Bear hunters in Southeast Idaho take note: Spring bear hunt rules for 2018 still in effect

Recently approved big game hunting seasons and rules, which included expanding bear hunting opportunity in Southeast Idaho, take effect July 1.

In March, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission set big game hunting seasons and rules for 2019-2021, which included expanding bear hunting opportunity in the Southeast Region. With spring bear hunts upon us, hunters are reminded that bear hunting regulations this spring are the same as they were in spring 2018. The recent changes to bear hunting regulations in Southeast Idaho are not applicable until after the approved big game rules take effect July 1, 2019.

Specifically, harvest of black bears in Units 71, 72, 74, 75, 77, and 78 is illegal during the upcoming spring bear hunt. Harvest opportunities for black bears in those units will begin Fall 2019.

“We don’t want to see well-intentioned hunters inadvertently breaking the rules, ” says Jennifer Jackson, regional communications manager with Idaho Fish and Game’s Southeast Region. “Folks need to remember that the spring 2019 bear hunting season was set two years ago during the prior season setting process.”

The 2019-2021 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules brochure will be available online at idfg.idaho.gov sometime in early April and at Fish and Game license vendors soon thereafter.

Forest Service studies evolving landscape through ‘retake’ photo project

Think of it as a low-tech time machine.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest recently posted some of its efforts to illustrate an evolving landscape on a new website app titled “Historic Photography Retake Project.”

The project shows photographs of locations around Jackson Hole, Wyo., taken at the turn of the century in 1900. These photos can be easily compared to photos of the same locations from the 1970s, as well as between 2015 and 2018. This “repeat photography” allows land managers, biologists and ecologists to study the changes.

The project was the inspiration of George Gruell, a wildlife biologist for the Teton National Forest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He saw it as a way to assess the condition and trends of the landscape.

“He went around and found all these historic pictures from the turn of the century from all the people who came here, then he spent a summer or two going out and trying to recreate pictures from where the picture was taken from,” said Andy Norman, a forest fuels specialist for the Bridger-Teton National Forest. “He did a technical publication in the ’70s on his work.”

Gruell took about 100 photos repeating the older photos. Those photos of Gruell’s have recently been taken again by Mike Merigliano of Driggs, who works with the national forest.

“So now we have photos from the turn of the century, 1970s and now 2015-18,” Norman said. “The difference between the ’70s and now is that we have other ways to display the data.”

That new way is found on the Forest Service’s website.

The site brings up an interactive map with pinpoints showing photo locations. When you click on a pinpoint, a display gives you information on ecological zones shown in the photo, years the photos were taken and all three photos individually and side-by-side. Another feature of the app gives viewers a sliding overlay for a detailed side-by-side comparison of the landscapes of past and present. Right now, there are 21 retake photos on the app, but plans are to eventually put all 100 or so photos on the website.

“Gruell was mostly interested in wildlife habitat and also how the vegetation had changed in the past 100 years,” Norman said. “More than anything he was interested in the effects of fire suppression. In the turn of the century, the Forest Service pretty much had a policy of fire exclusion.”

Although ecological change is constant, it generally moves at a slow pace. Taking a long-range look through retake photography gives land managers and scientists another tool for study.

The higher the elevation, typically, the slower change occurs, Merigliano said in a Jackson Hole News and Guide story.

“Up in the alpine,” he said, “the pictures I’m taking there, it looks like the guy was there yesterday. It just doesn’t change very much because it’s so cold.”

Other areas have shown bigger changes over time caused by road building, grazing, fire and even a dam break.

Merigliano told the Jackson Hole News and Guide that in studying the change in vegetation, invasive species such as cheatgrass have shown up in the latest photos.

The Forest Service app says the Jackson Hole area is ideal for this type of retake photography project.

“Wildlife habitat, especially for elk, and watershed protection were important priorities a century ago, and they remain so today,” the site says. “There are typical land management activities such as livestock grazing and timber harvesting, but some areas have never been grazed by livestock, and much of the landscape doesn’t have roads or timber harvest.”

Norman said the Forest Service plans to eventually put all of the retake photos on a database accessible by the public.

The project was partially funded by The Teton Conservation District.

Making turkey stew out of your wild turkey

This recipe will work for your wild turkey or a store bought turkey. I’m not a big soup and stew kind of guy, but as I get older, I do find myself eating more of both of them. Especially when it is cold outside. But today I want to share a recipe that I came up with a few years back that my family really enjoys, and that is turkey stew.

Turkey stew is super easy to make but unbelievably good. The backbone of the stew will be the bones and fat left over after you eat your smoked turkey. I came up with this recipe years ago after we had finished eating a smoked turkey that mom always sends us on Thanksgiving. She sends us a Greenberg smoked turkey, which is out of Tyler, Texas. Greenberg makes the best smoked turkey I’ve ever tasted. One year after we had polished one off, I hated to throw away any precious meat left on the bones and thought “Hmmm, I’m going to make some stew out of the leftovers.” It’s an every year event now.

You can make this turkey stew out of a Greenberg smoked turkey or out of you own smoked wild turkey. The ones from Greenberg come in a plastic bag stuffed in a paper sack. I put all of the bones and skin (fat) in the plastic bag and store in the freezer until I’m ready to cook it.

So here’s how to make the stew. It is best in a Lodge Dutch oven. Put 4 to 6 inches of water in the Dutch oven and heat it up on your stove top, or I guess you could do it in your oven. Right when you start heating the water I put in the ingredients. I throw the bones and fat in then. Since we love the stew so much, I make two batches out of one set of turkey bones.

Next you’ll put in the following ingredients:

  • Chopped potatoes (4 small ones)
  • One chopped squash
  • One chopped onion
  • 1-2 teaspoons of chopped garlic. I use bottled garlic.
  • Half a bundle of chopped cilantro. Cilantro is what makes the stew so don’t leave it out.
  • Tony Chachere’s seasoning and a little salt and pepper.

Bring all of the above ingredients to a boil. When the potatoes are done, throw in ¾ cup of instant rice. Let it cook for 5 to 10 minutes and you are now ready to serve. I scoop out everything with a big spoon and put in the bowls, leg bones and all. (I semi-separate the bones before cooking so all of the flavor is absorbed while cooking). Then we have a plate on the table to put the bones after you have eaten all the meat off of them.

This sounds like a simple recipe, and that’s because it is. But don’t let it fool you. It will be the best turkey stew that you’ve ever had. So just because you’ve sliced every last ounce off of your smoked wild turkey this spring don’t think it’s over. No sir, whip out a steaming pot of turkey stew and impress everyone. It is also great with homemade sourdough bread, but that will be another article down the road.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

GONE FISHIN’: Grab your fishing rod and head to one these favorite spring spots

Anglers who want to get a jump on their fishing season in early spring can find places to catch fish throughout Idaho, and a surprising variety of them.

With daylight saving time here and spring here, there’s also enough daylight for after-work or after-school fishing trips to a local fishing spot. That makes March and April great months for early-season fishing as a lead-in to prime spring fishing in May and early June.

Idaho Fish and Game stocks trout year round, but expands its operations as more waters open in March and become suitable for trout. Typically, ponds are the first places, followed by small lakes and reservoirs, then larger reservoirs and streams, but it depends on many factors.Here are some tips for early season fishing.

Watch the weather:

Fishing is typically better when temperatures are warming and the barometer is stable. A temperature drop or a storm typically slows fishing.

Take it slow:

Fish can be sluggish in cold water. Air temperature warms much faster than water, so even on a warm, spring day, the water is probably chilly. Bait is a good option, and if you’re using lures or flies, a slow retrieve usually works better.

Don’t overlook warmwater fish:

They become active sooner than you might think, but expect subtle strikes, and the fish to be in different places than where you found them last summer. Bass fishing can be good. Catch rates tend to be low, but the biggest fish are often the first to become active. Smaller, shallower waters typically warm faster than larger bodies of water. Ponds and small reservoirs are good options. Same goes for shallow coves, bays and flats in larger lakes and reservoirs.

Get the latest information:

Get the latest stocking reports with Fish and Game’s stocking page for good places to catch rainbow trout and other fish.

Watch for hatches:

Fly anglers can find good early season bug hatches, which are typically chironomids (midges) or baetis (blue-wing olives). There are usually trout feeding on them.

Fish locally:

Especially if the weather forecast looks iffy. You don’t want to drive several hours and then find unfavorable weather and water conditions. Spring is a good time of year to explore local ponds and reservoirs that you may have overlooked in the past.

Here are the best places in the region for spring fishing.

Magic Valley

Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir:

Like many other southern Idaho reservoirs, this one offers a variety of warmwater fishing and trout. Rainbow trout fishing heats up in the spring with the weather, especially for shore anglers. The fishing also gets good for boat anglers as we get further into spring. The reservoir has some of Idaho’s best walleye fishing, as well as perch, crappie and other panfish that can provide lots of action and great eating.

Oakley Reservoir:

Oakley received 26,000 rainbow trout last year, and it has a reputation for fast-growing fish. Last year’s holdovers and this year’s stocking of 12-inch rainbows should provide good fishing for shore anglers and trollers and a nice mix of sizes. The reservoir also has walleye fishing that typically gets going in later in spring.

Hagerman Wildlife Management Area:

This is a cluster of ponds, lakes and streams that are steps away from the Hagerman Fish Hatchery, which means a steady stream of trout are available to be stocked, as well as occasional contributions of large trout from nearby private hatcheries. This area also has fishing platforms, ADA-compliant docks, restrooms and a picnic area, which all make for a fun, comfortable place to go fishing. Here’s an article about fishing at the Hagerman WMA.

Southeast

Upper Portneuf River:

March and April can be great months to fish the upper Portneuf River between Lava Hot Springs and Chesterfield Reservoir. There is a growing population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout and some quality hatchery rainbow trout. Prior to Memorial Day weekend, the anglers are restricted to catch-and-release fishing and no bait. It’s a good place for early flyfishing.

Bear Lake:

Spring at Bear Lake can be the best time of year to catch a trophy native cutthroat trout, which can start as early as April depending on weather conditions. These amazing trout can grow up to 15 pounds. Many of the mature cutthroat trout are over 4 pounds. During April and May, the mature trout cruise the west side of the lake before ascending to their spawning tributaries. Trolling is the most successful method. Silver-colored spoons or Rapalas are popular. Recent habitat projects have resulted in more wild cutthroat trout, and catch rates continue to rise.

Wild cutthroat trout caught in Bear Lake must be released, but over 200,000 hatchery cutthroat trout are stocked annually for those interested keeping some to eat. Hatchery fish can be identified by a clipped adipose fin.

American Falls Reservoir:

At over 55,000 acres, this large water body is home to two state records, one for rainbow trout and the other for rainbow/cutthroat hybrid. Other game fish lurking beneath the surface include yellow perch, largemouth and small mouth bass, cutthroats, and brown trout. Fishing can be hot shortly after the ice has come off this reservoir, which can make this destination an early favorite for spring. Trolling with spoons or Rapalas is an angler’s best bet. Amenities at this reservoir include docks, boat ramps, camping areas, and it has ADA-accessible areas.

Bannock Reservoir:

This urban fishing spot is part of the Portneuf Wellness Complex in Pocatello. This fishery is approximately 6.5 acres in size with a maximum depth of 35 feet. It is regularly stocked with catchable rainbows and occasionally a few lunkers. Fish limit is two. The Portneuf Wellness Complex is a large 80-acre manicured multi-use complex designed to serve soccer, lacrosse, and football games and tournaments, with sand volleyball and basketball courts available for pick-up games. The complex also supports over 2 miles of paved walking trails, a mountain bike park, and offers a playground for the kids. The reservoir is divided into a swimming area complete with a sandy beach and a fishing area with docks and a rock shoreline to accommodate anglers. Anglers can also bring their float tubes, and “beach bums” can bring kayaks and paddleboards. There are pavilions, bathrooms, and plenty of parking.

Edson Fichter Pond:

This 3-acre urban fishery is tucked inside Edson Fichter Nature Area in south Pocatello. Access is by paved trails from a paved parking lot. No boats or float tubes are allowed, but who needs that with all the bank fishing and two large docks that are available. This pond is also ADA-accessible. Catchable rainbows and occasional behemoths are regularly stocked at this pond; just remember the two-fish limit. A smaller puppy pond is located near the fishery for those who wish to train or play with their four-legged friends, but this smaller pond is not stocked or open for fishing. Edson Fichter Nature Area boasts 40 acres of natural landscape dominated by native plant species, trees, and springtime wildflowers connected by looping trails that lead visitors to the Portneuf River, the ponds, and to other parts of the site. Visitors enjoy seeing wildlife such as swallows, osprey, mule deer, foxes, waterfowl — even an occasional bald eagle.

Upper Snake

Henry’s Fork River:

This famed flyfishing river gets an early start on its rainbow trout fishing. Catch rates typically improve in March, especially on sunny days that get insects hatching and fish rising to the surface to feed. The section from Ashton downstream to St. Anthony is popular among anglers.

Birch Creek:

Easy access and minimal snow depths make this creek a great early season option. Stable water temperatures increase fish activity and make them more willing to bite. High numbers of fish increase the likelihood of anglers to see trout on the end of their line. Anglers seeking rainbow trout will have more luck fishing downstream. Those seeking brook trout will find them more abundant upstream.

South Fork of the Snake River:

The river is typically low and accessible for wading in early spring, and fishing can be good for trout and whitefish. Anglers can catch and keep a rainbow trout and be rewarded not just with fish for dinner, but with cash if they catch a marked fish. Take the head of a rainbow trout to the Fish and Game office in Idaho Falls, and on the first Friday of the month a Fish and Game employee will scan it. If the fish is embedded with a tiny wire tag, it is worth from $50 to $1,000. The program is to encourage anglers to harvest rainbow trout and reduce competition with the river’s native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Salmon

Kids Creek Pond:

This pond near Salmon will be stocked with catchable rainbow trout in mid-March. It provides a convenient place for people to do some early season fishing, and can also provide some big surprises.

Upper Salmon River:

When the Deadwater ice dam breaks up in late winter or early spring, it sends a wave of steelhead upstream. The dam has already broken up this year, and anglers had a flurry of activity steelhead fishing. There will be steelhead available in the river system up to Stanley into mid-April. It’s a popular place for anglers, and there’s about 115 miles of river between Salmon and Stanley that is accessible off Idaho 75 and U.S. 93, and another 68 miles of road access downstream from Salmon.

Hayden Creek Pond:

This pond is about 24 miles south of Salmon on Hayden Creek Road. It gets stocked with trout in February and monthly through spring and summer for nearly year-round fishing thanks to spring water that keeps it from freezing. That spring water also makes great trout habitat, and fish that don’t get caught right away continue to grow, which gives anglers an opportunity to catch some larger trout. The pond also has a picnic facility and bathrooms.

At least 457 Yellowstone bison killed

At least 457 bison were killed this winter, a total that falls shy of a removal goal as most hunting seasons and capture-for-slaughter operations end.

Of those, 347 were shipped to slaughter after being caught in Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek Capture Facility and 106 were killed by hunters, according to a report from the park. The number taken by tribal hunters will likely increase because final harvest totals for several tribes haven’t been reported yet.

The report was compiled late last week as park officials shuttered the trap for the year. Park officials don’t capture bison beyond the end of March because of the approach of calving season for the animals, park spokeswoman Linda Veress said.

If 457 is the final number, it would be the lowest total since 2016, when managers culled fewer than 600. The past two years were among the highest in a decade, both topping 1,100.

It would also be short of bison managers’ goal of culling between 600 and 900, agreed to last fall to either slightly reduce the population of roughly 4,500 or keep it stable.

Culling bison depends heavily on the animals’ willingness to migrate north out of the park, something they didn’t really do until late this winter.

Many bison hunters got skunked early on while the animals remained inside the park even as snow grew deep and temperatures dropped. Large numbers of bison weren’t observed north of the park border until mid-March, according to the report.

The report’s tally of bison killed by hunters puts their take at 106, with another three bison killed by park staff after being wounded and wandering back into the park. But the report doesn’t have a complete accounting of which hunters took the bison, listing the lion’s share of the total as “unattributed harvests.”

Of the 85 hunters licensed through the state of Montana, only one was successful, said Mark Deleray, regional supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes took two bison.

Deleray said hunters from the Nez Perce Tribe harvested a total of 53 and hunters from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation took 11.

The migration that benefited hunters also gave park officials a chance to open the gates of the trap. A total of 348 were captured. One died in the corrals. The other 347 were sent to slaughter, and the meat will go to Native American tribes.

F&G offers fewer moose tags for 2019 while biologists research moose declines

Opportunities for moose hunters to harvest one of Idaho’s most sought-after trophy species will be fewer in 2019-20 in an effort by Fish and Game wildlife managers to address declining populations in much of the state.

The Fish and Game Commission in January approved a statewide reduction of 171 moose tags, with decreases in antlered and antlerless tags in the Panhandle, Clearwater, and Southeast regions, as well as a decrease in antlered tags in the Upper Snake Region. Statewide, antlered tags were reduced from 669 in 2017-18 to 560 in 2019-20, and antlerless tags were reduced from 136 to 74.

“We don’t take lightly that there’s a 16 percent reduction in antlered tags, and a 46 percent reduction in antlerless moose tags across the state,” Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever said. “Certainly, we would like to be talking about increases in tags, but it is simply not biologically supported.”

Harvest data tells the story

Moose are difficult for biologists to monitor. They are widespread, found in low densities, and often live in places that make counting them from the air impractical. Historically, Fish and Game biologists have relied on various information to gauge the trends of Idaho’s moose population.

That information includes:

  • Hunter success, which is the number of hunters who successfully filled their tags
  • Hunter effort, which is the number of days it took a tag holder to harvest a moose
  • Antler size (age) of moose harvested

Depending on how those numbers change from year to year, wildlife managers adjust permit levels accordingly, while also factoring in public input and field observations.

Moose populations in Idaho steadily increased into the early 2000s. They had greatly expanded their range and numbers throughout the state since the 1970s and also expanded west into Washington and northeastern Oregon.

Statewide, moose tag numbers in Idaho increased during every biennial season setting cycle between 1990 and 2004, when the total number of tags — both antlered and antlerless — peaked at 1,235. In 2010, that number was 1,027, and it has been falling since.

Since the peak in the 2000s, harvest records, field staff and hunter reports indicated that many regional moose populations in Idaho were stable or declining.

Fewer animals mean less hunting opportunity

North Idaho was the first area where Fish and Game biologists noticed the moose population trending down. Fish and Game wildlife managers reduced tag numbers in the Clearwater Region in 2001, responding to lower hunter success rates and smaller antler spreads.

Using those same metrics, biologists reduced tags in the Clearwater Region again in 2005 and 2009, along with significant reductions in Southeast Idaho and the Upper Snake regions in those years, respectively.

Since 2009, statewide moose tag numbers have decreased in four of the past five two-year season setting cycles leading up to the most recent one, which saw the largest proportional decrease in the past 30 years. Ironically, moose numbers increased in areas of the state once considered less-optimal habitat, such as southern Idaho, while numbers declined in parts of the state considered prime habitat.

Moose numbers declining across the U.S.

Moose populations have declined in parts of the country since the 1990s, and concerns escalated since the early 2000s. Eastern moose populations were the first to experience significant reductions in numbers. Moose populations in the West appeared to fare better than their eastern counterparts, but the Rocky Mountain states eventually began seeing similar declines.

“Many things affect moose populations, and it is not just Idaho – the declines span the entire southern extent of their range,” Schriever said.

The reintroduction of wolves in the mid 1990s affected moose populations, but like most things wildlife related, there’s rarely one simple answer.

“We’re certain wolf predation is playing a role, and we are addressing that with more liberal wolf hunting and trapping seasons,” Schriever said. “But we’re also seeing moose declines in areas that have few, or no, wolves, and shrinking moose populations are not unique to Idaho.”

Elsewhere in the country, researchers have identified a wide range of possible factors potentially contributing to moose declines, some of which include climate change-related shifts in forage quantity and quality, changing parasite prevalence, and impacts of predation (especially wolf-related).

Researchers in Idaho and beyond look for answers

Dwindling populations of moose in the western United States prompted wildlife officials in the region to pool their resources. Biologists from Idaho and neighboring states – including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Washington and Nevada – began working together in 2013 searching for answers to the declining numbers. Each state is looking into different factors that could contribute to moose population declines and communicating the results of their research.

Idaho’s initial research project, which it recently completed, focused on nutrition. Other states looked into adult survival, pregnancy, and how body condition relates to pregnancy and the number of calves born. Idaho’s nutrition project looked at how changes in habitat altered the nutritional landscape for moose by decreasing the amount of high-quality forage.

“We are working together to find out what is causing this to happen,” said Wildlife Staff Biologist Hollie Miyasaki said. “We have a whole list of things that could be contributing, and they probably all are.”

Idaho is also working independently to better understand its own moose populations. In 2013, Fish and Game biologists collected 460 blood, liver, and fecal samples from moose harvested by hunters, which they used to evaluate micronutrients and parasites. Biologists are planning to collect samples from moose harvested in the 2019 hunting season. This time around, they are interested in looking at pathogens, parasites, and blood work.

Idaho wildlife managers also plan to get better estimates of moose populations by using remote cameras to estimate abundance and cow-calf ratios. They will also be radio collaring adult female moose in several parts of the state to assess survival and – if one dies – determine what killed it. During capture and collaring, biologists will also gather health information from biological samples and look at body conditions.

Want to try fishing? F&G’s ‘Take Me Fishing’ trailers have all you need

Idaho Fish and Game wants to help you get started fishing, and more important, help you learn the basics so you can do it on your own and enjoy the state’s amazing fishing opportunities with your family and friends.

Fish and Game’s “Take Me Fishing” trailers will roam the state in spring and summer and will likely stop at a location near you. They are loaded with loaner fishing rods, tackle, bait and staffed by experienced anglers. You can fish for free during the trailer events, all budding anglers have to do is show up at a fishing trailer event with a willingness to learn, and most important, a desire to have fun.

Take Me Fishing trailers events are held on weekends and after work. A fish stocking truck will typically pay a visit to each event site to ensure there are plenty of trout available for anglers to catch. The rules for Take Me Fishing trailer events are simple:

  • Anyone who signs up at the trailer does not need a fishing license to fish at the event.
  • Fishing equipment can be checked out for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Before and after the event, a fishing license is required for anyone 14 years and older.

Here’s a schedule of Take Me Fishing trailer events near you. 

Magic Valley Region

  • Saturday, June 1, Fairfield Kids Pond, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 8, Free Fishing Day, Hagerman & Gavers Lagoon, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, June 12, Dog Creek, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 15, Hagerman Oster #1, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, June 19, Dierkies Lake, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 22, Castle Rock State Park, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 29, Rock Creek Park, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, July 3, Dierkies Lake, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 6, Elkhorn Resort, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 13, Gavers Lagoon, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, July 17, Hagerman Oster #1, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 20, Penny Lake, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 27, Dierkies Lake, 8 a.m. to noon

Southeast, Upper Snake, Salmon Regions 

  • Saturday, May 25, Edson Fichter Pond, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pocatello
  • Tuesday, May 28, Rexburg Nature Park, 5 to 8 p.m., Rexburg
  • Saturday, June 1, Lower Gem Dam, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Idaho Falls
  • Tuesday, June 4, Edson Fichter Pond, 5 to 8 p.m.,Pocatello
  • Saturday, June 8, Free Fishing Day, Becker Pond at Ryder Park, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Idaho Falls
  • Tuesday, June 11, Blacktail at Ririe Reservoir, 5 to 8 p.m., Ririe
  • Saturday, June 15, Ashton Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ashton
  • Tuesday, June 18, Bannock Reservoir Portneuf Wellness Complex, 5 to 8 p.m., Pocatello
  • Saturday, June 22, Bannock Reservior Portneuf Wellness Complex, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pocatello
  • Tuesday, June 25, Sand Creek Pond #4, 5 to 8 p.m., St. Anthony
  • Friday, June 28, Jensen Grove, 4 to 8 p.m., Blackfoot
  • Saturday, June 29, Mackay Fish Hatchery, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mackay
  • Tuesday, July 2, Montpelier Rearing Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Montpelier
  • Saturday, July 6, Crowthers Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Malad
  • Tuesday, July 9, Island Mill, 5 to 8 p.m., Island Park
  • Saturday, July 13, Trail Creek Pond, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Victor
  • Tuesday, July 16, Montpelier Rearing Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Montpelier
  • Saturday, July 20, LaMont Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Preston
  • Tuesday, July 23, Trail Creek Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Victor
  • Saturday, July 27, Blacktail at Ririe Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ririe
  • Tuesday, July 30, Upper Kelly Park Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Soda Springs (This event is only open to anglers aged 13 and under. All youth under the age of 8 must be accompanied by an adult.)

Want to try fishing? Fish and Game’s ‘Take Me Fishing’ trailers have all you need

Idaho Fish and Game wants to help you get started fishing, and more important, help you learn the basics so you can do it on your own and enjoy the state’s amazing fishing opportunities with your family and friends.

Fish and Game’s “Take Me Fishing” trailers will roam the state in spring and summer and will likely stop at a location near you. They are loaded with loaner fishing rods, tackle, bait and staffed by experienced anglers. You can fish for free during the trailer events, all budding anglers have to do is show up at a fishing trailer event with a willingness to learn, and most important, a desire to have fun.

Take Me Fishing trailers events are held on weekends and after work. A fish stocking truck will typically pay a visit to each event site to ensure there are plenty of trout available for anglers to catch. The rules for Take Me Fishing trailer events are simple:

  • Anyone who signs up at the trailer does not need a fishing license to fish at the event.
  • Fishing equipment can be checked out for free on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Before and after the event, a fishing license is required for anyone 14 years and older.

Here’s a schedule of Take Me Fishing trailer events near you. 

Magic Valley Region

  • Saturday, June 1, Fairfield Kids Pond, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 8, Free Fishing Day, Hagerman & Gavers Lagoon, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, June 12, Dog Creek, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 15, Hagerman Oster #1, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, June 19, Dierkies Lake, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 22, Castle Rock State Park, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, June 29, Rock Creek Park, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, July 3, Dierkies Lake, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 6, Elkhorn Resort, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 13, Gavers Lagoon, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wednesday, July 17, Hagerman Oster #1, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 20, Penny Lake, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Saturday, July 27, Dierkies Lake, 8 a.m. to noon

Southeast, Upper Snake, Salmon Regions 

  • Saturday, May 25, Edson Fichter Pond, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pocatello
  • Tuesday, May 28, Rexburg Nature Park, 5 to 8 p.m., Rexburg
  • Saturday, June 1, Lower Gem Dam, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Idaho Falls
  • Tuesday, June 4, Edson Fichter Pond, 5 to 8 p.m.,Pocatello
  • Saturday, June 8, Free Fishing Day, Becker Pond at Ryder Park, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Idaho Falls
  • Tuesday, June 11, Blacktail at Ririe Reservoir, 5 to 8 p.m., Ririe
  • Saturday, June 15, Ashton Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ashton
  • Tuesday, June 18, Bannock Reservoir Portneuf Wellness Complex, 5 to 8 p.m., Pocatello
  • Saturday, June 22, Bannock Reservior Portneuf Wellness Complex, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pocatello
  • Tuesday, June 25, Sand Creek Pond #4, 5 to 8 p.m., St. Anthony
  • Friday, June 28, Jensen Grove, 4 to 8 p.m., Blackfoot
  • Saturday, June 29, Mackay Fish Hatchery, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mackay
  • Tuesday, July 2, Montpelier Rearing Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Montpelier
  • Saturday, July 6, Crowthers Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Malad
  • Tuesday, July 9, Island Mill, 5 to 8 p.m., Island Park
  • Saturday, July 13, Trail Creek Pond, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Victor
  • Tuesday, July 16, Montpelier Rearing Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Montpelier
  • Saturday, July 20, LaMont Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Preston
  • Tuesday, July 23, Trail Creek Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Victor
  • Saturday, July 27, Blacktail at Ririe Reservoir, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ririe
  • Tuesday, July 30, Upper Kelly Park Pond, 5 to 8 p.m., Soda Springs (This event is only open to anglers aged 13 and under. All youth under the age of 8 must be accompanied by an adult.)

Your first handgun

Buying a handgun is a very personal decision. What you ultimately decide to get will depend on cost, caliber, what you want one for, how much recoil you can stand, which handguns fit your hand, and whether you prefer a revolver or a semi-automatic. Don’t go into the gun store without at least a basic idea of what you are looking for or you may be overwhelmed by all the options.

Several weeks ago, I was approached by a friend and asked what handgun I would suggest he get for home defense that everyone in the family could be taught to operate effectively. I’m as opinionated as anyone I know on this issue, but having been a Texas DPS Concealed Handgun Instructor for several years, I knew that my opinions might not be the right answer for my friend and his family. So I sat down with him and asked him a few questions to get a feel for why he wanted a handgun for protection of his family and we discussed pros and cons of revolvers, semi-automatic handguns, calibers, recoil and training suggestions.

With the information he received from me, he decided that a revolver would suit his needs better than a semi-automatic pistol. Once he made that decision, I made my first suggestion that he not buy a snub-nosed revolver, but choose at least a mid-size frame revolver. He is now considering whether he wants the revolver to shoot .38 special only or whether he would like the option of being able to shoot .357 Magnum cartridges also, and what manufacture’s mid-size revolver he likes best. So far, he hasn’t been to the gun store, but he has a pretty good idea what he is looking for.

On another occasion, I had made arrangements for my Texas Concealed Carry class to meet at the range for the qualification shooting portion of the course. I got there a little early and noticed two of my students, a man and wife, shooting at one end of the firing line. The woman who was about as tall as I am was having trouble with a small .380 Auto Colt Pistol. The little pistol was too small for her hand and she kept shooting high and I knew she was going to fail the shooting qualification with that pistol. Her husband on the other hand was shooting one ragged hole dead center in the target with a Kimber Custom 1911 pistol in .45 Auto Colt Pistol caliber. I asked the husband to let me see his 1911, and then handed it to his wife who could hold her husband’s pistol more comfortably than her own, and she proceeded to shoot almost as good a group as her husband did. They both used that 1911 to qualify and at the end of the session she made my day by asking her husband why he said she couldn’t shoot a .45? She made him drive her to their favorite gun store and she bought a Kimber Custom .45 just like the one he had.

Choosing a handgun for self defense should be more than buying a gun and putting it somewhere until you think you need it. Even if your state doesn’t require you to demonstrate proficiency and a knowledge of applicable laws, it is your responsibility to develop those skills and knowledge.

When purchasing a handgun for shooting fun at the range or back country travel the priorities that are important can be a little different than for concealed carry or home defense. You may want a handgun in a caliber such as a .22 Rimfire that has very little recoil and the whole family can enjoy and learn to operate safely and competently. On the other hand, for backcountry travel, you may be willing to accept some recoil and a larger caliber as long the adults and older children can shoot it safely and competently.

For backcountry travel I personally like a ruggedly built Ruger single-action revolver in .44 Magnum, which does recoil pretty hard, or a Ruger .45 Colt, which my older children loved to shoot as they were growing up because the recoil was very tolerable and not intimidating, while still hitting hard enough for a back country handgun.

Many of my friends prefer double action revolvers in .357 Magnum caliber, or 10 mm in a semi-auto pistol.

Just make sure everyone knows the rules of firearm safety. Treat all guns as if they are loaded, always keep guns pointed in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and be aware of your target and what is beyond it.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.