SPOKANE, Wash. — Big-game hunters should find the Idaho Panhandle a better than average place to bag meat for the freezer and have a shot at a trophy elk or whitetail this season, even though elk calves took a hit from the first tough winter in a few years, said Wayne Wakkinen, Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager.

The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/2fmgil6) reports elk herds have gained back enough numbers in the past three years to resume general “cow season” in a few areas where they had been canceled after severe winters from 2007-09 took a high toll on elk.

Deer hunters were able to apply for “extra” antlerless whitetail tags to reduce whitetail numbers on private lands in Panhandle Units 1, 2, 3 and 5. In Unit 1 alone, 900 second whitetail deer tags have been issued so hunters can kill a doe in addition to their general buck tag.

“We need to take more deer where they are damaging the private lands,” Wakkinen said. “If a hunter has a doe permit with a single tag, he may not get around to shooting a doe because he’s hoping to find a buck. But with the extra tag, the hunter can shoot a doe and still have a tag for a buck.”

A chart is available at IFG’s regional office in Coeur d’Alene to help hunters understand where they can use the new “X-tags,” which are primarily for use on private land. Wakkinen listed three guidelines for determining where the X-tag is valid:

— On private land with permission of the landowner.

— On corporate timber land, but only within one mile of some other private land.

— On state or federal land, but only within one mile of private land that isn’t corporate timber land.

An ongoing elk study found that more than 90 percent of the Panhandle’s cow elk survived last winter, Wakkinen said.

But 50 percent of the elk calves were lost last winter, he said, noting that the calf survival rate was 80 percent the previous two mild winters. Malnutrition caused most of those calves to die, with predation taking only a small percentage, he said.

The data is gathered by capturing cow and calf elk during winter and fixing GPS collars so they can be monitored. When an elk dies, the collar sends an email notice so researchers can quickly respond, determine cause of death and retrieve the collar.

The data indicate that changing habitat quality could be a factor in the death of calves, Wakkinen said. “We’re trying to look into that. We already know that bigger, healthier cows produce bigger, healthier calves better equipped for surviving winter. Previous studies have shown a correlation in birth weight and survival.”

The antlerless elk hunts have some new restrictions. Since they are geared to relieving damage to crops, they are focused near private lands. The general antlerless elk hunting open in portions of Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6 are open on private lands and corporate timber lands. Antlerless elk hunting is open on state or federal land only within one mile of any private land, including corporate timber land.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com