TWIN FALLS• Smoky plumes still cast a daunting haze over much of Idaho, but fires won’t keep migratory birds from making their annual trip south or bull elk from growing antlers and going into rut.

Which means hunters won’t stay home, either.

With fall hunting upon us, here’s what people in the know expect for the season:

Mule deer: Archery Opening, Aug. 30; Any Weapon, Oct. 10

A mosaic burn pattern in the South Hills, opposed to a solid scorch of land, means mule deer herds lost some critical feeding grounds but there is still plenty of area to hunt.

Kelton Hatch, regional conservation educator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the Cave Canyon Fire in the South Hills may actually improve summer habitat as greenery returns and restoration work begins.

“Once we get green up there deer and animals will be attracted to the edge of the burn areas, where the new tender growth is,” Hatch said.

This season, there still are places to look for deer in the Hills.

Jeff Frost, owner of Intermountain Taxidermy and Worldwide Adventures in Twin Falls, reported that northern Nevada’s sportsman are reporting solid numbers and healthy “trophy quality animals” from their time in the field; their season begins earlier than Idaho but they hunt essentially the same game herds, Frost said.

“Archery season opens Thursday, so we’ll wait and see, but we’re anticipating a great year. Down south of us, in Unit 54 and 46, they are seeing some really great things,” Frost said.

Elk: Archery opening, Aug. 30; Any Weapon, Oct. 15.

Although elk populations continue to lag in about a third of management areas in the state, Hatch said mild winters and plenty of summer forage means hunters this fall will encounter healthy elk.

“We’ve had good fawn and calf survival and good antler growth,” Hatch said.

Antler growth is spurred along by excess calcium in elks’ bodies, Hatch explained; if elk aren’t expending all their nutrients during harsh winters they have extra for things like body tone, a shiny coat and antlers.

“They haven’t really suffered this year. Mild winters help a ton,” he said.

Fires have disrupted some herds, including those around Featherville, Pine and Stanley, to name a few.

Hatch said hunters should check with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to see if certain areas are closed before planning their hunt.

Turkey: Opening, Sept. 15

Within Cassia County’s Unit 54 is a sliver of land in the Goose Creek Drainage that is set aside for a fall controlled turkey hunt.

Turkey’s breed in spring, so calling them during the fall hunt doesn’t do much good, said John Howard of the South Hills Strutters, the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

“In northern Idaho you can hunt whitetail deer or fish and turkey hunt — they call it ‘Cast and Blast’ — but Goose Creek, it takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and your chances of getting something are really slim,” Howard said. “A lot of the guys I know didn’t even put in for the hunt. We’ll spend our time hunting elsewhere.”

In Idaho, the general turkey hunts are available from the Clearwater Region north to the border. Controlled hunts are held in the southeast, Upper Snake River region and southwest region.

Blair Koch may be reached at 316-2607 or blairkoch@gmail.com.

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