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Montana Mule Deer Mismanagement

I’m having a hard time understanding the chatter about LE as the department told this group to not even bother proposing it. Change is not likely and LE is even way less likely
The current system is not sustainable . That's why they are talking about proposals and LE
 
The current system is not sustainable . That's why they are talking about proposals and LE

I concur and understand why things are being talked about. Before this group met, they were told to not waste anybody’s time by bringing a LE proposal to the table because it wasn’t going to happen. They would entertain hearing ideas about changing the season structure but LE wasn’t even on the table.
 
Until non resident tags go unsold there is no way it ever goes LE. Get your fellow non residents to quit applying and maybe we can get some meaningful changes done
I guess I am mostly in agreement with you and wasn’t saying anything negative towards the proposal there’s def good parts to in and there needs to be change for sure but FWP is gonna have to be the ones to do it , NR tags will continue to sell out .I just meant that the people behind the proposal obviously have thought this through and they know that the end game one way or another is LE
 
I guess I am mostly in agreement with you and wasn’t saying anything negative towards the proposal there’s def good parts to in and there needs to be change for sure but FWP is gonna have to be the ones to do it , NR tags will continue to sell out .I just meant that the people behind the proposal obviously have thought this through and they know that the end game one way or another is LE

The problem is fwp doesn’t see a problem. The only way they will is if there is leftover tags
 

When it comes to hunter crowding and the state of mule deer, non-resident hunting pressure and harvests aren’t the only culprits, but mounting evidence shows they’re a big one.

According to an FWP Interoffice Memorandum dated 5/6/2024, the “total Region 6 mule deer harvest in 2023 was estimated at 9,986, 28% above the 26-year average” and — for the first time ever - non-residents harvested more antlered mule deer than Montana residents in Region 6.

The memo added that “antlerless harvest in 2023 was 35% above the 26-year average, with resident hunters making up 54% of the antlerless mule deer harvest.” So a pile of does are being killed by hunters too, and nearly half of them (46%) by non-residents.

A Commission-led change due to declining mule deer trajectories now prohibits the hunting of antlerless mule deer on public lands in Regions 6 and 7. This will likely decrease antlerless harvests in 2024, but the impacts this will have on the resident vs. non-resident harvest ratio and hunting pressure remains to be seen, and many are concerned that the change will actually increase the harvest of mule deer bucks, further reducing the buck-to-doe ratio.

When other solutions for these issues — like Sen. Flowers’ (D-Bozeman) SB 525 which sought to require that the Commission place meaningful caps on all non-resident hunting licenses — have been brought forward, outfitters, legislators, and even members of Montana’s DIY hunting community argued that the issue isn’t necessarily about the number of hunters or the number of licenses, but rather about hunter effort and the number of days hunters are spending afield.

But the Region 6 memo seems to put those perceptions to rest.
"Region 6 has seen a fairly constant number of resident hunters over the last decade but more notable is the large increase in non-resident hunters during the same time period (Table 1, Figure 6). Resident hunters have remained mostly stable from 2013 to 2023, while non-resident hunter numbers have almost doubled, with 96% more hunters in 2023 compared to 2013.”

“Similar patterns can be observed in hunter days across the region,” the memo continues. “The number of hunter days in 2023 was 33% higher than what was estimated in 2013 but largely correlates to the increase in hunters across the region. The number of days per hunter has remained fairly stable over the reported period for both resident and non-resident hunters."

In other words, the increase in non-resident hunters and the uptick of licenses available appear to be major factors in the increase in harvests and decrease in mule deer populations. Drought is also a significant contributor, but is largely out of our control.

Is it time to reconsider a bill like Sen. Flowers’ SB 525? Do we need to split up non-resident general deer and elk tags into the seven regions with each having their own cap determined by opportunity, public access, herd population and health? (Wyoming implemented something similar this year for their non-resident general elk tags). Should the legislature and Governor Gianforte stop with the outfitter, landowner and non-resident giveaways and guarantees? For years, we’ve heard that ideas like these are nothing more than solutions looking for a problem, but it seems that if there’s one thing Montanans can agree on, it’s that we certainly have a problem.

So what are we going to do about it? Who will now be asked to sacrifice their hunting opportunities?
Those remain the questions, and if Montanans don’t start paying attention and voting for candidates who will protect the resource and stick up for resident hunters, we may not like the answers.
 

When it comes to hunter crowding and the state of mule deer, non-resident hunting pressure and harvests aren’t the only culprits, but mounting evidence shows they’re a big one.

According to an FWP Interoffice Memorandum dated 5/6/2024, the “total Region 6 mule deer harvest in 2023 was estimated at 9,986, 28% above the 26-year average” and — for the first time ever - non-residents harvested more antlered mule deer than Montana residents in Region 6.

The memo added that “antlerless harvest in 2023 was 35% above the 26-year average, with resident hunters making up 54% of the antlerless mule deer harvest.” So a pile of does are being killed by hunters too, and nearly half of them (46%) by non-residents.

A Commission-led change due to declining mule deer trajectories now prohibits the hunting of antlerless mule deer on public lands in Regions 6 and 7. This will likely decrease antlerless harvests in 2024, but the impacts this will have on the resident vs. non-resident harvest ratio and hunting pressure remains to be seen, and many are concerned that the change will actually increase the harvest of mule deer bucks, further reducing the buck-to-doe ratio.

When other solutions for these issues — like Sen. Flowers’ (D-Bozeman) SB 525 which sought to require that the Commission place meaningful caps on all non-resident hunting licenses — have been brought forward, outfitters, legislators, and even members of Montana’s DIY hunting community argued that the issue isn’t necessarily about the number of hunters or the number of licenses, but rather about hunter effort and the number of days hunters are spending afield.

But the Region 6 memo seems to put those perceptions to rest.
"Region 6 has seen a fairly constant number of resident hunters over the last decade but more notable is the large increase in non-resident hunters during the same time period (Table 1, Figure 6). Resident hunters have remained mostly stable from 2013 to 2023, while non-resident hunter numbers have almost doubled, with 96% more hunters in 2023 compared to 2013.”

“Similar patterns can be observed in hunter days across the region,” the memo continues. “The number of hunter days in 2023 was 33% higher than what was estimated in 2013 but largely correlates to the increase in hunters across the region. The number of days per hunter has remained fairly stable over the reported period for both resident and non-resident hunters."

In other words, the increase in non-resident hunters and the uptick of licenses available appear to be major factors in the increase in harvests and decrease in mule deer populations. Drought is also a significant contributor, but is largely out of our control.

Is it time to reconsider a bill like Sen. Flowers’ SB 525? Do we need to split up non-resident general deer and elk tags into the seven regions with each having their own cap determined by opportunity, public access, herd population and health? (Wyoming implemented something similar this year for their non-resident general elk tags). Should the legislature and Governor Gianforte stop with the outfitter, landowner and non-resident giveaways and guarantees? For years, we’ve heard that ideas like these are nothing more than solutions looking for a problem, but it seems that if there’s one thing Montanans can agree on, it’s that we certainly have a problem.

So what are we going to do about it? Who will now be asked to sacrifice their hunting opportunities?
Those remain the questions, and if Montanans don’t start paying attention and voting for candidates who will protect the resource and stick up for resident hunters, we may not like the answers.
My take away from this is you are obviously for 525 and who would you vote for because that line is getting really old. Not a single politician is where they are because the primary goal is to help our wildlife.
 
My take away from this is you are obviously for 525 and who would you vote for because that line is getting really old. Not a single politician is where they are because the primary goal is to help our wildlife.
If you have been paying any attention on here the last year and a half you would know that I helped craft 525 and was deeply disappointed when it was spite killed not on its merits, but because of BHA's opposition to giving wealthy nonresident landowners tags. So yes, I am "obviously" for it.

However, I copy/pasted the text of the article to get around the paywall, so just an FYI, Manning Rushton wrote this one, not me. And the bigger issue I am flagging here is NRs out-harvesting Rs.
 
@Elky Welky are you saying there should be an additional bill this coming session for regionally distributing NR hunters? The final amendments for 525 excluded the Big Game Combo, Deer Combo, and Deer sponsored licenses from the goals of the bill IMO.
 
If you have been paying any attention on here the last year and a half you would know that I helped craft 525 and was deeply disappointed when it was spite killed not on its merits, but because of BHA's opposition to giving wealthy nonresident landowners tags. So yes, I am "obviously" for it.

However, I copy/pasted the text of the article to get around the paywall, so just an FYI, Manning Rushton wrote this one, not me. And the bigger issue I am flagging here is NRs out-harvesting Rs.
Still didn’t tell me who to vote for
 
@Elky Welky are you saying there should be an additional bill this coming session for regionally distributing NR hunters? The final amendments for 525 excluded the Big Game Combo, Deer Combo, and Deer sponsored licenses from the goals of the bill IMO.
Manning's article poses the question, but I'm not really arguing for anything. If someone else wants to carry a bill to that effect, I'd weigh it carefully and certainly be interested.

The premise of 525 was even simpler, and only asked FWP to cap any tags/permits that didn't have a current cap, and it would have been up to FWP to decide what those caps would be. So it did exclude what you mention above because those tags are all already capped. 525's opponents like to hide behind the erroneous fiscal note, because it misread the bill and thought it was requiring a 90/10 split, which would have a dramatic effect on funding. The day before the hearing, however, the bill was clarified with the sponsor and Dustin Temple to make sure this wasn't the case. The damage was already done, however.

@cgasner1 I think the point is that while people are campaigning, we should be pressing candidates on these issues and learning where they stand. Manning is speaking as a rep of BHA, and as a 501(c)(3) he can't endorse any candidates. He can, however, ask that people pay attention and stop voting against their self-interests when it comes to these issues.
 
If you have been paying any attention on here the last year and a half you would know that I helped craft 525 and was deeply disappointed when it was spite killed not on its merits, but because of BHA's opposition to giving wealthy nonresident landowners tags.
Nice 635 jab. For the record..
IMG_0430.jpegIMG_0431.jpeg
 

Attachments

  • Sportsman, Outfitter, & Landowner Opposition – SBs 512, 520, 525.pdf
    101.8 KB · Views: 7
This is the exact spite killing I was talking about. You were upset that we pointed out the many flaws in 635, it wasn't a consensus bill, and how willing you were to abandon the things you say you value in favor of wealthy NR landowners. So you relied on an erroneous fiscal note and powerful lobbyists to kill 525, and it worked.

We were all there. You won, the gov's rich buddies and nonresident landowners get tags, and nothing was done to address what is now a clear problem.
 
I never opposed 525. From the get go I thought it was a good intentioned bill with some flaws and my emails with legislators voiced my support for the idea.

The reaction you guys had to other groups opposing on their own merits and that most were never a part of the coalition is completely delusional.
 
I never opposed 525. From the get go I thought it was a good intentioned bill with some flaws and my emails with legislators voiced my support for the idea.

The reaction you guys had to other groups opposing on their own merits and that most were never a part of the coalition is completely delusional.
No need to relitigate this. If someone else wants to carry a bill like 525, I will support it and I'm hopeful. I've PMd you.

However, signing on to a letter drafted by a single lobbyist (very much so tied to the "coalition") is not the same as "opposing on their own merits." The guy from Trout Unlimited who stood up and opposed quite literally said "I'm not sure why I'm here."

And as I already pointed out, that letter you posted misreads 525 and thought it created a 90/10 split and would reduce critical funding. It didn't.
 
It's that 10% language in subsection 2 that got people really confused and tied up in knots. The language crossed out above it does the exact same thing (and is still current law) and applies only to special drawings, which has always been the case. The bill was drafted to conform with the existing program, which is why that section was rewritten. People thought that was something new, however, even though it didn't change anything.

Subsection 3 was really the only thing the bill did that was new: require the dpt to place a limit on NR tags, licenses, or permits. That limit, however, was at the discretion of the dept, and could have been (and likely would have been) the status quo, which would have had no effect on funding.

Ultimately, 525 wasn't some kind of magic bullet solution to our crowding issues, it was simply meant to help stop the bleeding in addition to other efforts.

Back to Manning's article, however, there is now demonstrable evidence that NR pressure is part of the problem. He asks if something akin to 525 could help going forward. I think it could, but capping by region is probably a better solution.
 
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Thanks Elky- the wording in the actual draft is very confusing. The preference points for birds was misguided in my opinion and likely brought unneeded critics to the party, but that’s off topic.

To bring back to the threads intent, I think these four things would make for a huge improvement:

1. NR pick-a-region.
2. Stick to the NR cap. Eliminate the add-ons (come home to hunt, etc).
3. 10/1-10/31 mule deer rifle season.
4. No antlerless mule deer statewide on public for a few years.

There is a fifth that would address a lot of landowner/outfitter concerns, but that’s perhaps better discussed down the line.

Ultimately, though, I think a search for a solution that focuses only on NR restrictions is going to come up short of achieving meaningful improvement.
 
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