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IDFG: Badger Fire impacts big game hunts

Posted at 12:44 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 18:25:23-04

OAKLEY, Idaho — Crews have made good progress toward containing the Badger Fire. According to data from September 25, the fire was 61% contained.

Fish and Game says the fire has led to the closure of a large portion of Game Management Unit 54 south of Twin Falls, affecting numerous big game hunt this fall.

"Unit 54 is very popular especially because its close to hunters in the Magic Valley, but also because it has a history of producing some really large animals," said Terry Thompson, Fish and Game Magic Valley's Regional Communications Director. "The elk hunts down there are considered some of the best in the state."

The Badger Fire started on the Cassia Division of the Minidoka Ranger District on September 12, 2020.

"A lot of the management unit 54 is included in the area closure for the Badger Fire--within that area closure there's no hunting allowed," explained Jaclynn Swope, a public information officer for the Badger Fire. "It does definitely limit the areas in which people with tags for 54 can go hunting."

Shortly after, the Sawtooth National Forest issued a Road, Trail and Area Closure of all Forest Service land east of Rock Creek Canyon and Deadline Ridge to the eastern-most forest boundary.

"It's a total closure," Thompson said. "That means you can't get into that closure area in a vehicle, in a side by side, or even walking in."

The closure forbids all public access to much of the Cassia District, which Fish and Game says has a direct impact on hundreds of big game hunters, like Scott Hautz, in pursuit of deer, elk and pronghorn in Game Management Unit 54.

"I think we were all a little disappointed when the fire started but at this point, it's just letting things calm down," Hautz said. "At this point, we don't know what's been taken out of there with the fire, so its time to just back out and let things calm down I think."

Fish and Game says hunters who hold controlled hunt tags for Unit 54 have several options to consider before their hunt starts.

Resident big game hunters in Unit 54 can:

- Actively hunt their tag, outside of the Forest Closure.

- Request a refund of the cost of the tag. No refunds will be made for license fees.

- Exchange their 2020 controlled hunt tag for a 2020 general season tag of the same species.

- Rain check their 2020 controlled hunt tag for a 2021 controlled hunt tag for the same species in Unit 54. Hunters who chose to rain check until 2021 will be allowed to purchase any available 2020 over-the-counter tag for the same species.

Non-resident big game hunters in Unit 54 can:

- Actively hunt their tag, outside of the Forest Closure.

- Request a refund of the cost of the tag. No refunds will be made for license fees.

- Rain check their 2020 controlled hunt tag for a 2021 controlled hunt tag for the same species in Unit 54.

- If a non-resident holds a 2020 unlimited archery deer tag, they can request a rain check for the same tag in 2021.

Fish and Game says hunters who want to exchange or rain check their Unit 54 tag must turn in their 2020 controlled hunt tag to the nearest Fish and Game office prior to the start of the start date of their controlled hunt.

If you have any questions, you can call the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359 or reach out to your nearest Fish and Game office.