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Sage-grouse hunting comments sought

 Fish and Game study shows improved numbers — With sage-grouse numbers improving the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is proposing more tags be issued for the next two hunting seasons.
  The 2024-25 rules proposal is up for public comment through Sunday.
  The firearm season in all zones is proposed for Sept. 21 to Oct. 31, while the falconry season in all zones would run from Aug. 15 to March 15.
  Fish and Game proposed a 51.4 percent increase in tags issued in Zone 1 (Game Management Unit 40 in north Owyhee County) for 2024 as compared to 2023. The proposal calls for a quota of 105 tags. A 61.5 percent increase in hunting tags (from 642 last year to 1,044 in 2024) is proposed for Zone 2 (Units 41 and 42 south Owyhee County).
  Hunters and other interested parties can comment online at
  Increases were seen in all zones as sage-grouse lek count improved 22 percent from 2023 to 2024, according to a Fish and Game press release.
  Rachel Curtis, Fish and Game’s Southwest Region wildlife biologist, outlined the study results in an email to the Owyhee Sage-grouse Local Working Group.
  “More tags are proposed this year in both zones because of increased numbers of males on leks, three prior years of good chick-to-hen ratios, and an adjustment to be closer to expected harvest rates,” she wrote.
  Curtis said there was a 44 percent increase in males at leks in Zone 1, from 312 a year ago to 449 this year. Thirty-eight percent of hunting tags were filled last year with the population still at a five percent harvest limit.
  Zone 2 saw a 20 percent increase in males (from 2,323 to 2,790) and 41 percent of tags were filled in 2023. The harvest rate in Zone 2 has been set at eight percent.
  Sage-grouse tag allocation is designed to limit harvest to no more than 10 percent of the estimated fall population in each of 12 reporting zones. In each zone, a fall population index was calculated based on spring 2024 lek counts and recruitment estimates derived from juvenile-to-adult ratios observed during the previous three years of harvest.
  An upward trend in populations has been seen recently, and officials say the abundance of birds fluctuates approximately every six to 10 years.
  To generate proposed 2024 tag numbers for each zone, department staff used a targeted harvest of 8 percent of the fall population index in most zones (5 percent in two zones) and assumed a 60 percent harvest success rate. The assumed harvest success rate used for 2024 tag calculation (60 percent) is closer to actual statewide harvest success rates observed over the last three harvest seasons (31 percent to 46 percent) than the assumed harvest success rate that was used to calculate tag numbers in 2022 and 2023 (75 percent).

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