Zimo: Shooting upland birds from a watercraft is illegal

January 2, 2014 

Q: Can you shoot pheasants and quail while drifting in a boat and jump shooting ducks?

SEVERAL HUNTERS

A: Absolutely not, according to Idaho’s Upland Bird Regulations.

I checked with Fish and Game on this one because there continues to be confusion among hunters.

I get this question now and then because older hunters remember when it was OK to shoot uplands birds from a drifting boat with no motor operating.

But if you look on Page 14 of the upland game rule book under unlawful methods of take, it’s pretty clear: “No persons shall take upland birds from any watercraft.”

If I remember right, the regulation at first was a result of abuses shooting chukars from boats in Hells Canyon. That was one of the main issues.

Let’s back up. It used to be legal to shoot upland birds from a boat up until the early ’90s.

Back then you could drift for chukars, pheasants and quail and shoot at the birds from a boat as long as the motor wasn’t running.

Then the Fish and Game Commission started getting complaints about abuses during the chukar hunt in Hells Canyon.

Motorized boaters would spot a covey of chukars on the banks of Snake River, zoom toward the birds, cut the engine on the boat, beach it, and then start shooting at the birds from the boat.

In the fall of 1994, for the first time, hunters were not allowed to shoot at upland game birds from any kind of boat on certain sections of the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers.

At the time, Fish and Game said the ruling was made for safety. Jump-shooting chukars from rafts and jet boats had been a popular method of hunting in the river canyons, but with increased hunters and boats, the lead was flying in all directions.

The regulation continued to be refined over the years, with it finally saying that hunters are not allowed to take upland game birds from any watercraft statewide.

As old as the law is, every time a covey of quail or a rooster ringneck flushes as we’re drifting river islands for ducks, I’ve got to remember to hold my shot.

I, like many hunters, remember the days when you could drift for chukars, quail and pheasants.

NOTE: If you’re heading out to hunt ducks, remember, the last day of pheasant season was Tuesday, Dec. 31. Quail and chukar seasons remain open through Jan. 31.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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