By Mike Willis
A common dream among many big game hunters is to stand on a mountainside, without a person in sight, and listen to the bugling symphony during the North Idaho elk season. For those who have had the privilege of going on one of these hunts, they know how special this experience can be.
Whether it’s the prehistoric sounds emitted from these majestic creatures or the breathtaking places that they call home, a passionate outdoorsman is sure not to be disappointed.
Logistics and overwhelming regulations are always a roadblock for hunters looking to venture out of their home state. This is the primary reason that North Idaho is the ideal destination for hunters looking to experience an entirely different type of hunting without the costs associated with hiring an outfitter.
What makes North Idaho unique is that it has over-the-counter Elk tags. This means that hunters do not have to put in for the lottery drawings, which complicates finding opportunities across state lines. The other thing that makes Idaho unique is that you get a tag for an entire hunting zone. North Idaho is called the Panhandle zone, which is made up of multiple game management units. This zone covers an incredible amount of land.
The Idaho Panhandle is nestled between Washington, Canada, and Montana. The terrain is relentless, but for a person who is not afraid to put in the work, this area can provide a golden opportunity for the DIY’er. The best part of being able to hunt an entire zone is that you have lots of options.
Besides having to choose which zone the hunter wants to be in, he or she will have to decide between an A-Tag or B-Tag. A brief glimpse at the State Hunting Regulations will lay out the differences between the two. In short, one mostly favors bow hunters, and the other is geared more towards rifle hunters.
Many hunters who have never ventured out west are not accustomed to having to think about forest fires. This is a major factor in deciding where you will go. An uninformed hunter could find him or herself disappointed to learn that their favorite spot identified on aerial photographs burned to the ground last year.
An incredible tool that has changed the way hunters get information is OnX maps. This powerful App will work off of satellite signal, eliminating the concern of lost cell service. Depending on which plan that you subscribe to, multiple useful layers can be enabled to ensure that you have all of the information needed to make informed decisions. The following layers will help get you essential information from multiple sources, all on your phone.
Land ownership maps
Game management units
Current and historical fire activity
Off-highway vehicle use trail maps
The features on this App are endless, but those are just a few that will get you started as you begin planning your expedition. One important factor to consider is that the App is hard on Smart Phone batteries. You will need to plan accordingly.
As you begin doing your research and identifying where you would like to go, consider reaching out to the Idaho Fish and Game Wildlife Biologists for information on populations. Idaho also publishes harvest report statistics on their website so that you can narrow down where concentrations of Elk are. The Idaho Fish and Game is one of the best departments of its kind that you will likely work with. They are passionate about helping you experience Idaho’s great outdoor opportunities.
As parting words, don’t forget to stick a wolf tag in your pocket, be respectful to the land and the surrounding landowners, follow fire restrictions at your camp (if applicable), and don’t forget to check for fires before heading out on your trip. Good Luck!