Elk, antelope and deer numbers are climbing in Montana, prompting the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks to propose more liberal hunting quotas in the 2018-19 seasons.
The suggestions go before the Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets on Dec. 7 at 8:30 a.m. in Helena. The group's agenda is packed with a variety of wildlife issues, including:
Deer: FWP is proposing to liberalize seasons and add B licenses for mule and white-tailed deer in many hunting districts. Some of the more substantial changes are:
Region 2 — Either-sex whitetail opportunity with a general license during the first nine days of the general season.
Region 3 — Remove unlimited mule deer buck permits and go to an any buck season in HDs 318, 335, 339, 340 or either-sex in HDs 329, 340.
Region 4 — Add over-the-counter whitetail B licenses valid during archery and general season for all districts except 455.
Region 6 — Add mule deer B licenses in HDs 600, 611, 641, 652, 621 and 622. Add whitetail B license valid in all Region 6 HDs during archery and general seasons.
Elk: More liberal opportunities, simplification of regulations and more consistent season dates for shoulder seasons with an eye to simplification and harvesting more elk in over-objective districts are being proposed. Changes include many more opportunities statewide with a general license; more and expanded opportunities with B licenses or antlerless permits, Permits to Hunt From a Vehicle in Region 1; establishing a regional B license and seven new shoulder seasons in Region 2; additional B license opportunity in Region 3; two new shoulder seasons and consistent dates in Region 4; one new shoulder season and all shoulder season dates in Region 5 to run from 8/15 to 2/15; and more opportunities in Regions 6 and 7. The changes also allow hunting during what's known as a "dead week," from Oct. 15-19, on private land only in some areas.
Pronghorns: Increased quotas and quota ranges are proposed to address increased and growing populations. FWP is proposing that the 900-20 early archery-only license application be a first and only choice with a separate, earlier drawing to be held in mid-July to allow successful applicants more time to plan their hunt before the Aug. 15 opening date.
FWP also proposes to expand HD 313 in the upper Yellowstone because a new population of antelope has become established there over the past several years.
Moose: Adding an antlerless moose license in HD 302; Boundary change in HD 441.
Bighorn sheep: Re-opening HD 304 — Hyalite — following recovery from a disease event. Opening a new HD 330, Greenhorn Mountains, with one either-sex license. Requiring rams taken in HD 482 to be checked in the region, like other Missouri Breaks districts.
Mountain goat: In all hunting districts in Regions 1, 2 and 4 it is illegal to take a female mountain goat accompanying a kid or a female mountain goat in a group that contains one or more kids. Opening a new HD 350, North Big Belt Mountains, with one either-sex license. Close HDs 131, 132, 134, 141, 141, 414 and 442
Bison: Create new boundaries for portions of HD 395 and rename them Gallatin Watershed and Madison Watershed Portions. Close the Gallatin portion for 2018-2019.
Black bear: Increase the spring quota from two to four in BMU 700.
Mountain lion: Increase the quota in HD 124 from five (male subquota two) to seven (male subquota two).
Turkey: Make crossbows legal during the fall turkey season. Regions 2 and 3 to go to a general license opportunity.
Youth hunt: Establish a four-day, youth-only deer season, except when the youth-only deer season immediately precedes the opening of the general big game season, when it would be limited to two days. The hunt would also be expanded to include 16 and 17 year olds.
Access: Through the Accessing Public Lands Program FWP is proposing to purchase a permanent road easement across private land that allows access to 3,400 acres of BLM in the Timber Gulch area of McCartney Mountain, 3 miles east of Glen. FWP would purchase about 0.14 miles of existing primitive road with a 40-foot-wide easement and convey the easement to the BLM. Compensation in the amount of $20,000 would be paid to the Garrison Big Hole River Ranch.