Transcript for Digital Scouting
So you’re excited to hunt Idaho and fill your freezer with deer and elk venison. But where do you go? This is the first video in a series of digital scouting tutorials that will take you from A to Z in discovering where to go and creating a plan for success on your next Idaho hunt.
In this first tutorial, we will learn about:
- How to select a hunting unit for deer and elk in Idaho,
- Accessing the rules, regulations, and seasons for your unit,
- Utilizing Idaho Fish and Game data to evaluate the historical success rates and number of hunters in the unit you choose, and
- How to use Idaho Fish and Game’s Hunt Planner to identify the public land access as well as roads and trails in your unit.
Idaho is fortunate to have over 34 million acres of public land. That’s more than 60% of the state. With deer and elk in every unit, you may already know an area you’d like to hunt. Or perhaps you wish to hunt close to home. You will first need to consult the seasons and rules books to know what seasons are available and when.
On screen: idfg.idaho.gov
We’ll begin here with the Idaho Fish and Game website to review Idaho hunting seasons and rules.
The Idaho Fish and Game website is shown.
Everything you need to know about hunting in Idaho is contained in the seasons and rules booklet available here online and free printed copies at all vendor locations as well. So you’ll want to become familiar with this.
There are two types of deer and elk hunts in Idaho—general and controlled. General hunts means that as a resident, you can simply go online or to any licensed vendor and purchase a tag. Controlled hunts are issued by a lottery process that takes place each year for hunters that wish to apply for a controlled hunt. Because of the ample opportunity and liberal seasons available, for this tutorial, we will focus on general hunts with plenty of public access.
In order to do this, we will briefly explain how Idaho Fish and Game administratively manages hunting areas.
A map of Idaho with its game management units is shown.
The state of Idaho is divided into parts called game management units or “units” for short. Resident deer hunters can hunt most units in the state with a general regular deer tag but must check the seasons and rules for specific details and season dates for each unit.
For elk hunting, groups of units are bundled together to create elk management zones or “elk zones” for short. Elk hunters must select an elk zone and can only hunt in that zone during the designated season.
Idaho’s unit and zone map is shown.
By looking at the unit and zone map, you can see the areas you are interested in and determine when the season is open.
Let’s look at a few deer-hunting opportunities on the unit map page of the seasons and rules booklet. Let’s say we’ve decided we’d like to hunt in Unit 39. So we are going to choose that here for our examples.
The Deer General Seasons brochure is selected on the Idaho Fish and Game website.
Now, going to the season information, we can see that we can hunt with a rifle or the Any Weapon season here from October 10th to the 31st. If you are interested in hunting archery or with a muzzle loader, scroll down further here. And we can see that there are separate seasons for those weapons.
The Hunt Planner is selected from the Idaho Fish and Game website’s menu.
Next, we will go to the Hunt Planner to view the harvest statistics and public access for the unit. Each year, hunters in Idaho are required to do a mandatory hunter report to indicate if they hunted and, if so, how many days, in which unit, and whether or not they harvested an animal. Looking at this information will give us an idea of the effort that hunters have put in and what their success rate has been.
The Harvest Statistics page is selected in the Idaho Fish and Game website’s Hunt Planner.
If we go to the Harvest Statistics page and select Deer for 2019, we can look here in this Any Weapon section, and then we’re on Unit 39. We can see that the success rate was 22.1%. Now if we want, we can compare that to other units. And this will give us an idea of the number of hunters we can expect in any given area and what their success rate was.
Depending on the experience that you want to have while hunting, this can also help you choose an area for where you want to hunt. Finding a balance between the number of hunters and the success rate—that’s a decision that each hunter makes individually.
The Map Center page is selected in the Idaho Fish and Game website’s Hunt Planner.
Now let’s visit the Map Center in the Idaho Fish and Game Hunt Planner. This will be a powerful resource to show you publicly accessible land to hunt, unit boundaries, and much more. There are a lot of great resources here to explore. But today, we’ll focus on the most primary. We see a toolbar here on the left where we can customize our map for scouting.
Useful layers will be found here in this Turn Layers On and Off tab. And once we’ve selected this, we see this dropdown where we can look and see another dropdown menu here for hunt-related layers. If we were elk hunting, for example, you would want to have this elk management zone turned on. And for now, we’ll just keep the game management unit selected to give us a clear view of the hunting area boundaries.
Next, we will want to know which roads and trails might give us access to our unit. We’ll do this by continuing down this Turn Layers On and Off tab. And we’ll select this dropdown here for these reference layers (trails, lands, access, etc.). We’re going to select roads and trails to overlay here and see how we can access all of this in Unit 39.
Next, we will want to know what areas of our unit have public access. Idaho Fish and Game has a number of programs that secure access for hunters, anglers, and trappers through wildlife management areas, Access Yes!, large tracts and Idaho endowment lands agreements. So we can select these layers as well and also, of course, the state and federal land management.
The toggle bar controlling opacity for the State & Federal Land Management layer is adjusted.
To help make viewing easier, you can also change this opacity for these layers by toggling this little guy right here up and down to the way you like it.
One other thing to note is that there are some exceptions of where we can hunt such as wildlife management areas that may be closed or national wildlife refuges that cannot be hunted in. When looking at your season information in the rulebook, you want to read up on any special information and notes that are over here at this end. Feel free to explore the other tools on the Hunt Planner. There are many more great features to aid in your digital scouting process.
OK, we are well on our way to finding a location to hunt this season. You have narrowed down your hunting unit, checked when the seasons will be open for the weapon you choose, and now have a good idea of the public access that you can utilize for your hunt.
In the next video of this series, we will take a deeper dive into using digital maps including Google Earth to identify deer and elk habitat and narrow your scouting search from this unit to specific areas that you’ll want to go hunt on foot.
On screen: [Idaho Fish and Game logo] Digital Scouting Idaho