FWP: No plans for extension of state’s big game seasons

FWP: No plans for extension of state’s big game seasons

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Montana’s general big game seasons close at a half-hour after sunset today with no extended seasons planned by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this year.

The general deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, black bear and mountain goat seasons will join the wolf, antelope and sage grouse seasons, which closed earlier. Some upland game bird and waterfowl seasons will remain open.

In recent years, elk seasons have rolled on for several weeks over a wide swath of western, central and southwestern Montana. The extensions were put in place because of poor hunter harvest, blamed on weather that was simply too nice for elk to begin their migrations toward winter ranges.

That’s not happening this year.

“We are not planning any season extension anywhere in the state this year,” said Ken McDonald, chief of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Wildlife Bureau. “If specific population or damage problems emerge, we’ll use management seasons or game damage hunts to address them.”

Hunters must have registered for game damage rosters in July to participate.

So, what kind of a hunting season was it in 2009?

Typically, memories of hunting seasons are individual ones, tailored to your experiences. What may be a poor season for one person provided the hunts of a lifetime for another who bagged a trophy elk, moose, bighorn sheep or deer.

But overall, based on game check station data, it was a generally good season for elk and a poorer one for deer across the state.

Harvest was lower than long-term averages in many areas with mule deer, in particular, recording lower figures than last year and against the long term.

Was that a matter of lower deer numbers? Or was it the generally warm and windy fall we’ve been experiencing?  Was it untimely snows in the high country? Or was it lower or higher hunter numbers in particular areas?

All that data will be crunched when the phone calls start coming to individual hunters as part of the annual Harvest Surveys that FWP conducts in the weeks ahead.

That survey will put the finishing touches on the season with hard numbers that can be compared to other years.

Wolf licenses

The final tally is in with a total of 15,603 resident wolf licenses sold for Montana’s first fair-chase wolf season. A total of 89 nonresident wolf licenses were also sold.

What’s interesting about the resident total of 15,603 is that when FWP’s license folks were asked back in 2007 to predict sales totals, the number they came up with was 15,733. They only missed it by 130 licenses.

That’s amazingly close for a license which had never gone on sale before, on a hunting quota that hadn’t been set yet and on a season where no one really knew how much interest there would be.

Fishing season ends

The Montana general fishing season closes on Monday. That being said, it’s not much of a closure for most anglers.

The bulk of the state’s fishing on big rivers, lakes and reservoirs remains open throughout the year. It’s generally only the small streams of the western half of Montana that are affected by the general season.

But, just to be safe before you bundle up and head out with fishing rod in hand Tuesday morning, check the regulations to make sure it’s still open to fishing.

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