Lucky hunters who applied for Montana's special deer and elk permits should check their mail early next week for the coveted permits. The 2004 deer and elk drawings will be conducted about two weeks earlier than usual this year to allow hunters to better plan for their fall hunts.
Antelope hunters will receive their licenses earlier than usual, too, but will have to wait a couple of weeks to check their mailboxes. FWP biologists are wrapping up the state's 2004 antelope surveys, so the quotas for antelope permits won’t be finalized until the Aug. 5, 2004 meeting of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission.
"Hunters should know whether they’ll be rifle hunting for 'prairie goats' by the second week of August," said Hank Worsech, chief of FWP's licensing bureau.
This year, mule deer and white-tailed deer hunters will find more opportunities to hunt throughout much of Montana with a boost of about 5,000 more permits to hunt deer in the northwestern, southwestern, east-central and northeastern regions of the state.
With the recent addition of either-sex elk hunting during the general hunting season in many areas of southwestern and central Montana, the number of special antlerless elk permits is lower in those areas. However, elk hunters will benefit from an increase in the antlerless elk quotas in hunting district 410 east of Great Falls where 1,200 permits are available. The quota increase from 400 to 1,200 was needed to help bring the growing elk population in line with the hunting district's elk population objectives.
"It will still take several more years to get the population down, but we're hoping to see good cooperation from public land managers and private landowners, so that should help hunters get to the elk," said Gary Hammond, chief of FWP's wildlife management bureau. He noted that hunters would have access via the Block Management Program to more than 100,000 acres of private land in hunting district 410 for 2004.
Meanwhile, there was a reduction in the antlerless elk quota from 250 to 125 in both hunting districts 215-00 and 215-01 east of Deer Lodge.
The July 2004 decision on final deer and elk permit quotas is a result of biologists using winter and spring surveys to estimate populations of deer and elk. Antelope surveys are conducted in July and included the year’s fawn crop as well as adult populations, Hammond said.