I have various issues with several states and how they do their reporting, but Montana takes the cake. Two of the last three years, the State has not even counted deer or elk hunters, so there are no unit or controlled hunt success rates posted on their web site for 2016 or 2018. We also hear from hunters all the time that they don’t trust what Montana does report.
Montana uses an antiquated voluntary phone survey. Some hunts like deer hunt 103-50 had zero response to the survey last year. People tell us they lie when asked where they shot their deer. In other cases, online data is wrong. Want to know the success for controlled hunt 270-50? In 2017 the regs listed 45 mule deer controlled permit buck tags and everything else was does or a whitetail general license. But the harvest report lists 1148 mule deer hunters. Oh, but wait. In Montana a hunter with a whitetail general license can shoot a mule deer if he chooses. So, every whitetail hunter is a mule deer hunter. It’s a mess, not to mention the general hunt is at the same time as the controlled hunt that takes several points.
Why no hunter numbers or success rates for 2016 and 2018? I’m told the State’s biologists get together every year and say what data they need to manage wildlife and apparently that doesn’t include hunter numbers or success rates, so to save money they skip information you and I do need.
This is my primary beef with wildlife departments and nowhere is the problem more egregious than in Montana. Even though they are posted, reports are for biologists, not hunters, even though we need them to apply intelligently and we, for the most part, pay the bills. This needs to change.
I called a couple of Montana Wildlife Commission members, including Richard Stuker, the vice-chairman. Turns out that in addition to an effort to simplify regulations, he has been on a campaign to get mandatory reporting in Montana but has met with pushback from biologists. One reason is worry about a revenue drop if people cannot apply the following year until they report.
Look, I get that wildlife departments are always strapped for money, but seriously? It takes 5 minutes to report how you did online or by phone. Heck, in Oregon, you don’t even need a paper tag anymore, you can get it on your phone like an airline boarding pass and make your report on the app.
Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah (controlled hunts) all have mandatory reporting. If it’s not done by a certain date, there is a small fine. If it is not done at all, they can’t apply until they do report. I doubt many hunters blow off applying and lose their points over the 5 minutes it takes to report.
Here’s your chance to make a difference. If you live or hunt in Montana contact any of the names below to tell them you want a modern mandatory reporting system that gives you what you need. Even better is if your organization presents a request to the FWP, which is way easier than you think.
Game Management Bureau Chief,
John Vore 406-444-3940, jvore@MT.gov
Wildlife Management Section Chief,
Quentin Kujala 406-444-5672,
Ken McDonald 406-444-5645.
Wildlife Commissioner contact info is at http://fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/insideFwp/commission/members.html