BILLINGS — A 21-year-old rule governing hunting for mule deer bucks north of Roundup is among the most frequently violated regulations in the region. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens believe that an occasional reminder will help well-meaning hunters stay legal.
All hunters must have a special permit to hunt mule deer bucks in District 530. That district generally encompasses all land north of U.S. Highway 12 between Ryegate and Melstone. The northern edge is Highway 200 between Mosby and Winnett, State Highway 244 and Flat Willow Creek west of Highway 87.
Warden Lee Burroughs of Lavina said he frequently writes citations for violation of the rule. Most violators claim they were unaware of the need for a special permit. They also acknowledge that they did not thoroughly read the hunting regulations, which clearly spell out the requirements, he said.
In District 530, hunters may harvest an antlerless mule deer or any whitetail with a deer A tag during the general season. But, to shoot a mule deer buck, a hunter must possess a special permit. The permits are free and available at any license dealer. Each year 750 of the special permits are allowed. As of this week, 100 still were available.
Anyone who has a District 530 mule deer permit may not hunt mule deer bucks elsewhere in the state.
FWP wildlife biologist Jay Newell of Roundup said the rule was put into place 21 years ago to increase the age of mule deer bucks in the hunting district.
In 1986, wildlife surveys showed only four bucks per 100 mule deer in the district. That is a dangerous level and far below the 12 to 20 bucks per hundred deer that normally would appear in a healthy population, Newell said.
This year, surveys showed 34 bucks per 100 deer in District 530, Newell said. The hunting restrictions clearly are having the intended effect.
While wardens will continue to write citations when people violate the rule, Burroughs said, FWP would prefer that hunters legally harvest game and enjoy their experience.