Welcome to 2017. I hope you had a great hunting season last year, and it’s understandable if you think the season is winding down. Many people think hunting seasons start in late summer, run through fall and end during winter, but there are many hunting opportunities in Idaho throughout the year.
Since we just started the new year, you can consider this the beginning of a new hunting season, too. Go get your 2017 hunting license, if you haven’t already, and keep going into the field to pursue game and have the wonderful experiences that go along with it.
There’s a lot of options in January, and beyond. Some upland bird seasons last through January. Duck and Canada goose seasons close at different times during January depending on which part of the state you’re in, and other waterfowl hunting opportunities run later.
White-fronted goose season goes until Feb. 19 in Area 2, which includes Southwest Idaho and portions of the Magic Valley (see the migratory game bird rules for details).
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Light goose seasons (blue, snow and Ross’s) extend into March depending on the area, so again, please check the rules booklet so you can see the exact boundaries.
Light geese are overpopulated in some areas, and biologists are concerned that their high abundance can damage Arctic habitat, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That means there are special rules in place to reduce these high populations, including the use of electronic calls and allowing unplugged shotguns. There are restrictions on where those rules apply, so again, check the rules booklet.
Snow geese and white-fronts are interesting and exciting birds to hunt. If you’ve ever listened to a flock of snow geese overhead, or seen a swirling mass of white-fronted geese (aka speckle bellies) landing in a field, you know what I am talking about. It’s a sight to see, hear and experience. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to check them out, even if you’re not hunting them.
One reason for the late seasons for these birds is they are often migrating back from the south and following the receding snow line north, which makes southern Idaho a natural, but brief, stopover.
When you’re done hunting waterfowl, you will barely have time to stow your decoys and clean your shotgun before spring turkey season opens April 15. It’s a great time to be in the woods as they are coming alive with the sound of gobbling toms.
Some hunters compare the excitement of calling a tom turkey to calling a bull elk, but with a much easier pack-out if you’re successful bringing a gobbler within shotgun range and closing the deal.
Turkey hunting is also a great way to introduce novices to hunting because they often see and hear the birds up close, and there’s usually not the long, arduous hiking that’s involved with big-game hunting.
If you’re not a bird hunter but still want to keep hunting, some hunters extend their season by taking on the challenge of predator hunting. Mountain lion and wolf hunting are open and continue through March in most parts of the state and beyond March in some areas. You can find details in the big-game rules booklet. Mountain lions are typically hunted with hounds, which is not an option for the average hunter, but there are outfitters available to guide you on one of these exciting hunts.
Predator hunting is also done by calling in the animals, and they all have a reputation for being wary and wily, so expect to put in some effort doing it, but you will have a trophy if you succeed. The pelts are prime during winter, so you can have one turned into a rug.
The end of mountain lion and most wolf seasons at the end of March dovetails with the start of spring black bear hunting in April, so you can continue pursuing big game.
Like mountain lions, black bears are often hunted with hounds in units where it’s allowed, but hunters are also successful at baiting them, or by spotting and stalking them similar to deer and elk hunting. Spring bear hunting runs through June in many units.
That brings us to July, and if you’re still itching to keep hunting, there are some limited opportunities for wolf hunting, but for most hunters, it’s time to start thinking about deer, elk and other hunting seasons that start in August, September and October.
So don’t feel like your 2017 hunting seasons should be limited to a few months. If you’re willing to use your creativity and try some different quarry, you can keep hunting nearly year-round in Idaho.
Roger Phillips is a public information specialist at Idaho Fish and Game and former Statesman outdoors writer.