For the first time, some lucky Montana hunters will be offered the opportunity to harvest two elk this hunting season.
A new state law enacted in April gave the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission the authority to issue a second elk license for antlerless-elk only to some hunters who receive an elk permit through the special drawings.
"FWP requested the legislation to create one more tool to use in areas where elk numbers are above management objectives and where it's been difficult to achieve an adequate elk harvest," said Gary Hammond, FWP's wildlife management bureau chief.
Due in part to the recent string of unseasonably mild and dry falls and open winters, elk numbers in some areas are now out pacing hunter harvests. "The result," Hammond said, "is more private landowner complaints, increased game-damage incidents, and disappointed hunters."
To quickly implement Senate Bill 122 for the 2003 hunting season, the commission approved the use of new "A9" licenses at $16 for residents and "B12" licenses at $270 for nonresidents in a selected number of hunting districts in FWP Regions 2, 3 and 4.
This year, to launch the program, a total of only about 1,000 extra antlerless-only elk licenses will be offered. Hunters who applied for and received a special elk permit in the following hunting districts will be offered the chance to apply for this limited number of antlerless-only licenses in those same areas:
In addition, in hunting districts 421, 422, and 423, any general elk license holder may purchase a second antlerless-only elk license for use during the general elk season. Nonresidents will be able to purchase up to a total of 50 B12 licenses in these hunting districts. All hunters are advised, however, that access is limited in these districts.
"If you think you'd like to hunt in these areas, it's best to secure access before you purchase a second antlerless-elk license," Hammond said.
FWP will notify hunters eligible to apply for an extra antlerless-only license by postcard. Eligible hunters will be requested to submit an application for the extra antlerless-only licenses. Due to the timing of this process, licenses will not be available until late in September.
Hammond said one of the goals of the new offering is to increase the elk harvest in targeted areas, without increasing the number of hunters.
"This is a trial year for wildlife managers, for hunters and for landowners," Hammond said. "We'll monitor how the extra tags are used and how successful we are at getting the elk numbers in line with our harvest goals."