Q.Where should I apply to hunt—Gardiner or West Yellowstone?
A.Which area a hunter chooses depends on the kind of hunting experience he or she wants. Following is a general description of each hunting district:
HD385 (Gardiner area)—Bison will most likely be found in the Eagle Creek area. It is not likely they will be in the Absaroka-Beartooth area due to limited forage availability once snow arrives. It is fairly open country with rolling sage brush-covered hills. It is mostly Gallatin National Forest land with very limited private lands. There are Forest Service roads, although hunters should check with the Gallatin National Forest Gardiner Ranger District (406-848-7375) for road closures and types of motorized use allowed. There is generally not a lot of snow accumulation in this area. Access on foot or horseback is likely throughout the season.
HD395 (West Yellowstone area)—Bison will most likely be found in the West Yellowstone Basin. It is not likely they will be in the Cabin Creek-Monument Mountain area. The area has open rolling sage brush-covered hills and sage brush flats, as well as lodge pole pine forested habitat. It is primarily Gallatin National Forest land with some private lands that bison use. Hunters should note there are some private subdivisions in the West Yellowstone basin where landowners do not allow bison hunting. We ask that hunters be respectful of these landowners (there is a public road in one of these areas and there have been some conflicts between landowners and bison hunters). There are numerous Forest Service roads, although hunters should check with the Gallatin National Forest Hebgen Lake Ranger District (406-646-7369) for road closures and types of motorized use allowed. Snow accumulation can be significant in the West Yellowstone Basin. Generally as the season progresses, access by snowmobile, snowshoes, or skis is all that's possible.
A.This has changed every season since 2005. Bison in Yellowstone National Park migrate in sub-herds, some to the Gardiner area and some to the West Yellowstone area. The bison migration is dependent on the weather and access to forage. As snow accumulates at the higher elevations in Yellowstone National Park, bison begin to migrate to the lower elevations in Montana. Generally freeze-thaw-freeze cycles encourage migration. If there is just snow on top of forage, to a point, bison can swing their massive heads back and forth and get to the grass below. Freeze-thaw-freeze cycles create an ice layer over the grass, which limits access to forage. Migration is also dependent to some degree on the total number of bison in the population. From year to year, bison availability has varied: plenty of bison in both hunting districts; bison in HD385 and none in HD395 (and vice versa); no bison migrating out into either district. There is no predicting where bison will migrate to or when they will migrate. Two seasons have been very mild weather-wise inside Yellowstone National Park and bison have not migrated into either district until well after the season closed.
A.This depends largely on the hunter's schedule. There is no predicting when bison will migrate. In past years, bison have migrated before the Nov. 15 opener and in other years they have not migrated until well after the season closed on Feb. 15. The first time period (Nov. 15-Dec. 31) is six weeks long—longer than the other two time periods because the timing of bison migration is unknown and this may make it more equitable for the early time period hunters if bison migrate later. The other two time periods are each three weeks long.
Q.How many and what kind of bison licenses are there?
A.For the 2010 bison hunt, there are two types of licenses: either-sex and cow/calf. This year 44 either sex licenses are being offered and up to 100 cow/calf licenses. Cow/calf licenses are roster licenses and will only be issued during the bison hunting season if there are sufficient numbers of bison available to hunt. For the number of licenses issued in past hunts, see data sheet Montana Bison Hunt Application, Licensing, and Harvest.
Q.If I draw an either-sex bison license, when do I have to purchase it?
A.Unlike other licenses, either-sex hunters only need to purchase their license prior to hunting. FWP recommends either-sex license holders wait to purchase the license until there are sufficient numbers of bison available to hunt. Hunters can purchase bison licenses at any FWP regional or area office.
A.Two cow/calf hunter lists have been created by a random drawing of all second choice applicants—one for HD385-10 and one for HD395-10. Cow/calf licenses will only be issued within each hunting district if sufficient numbers of additional bison migrate outside Yellowstone National Park. Cow/calf roster license drawers must wait to purchase the license until they are called by FWP and the license is activated. Once called, cow/calf hunters will have the remainder of the time period in which they are called. Issuance of cow/calf licenses is dependent on bison migration and will only occur if sufficient numbers of bison are available in the specific hunting district. Cow/calf roster hunters will be called incrementally in number order in each hunting district. In 2010, up to 54 cow/calf licenses may be issued in HD385 (Gardiner) and up to 46 cow/calf licenses may be issued in HD395 (West Yellowstone).
A.A bison license is not a guarantee that a hunter will harvest a bison. As with other big game hunts, the availability of bison in a hunting district during a hunt period will depend primarily on weather and migratory patterns. Each of the past bison hunting seasons has been unique in terms of when (or if) bison migrated and in what numbers.
A.Bison are an American icon that are revered and deeply respected by many people—hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts alike. Not everyone agrees on how bison should be managed, and bison and bison management are a high profile issue. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks respects the various viewpoints of individuals and non-governmental organizations that may be present in the field during the hunting season. These individuals and organizations have a legitimate right to express their views. They have a right to be in the field during the hunt, although that right does not extend beyond the bounds of Montana law in terms of interfering with a hunter's lawful hunt. The primary group in the field during the hunt is the Buffalo Field Campaign. Their base is in the West Yellowstone Basin and they also have a presence in the Gardiner area. Buffalo Field Campaign has teams of volunteers patrolling both hunting districts and it is likely that a hunter will see or encounter them. There have been no issues or conflicts and Buffalo Field Campaign has not interfered with hunters during any past season. They may want to speak with hunters and express their views. They may film hunts they observe. FWP does not anticipate any conflicts, although hunters are asked to try to be tolerant and not engage if verbal protests are aimed at them. FWP recommends walking away from any confrontations.
A.In 2005, there was considerable local, national, and world media attention. The media attention has declined significantly in recent years to almost nothing. There have been no issues or conflicts with the media. Although it is unlikely, hunters should be aware that television crews could be present and film hunts, and hunters may be asked for interviews before, during, or after hunts. Bison hunters' names and hometowns are a matter of public record. However, it is a hunter's decision whether to interact with the media. Hunters should plan accordingly if they do not wish to receive this kind of attention by hunting away from roads and other access points and consider the timing of the hunt.
Q.What about Native American tribes hunting bison?
A.There are Native American tribes who have aboriginal rights to hunt bison in Montana under treaties with the U.S. Government. These are legal hunting rights and tribes will be out hunting during the State of Montana bison hunt. Tribal treaty hunters will follow their own rules and regulations, however, state laws and regulations will apply in cases involving public safety and bison conservation.
Q.What if my bison has brucellosis? Is it safe to eat the meat?
A.Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that affects many Yellowstone bison. Extra precautions are required when field dressing and processing bison carcasses. Although rare, brucellosis can infect people. In people it's called Bangs disease or undulant fever. The bacteria are concentrated in the reproductive tract and lymph nodes. Thorough cooking destroys bacteria that may be present in the meat, making it safe to eat. To protect themselves when handling a carcass, hunters should.
Assume every bison is potentially infected with brucellosis
Always wear protective gloves when handling the carcass and viscera
Avoid direct contact with materials from reproductive tract or milk
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth until you have washed properly
Be extra careful of you have open sores or cuts
Discard organ meat and cook all meat you are going to consume thoroughly