Officials at game check stations gather information needed to help manage the state's wildlife resources. When hunters stop at check stations, FWP representatives ask a variety of questions that may include how many deer, elk or antelope they saw and in which drainages or where in general they hunted. The information is cost-effective to gather and helpful in managing wildlife.
In 2010, FWP Region 1 began a check station-based moose study. FWP check station personnel asked hunters who had spotted moose to mark the location of the sightings on a U.S. Forest Service district map and provide any additional information they might have such as the sex, and estimated age of the moose.
The tabulated results show hunter moose sightings in 18 hunting districts, including the two that FWP annually surveys by helicopter for moose.
"The hunter survey results were very interesting and exceeded the number of moose bulls, cows and calves observable by helicopter, even given that some moose may have been reported by multiple hunters," said John Vore, an FWP biologist in Kalispell who compiled the results. "We will continue to gather these hunter reports at the check stations until we can get a feel for the relationship between hunter moose sightings and the annual surveys."
Vore explained that an alternative source of information helps biologists verify trends, or if there is an obvious conflict it points out something that should be investigated further.
In addition to gathering biological information, FWP game wardens, biologists and other department personnel can also provide hunters with useful information and updates on the hunting season. They will also check to make sure that any animals taken are properly tagged and that all other laws and regulations governing the taking of that animal were observed.
State law requires hunters to stop at all game and biological check stations on their routes of travel to and from hunting areas, whether they have harvested an animal or not. Failure to stop at a check station when personnel are on duty is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.
This fall, thousands of hunters will spend a few minutes sharing information about the hunting season and enjoy the knowledge that they are contributing to big game management in Montana.