Although Montana's 1997 hunting seasons only recently began, Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife managers have already initiated the process for setting regulations and seasons for 1998-99.
Glenn Erickson, chief of the Wildlife Division's Management Bureau for FWP in Helena, said district wildlife biologists have now started drafting recommendations for what may be changes in season types or lengths as well as regulations in their individual areas. From now through mid-October they will be assessing the success of past season types and harvest quotas on the health of game populations and determining possible ways to improve conditions if they are needed.
"It's important work," said Erickson, noting that since 1992 seasons and regulations have been set for a two-year period, not a single year. "It's for that reason it's important for us to involve the public, and hunters to involve themselves, in the process." If hunters have some suggestions for their area biologist, he continued, they can contact him or her and discuss the concern, or those suggestions can be sent to: Wildlife Division, 1420 East Sixth Avenue, PO Box 200701, Helena MT 59620-0701, by September 26.
At the same time as season assessments for all big game and upland bird species are being undertaken, regional wildlife managers are developing objectives for future deer management in different areas of the state. The objectives are being developed based on information received from a survey of deer hunters earlier this year, past harvest and deer population trend data and other available information.
"We've undertaken an intense examination of our deer management practices," said Erickson, "to provide hunters with what they want in certain areas while maintaining the health of deer herds. We've asked hunters why they prefer to hunt in certain areas, what they seek, big bucks or lots of deer, etc., and we'll now be incorporating that information into our management planning."
The draft objectives will be distributed for public comment during October. When finalized later this fall, the objectives will be used to help set 1998-99 seasons.
The season-setting process is an extended one, beginning in September and continuing through February of the following year. In December, proposed regulations and seasons will be presented to the FWP Commission, which will adopt tentative regulations. Regional hearings on the tentatives will be held in January. The Commission will adopt final 1998-99 big game and upland game bird seasons and regulations at its February meeting in Helena.