BOISE — A proposed “final run” around the Idaho Fish and Game Commission on archery equipment continued to find legislative support Wednesday.
After more than an hour of mostly negative public testimony, the Senate Resources and Environment Committee sent Bill 507 to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.
The legislation, which previously passed the House unanimously, gives archers in Idaho the ability to use lighted arrow nocks and mechanical hunting heads when hunting.
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, noted that the bill essentially asks the Legislature to “go around the (Idaho Fish and Game Commission) because you don’t get the answer you want”.
Decisions about hunting methods and technologies have always been left to the commission. There is broad support among sportspeople for it to stay that way and to keep the legislature out of the process.
However, there have also been repeated calls over the past 15 years to allow lighted notches. The commission has rejected the claims and in recent years has been unwilling to even discuss the matter.
“I spoke with them a few years ago when this first came to my attention and was told, ‘No, we’re not even going to look at it,'” he said. Rep. Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, who sponsored HB 507. “The same thing happened last year, so that’s when I decided to introduce legislation.”
Lighted nocks make it easier for archers to track an arrow’s flight and retrieve arrows that miss the target, he said. They can also help hunters locate animals after they have been shot.
Mechanical broadheads expand upon impact, creating a larger wound. Both pieces of equipment are supposed to reduce wastage of game.
“(Mechanical broadheads allow) the animal to die faster, so it’s more humane,” Mitchell said. “There’s also a bigger blood trail, so the animal is easier to find.”
Mitchell noted that Idaho is the only state that still prohibits the use of lighted nocks or mechanical fighter heads.
Nonetheless, the Idaho Wildlife Federation, Idaho State Bowhunters, and Idaho Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have all testified against the bill. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game did the same, on behalf of the commission.
Brian Brooks of the Idaho Wildlife Federation said the commission is committed to developing negotiated rules for lighted nocks and mechanical hunting heads.
That means gathering testimony from hundreds or thousands of sportspeople on all sides of the issue, he said — something the legislature is not well placed to do.
The rule-making process also preserves the commission’s independence, Brooks said.
This argument, however, did not carry much weight with the committee.
“You say they’re going to go through negotiated rulemaking, but it almost seems like now that there’s legislation, we’re going to come to the table. It feels like that,” said Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon.
Mitchell said the commission did not agree to go through rulemaking on the issue until two days after introducing its bill.
“I spoke to them in December and they said, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to hear that,'” he said. “That’s why this bill was introduced. There are a lot of hunters who would love to use these things, and they’ve been pushed aside.
Benn Brocksome with the Idaho Sportsmen was the only person to testify in support of the legislation.
“A lot of what you hear is about the process and the frustration with that process,” he said. “It’s a slippery slope. We want to make sure we are sensitive to the proper role of the commission, but (HB 507) is also a request for the commission to be a bit more nimble and pragmatic.