The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission is seeking public comments on tentative deer and elk seasons and hunting regulations for the 2000 hunting season, and for all other big game, upland game bird, and turkey hunting for 2000 and 2001.
Here is a brief summary of some regulation changes tentatively adopted by the FWP Commission at its Dec. 15 meeting in Helena:
Archery Equipment Standards
As proposed, Montana's archery equipment standards would be the same as established by Pope and Young, a nationally recognized bowhunting organization. The new regulations would require a 65 percent compound bow maximum "let-off." Compound bows have mechanical devices that reduce the force an archer must exert on the bowstring to hold the bowstring steady. Under the proposed regulation, this "let-off" would be limited to 65 percent.
The Commission tentatively adopted definitions of several "trophy" animals. The new definitions are necessary due to a law enacted by Montana's 1999 Legislature that sets higher restitution fines poachers must pay when convicted of killing certain trophy animals. The law provides authority for the FWP Commission to define a trophy animal. FWP, in cooperation with a working group, developed draft definitions which were tentatively adopted by the Commission.
Motion Tracking Devices
The Commission tentatively adopted restrictions on the use of motion tracking devices. The new definitions are necessary due to a law enacted by the 1999 Montana Legislature granting authority to the Commission to restrict the use of such devices for hunters. FWP, in conjunction with a working group, developed the draft restrictions.
Mule Deer Seasons
Mule deer seasons as proposed would establish general either-sex seasons in some areas of Region 5 due to improved mule deer fawn survival and increasing population. This change reflects the standard season package established in the recently adopted deer management plan.
Mule Deer Permits
The Commission tentatively removed the hunting-license validation requirement for mule deer in a portion of southwestern Montana that has been called the "Southwestern 8." As proposed, limited and unlimited numbers of hunting permits would be available in several areas to manage hunting pressure during the continuing effort to improve the area's buck mule deer population. The remainder of the former Southwestern 8 areas would be open to any hunter who has a general deer A license. Hunters would apply for the unlimited and limited permits by June 1 through FWP's annual special drawings.
Missouri Breaks Archery Permits
The Commission tentatively adopted limited archery elk hunting permits in five Missouri Breaks hunting districts. The proposal calls for 200 either-sex elk permits in Hunting District 410; 50 in HD 417; a total of 200 in HDs 621, 622 and 623. Unlimited antlerless elk permits for the archery season would also be available in HDs 410, 417, 621, 622 and 623. In HD 631 there would be 50 either-sex elk permits and 150 antlerless permits, and in HD 632, 25 either-sex elk and 75 antlerless elk permits would be offered through the June 1 special drawings. Unlimited permits for elk archery in HD 700 would remain the same as 1999. In addition, archers in nine areas of Regions 4, 5 and 7 where limited or unlimited permits are not currently required would be required to obtain a free permit from any FWP office before hunting in those areas. The free permits would assist FWP in gathering data on participation and harvest by archers.
Mountain Lion Season
Mountain Lion seasons would remain similar to 1999 with the exception of a proposal to require a permit to hunt lions in three districts in northwestern Montana's Region 1 HD 100, 103 and 104. The permits would be available only through a special drawing. As proposed, special-drawing permits would be available at a rate of two times the harvest quota and the season would close when the harvest quota is reached. As an alternative, the commission is seeking comment on a recommendation submitted by an advisory committee that would set aside permits at a rate of 25 percent of the total harvest quota in nine Region 1 hunting districts. These permits would be valid for the entire hunting season. The remainder of the quota would remain for the general winter season.
Upland Game Bird Season
In response to landowners requesting a separation of the hunting season opener for pheasant and antelope, the Commission tentatively adopted a proposal to move the pheasant season opener from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14, shortening the season by one week. In the past, the pheasant season opener was set on the Saturday closest to Oct. 15, so this change actually reinstates previous pheasant season guidelines.
Local Public Meetings and Comment by January 22, 2000
Public meetings to discuss the tentative hunting regulations and hunting seasons will be held throughout the state in January. Schedules of those public meetings will be available at all FWP headquarters. The Helena hearing will be held on Jan. 22, 2000. Final regulations will be set Feb. 3-4 at the FWP Commission meeting in Helena.
Copies of the tentatives will be available the first week of January at all FWP offices or by writing to the FWP Wildlife Division, PO Box 200701, Helena MT 59620-0701. The comment deadline is Jan. 22, 2000.