Fish, Wildlife & Parks is now seeking comments from hunters and others on a preliminary draft of proposed deer population objectives and hunting regulation strategies for long-term deer management in Montana.
For mule deer, five population management units (groups of hunting districts) have been identified within the state based upon the population dynamics of the species and habitat characteristics. Three management units have been identified for white-tailed deer. The preliminary draft proposes a population objective for each management unit.
Information collected from deer population monitoring areas across the state--72 for mule deer and 40 for white-tailed deer--will be used in conjunction with checking station reports and harvest statistics to measure population indicators and determine those hunting districts that may require regulation changes. Three hunting regulation "packages" (restrictive, standard and liberal) have been identified for each management unit. These packages, depending on the status of deer populations in the individual management units, will guide future FWP hunting season recommendations to the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission.
Among the questions on which FWP officials are seeking comments from hunters and other reviewers of the preliminary draft are: Do the population indicators seem appropriate? If not, what indicators should be used and why? Are the hunting seasons listed appropriate? If not, what other season options should be considered and why?
A recommendation in the preliminary draft to limit hunting opportunity and buck harvest in 17 hunting districts in various parts of Montana is being proposed to meet the public demand for a limited number of hunters to harvest an older aged buck in areas with good access. FWP is taking this approach because results from recent hunter surveys and comments received during previous season-setting processes do not support a statewide or regional change in hunting regulations for the sake of taking older aged bucks.
Comments received on the preliminary draft will be considered in preparation of a draft plan, which is slated to be submitted to the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission for tentative approval in December. Additional comment will be solicited during December and January in conjunction with the setting of tentative 1998-99 big game and upland game bird hunting regulations. A final draft will be considered by the Commission for final adoption at its February meeting.
Copies of the preliminary draft "Deer Population Objectives and Hunting Regulation Strategies" are available by writing to the: Wildlife Division, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 1420 E. Sixth Ave., PO BOX 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701; telephone: (406) 444-2612.
Written comments on the draft should be sent to the same address by November 14.