Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Deer and Elk Seasons Begin in Montana

The wait is almost over for people who pay no attention to the early upland game, antelope and archery seasons. Yes, if hunting season means chasing deer and elk with a rifle, the hunting season begins this Saturday at dawn.

The Montana deer and elk firearms season opens Saturday, October 22 and runs through November 27. It’s the time of hunting camps, lost sleep, and shivering on frozen mountainsides before dawn in hopes of an elk coming your way to help fill the freezer.

New for 2011 is a youth deer hunt on October 20 and 21, an important prelude to the general season.  The regulations for the youth hunt are simple. Participants must be legally licensed hunters age 11 through 15. During these two days, youth hunters with a general or deer B license may take those deer species and sex otherwise available on the general or deer B license the first day of the general firearm season in the specific hunting district the youth is hunting. A non-hunting adult at least age 18 or older must accompany the youth hunter in the field. Shooting hours and all other usual regulations apply during this two-day deer season.

One of the usual regulations that some people, unfortunately, prefer to ignore is the requirement that big game hunters must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange above the waist. Hunter orange requirements across the nation have done a lot to minimize tragic shooting accidents. I personally get irritated when I see so many magazines and TV hunting shows depicting hunters not wearing orange. Wearing an orange vest and cap may save your life, as well as help some other hunter avoid making a tragic mistake that could ruin their life as well.

On the blaze orange requirement, let’s note that archery hunters hunting during the general season must also observe the blaze orange rules. Personally, I think anyone who is out in the field during the firearms season is taking foolish chances if they’re not wearing orange, even if they’re not hunting.

The general firearms season also means that the firearms season for wolves will also be on. Wolf hunting may be controversial in some quarters, though I think many would agree that there are a lot of good reasons to have the season.

Certainly there’s no getting around the fact that wolves cause problems when they get around livestock. An Angus cow is certainly an easier animal for a pack of wolves to bring down than deer or elk.  The number of times we’ve read of government trappers eradicating problem wolves is a sure indicator. Wolves are smart animals and it seems to me that when they learn that they are being hunted, they’ll also figure out that staying away from people gives them a better chance to survive.

My daughter, Erin, lives in California and relayed that a friend of hers was aghast that Montana and Idaho are having wolf seasons again. She had the impression that wolves were going to be hunted right in Yellowstone National Park, which certainly isn’t the case.

As of a week ago, a total of 18 wolves, out of a quota of 220, had been killed during the early seasons, including 4 in hunting district 313/316, an area of high mountain country directly north of Yellowstone National Park. That completed the harvest quota for that hunting district. If you’re hoping to fill that wolf tag, it would be a good idea to regularly check the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website (fwp.mt.gov) to make sure the harvest quota for a specific hunting district hasn’t been completed.

Another reminder is to be careful about property boundaries. If you’re hunting private land in Montana you are required to have permission to be hunting there. That also applies to crossing private land to access public land.

Above all, enjoy the season. People across the country envy the hunting opportunities we have in Montana. For many, their concept of the hunt of a lifetime is something we take for granted.

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