Deer, elk, goats and wolves come into hunters' sights
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Opportunities for big game hunting abound in the West, and representatives of state fish and game departments said there are generally good chances for successful hunts across their states. Here are some suggestions for hunting destinations.
B Zone Complex
Hunters after Columbia black tail deer can find it in northwestern California, said Craig Stowers, deer program coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Game.
Six zones comprise the B Zone Complex in Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity and Shasta counties.
"One tag is good in all six of the areas," Stowers said. "Hunters can bounce around to different zones, depending on which season is open and what their availability is. They have a lot of freedom."
The department never sells out of tags in the B Zone, Stowers said. Two deer can be killed per year in California.
The seasons open at the end of August or the first week of September and continue until October, Stowers said. Hunters begin buying deer tags in May.
The department charges tag and licensing fees, but Stowers said hunters may have to pay campground or access fees on private land.
"As far as we're concerned, if they have a tag and a license, they're good to go," he said.
In the Idaho panhandle east of Lewiston, the Dworshak Zone is good for elk, said Idaho Department of Fish and Game Conservation Information Supervisor Ed Mitchell.
Idaho is one of the few locations in the continental U.S. to include locations where hunters can set up camp on undesignated campground, he said. There are also hundreds of campsites available.
"A lot of them are in places you want to be for hunting trips," he said. Site fees vary.
Mitchell recommends that hunters use the planner on the department's website. Information includes the time they wish to go, location, campground locations and previous harvests.
"That can answer a world of questions that you don't even know you have," Mitchell said.
Hunters can apply through June 5 for limited-entry hunts, Mitchell said.
In the northeast corner of Oregon, the Hells Canyon Wilderness offers great hunting -- and lots of exercise. Hunters must pack into the area, since motorized vehicle access is restricted.
Much big game hunting in the unit is controlled and entry is limited, so hunters must apply for a tag by May 15, said Michelle Dennehy, wildlife programs communications coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Every big game species except antelope can be hunted there. Only cougar, bear, archery deer and archery elk are general season, in which anyone can buy a tag. Rifle deer and elk, Rocky Mountain goat and big horn sheep require application by May 15 each year.
Hunters may apply online, via fax or at a department office or licensed sales agent.
Pronghorn hunting requires an application each year, accruing enough preference points to draw a tag, while bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats are once-in-a-lifetime hunts.
"It's difficult to draw the tag and once you do draw the tag, you don't get to draw it again in your lifetime," Dennehy said.
From the Cascade Crest along the Columbia River to the Okanogan River into Canada is probably the best bet for mule deer this year, said Dave Ware, Washington Fish and Wildlife game division manager.
The area is mostly U.S. Forest Service land, with the season for modern firearm hunters running Oct. 16-24 this year. The seasons for other weapon types vary. More information is available on the department's website.
The top elk herd is the Yakima herd in the central part of the state, from the Columbia River to Yakima and north to State Route 2. This is spike-only hunting unless a hunter draws a permit. Permits and applications are available after April 20.
Some federal campgrounds in the area require fees, Ware said. For information on camping, he recommends contacting the Okanogan, Chelan or Wenatchee national forests.
Idaho concluded its first wolf season March 31.
"We think for the first time out of the box, it's been orderly," said Idaho Department of Fish and Game Conservation Information Supervisor Ed Mitchell. "We've had really good cooperation from hunters with very tight deadlines on reporting kills."
In the Lolo Zone, along the Montana border, the harvest limit of 27 wolves was not met. Only 13 wolves were taken.
"We'd like to take some wolves out of there," Mitchell said.
A second hunt will begin about Sept. 1. Details depend on ongoing research. The exact seasons and limits will be set during the state Fish and Game Commission's August meeting.