It’s apropos that Panhandle game managers were not part of the upland game planning team to draft the state’s upland hunting plan for the next five years.
Most of the upland bird hunting in the Panhandle occurs along woods roads for a short period in the fall, where young forest grouse easily fall prey to road hunters.
After that, it requires more sweat to get at remaining birds. Technically, the season for the three Panhandle grouse species — ruffed, dusky and spruce grouse — runs through January in the Panhandle and through December in the Clearwater regions.
The latest state plan for upland species — it does not include turkey — was drafted by biologists who work from the Clearwater Region to the state’s southeast corner and describes the policy direction for the state’s upland game program through 2024.
Idaho Fish and Game is asking hunters to chime in.
“The document outlines wildlife management program priorities as well as upland game recreational and conservation goals across the state,” Roger Phillips of IDFG said.
The plan can be viewed on the department’s website, where the public can also submit comments.
Pinpointing bird populations has been problematic for game managers, so annual forecasts are usually pretty generic. Idaho Fish and Game plans to explore new methods to obtain accurate game bird trend information and it plans to investigate and implement new methods to monitor populations and improve annual monitoring, according to the plan.
Recent hunter surveys showed that even though pheasant numbers have dramatically declined in Idaho, wild pheasant hunting was identified as the preferred upland game hunting opportunity in Idaho. Pheasants were followed closely by ruffed grouse and chukar. When grouped together, 41 percent of hunters selected forest grouse — dusky, ruffed, and spruce — as their preferred upland game hunting opportunity, according to the department.
Fish and Game also plans to explore public access opportunities for hunters. According to surveys conducted over the past few years, hunters identified a lack of access to private lands, lack of birds, and loss of habitat as the top three concerns.
Hunter input will be discussed at a March Fish and Game Commission meeting in Boise.