Senate Bill 1305, introduced by Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, would put an independent, private contractor in charge of the state’s controlled-hunt drawing, instead of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
A pair of bills introduced by former Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, would restrict Fish and Game commissioners and department employees from entering the drawings.
Both men said they are attempting to provide transparency to a process that is sometimes disparaged by unsuccessful applicants. It’s common, Gibbs said, for some hard-luck hunters who fail to draw tags to cast doubt on the overall fairness of the system.
“You hear the same thing,” he said. “‘That guy from the department draws every year and I never do, it’s got to be fixed’ or ‘That commissioner draws every year and I don’t, it’s got to be rigged.’”
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I’m not sure that is the best use of $102,000.
Fish and Game Commissioner Dan Blanco, of Moscow, on the cost of contracting for hunting tag drawings
In most cases, Idaho hunters can simply purchase tags to hunt for species like deer and elk. Known as general tags, they allow holders to hunt over wide geographic areas. But tags for more coveted species such as moose, mountain goats and bighorn sheep, or tags for some of the best deer and elk hunting spots, are limited, or “controlled.” Hunters must enter an annual drawing to win those tags.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game sells controlled-hunt applications and assigns random numbers to applicants, and then the Idaho Office of State Controller administers the drawing. The odds of winning a tag vary depending on the hunt, the species and the geographic area. Tags for moose and bighorn sheep, and some of the best trophy deer and elk hunts, are notoriously difficult to draw, and people sometimes try for years or even decades without success.
Brackett said some people even charge that friends of Fish and Game employees or commissioners have a leg up in the drawing. His bill would eliminate even the appearance of impropriety by taking the department completely out of the drawing business.
“I’m not pointing fingers, I’m not making wild accusations,” he said. “It will help increase transparency and there is value in that.”
His bill has more than a dozen co-sponsors in the Senate and 16 in the House. They include Gibbs and fellow former Fish and Game Commissioners Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, and Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, as well as Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood.
There are no co-sponsors listed on Gibbs’ bills that would restrict Fish and Game employees from entering the drawings, which he described as the “nuclear option.” He said his bills are intended to help move Brackett’s bill along or to spur Fish and Game commissioners to move the drawing outside of the department.
Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said moving the drawing outside of the department wouldn’t solve a real problem or change any of the drawing odds. He cited the drawings audits that showed they were fair.
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