Thursday, October 12, 2017

Caution: Big game hunting seasons are open, and it's prime time for Cast & Blast

Hunting season is upon us! Be sure to wear bright colors as Wendy and I did in the Silver City area. 
Fall trips provide great opportunities to see wildlife. We've seen multiple black bears in Hells Canyon. 
Fall chinook on the line! 
Hi all,

Head's up folks! It's that time of year when Idaho and out-of-state hunters are heading into the mountains to pursue big game. General deer season opened on Wednesday, Oct. 10th, pretty much statewide, including Unit #39 in the Boise River Mountains. Elk season will be coming soon on Nov. 1 in Unit #39, but it opens sooner than that in many units.

During hunting season, it's important to wear bright colors if you're going to be out hiking, biking or trail-running in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests or out in the Owyhees. Put bright colors on your dogs, too. Remember that you should expect to see hunters in some of your favorite recreation areas, and share the resource. If you don't want to see hunters or hear gunfire, stick close to home in the lower part of the Boise foothills.

If you're interested in learning more details about hunting seasons in various parts of Idaho, check out the Idaho Big Game regulations booklet online or pick one up anyplace where hunting licenses are sold. If you're ever thought about going hunting yourself, the big game regs are the go-to source for deciding what species to hunt, when the seasons occur, etc.

Speaking of hunting, now is the perfect time to be thinking about doing a cast-and-blast fishing and bird-hunting trip ... Watch the weather for the best experience, but I'd recommend trying to squeeze in a late-season float trip on the Lower Salmon River, Main Salmon or Hells Canyon to fish and hunt chukars. This has been an annual tradition for me since the late 1980s, and it's always a great time.

In a matter of days, the steelhead will be running stronger up the Salmon River and Snake River, so you could add these beautiful ocean-going fish to the list of fish you might catch. If you have people in your group who carry big-time fish tackle for sturgeon, that'd be another potential prize to pursue.

From the standpoint of trip logistics, it's easiest to put together a Lower Salmon or Hells Canyon trip in SW Idaho. For those who live near Stanley, Salmon or Idaho Falls, a Main Salmon trip would be easier to pull off, but it also would take more days to do the 80-mile trip. The South Fork Snake River is another great fall trip near Idaho  Falls, where you can fly fish for trout and maybe find a grouse in the woods above camp. Plus, you're likely to see moose and bald eagles.

Here are some basics on the fall river trips:
  • Hells Canyon - Put in a Hells Canyon Dam and float to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about 35 miles. This trip is easily doable in three or four days. Take as much time as possible. Only self-issue permits are required, available at the web site. Shuttles can be arranged through Scotty's gas station in Pine, Oregon for $160 cash. They do a marvelous job! 
  • Lower Salmon Canyon - Float from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or arrange for a jet boat shuttle to Pittsburg Landing from the mouth of the Salmon. It's almost 50 miles from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Salmon, and the river is running very low (3,500 cfs), so allow for plenty of time to do your float. Fishing is limited to small-mouth bass and steelhead in this section. 
  • Salmon River near Riggins - If you don't have time to do a longer trip, you could put in at Carey Creek or Vinegar Creek and float down to Riggins while fishing for steelhead and hunting chukars. 
  • South Fork Snake River - Put in at Palisades Dam for the long version of the float or at Swan Valley and float to the takeout at Heise. The South Fork Lodge in Swan Valley does shuttles. Check with the experts on what kinds of flies the fish are taking. The cuts on the South Fork get fished very hard by a steady stream of outfitters every day. By this time of year, it's more locals than outfitters. Here's a blog post I did on the South Fork two years ago. 
One more thing, there's a new closure on the Boise River Greenbelt to note: From the Idaho Parks and Recreation state office and Shakespeare theater entrance to Diversion Dam will close on Oct. 25 and remain closed for repairs until June 22, 2018.

Have fun and enjoy the fall!
- SS

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