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IDFG proposes unit 14 deer and elk changes, accepting public comment until March 13

Posted at 1:35 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 20:12:43-05

IDAHO — Since first detecting Chronic Wasting Disease in mule deer in unit 14 last fall, Idaho Fish and Game put together their CWD Management plan that includes proposed changes to the upcoming deer and elk hunting season.

“Normally we do our season setting every other year and this would be an off-year but with disease outbreak of EHD and the positive tests that we got for CWD, that prompted us to propose some season changes,” Roger Phillips, IDFG public information supervisor, said during Fish and Games virtual open house.

After detecting CWD in Idaho last fall, Fish and Game authorized emergency hunts in Unit 14 and surrounding areas, collecting 524 samples of both mule and whitetail deer. Out of those unit 14 samples, two mule deer, and three whitetail deer came back positive.

"While we didn’t get as many samples as we were originally after, we did get enough samples to determine prevalence in both deer species in unit 14," Rick Ward, IDFG State Wildlife Manager said during the virtual open house. "For mule deer, the prevalence rate comes out at 1.8 percent for whitetail it is at 2 percent."

"The fact that we didn’t detect CWD in surrounding units coupled with a low prevalence rate suggests that we have detected CWD early,” he added.

One advantage Idaho has is the opportunity to learn from other states on what CWD management plans have worked or not worked. Using successful CWD management plans from Utah, Colorado, and Montana IDFG's goal for this upcoming season is to reduce overall deer densities and increase CWD surveillance.

“For Idaho, the overall goal with CWD management at this point is to keep CWD contained to unit 14, and at or near two percent prevalence rate," Ward said. "Our goal is minimizing and reducing the spread of CWD. That’s keeping the prevalence rate low, reducing deer densities, and managing for number age structure in unit 14."

To do this, IDFG's proposal to the commission includes increasing the overall harvest numbers of both mule and whitetail deer in unit 14.

IDFG proposed 2020 hunting season changes/options include:

Increase mule deer harvest in Unit 14

  • Option 1: Increase antlered mule deer controlled hunt tags from 180 to 400 tags with the hunting season running from Oct. 10 – Nov. 20.
  • Option 2: Replace existing antlered controlled hunt (180 tags) with a general-season, antlered-only hunt from Oct. 10 – Nov. 20.

Add antlerless mule deer hunt in Unit 14

  • Add new mule deer extra antlerless hunt with 200 tags from Oct. 10 – Nov. 20. “Extra tags” allow hunters to harvest an additional animal in addition to a regular or controlled hunt tag.

Add White-tailed deer extra tags in Unit 14

  • Option 1: In addition to the existing general season, either-sex whitetail hunt, add a new extra antlerless whitetail hunt with 250 tags, and a new whitetail, extra antlered tag with 250 tags. Each hunt would run Oct. 10 – Nov. 20.
  • Option 2: Extend the existing general, either-sex hunt from Oct. 10 – Dec. 31.

Increase elk tags

  • Increase elk tags in one landowner permission hunt in Controlled Hunt Unit 14-1 from 50 tags to 80 tags and extend the southern boundary of the hunt unit about 3 miles.

"We are at a place right now where we are having to make some tough decisions, and for me having spent the last 27 years trying to grow more deer and elk, the idea of going in and implementing changes to reduce deer numbers specific to mature bucks is a hard pill to swallow," Rick Ward said.

"Even though we found it early leaving CWD unchecked and allowing it to increase and spread unabated to other units and other deer and elk populations threaten the viability of those populations. Doing nothing when we know CWD is in Idaho would be irresponsible,” he added.

IDFG is taking public comment on the proposals and options until March 13. To comment click here.

The comments and proposals will be presented to the IDFG Commission on March 22, and 23. They will make a decision on what changes will be implemented for the upcoming season. For more information, click here.