AR-News: (WY) Intermountain outdoors roundup

Animalara2003 at Animalara2003 at
Tue Nov 11 20:03:49 EST 2003

UNDATED: its preservation. 
Fish and Game land open to hunters for pheasants, quail, big game and more 
AP Photo pursuing 
The Idaho Statesman 
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - When Leo Gilbride of Caldwell and Tyke Trogdon of 
Meridian decided to hunt pheasants this fall, their choices were limited. 
Neither man had access to private land, and they didn't want to spend a bunch 
of money at a high-priced shooting preserve. 
So they visited Idaho Department of Fish and Game's Montour Wildlife 
Management Area, which is periodically stocked with pheasants throughout the hunting 
Like thousands of other hunters in Southwest Idaho, they chose a WMA because 
F&G lands are among the few remaining places where a person can spend a day 
hunting pheasants. 
''This is a place they're releasing some, so you have a chance,'' Trogdon 
WMAs continue to grow in popularity with hunters seeking an easily accessible 
day in the field for bird hunting. 
But the popularity of WMAs is causing management challenges for F&G and could 
soon force the agency to restrict one of things that makes them so popular - 
their accessibility. 
''I think it's inevitable at some point,'' said Clair Kofoed, manager of the 
Fort Boise WMA near Parma. 
Last year, about 5,000 hunters statewide bought special WMA permits, up from 
4,200 from 2001. Permits allow hunters to shoot stocked pheasants. Permit 
sales don't match the total number of hunters using the area because only pheasant 
hunters have to buy them. 
With developed lands, posted lands and private leases becoming more common in 
Southwest Idaho, WMAs are one of the last refuges for hunters. 
''They are really the only place you can go hunting at all because so many of 
the farmers and ranchers are reluctant to let anyone on their property,'' 
said Marvin Orwig, a wildlife technician who plants pheasants at the Montour and 
Payette WMAs. 
People like having a place to hunt, but they also have to share a limited 
amount of ground with a growing number of hunters. 
''Most of them I've talked to seem very positive about what we're doing,'' 
Orwig said. ''Too many people is the number one complaint.'' 
In his 18 years at the Fort Boise WMA, Kofoed has seen the increase in 
hunters mirror the growth in the Treasure Valley. 
For the last two years, Fort Boise has had more hunters and hunter days than 
any other WMA in the state. C.J. Strike WMA near Bruneau ranked second, and 
Montour between Emmett and Horseshoe Bend was fourth out of the nine WMAs in 
Idaho where pheasants are stocked. 
''The WMAs are definitely overcrowded to the point of almost being unsafe,'' 
Trogdon said after he hunted at Montour recently. ''I have only hunted the 
one, but I'm sure that they are all about the same.'' 
F&G state habitat manager Jeff Gould estimates that within five years, F&G 
will have to limit public access at Fort Boise. 
How and exactly when F&G will limit hunters remains to be seen, as does what 
effect it might have on other WMAs. 
''We're trying to get that information from the public as to when the 
situation is intolerable,'' Kofoed said. 
F&G has surveyed WMA users in the past, but they send the department 
conflicting messages. Kofoed said the majority of hunters at Fort Boise said the area 
was too crowded, but they didn't want to see restrictions on access that would 
decrease crowding. 
Hunters also are seeking different experiences at WMAs, Gould and Kofoed 
''Everybody has a different style of hunting, and it's impossible to please 
every style,'' Gould said. 
Trogdon said he saw hunters shooting stocked pheasants as they flew away from 
the stocking truck, which is a common complaint about the pheasant stocking 
''Some guys sit in their trucks and wait for Fish and Game to drive past them 
before they get out to hunt, if you want to call it that,'' Trogdon said. 
''I'm not sure what the one answer is to all this, but some restrictions somehow 
need to be put in place.'' 
WMAs are also where many people learn the basics of hunting before seeking 
other areas to hunt, so they are an important resource for beginners and a place 
for F&G to attract new people to hunting. 
But F&G cannot allow unlimited use of the areas if safety and quality are 
''When you have concentrated pressure, you have to make adjustments,'' Gould 
F&G operates six WMAs in Southwest Idaho. The areas provide wildlife habitat, 
and opportunities for hunting, fishing and other recreation. 
But they are also a challenge for the department to manage because they must 
meet seemingly conflicting goals. 
F&G attempts to provide access for hunting, maintain wildlife habitat, and 
produce game and non-game animals on its WMAs. 
''We manage these properties for their ecological values as well as the 
public access values,'' Gould said. ''It's a constant balancing act.'' 
Pheasants are one example of that challenge. Statewide populations have been 
declining for decades. Last year's harvest was a record low of 58,575 
statewide, according to F&G statistics, down from a record high 757,200 in 1964. 
Meanwhile, WMAs are accounting for a larger portion of the harvest. Last 
year, about one in five pheasants shot in Idaho was on a WMA. 
Fort Boise has a small population of wild pheasants that produce new birds 
each year, but even during the best breeding conditions, hunting pressure far 
exceeds the area's capability of producing wild birds. 
Even with its pheasant stocking program, F&G can't meet the demand from 
Kofoed said 300 to 350 pheasants are stocked at Fort Boise each week. Each 
stocking typically provides two to three days of hunting before the birds are 
shot, driven off the property, or they hide in terrain too thick for the average 
hunter to get them out. 
If hunters aren't out on those few days, ''people are going to have a hard 
time seeing a pheasant,'' Kofoed said. 
Stocking more birds isn't an option because money isn't available, and the 
area is already too crowded with hunters, he said. 
WMAs are also managed to provide habitat for game and non-game animals. That 
habitat, including marshes and thick brush thickets, isn't always compatible 
with hunting. ''Our goal is not to manage them like a shooting preserve,'' 
Gould said. 
WMAs don't come cheap 
Southwest Idaho hunters like WMAs because they are near their homes, easy to 
get to and they're a good deal. 
A WMA permit costs $21.50 and allows a hunter to shoot six rooster pheasants. 
F&G pays about $11 per pheasant, which means if hunters fill their permit, 
they paid for one-sixth of the cost of those birds. 
Last year, F&G stocked about 15,500 pheasants statewide, which cost about 
F&G's revenue from the sale of WMA permits was a little more than $112,000. 
The remaining money came from general license and tag revenues. 
And the stocking program is only a fraction of the cost of managing WMAs. 
Gould said it costs F&G about $800,000 to run its six WMAs in Southwest 
Idaho, which includes operation and maintenance, employee salaries, pheasant 
stocking, habitat improvement projects, lease payments to other agencies, and 
payment to counties in lieu of taxes. 
Those six WMAs total about 74,000 acres. By comparison, F&G is paying about 
$116,000 this year to lease 107,000 acres of private land for hunting and 
fishing under the new Access Yes program. That money also opened up about 240,000 
acres of public land previously landlocked by private lands. 
The two programs are meant to complement each other, not compete against each 
other, according to F&G's Brad Compton, who heads the Access Yes program. 
''Our WMAs are intensively managed to be able to handle a lot of folks,'' 
Compton said. ''Access Yes lands aren't going to offer pond development, pheasant 
stocking, restroom facilities and other things we provide on WMAs.'' 
If current trends continue, F&G and hunters will face tough decisions about 
WMAs. Too much hunting pressure could cause strain on the properties and the wil
dlife, and F&G is not likely buy any more WMA lands in the foreseeable 
''It takes a lot of money for acquisition, and our budget isn't that strong 
right now,'' Gould said. 
Ultimately, Gould said, F&G can't provide enough hunting land to satisfy 
hunter demand. 
''We own less than 1 percent of the land in Idaho,'' Gould said. ''There's no 
way we can meet all the demand for hunting on our properties.'' 

"I would not enter on my list of friends the man who needlessly sets foot 
upon a worm." - Cowper
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