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Montana’s New Elk Management Plan


Montana FWP released a plan to gather 10-12 individuals to serve on a citizen group to provide guidance for the new Elk Management Plan in Montana. According to FWP, the group will be tasked with developing an issue statement about elk management and define meaningful and enduring principles that may guide future elk management decisions. This group will be diverse and represent a variety of stakeholders. 

Elk in Montana are in a tricky situation so this advisor group will have a lot to consider when it comes to elk management and to keep hunters and landowners happy. In 2009, populations were estimated to be around 134,000 animals. A decade later they are projected to be 136,000. It’s not that simple though. Some areas of Montana (eastern half) are over objective but many areas (western half) are under objective, and this has been the case for over a decade. What gives? 

The western part of the state has way more public land and the elk hunting areas are mostly general. This being the case and with population hubs like Kalispell, Missoula, Butte, and Bozeman, you’re going to have people that can hunt close to home so pressure is high. It’s the land of opportunity for the general tag hunter if you’re a Montana resident. Toss in high populations of grizzly bears and wolves and all of a sudden it becomes difficult for a population to make a living let alone increase in numbers, specifically in regions 1 and 2.  

The eastern half of the state consists mostly of private land making for limited access and limited entry elk hunting areas. Predation from grizzly bears and wolves is far less if not nonexistent in some of the far east elk areas. The eastern part of the state gets less snow as well so elk have easier winters. Top that off with plentiful agriculture and alfalfa fields and also haystacks during winter months. This just makes life much easier if you’re an elk out in eastern Montana. This gives you the perfect situation to grow an elk population quickly. 

To curb this growing elk population issue, Montana has implemented what are now well-known “shoulder seasons” for many areas in the eastern half of the state to help keep elk numbers low. The shoulder seasons largely depend on landowners complaining about crop depredation in their fields from wintering or even resident elk. The proven hurdle is landowners that want elk killed and off their property but won’t let hunters come shoot elk unless they pay. As a whole, these shoulder seasons have proven to be ineffective at reducing elk numbers in areas that are over objective in the eastern half of the state. 

Wrapping this all up, the group of folks who are selected for this advisory role won’t be responsible for actually writing the management plan, just providing input and advice to FWP. If you are a Montana resident that has an interest in this and is available to commit to two multi-day meetings this summer you can submit an application to FWP online to be considered for a position. http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/management/elk/





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  1. WDFW needs some guidance with their lack of understanding elk herd management. Hoof rot destroying the St. Hellens and Willipa herds. Wolves and natives destroying the east side of state herds. Local biologist says it is the shed hunters is the reason why we lost 2200 elk in 3 years in the Blue Mountains. Tag quotas were cut by half or more this year in these areas. Just feeding wolves 380″ plus bulls everyday. This throphy area has been ruined by bringing these killers back.

    I do believe we have special interests money effecting judgement of our f&g offices and biologists. We need to Take the responsibility away from big government and let the locals determine their quotas and seasons. We live in the woods far more than they do, atleast I do. I see far more than the 1 or 2 days in the field a month they do. They are almost as bad as a weatherman, just guessing.

    If anything these biologists must be totally unbias and then not employees of the government or state, maybe local government. Just tired of the voters in Seattle ruining the entire state.

    20 years of points is what the odds were to get drawn now with tag quota reduced to half or less means 40 years. If they keep up this pace it will not even be feasible. The country is billy goat 60% inclined 1000 to 5000 and doesn’t lend itself to the elderly. It all has to be packed up hill to get it out and far to steep for horses. Kids better start applying for any chance.

    Not a bear hunter but we have a huge problem in the blues. Seen 5 different slobs yesterday. 2 blacks 2 cinnamon and a color phase. Come on up and I will point ya in the right direction.

  2. Wolves. We have lots of wolves on the public land and very little wolves in the eastern half of the state. Like was stated above, we need real people on the commission. Not government employees or former government employees.

  3. This would explain why I haven’t drawn an elk tag for the last three years in region 6.

  4. I am not a Montana resident but have a lot of respect for the state of Montana. The problem with most G,F, & Parks management individuals is that they don’t have common sense. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what the problem is. The majority of hunters are conservationist and harvest animals, not just kill. If the sportsman and sportswomen don’t get more say in the game hunting industry it will be a thing of past. How sad.

  5. You had better dig in for the battle. I live in California (would leave in a second if my wife would go) and all things hunting here have become so onerous that many have given up. I refer to it as “death by a thousand cut”. Fishing is the next target here.

  6. The problem is the Sierra club!!! Environmental terrorists!!! They were behind the wolf introduction into Yellowstone, they are behind the lion hunting ban in California, they are behind forcing wolves into Colorado, they are behind the Colorado “citizens petition to end all trapping in Colorado. You can only use live traps now!!

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