The need for continuing hunter education opportunities for adults is a key component in a compact package of draft recommendations released today by Montana's Hunter Behavior Advisory Council.
The citizens' council, appointed by Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Patrick Graham, is recommending that FWP develop an ongoing process to expand educational opportunities for hunters of all ages. The council specifically suggests that FWP create a continuing hunter education program for voluntarily enrolled adult hunters and further recommends a mandatory hunter education course for convicted wildlife-law violators.
Graham selected 16 Montanans to serve on the state's Hunter Behavior Advisory Council in January. Since then, the council's statewide effort to involve local residents and groups in identifying and defining hunter behavior problems led to the production and release of its package of draft recommendations.
In the 12-page document, the Hunter Behavior Advisory Council concludes that problem hunter behavior actually undermines important relationships among hunters, landowners, and resource managers and subsequently reduces private-land access and hunting opportunity. While the council states that landowners, resource managers and hunters continue to contribute to Montana's wildlife restoration and conservation success story, it asserts that trespass, ethical lapses, and repeated acts of disrespect by some hunters create increasingly difficult conflicts. To help remedy these complex problems, the council's draft recommendations have strong educational components designed to reach four specific goals to:
1) Reinforce the significance of Montana's hunting heritage, the diverse values associated with it, and the general hunting experience. 2) Build on Montana's existing hunter education program, and develop and implement continuing education programs for adult hunters and for resource managers and landowners associated with the hunting environment. 3) Increase the level of respect and appreciation among the hunting community for private and public landowners who provide habitat for animals and access for hunters. 4) Create a hunting environment in which hunters are willing to accept their legal obligation to know, understand and observe regulations, and, while participating in hunting activities, behave in a socially responsible manner.
To reach these goals, the council has offered a series of specific recommendations that, when taken as a whole, express educational themes that include a need for:
* a "continuum" of educational opportunities for all hunters that could include rewards--such as preference points in special drawings or some enhanced hunting opportunity--for voluntary enrollment and successful completion; * simplified, user-friendly hunting regulations that may help hunters avoid inadvertent wildlife-law violations; * more stringent fines for wildlife-law violations and specific sentencing guidelines for judges to apply against convicted wildlife-law violators. * a Montana Hunter's Handbook that would explain various aspects of Montana's diverse hunting opportunities from regional wildlife habitats to specific hunting strategies and proper care for harvested game; * more realistic expectations among hunters by placing an emphasis on the hunting experience itself, rather than solely on the talking of large numbers of game or large big-game animals;
The council also suggests that hunters, landowners, and resource managers can help to alleviate some problems by developing local cooperative efforts that could foster better community-based relationships and a new era of mutual respect and understanding.
Copies of the draft recommendtions are available from FWP in Helena and at all regional headquarters. Comment on the Hunter Behavior Advisory Council's draft recommendations must be received by Dec. 1. Comment can be delivered in a variety of ways: (1) Hunter Behavior Advisory Council; PO Box 200701; Helena, MT 59620-0701. (2) Fax comments to 406-444-4952. (3) E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org; or (4) Visit the Hunter Behavior Advisory Council Internet Home Page: http://fwp.state.mt.us/hunting/behavior.
For more information call 406-444-3051.