BOISE — With many upland game bird seasons opening soon, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is asking hunters to donate a fully feathered wing for each bird they harvest. Because juvenile and adult birds' wing feathers molt differently, biologists can use this information to estimate chick production for that year.
Hunters can provide their wings to Fish and Game in a variety of ways, one being by mail. Close to 3,000 hunters who hold a Sage/sharp-tailed grouse permit will receive a packet in the mail with specific directions and a pre-paid return envelope. Hunters who did not receive a mail-wing envelope can still participate by contacting their nearest Fish and Game office.
Hunters can also drop their wings off at department-run check stations or in wing barrels located at popular access routes during the hunting season. Unfortunately, check stations and wing barrels sometimes miss grouse hunters in more remote areas of the state. The mail-in wing program targets hunters that may not pass by a check station or wing barrel.
For sharp-tailed grouse hunters who receive wing envelopes or encounter a wing barrel and kiosk at their favorite hunting site, Fish and Game also wants to know where the bird was harvested, date of harvest, days hunted and number of hunters if hunting in a group.
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For sage-grouse, biologists can read a very detailed story in a wing. By examining the shape, condition, length and color patterns on wing feathers, biologists can determine the bird's sex and whether it was a juvenile or adult. If the bird was an adult female, biologists can even tell if she successfully produced chicks that year. This information helps Fish and Game understand population trends and improves management of the species.
The forest grouse hunting season is already open. California quail, chukar and gray partridge hunting opened Saturday. The sage grouse season is open through Friday in Twin Falls and Cassia counties, and part of Owyhee County. The sage grouse season is closed for most areas north of the Snake River.
Hunters should be aware that some parts of the state are closed to hunting sage grouse, including much of eastern Idaho and northwest Owyhee County. To see more information on the 2019 sage grouse hunting season, go to idfg.idaho.gov/sites/default/files/rules-sage-grouse-seasons-mobile-2019.pdf.
Sharp-tailed grouse hunting starts Tuesday. See Fish and Game's upland game rules booklet for details, or go to idfg.idaho.gov/rules/upland.