IDAHOMAN: Jeremy, you’ve done a lot of work the past year looking at Idaho’s elk zones, and we’d like to pick your brain on that topic. But first, where will you be hunting this Fall?
Jeremy Bunch: That’s a good question. A lot of my plans are still up in the air because my wife is due to have a baby at the end of September. I drew the extra doe tag for Unit 8, and I was happy to see that that season starts the end of August. I’m kind of ancy to get out there. I also drew the “unlimited” controlled hunt tag for Unit 36A for mule deer. It’s a late October hunt, but whether or not I go depends on how much I want to push the relations with my wife – with a new baby and all. I don’t want to jeopardize the future by abusing my freedoms now! I applied for the 36A rifle tag for elk, but didn’t get that. I was hoping to make a combo hunt out of it. It’s a great unit for both mulies and elk. But I’m not sure if I’ll make it over there or not.
IDAHOMAN: We get a lot of emails asking where you’re going to elk hunt this year. So how about it?
Jeremy Bunch: Again, it’s up in the air. I would love to do the Elk City Zone, Unit 16 in particular. I really like the looks of the area north of the Selway River. It’s steep, but it’s kind of a big roadless area. But if I can’t get away for that season, which starts, I think, October 10, then I’ll stay close to home and hunt the Palouse Zone.
IDAHOMAN: So let’s just get your quick takes on each of the elk zones, and hopefully it’ll be helpful to those readers who are still undecided. Let’s start with the Panhandle, and work our way down.
Jeremy Bunch: I think the Panhandle Zone is okay. It’s a tough hunt no matter what. I think in some ways it’s more suitable for bow hunters. The Panhandle has some thick woods, and it’s tough to chase elk in there. Bow hunters have the advantage of hunting during the rut, and getting the elk to come to you is a better strategy, taking that landscape in view. That’s not to say it can’t be done with a rifle, but I don’t encourage someone to head up there blindly. If you’re a local, and you’re able to scout, and you know the area, then the Panhandle might be a great choice. But the elk have been hit hard by wolves. Biologists readily admit that. And just as importantly, the elk habitat has decreased greatly. A hundred years ago the Panhandle forests burnt down. There were vast fires that swept through, and it left great elk habitat in its wake. Those elk parks are virtually gone now, and there’s thick underbrush and dead falls everywhere. It makes for tough hunting, and the elk don’t like it much. But there’s still guys who head deep into the woods with their mountain bikes or whatever, going down gated logging roads, and they run into some big bulls.
IDAHOMAN: You mentioned the Palouse Zone. How does it look down there?
Jeremy Bunch: The elk do really well in the Palouse Zone. There’s a lot of wooded canyons in between wheat, pea, lentil fields, and the elk love it. It’s really good habitat for them. But the downside to that is that there’s a lot of private ground. In Unit 8A there’s some Forest Service land and a lot of private corporate timber land that can be hunted, but I find that the best places to hunt are in Unit 8 on private property.
IDAHOMAN: Any wolves there?
Jeremy Bunch: Yeah. I wolf hunted near Moose Creek Reservoir last March, and there were tracks all over. People hear them all the time near Deary. I saw one last Fall south of Genesee. I think there’s packs that run around, off and on, but I also suspect there’s some solitary ones that traipse around the country-side. So far I don’t think the wolves are having a big impact on the Palouse.
IDAHOMAN: The Dworshak Zone?
Jeremy Bunch: I like the Dworshak Zone. It’s been hunting pretty decently. Not a lot different than the Panhandle, except that the elk herds seem to be faring better on the whole. Like the Panhandle, I think once you get a couple miles down a gated logging or Forest Service road, your odds go up.
IDAHOMAN: The Lolo Zone.
Jeremy Bunch: I would stay away for now. It’s been hunting pretty poorly for several years now, and it has really hurt the local economy there. That won’t pick up until the elk herds recover. Again, this is another case where wolves are definitely to blame to a large extent. I think F&WS went in there this last year with a helicopter or airplane and gunned a bunch of them down. But on the other hand, I know some folks who have spent a lot of time in that back country, and they will tell you that the under brush has simply choked out good habitat. They rarely see elk or deer. It’s not a good sign, and hopefully it will recover soon. The Lolo is another area that burnt up 100 years ago. It’s time for another fire.
IDAHOMAN: The Selway Zone.
Jeremy Bunch: The Selway is in a similar position as the Lolo. I guess I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone. It’s a vast wilderness in there, with vast expanses, vast forests. Did I mention it is vast? With a lower elk population, the elk are scattered, and you can wander around aimlessly for days looking for tracks. You can try it on your own by flying into a remote airstrip. Or you can set up a drop-camp by a guide or packer that you trust to put you in an area where they’re pretty sure there’s elk. But that’s always risky, because they keep their honey-holes safe for their fully paying clients.
IDAHOMAN: Elk City Zone.
Jeremy Bunch: Elk City’s Unit 14 has been hunting as hot as anywhere in the state. It has something like a 25% success rate. But that also means there’s a ton of hunters in there. The elk have done well in the zone as a whole, and I hope it stays that way. Like I said earlier, I think Unit 16 has a lot to offer as well. The mature bull/square mile ratio looks pretty good, and so I’m buying stock there. I’m lukewarm when it comes to Unit 15.
IDAHOMAN: Hells Canyon Zone.
I know you’re enjoying this fantastic article, but this content is restricted to site members. Why don’t you join the club? If you are an existing user, please login. New users may subscribe and register [here].
This post is password protected. Enter the password to view any comments.