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Bowhunters complain about elk tag numbers

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) -- The state is giving too many nonresident bowhunters a crack at bagging an elk in eastern Idaho, some Idaho hunters say.

"I think residents should be given first priority," Scott Roberts of Pocatello told the Idaho State Journal.

Earlier this spring the Idaho Fish and Game Commission put a cap of 1,817 elk tags issued to bowhunters in the Diamond Creek Zone. Idaho residents will be allowed to buy 1,017 of the tags, leaving 800 tags for out-of-state hunters.

Toby Boudreau, regional manager for the Fish and Game office in Pocatello, said elk numbers have been declining in the Diamond Creek Zone and the cap is intended to reduce the number of elk killed. The Diamond Creek Zone runs from the southeast Idaho border to the eastern portion of Caribou County.

"We realized that not only were we not meeting our cow objective, but we were also not meeting our bull objective," Boudreau said.

He said the cow elk population has dropped from about 2,500 in 2005 to about 1,200 in 2008. He said the objective is to keep the zone's cow elk population between 1,300 and 1,900.

"It's a pretty substantial drop," Boudreau said. "When you're not meeting your objective, the first thing you have to do is reduce harvest. Frankly, bow hunters last year took 337 elk, 270 of which were bulls. That was a success rate of 16.3 percent, which is pretty high for an archery hunt."

Roberts said the reduction in tags is too late, and should have been done five years ago.

"Because of the overcrowding, the elk have become very educated to catching and traditional elk hunting tactics," he said. "It's getting harder, and to be honest, it's not as fun as it used to be."

Hunter Doug Gushwa of Pocatello agreed that limiting the number of tags is a good idea but Idaho residents should be given more.

"I think it's a good plan to have a quota," he said. "I've hunted in that area for years, and over the last five or six years, I'm either becoming a much poorer hunter or there's a lot less elk. (But) it's inappropriate and unfair that it's proportioned the way it is. There won't be any resident hunters. When the tags go on sale (in August), it's going to be a free-for-all brouhaha."

But Boudreau said that about half of the elk tags are purchased by out-of-state hunters already.

"It's not capricious. It's something that's set in rule. The law set that number for us," he said.

He added the policy could be changed in July to reduce the number of elk tags given to nonresidents.