints in part are fueling the latest proposals, but they are also an indicator of how successful the turkey introduction has been in Idaho.

“I think it’s driven by landowners and the complaints we’re getting,” Phillips said. “If there are more complaints, it probably means there are more birds.”

Because flocks are healthy in both regions — and throughout the state — increasing harvest opportunities makes sense.

“Hunting doesn’t typically drive this population,” Phillips said.

But increased harvest rates can benefit public relations.

As the rules stand, the daily bag limit is one bearded turkey per day in the spring and one turkey (either sex) in the fall, except in units 1, 2, 3 and 5, where five turkeys (either sex) may be taken in a day during fall seasons. No more than two bearded turkeys may be taken per spring.

In the past however, a hunter was allowed to bag just one bird a day — except in fall hunts in some units where a hunter could bag the five birds in a day. The new rules would allow hunters to bag two birds per day throughout the state.

The latest proposals would also add two weeks to the fall hunt in Panhandle units by moving opening day from Sept. 15 to Sept. 1 in units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA), 3, 4, 4A, 6, 10, 12, 16A, 17, 19 and 20.

People may also provide comments at open house meetings where they can hear from local biologists. Open house meetings are scheduled from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 11 in Coeur d’Alene’s regional office at 2885 W. Kathleen Ave., and from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 in Lewiston at the Clearwater Region office, 3316 16th St.

Written comments submitted by Dec. 13 may be mailed to 2018 & 2019 Upland Game Comments, P.O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707.

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