July 1, the beginning of Idaho's Fiscal Year 2015, also meant a new law going into effect allowing the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to issue big game hunting licenses to 10-year-olds. Previous legislation stated that 10- and 11-year-olds could only hunt small game with adult supervision. Effective FY 2015, they're able to shoot wolves, bears and elk after completing a hunter safety course. A youth license costs $7.25 for the season.
But Fish and Game got tangled in a technical snafu when more than 1,000 youngsters entered IDFG's 2015 controlled hunting drawing before the rules had changed, making their entries ineligible.
When IDFG began issuing more than 300 coveted tags to the kids, veteran hunters from across the state flooded the IDFG office with phone calls, emails and complaints, causing the director of Fish and Game to take a second look at the decision.
Director Virgil Moore has released his solution in an open letter, letting the decision stand. But to appease the angry hunters, he's offered 283 more special control tags to be drawn for deer, elk and antelope hunts.
"While I may have been shortsighted in the original decision, I stand by these kids, their parents and their excitement, in allowing them to proceed with their first hunting opportunity for big game using these permits," Moore wrote in the letter. "I simply cannot bring myself to disappoint them given the confusion about this issue."
He also offered an apology to the kids who didn't apply to the controlled hunt permit drawing because of unclear direction from his department.
"I owe an apology to about 1,500 age 9, 10 and 11 youth (and their parents) for a decision that runs counter to their abiding our guidance. I deeply regret that I have disappointed you. I will be sending a letter to each with a gift certificate of sufficient value for the control hunt application fees for the second control hunt or other tags and licensees. You are justified in being upset with me in this decision and I accept that criticism."
The question of what age is appropriate to handle a firearm and hunt big game has been answered by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Beginning July 1, the IDFG started issuing youth hunting licenses to 10-year-olds, after recent legislation struck down the restriction that 10- and 11-year-olds can only hunt small game with adult supervision. Now, they're able to shoot wolves, bears and elk after completing a hunter safety course. A youth license costs $7.25 for the season.
The big controversy hasn't been about age, but timing. More than 1,000 youngsters entered IDFG's controlled hunting drawing--a lottery for a limited number of permits to hunt big game outside of general season--before the rule change, making them ineligible. IDFG let them remain in the drawing, but after outraged phone calls and emails from hunters across the state, the director of Fish and Game said he'll give that decision a second look.
In other sporting-life news, anglers could earn $25 if they snag fish marked with a radio telemetry tag.
As part of an effort to boost stocks of steelhead trout, Chinook Salmon and Pacific lamprey, the University of Idaho tagged the fish in the Snake, Columbia and Willamette rivers and tributaries to study their behavior and distribution.
Marked fish will have a wire in their mouth or body, and most of will have a UI label. To collect on the reward, the tag must be removed and sent back to the university. Then, it's just a matter of going to uidaho.edu and filling out an electronic form.
Speaking of researching animal behavior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plans to close the U.S. Sheep Experimentation Station this fall.
The station, located six miles north of Dubois, Idaho, near the Idaho-Montana border, covers almost 28,000 acres, houses 3,000 mature sheep and is where scientists study range and grazing management, the quality of meat and wool, and genetic improvements.
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture called the site a financial liability for the agency and conservation groups have been advocating for the station's closure for years.
"The facility is grazing domestic sheep in the heart of the most important grizzly bear corridor in the Northern Rockies," said John Meyer, executive director of Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, in a press release. "The closure is a major victory for our native wildlife."