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Five reasons to hunt big game in Idaho

Now is the time when hunters, outfitters and state Fish and Game officials are flocking to sportsmen’s shows around the United States, and hunters are making decisions about where to hunt in 2013.

We want hunters to know about the advantages of hunting in Idaho … Here’s our list of 5 reasons to hunt big game in Idaho:

  1. Go with a Pro. Idaho outfitters and guides know the country, they know where the big game animals are, and they’ll take great care of you in elk camp.
  2. Solitude. Guided hunts in Idaho have a lot of elbow room in wilderness and roadless areas … no worries about getting buzzed by an ATV or seeing hundreds of other hunters while you’re out hunting. Go find your private Idaho.
  3. Big game bonanza. On a fall backcountry hunt, you can buy tags for and potentially harvest a mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, wolf, black bear and mountain lion during a week-long hunt. How much room do you have in your freezer?
  4. Best drawing odds for trophy species. No preference points or bonus points are needed to draw prized tags for bighorn sheep, mountain goat or moose. Central Idaho is a premium destination for these highly sought-after species.
  5. Introduce your kids to big game hunting for $1.75. Idaho has a new program for junior mentor tags. Adults with a big game license can buy a hunting passport for kids 8 and over for $1.75. No hunter education classes are required, either. The program also is open to adults who have never hunter before.

Here are some other benefits that Idaho outfitters and guides bring to the table …     

We need to underscore Point #2 … Idaho outfitters and guides are licensed with the state of Idaho. They must go through a rigorous process with a state licensing board to receive a license to outfit and guide hunters in Idaho. A number of states do not have this process, and unwitting hunters sometimes end up booking a trip with a fly-by-night outfitter who doesn’t have the skills, equipment and know-how to lead a quality successful hunt. That won’t happen to you in Idaho because of the licensing process. Idaho’s outfitters and guides are high-quality people who truly know the mountains and wildlife in their territory,  and they can be counted on to take care of your health, safety and welfare.

Here’s a video that shows what a guided elk hunt in Idaho is all about:watch?v=FKXjntnJliY

Here’s another top list from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game …Top 5 Reasons To Hunt in Idaho …

1. Buying big game tags is simple. Hunters can buy big game tags through their outfitter and go hunting. Idaho Fish and Game reserves a number of deer and elk set-aside and allocated big game elk tags for the outfitted public. A key advantage is that those tags can be purchased through Idaho outfitters long after other states have sold out.

2. We give you variety. Go elk hunting and bring steelhead home, too. We call it “cast and blast.” Combination fishing and bird-hunting trips are available, too.

3. Wide open spaces. Vast public lands provide variety, opportunity and fair chase.

4. We are always open. Hunt and fish 365 days a year.

5. Easy on the pocket book. Tap into the discount for a nonresident junior license and tags to mentor a young hunter.

Never heard of Idaho? Or just heard of it because of our famous potatoes? Well, former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, a lifelong hunter, puts it this way: “Idaho is what America was.”

Enjoy this video titled “Dreaming of Idaho” and you’ll see that we’re about …watch?v=EYMxW-5_390

Come hunt with us in Idaho. To select a hunting outfitter in Idaho, visit our web site for a full listing of outfitters and guides

Thanks for visiting.
– IOGA

Leo and Dee Crane, Zeke West inducted as IOGA Lifetime Members

Dee and Leo at Tinker High Hunting Camp

Zeke West, right, at the helm

Three longtime IOGA members, Leo and Dee Crane of Orofino and Zeke West of Grangeville, were honored as Lifetime Members at the annual IOGA meeting last week in Boise.

Grant Simonds, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, said the honor is the equivalent of a “lifetime achievement” award because of the many contributions that the Cranes and West made to their communities, IOGA and Idaho’s recreation industry.

Leo and Dee Crane operated Clearwater Outfitters, based in Orofino, for nearly five decades before selling their big game hunting business and starting a business they now operate on Dworshak Reservoir called “Lake and Leathers.”

Zeke West, owner of Whitewater Outfitters for nearly five decades, ran trips up and down the Salmon River and Snake River from Lewiston to Corn Creek, and he also was licensed on the Clearwater River from Kookia to Lewiston. He guided hunters in Units 20 and 20A adjacent to the Salmon River, and he guided bear and cougar hunters adjacent to the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

“Zeke was the consummate jet boat captain. He had a million-dollar smile, he provided quality customer service and he always operated in an exemplary, safe manner,” Simonds says. “Plus, he’d make himself available to assist other outfitters or other boaters with just about anything. He was a real gentleman.”

West purchased Whitewater Ranch in the late 1960s, and that was his base of operation on the Main Salmon River, long before it became the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. The first jet boat he purchased in 1971 was a 24-foot Oaks. A decade later, he bought a 26-foot Bentz jet boat, which he used until after he retired. He also had a 30-foot Smith boat named “Old Faithful” that he bought from Mackay Bar.

In 1982, the Nez Perce National Forest gave Zeke an award for logging 2,000 hours of jet boat operation without an accident. When he sold his last boat in 2012, he was still accident free.  “That’s quite an achievement considering the wild nature of the Salmon River at many different water levels,” Simonds said. “Zeke’s outfitting career is the epitome of providing quality customer service while maintaining the health, safety and welfare of those who utilized his outfitting and guiding talents.”

Zeke had an exemplary safety record as a jet boat pilot.

Plus, West was part of a close-knit community of outfitters, guides, guest ranch owners and caretakers who live along the Salmon River in the remote and primitive wilderness section in Central Idaho.

Leo Crane first got his outfitting license in 1964 as the owner of Clearwater Outfitters. He’s been a member of IOGA since 1966. He started the IOGA Clearwater Valley Chapter in 1987. He also served on the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board from 1987-1999, and the IOGA board from 206-2008.

Leo with Billy Mahanes and his nice bull elk

Crane took guests on big game hunts for elk, deer, mountain lions and black bears for many years.  He operated during the “glory days” of big game hunting in the Clearwater region for several decades, hunting in the popular Mallard-Larkins roadless area. After wolves affected that operation, he switched to leading fishing trips on Dworshak and white-tailed deer hunting trips.

“Leo has been a steady and reliable IOGA member who’s been willing to be involved in leadership posts over the years, and he’s continued to have an interest in being a volunteer leader on many levels,” Simonds said.

Leading up the IOGA Clearwater Valley Chapter for several decades, Crane helped with new membership recruitment and staying abreast of outfitting, land-management and Fish and Game issues with fellow members. More recently, Crane has been serving on the Clearwater Basin Collaborative on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and serving on IOGA’s wilderness committee.

Leo and Ken Smith man the BBQ at the Roundup fund-raiser

Both Leo and Dee have hosted “The Roundup” community event in Orofino since 2000, a fund-raiser  for the IOGA Clearwater Valley Chapter. The event raises scholarship money for local students and funds for I-CARE, a benefit fund for families coping with cancer. I-CARE stands for Cancer Assistance and Recovery Effort. Since 2008, I-CARE has raised $13,350 to benefit more than 30 families in the communities of Orofino, Pierce, Kamiah, Kooskia, Weippe, Deary, Ferdinand, Harpster and Peck.

The Roundup

“Leo and Dee are the epitome of small family-run outfitting businesses where the husband and wife work hand in hand,” Simonds says. “Their connection to the local community, and the way they give back to and support the community, has been really important to IOGA’s image.

“For decades IOGA has been blessed to have Leo and later Dee as active members,” Simonds continues. “At every turn they have stepped forward to provide IOGA with the leadership, knowledge and energy necessary for it to function as the leading statewide professional organization and effective advocate for outfitters in Idaho and America.”

Leo leads the pack string back to the trailhead for the last time …

Zeke West’s youngest son, Bob, reflects on the life that Zeke lived on the river.

“I awoke in the cabin to the fresh, damp forest air. The sun had not yet risen over the high green mountain top, but it was still daylight. The sun would not shine directly into the bottom of the canyon for another hour or so.  The world around me was wide awake. I could hear the cawing of the crows in the distance. The gentle roar of the river in the background, its frigid waters cascading through the rapids not 100 yards away. The gentle never ending voice of the thermal flow of life.  Small birds were singing and chirping and playing amongst themselves in the trees or the hill. The same birds had been there for years and years.

“I rose from my bunk and looked outside at the dew covered grass, the world filled with the air that still held the chill of night in the light of morning. The bees were already hard at work, dashing from blossom to blossom on the wild black raspberry bushes on the hill behind the house, the large log house where my father would soon emerge and whoop at me to come get breakfast. Even breakfast had the feeling of the country. The sourdough pancakes that magically formed from the same crock on the kitchen counter every day without fail.  Sometimes as a special treat my father would make sourdough biscuits and jerky gravy instead of sourdough pancakes.  There was the smell of bacon on the griddle, a smell made to wake up to.

“Conversation at the breakfast table would be of events of the day to come. How we had to take the jet boat 50 miles downriver to pick up the Forest Service workers: About the horses that had wandered to the neighbors again and had to be retrieved. (4 ½ miles downriver)  Somehow they always remembered the greener pastures at Campbell’s Ferry.  What green pastures they had. Natural Mountain pastures with no fences. Only a few fruit trees scattered sparsely through the pastures and surrounded by a blanket of evergreens and of course the timeless whisper of the river.”

Congratulations to Leo and Dee Crane, and Zeke West! Hats off to them!