Montana FWP makes seismic shift in elk permits

Ben Lamb

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Commission meets on December 14th to approve the UPOM model of elk management.



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FWP proposes new, limited elk season structure to commission​

HELENA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is looking at a handful of new strategies to better manage elk populations and improve quality hunting opportunities on public lands. FWP will propose these strategies to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission at its Dec. 14 meeting.
In recent years, Montana has seen a dramatic increase in elk populations in many hunting districts around the state. Currently, 14 hunting districts are at least 200 percent above population objectives. Data also show an overcrowding of elk populations on private land, limiting opportunities for public land hunters.
“What we know is the status quo isn’t working,” said FWP Director Hank Worsech. “So, we’re going to propose a few new strategies we think can finally help us make progress in addressing the problem, both for hunters and for landowners.”
Required by law to achieve population objectives set by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, FWP proposes targeted provisions to fulfill the statutory requirement of managing to population objective, address the increasing impacts of high elk populations on Montana farmers and ranchers, and improve quality opportunities for hunters. Those numerical objectives are identified in the current elk management plan.
The targeted provisions for 14 hunting districts with limited permits and over population objectives are:
  • In all 14 hunting districts, FWP proposes to remove some or all of the limited either-sex permits.
  • In eight of those hunting districts, where problems with distribution, population and access tend to be most acute, FWP is proposing to retain the limited either-sex permits but make them valid only on public land. In most of these districts, the permit quotas are proposed to be half of the 2021 quotas. The hunting districts proposed for this structure are: 411, 417, 426, 535 (newly proposed for 2022), 590, 702, 704 and 705.
The proposal would also make a general elk license valid for either-sex elk only on private land in these eight districts. This would include the general archery and firearm seasons as well as the muzzleloader season. Early and late antlerless seasons would remain the same, and only be for antlerless elk in the districts in which they occur.
All of FWP’s proposed hunting regulations are undergoing review as part of the agency’s regular, biennial season-setting process, and are subject to commission approval. If the commission approves the proposals, there will be a 30-day public comment opportunity.
“We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We have to try something different. This proposal is a new strategy we can implement for two years and see if it has the desired effect – more elk harvest, better elk availability on public lands, fewer landowner conflicts, and elk at population objective,” Worsech said. “In some hunting districts, we have broad public tolerance or outright support for limited permits, and we want to keep those in place.”
By having different season types in multiple areas with similar circumstances – over population elk herds and limited either-sex permits – FWP will be able to analyze which strategy is most effective at decreasing elk numbers and moving more on to public land.
In addition to this specific season proposal, a new elk plan is being developed with the help of guiding principles identified by an external working group and endorsed by the commission. The process for this new plan will include extensive public commenting opportunities.
The Private Land/Public Wildlife council will also review all FWP access programs and revisit elk hunting access agreements, which provide access to private land in exchange for elk licenses and permits for the landowner.
Worsech is also looking to pull together an additional citizen group to explore more ways to address issues around hunter access to private land and landowner preferences. The goal for the group will be to provide tangible recommendations FWP and the commission can implement.
Also, with the availability of more federal Pittman-Robertson funds, FWP is exploring a three-fold increase of funding for its access programs.
“It’s time for people to bring their best ideas forward, and I want to hear from them,” Worsech said. “Don’t just tell us what you don’t like. I want to hear your ideas to improve the situation. I hope we can all see and realize a better day for landowners, hunters and the elk resource itself.”

 

Quackerchaser

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Nice, now the Wilks brothers and friends can blast away with just needing a general licence. This year they got 8 extra tags and next year they just need a general tag.
 

WIbiggame

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I have read several of the posts about this topic on here and other forums. One thing I haven't seen mentioned that I feel is the bigger issue is:

People who hunt with an outfitter (most on private land) get 2PP when applying for the general license. So by making these limited entry units a general tag that in theory is going to make more people want to hunt with an outfitter thus making it even harder for the DIY crowd to even draw a tag.

Edit: Another "un" expected outcome of this is that we all know in MT you need to draw a general tag before you can even get into the LE drawing. So if outfitted clients are pulling more general tags (with their 2pp) to hunt these 14 former LE units on private it will make point creep even worse and albeit impossible for the DIY crowd.

Just another example of pushing the lowly DIY crowd out of the game.
 
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Hammsolo

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Calling and emailing commissioners and making a comment via zoom is your best bet right now. The petition will be viewed as one comment via my sources… which aren’t that good😂
Please share the contact info. We should do all we can.
 

MTelkHuntress

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REGION 1
Patrick Tabor - Vice Chair
[email protected]
(406) 250-2899
Whitefish, Montana

REGION 2
Jana Waller
[email protected]
(920) 222-1136
Lolo, Montana

REGION 3
Pat Byorth
[email protected]
(406) 548-4830
Bozeman, Montana

REGION 4
KC Walsh
[email protected]
(406) 599-9556
Martinsdale, Montana

REGION 5
Brian Cebull
[email protected]
(406) 860-7416
Billings, Montana

REGION 6
Lesley Robinson - Chair
[email protected]
(406) 301-0787
Dodson, Montana

REGION 7
William Lane
[email protected]
(406) 778-2155
Ismay, Montana​
 

Hammsolo

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Does anyone have the time and skill (I have neither) to create a sound form email to share out with counter points and counter proposals? We could share it and bury these guys in email.
 

FoodIsMemories

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you mean that these proposals are not for the best interest of the wildlife…? I only understand what may be happening in my area of the state for changes, and I see some obvious changes that will bring controversy- but i would like to trust the state and federal wildlife officials to do what’s best for steady populations. Also, I have to focus on the resident standpoint, not the new draw odds or how you’re getting the bone-down as a NR now.. can somebody politely explain their worries with this proposed cramming of HDs and whatnot?
 

FoodIsMemories

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I fear I may be looking at the proposals with too much cut and paste; that the chain of events or overall cause and effect may be more than I’m able to sum up at a glance.
 

bigsky2

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you mean that these proposals are not for the best interest of the wildlife…? I only understand what may be happening in my area of the state for changes, and I see some obvious changes that will bring controversy- but i would like to trust the state and federal wildlife officials to do what’s best for steady populations. Also, I have to focus on the resident standpoint, not the new draw odds or how you’re getting the bone-down as a NR now.. can somebody politely explain their worries with this proposed cramming of HDs and whatnot?
Well that would be ideal if biologists were helping to come up with these proposals, but they are basically being told to stay out of it.
 

antlerradar

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you mean that these proposals are not for the best interest of the wildlife…? I only understand what may be happening in my area of the state for changes, and I see some obvious changes that will bring controversy- but i would like to trust the state and federal wildlife officials to do what’s best for steady populations. Also, I have to focus on the resident standpoint, not the new draw odds or how you’re getting the bone-down as a NR now.. can somebody politely explain their worries with this proposed cramming of HDs and whatnot?
This proposal is a giant step towards the Texas stile of wildlife management. The end result is as predictable as the sun coming up in the east. Resident and DYI NR will be have to pay up or risk being forced on to an increasingly crowded public land. In the future said public land will need to be put on a draw with very long odds.
 

brockel

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you mean that these proposals are not for the best interest of the wildlife…? I only understand what may be happening in my area of the state for changes, and I see some obvious changes that will bring controversy- but i would like to trust the state and federal wildlife officials to do what’s best for steady populations. Also, I have to focus on the resident standpoint, not the new draw odds or how you’re getting the bone-down as a NR now.. can somebody politely explain their worries with this proposed cramming of HDs and whatnot?

When the biologists who are paid to do this stuff are against it and found out about this the same time us common folk did that’s a big problem.
 

FoodIsMemories

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This proposal is a giant step towards the Texas stile of wildlife management. The end result is as predictable as the sun coming up in the east. Resident and DYI NR will be have to pay up or risk being forced on to an increasingly crowded public land. In the future said public land will need to be put on a draw with very long odds.
By combining some hunting districts and allocating general and B tags differently for said districts? I mean 311 cow tags will be gone when it joins 301 and that’ll piss some off, but 393 cow B tags still wil be available as well as being legal in part of 380 and 312.. that doesn’t immediately strike me as bad and simplifies a little with the new massive district… How does that make it a pay to play deal or increase public land use to the point of exhaustion anymore than it already is?As I stated I only really looked at my neck of the woods, I am sure that you guys may see changes in different parts of the state that will lead to adverse impacts that I do not realize..
 

Gerald Martin

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By combining some hunting districts and allocating general and B tags differently for said districts? I mean 311 cow tags will be gone when it joins 301 and that’ll piss some off, but 393 cow B tags still wil be available as well as being legal in part of 380 and 312.. that doesn’t immediately strike me as bad and simplifies a little with the new massive district… How does that make it a pay to play deal or increase public land use to the point of exhaustion anymore than it already is?As I stated I only really looked at my neck of the woods, I am sure that you guys may see changes in different parts of the state that will lead to adverse impacts that I do not realize..
What is happening in our neck of the woods is not as drastic as what is happening in the central and eastern part of the state.

Fourteen limited entry permit areas are going to switch to general tag either sex on
private land and permits will be cut by 50% on public land.

The biologists of these areas are predicting a huge reduction in both bull elk numbers and age class.

These permits are some of the most highly sought after in the state.

The only people benefiting from this change are the landowners who have large enough properties to effectively manage their own private elk herd.

The effects on our area will be delayed. For a couple of years it will actually relieve hunting pressure as everyone rushes East in rifle season to kill off the bulls on private land.

Within a few years as the quality diminishes on the East side there will be a massive shift back to general areas on the west side and we’ll have all the elk hunters in the state concentrated in the west.
 

300stw

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i just keep wondering why is it such a big issue to kill cows on public land,,,, are there that many districts that are overpopulated on public lands,,,hell, are there any districts were there are more elk then habitat
ive hunted public land, bulls only for 40 years, ive had about a 45percnt succes rate, in 3 states, does the resource owe anyone an elk,,,,

how many cows could be taken off the wilkes land and still have plenty of elk in that unit

i dont have any answers i guess, it is quite the issue,,, at some point the resource is going to come to a level where every big game tag is through a drawing, nevada comes to mind,,,,
 

FoodIsMemories

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What is happening in our neck of the woods is not as drastic as what is happening in the central and eastern part of the state.

Fourteen limited entry permit areas are going to switch to general tag either sex on
private land and permits will be cut by 50% on public land.

The biologists of these areas are predicting a huge reduction in both bull elk numbers and age class.

These permits are some of the most highly sought after in the state.

The only people benefiting from this change are the landowners who have large enough properties to effectively manage their own private elk herd.

The effects on our area will be delayed. For a couple of years it will actually relieve hunting pressure as everyone rushes East in rifle season to kill off the bulls on private land.

Within a few years as the quality diminishes on the East side there will be a massive shift back to general areas on the west side and we’ll have all the elk hunters in the state concentrated in the west.
Well said, thank you for sharing. I didn’t catch that change. Had a Breaks tag last two years; would be a bummer to take all that public land opportunity from us
 

MLaird

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Unfortunately I can't attend the mtg but I emailed my Reg. 5 commissioner. I don't even think he'll read it but it's worth a try.
 
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