Associated Press — Dec. 13, 2004
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Hunters who encountered a large elk herd during an
Eastern Idaho hunt went crazy, state officials said, "shooting until they
emptied their rifles" and then calling their friends to come and do the
Poaching was rampant, officials said. One game warden said 14 elk were
shot and left to rot. Another biologist said six spikes and several branch
antlered bulls were illegally shot.
Game wardens wrote 31 tickets for everything from shooting too many elk
to hunting without a tag. Another 12 warnings were issued, and wardens said
they are investigating 21 other cases.
The late November hunt east of Idaho Falls was planned to thin the
4,000-plus herd that annually migrates out of the Caribou Mountains to
winter near the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area. Heavy snow had moved
hundreds of elk out of the mountains earlier than normal, and biologists
counted more than 1,500 elk just before the season opened.
When hunters found the large herd, they used cellular phones to spread
the news. Some opened fire like boys with their first BB guns, officials
"People threw their ethics out of the window," said Terry Thomas, a
regional manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "Hunters lost
their brains. They were shooting until they emptied their rifles."
He saw one hunter shoot an elk and then open up on other animals.
"The bad stuff was disgusting," Thomas said. "There were people who did
it right but the flock shooting, the 600-yard shots and the wounded elk is
The problem worsened when the hunters called friends to enjoy the bounty,
officials said. Two weeks before the season, Fish and Game had sold about
800 tags. But when word about the big herd spread, another 1,600 tags were
purchased — for a total of 2,400 hunters, more than double the average
"I ran across a couple of guys from Pocatello who hadn't hunted for big
game for decades," Thomas said. "Friends had called them. Everybody flocked
to the hunt."
"We planned the hunt to have a high harvest on cows," said John Hanson,
head of the region's game wardens. "From that standpoint, we felt it worked
exceptionally well. On the flip side, it created an ugly atmosphere. It is
some of the poorest sportsmanship that I've seen in my career."