Outdoor enthusiasts can expect to see and hear low-flying helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft during the daylight hours through February.
The helicopter surveys are scheduled annually during the winter months to cover areas at the same time of the year so information gathered is consistent from year to year. The goal is to compare population trends, and age and sex ratios. This information helps biologists be more precise in setting seasons and permit levels which results in maximum opportunity for hunters.
In addition to big game surveys, managers also use helicopters to capture deer and elk which they monitor for condition and survival. This sometimes requires biologists to fly close to the animals and drive them toward nets; or to dart them or use net guns. Researchers place radio-collars on the animals and follow them during the year to monitor movement and survival.
In southern and central Idaho winter typically finds big game animals congregated on lower elevation winter ranges, and also brings two requirements that ensure accurate surveys - clear weather for good visibility and snow cover that aids in locating and identification of species. In northern Idaho, animals tend to be more scattered, and weather conditions offer fewer days suitable for flying, but snow conditions still create opportunities for counting big game.
In spite of the high costs and the dangers associated with low-level flying, helicopter surveys continue to provide wildlife managers with valuable information to use in managing wildlife.