With the most square miles of wilderness (21,621,000 acres of forested land) in the lower 48 states, Idaho offers the best and most varied hunting in the west. In North Idaho, 2.7 million acres are National Forest land. The state is two-thirds public land and a new Fish and Game program called Access Yes! is opening up more private land every year.
The state’s big game population includes elk, moose, woodland caribou, mule and white-tailed deer, mountain lion, black and grizzly bear, and bighorn sheep. Grouse, quail, chukar and pheasant are a few of the upland game birds available, while Canada geese and ducks are the most common waterfowl.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that 13 million Americans hunt annually, including 197,000 Idahoans. The majority of those hunters are after big game, such as deer or elk. That makes October an important month for most Idaho hunters, when North Idaho’s deer, elk and moose seasons open. Bear season runs late summer through October and again in spring. Panhandle area mountain lions may be taken mid September through mid February.
Record numbers of moose are making their home in Kootenai County. The growing moose population has been welcomed by hunters especially since the typical bull moose shot in Idaho has antlers spanning 36 inches. Idaho issued 761 moose hunting permits for the 2011-2012 season. 15,000 to 20,000 of the animals are believed to live in Idaho, with the highest populations found near the Canadian border. Fewer than 1,000 moose inhabited the state 50 years ago.
In 2011, gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains were removed from the federal endangered species list. Wolves are managed as a big game species under the Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan. About 13 years ago, 66 gray wolves were reintroduced to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. Today those wolves number more than 1,500. More than 600 of them are in Idaho.
The Coeur d’Alene Mountains are considered to be among the best for trophy bull elks because of the good cover and terrain.
Bonner County (Sandpoint) offers excellent waterfowl hunting. Duck populations include both puddle ducks and divers, and quality goose hunting is abundant.
The Kootenai Wildlife Refuge in Boundary County allows hunting of geese, ducks, mergansers, coots, blue, spruce, ruffed grouse, deer, elk, moose, black bear and mountain lion.
In the Silver Valley, hunting possibilities are endless. Many elk, deer, bear and upland game birds are taken during bow, rifle and muzzle loader seasons.
Priest Lake is home to numerous species of coveted game animals. Whitetail and mule deer share the forests with an increasing herd of elk, moose and a large population of black bear. Other species of interest include mountain lions, an abundant supply of grouse, turkeys and waterfowl. This vast area has one of the most abundant whitetail deer herds in Idaho. Mule deer abide in the more remote upper elevation regions, which makes for some challenging attempts to reach their homeland. Roaming the high mountain ridges, logging sites and regenerated forest fire areas will usually reward the hunter with sightings of small herds including some very respectable bucks.
The Bear Facts
Black bear and grizzly bear are found in the Idaho panhandle. Grizzly are found only in a few places furthest north in the Bonners Ferry wilderness but black bear are found throughout the northern part of the state. When hunting in grizzly country, carrying pepper spray is recommended. The mere presence of a bear doesn’t always pose a risk. Stay calm. The vast majority of bears will leave an area when they become aware of human presence.
-Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Department of Fish and Game
- Coeur d’Alene Regional Headquarters (208)769-1414
- Bonners Ferry (208)267-7629
- Clark Fork (208)266-1501
- Kellogg (208)682-4674
- Moyie Springs (208)267-7629
- Naples (208)267-4085
- Priest River (208)448-2302
- Rathdrum (208)265-8320
- Sagle (208)265-8320
- Sandpoint (208)265-8835
- St. Maries (208)245-8100
- Wallace (208)556-1513
Idaho Panhandle National Forest
3815 Schreiber Way, Coeur d’Alene
phone: (208) 765-7223
North of I-90, between Hwy 95 and Ramsey Rd off Kathleen Ave
Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District – Fernan Office
2502 E. Sherman Ave, Coeur d’Alene
phone: (208) 769-3000
East of I-90 at exit 15
Priest Lake Ranger District
32203 Hwy. 57, Priest River
phone: (208) 443-2512
On St. Hwy. 57, mile post 32, 3 miles south of Nordman
Bonners Ferry Ranger District
6286 Main St., Bonners Ferry
phone: (208) 267-5561
1 mile south of Bonners Ferry on Hwy 95
Sandpoint Ranger District
1500 Hwy 2, #110, Sandpoint
phone: (208) 263-5111
West edge of Sandpoint on Hwy 2
Silver Valley Office
173 Commerce Dr, Smelterville
phone: (208) 783-2100
South of I-90 at exit 48
St. Joe Ranger District
St. Maries Office
222 S 7th St, #1
phone: (208) 245-2531
Federal Building in downtown St. Maries
phone: (208) 245-4517
6 miles west of Avery on Forest Hw. 50 (St Joe River Rd)
54495 Hwy 3
phone: (208) 245-1134
1 mile south of Clarkia on Hwy 3