Montana Region 3 Sportsmen Working Group

Big Foot

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This thread will hopefully act as a guide for sportsmen and women in the Gallatin Valley, southwest Montana, and across the state who want to change how Montana manages our wildlife.

Thank you to those who showed up last night to discuss the current state of wildlife mismanagement in Montana. It is always refreshing and cathartic to hear fellow sportsmen echoing your own concerns and frustrations.

To capture what was discussed last night and try and build off of the fed up sportsmen in this area, we would like to use this thread to share ideas on how to enact change.

Some points to build on with respect to government policies:
  • Montana state government and Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) is ignoring the public trust doctrine with decades of bad decisions and policies mismanaging our wildlife despite overwhelming opposition from sportsmen and the general public.
  • Sportsmen need to show up when it counts; FWP meetings, local organized working groups, legislative sessions, etc.
  • Hold groups like RMEF, Mule Deer Foundation, MWF accountable to speak loudly against bad wildlife policy being force fed to the common sportsmen.
  • Pay attention to how you vote in the state and hold those voted into office accountable - in person interactions and phone calls are best.
  • FWP is afraid of the MT Legislature and private landowners, sportsmen get ignored time and time again proving this point without a doubt, FWP has zero accountability the individual sportsman and woman.
  • Support scientific wildlife management and require proof from FWP when science and statistics are quoted as a guiding measure for enacted policies.
  • Money, money, money...nothing will change if you do not pay to play. Donate money to a local organization capable of lobbying to the right people (i.e., local rod and gun club, sportsman association, etc.) for our interests as sportsmen demanding change in wildlife management.
Other ideas discussed at a more detailed level:
  • Sportsmen and private land owners need to unite as we often have shared interests but are commonly divided by rhetoric or other groups whose benefit by dividing sportsmen and landowners.
  • Sportsmen make concessions to private land owners by making guaranteed landowner tags transferable (~10%).
  • MT FWP rework the Block Management system with a centralized management and reservation system.
  • Increase tag fees to help bolster crop damage programs for agricultural producers suffering from wildlife conflict.
  • Unlink deer and elk tags by creating a general tag system with species specific tags and seasons.
  • Force an end to shoulder seasons as they have been a breach of public trust and ruse by FWP since their inception.
  • Rethink allowing rifle hunting during the deer rut.
If anyone wants to be notified as we continue to meet around the Bozeman general area, please PM me your contact information and we will ensure you get an email, text, or call next time we get together.
 

Gerald Martin

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Great recap Ryan!
Also discussed was the need to alleviate pressure on public land wildlife by shortening seasons.

This could also help with landowner burnout of dealing with hunters for such long seasons.
 

antlerradar

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When I was on the licensing and funding committee we discussed separating deer and elk in the NR big game combo. A lot of support until it was pointed out that doing so could potentially double the number of non residents in the field.
 

Werty

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I'm curious to what some of the nonresident hunters have to say. Yes this is a Montana issue, but this is taking place on public lands.
What are some things that you would like to see changed? Also if don't want to post here pm me.
 
T

timmy

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We’ve introduced a ton of new hunters that simply don’t know any better. It would be interesting what the new recruits think.
 

neffa3

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I'm curious to what some of the nonresident hunters have to say. Yes this is a Montana issue, but this is taking place on public lands.
What are some things that you would like to see changed? Also if don't want to post here pm me.
There's nothing on the OP that I disagree with.
 
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Ben Lamb

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When I was on the licensing and funding committee we discussed separating deer and elk in the NR big game combo. A lot of support until it was pointed out that doing so could potentially double the number of non residents in the field.

You'd have to either up the B11 if you decouple to match the current allocation, but it wasn't until 2011 or 13 that the deer portion was allowed to be resold as a B11 if it was turned back in, which caused a large spike in the number of B11's sold. I like the idea of de-coupling and adding more B11's to maintain opportunity for NR's, who still foot 70% of the license revenue for FWP, but it's a solvable problem relative to NR opportunity versus a simple decoupling & doubling of the 17K allocation of B10's.

Solid work guys. One thing not on this list that absolutely should be is a mandate for FWP to work with public land agencies to improve wildlife habitat on public lands. MT falls down on the job here compared to states like WY & UT. Investing in habitat improvement projects will do a lot to help distribution of elk & deer as well, especially when combined with a more strategic approach to season structure.
 

antlerradar

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One thing that we can not let FWP forget take in to account is what the effect the elk policy is going to have on mule deer. For example going to general elk in the breaks may be hard on public land elk and it may be even harder on mule deer.
 

Griztrax

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A few random thoughts....

FWP staff are routinely on Hunt Talk although most do not post. They do follow these discussions. During my 30 year career I have always gotten better responses from clients, colleagues, agencies, etc. who I didn't bash on public forums. It is fine to disagree with FWP policy, management, etc. but publicly implying that they are all idiots (which is what I got out of the first post) is not a great first step in working towards positive change IMO. Just something to think about.

I'm curious how many FWP biologists were invited to your working group meeting and how many attended? I routinely work with several Region 3 biologists and working with these folks in my opinion is the best way to initiate change. Many FWP Biologists feel the same way that many sportsmen do but have their hands tied to a certain extent. I encourage groups like this to engage with FWP. Work towards common goals and get rid of this US against THEM mentality. I also encourage all involved to truly listen to each other...that is easier said than done.

I fully understand the frustration being felt by many and that is why I was recently appointed to the Region 4 Citizen Advisory Council. I don't know how many Region 3 CAC members were at your meeting or that you are talking to but please reach out to them for assistance. They can't guarantee anything but they do have the ear of Region 3 FWP staff. If you need a list of Region 3 CAC members, I could probably obtain that for you. I am also happy to take concerns to FWP through the Region 4 CAC - feel free to message me. Public comments on the upcoming season and re-districting changes are going to be extremely important.

Mark Traxler
 
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KB_

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I look forward to the verbal lessons that will get taught when they try to provide a good reason as to why a shoulder season on public land is a good idea. Its likely somebody is watching this. ITS A BAD IDEA! your simply killing the wrong elk.
 

Gerald Martin

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One thing that we can not let FWP forget take in to account is what the effect the elk policy is going to have on mule deer. For example going to general elk in the breaks may be hard on public land elk and it may be even harder on mule deer.
In the short time we discussed this, I think we were approaching it from the perspective of also requiring hunters to pick a region to use their deer and elk tags in.
That could potentially help an area like the Breaks that sees a lot of hunters trying to fill abundant cow tags and taking a “meat” buck when they see a forked horn muley because the haven’t seen a cow.
 

Ben Lamb

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I look forward to the verbal lessons that will get taught when they try to provide a good reason as to why a shoulder season on public land is a good idea. Its likely somebody is watching this. ITS A BAD IDEA! your simply killing the wrong elk.

The agency doesn't seem to like to say it, but the goal of all of this is to kill 30% of the elk in Montana as fast as possible using one tool that they feel will work, yet is proving to not.
 

406LIFE

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I'm glad to see people involved in the process, but I think it prudent to remind us that if you want to affect change, you have to work within the system. And until the system is changed or modified, working outside will do little to realize your goals.


FWP is afraid of the MT Legislature and private landowners, sportsmen get ignored time and time again proving this point without a doubt, FWP has zero accountability the individual sportsman and woman.
There are forums for accountability, but they are so very rarely used. The commission received 150 comments on the new muzzleloader season. I found that to be strikingly low considering how much banter I have heard across the web and around the state. The open houses that the Director has hosted have had around ~60 at each event. The Region 7 Citizen's Advisory Council had something like 15 open seats; doesn't seem to be anyone wanting to be involved. That is after the Director stating he wants to lean more heavily on the CAC's and use them as a first level of policy development/revision. I would encourage anyone serious about moving the needle in wildlife policy in Montana to examine how they can be involved.


MT FWP rework the Block Management system with a centralized management and reservation system.
This has been discussed for over a decade within FWP, and I thought with the launch of the new online licensing and reservation system (that has now been pushed to 2023) this would materialize. IT would seem it won't be in there. You can contact Jason Kool, FWP Hunting Access Bureau Chief, its his desire for something like that. It is long overdue, would streamline and expedite the whole process, and shut down the "good ol boy" system.

Rethink allowing rifle hunting during the deer rut.
This will not change until the majority of hunters in Montana opt for quality over opportunity management. The surveys of hunters overwhelmingly want to be able to just go hunt. Factor in the approach that the most current CWD research provides on shooting bucks.


Sportsmen and private land owners need to unite as we often have shared interests but are commonly divided by rhetoric or other groups whose benefit by dividing sportsmen and landowners.
My approach to solving issues like these has been cooperation and collaboration. However, some sportsmen groups have not done the rest of sportsmen a great service when it comes to uniting them and LO. What is one person's rhetoric is another person's reality. How to build trust between the two groups is the main concern. Answer that and gates will open.
 

Sytes

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We’ve introduced a ton of new hunters that simply don’t know any better. It would be interesting what the new recruits think.
Worsech mentioned this year alone resident ALS #'s increased close to 28k over last year attributed to Covid transplants. That count, if I recall, was a couple months back as well and expected to grow further for total year new additions beyond.
The open houses that the Director has hosted have had around ~60 at each event.
I was a bit surprised at R1 turn out. Around 35-40(?)... inclusive of fwp employees, State R1 reps and Tabor.
 

antlerradar

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There are forums for accountability, but they are so very rarely used. The commission received 150 comments on the new muzzleloader season. I found that to be strikingly low considering how much banter I have heard across the web and around the state. The open houses that the Director has hosted have had around ~60 at each event. The Region 7 Citizen's Advisory Council had something like 15 open seats; doesn't seem to be anyone wanting to be involved. That is after the Director stating he wants to lean more heavily on the CAC's and use them as a first level of policy development/revision. I would encourage anyone serious about moving the needle in wildlife policy in Montana to examine how they can be involved.
I sat on the region 7 CAC for many years. I would like to think that the CAC gave some good advice and that it was thoughtfully considered by the decision makers in region 7, but I sure wouldn't put any money on that thought. Maybe things have changed, I hope so and would get back on if they have.
 

Ben Lamb

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I'm glad to see people involved in the process, but I think it prudent to remind us that if you want to affect change, you have to work within the system. And until the system is changed or modified, working outside will do little to realize your goals.

The process is multi-faceted. There's the commission, which clearly isn't interested in what people are saying based on the decisions made and the tone & tenor set by some commissioners. The agency director is openly arguing with people, rather than listening to their concerns, and agency staff are fearful of their jobs. So that layer of working within the system seems to be broken. The other layer is the political layer, by engaging with legislators and educating them on the issues at play, and coming up with solutions instead of only playing defense. Thirdly, Montana is still a representative democracy, and as such, citizens have every right to develop ideas, concepts, bills, policies, etc and work to get them enacted. People coming together outside of a gov't mandate is exactly how things get done when political intransigence is more important than actual governance.


This has been discussed for over a decade within FWP, and I thought with the launch of the new online licensing and reservation system (that has now been pushed to 2023) this would materialize. IT would seem it won't be in there. You can contact Jason Kool, FWP Hunting Access Bureau Chief, its his desire for something like that. It is long overdue, would streamline and expedite the whole process, and shut down the "good ol boy" system.
Block management has made some good strides in terms of increasing payment to those working with in that system, but it's not nearly enough. A type 3 that allows for better management of game as defined by local biologists, and that takes landowner desires more into account than the current type 1 or 2 models do is really critical for the future of the program, I believe. The past efforts to do this were tied to privatizing licenses for landowners, ala 505. That became the sticking point between sportsmen and landowners on that effort. Adding the ability to sign up for BMA's online is a great idea for some landowners, and not so much for others who want a more hands-on approach to managing hunting for their places. Offering the option though is really important.


This will not change until the majority of hunters in Montana opt for quality over opportunity management. The surveys of hunters overwhelmingly want to be able to just go hunt. Factor in the approach that the most current CWD research provides on shooting bucks.
Exactly. We can increase hunter success and keep opportunity. It may not look like 11 weeks of uninterrupted hunting, but your chance of harvest can increase while you still hunt the maximum number of days you can. How people talk about this is just as important as what is being talked about.

My approach to solving issues like these has been cooperation and collaboration. However, some sportsmen groups have not done the rest of sportsmen a great service when it comes to uniting them and LO. What is one person's rhetoric is another person's reality. How to build trust between the two groups is the main concern. Answer that and gates will open.

I think this cuts both ways. When livestock, farm and private property groups refuse to work with sportsmen's organizations, they get a pass, but when those sportsmen groups try to do something, they get labeled by certain interests as being troublesome and conflict driven. Does that conflict exist? Yes, absolutely, but this is a political talking point moreso than actuality on the ground in my experience.
 

diamond hitch

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Great recap Ryan!
Also discussed was the need to alleviate pressure on public land wildlife by shortening seasons.

This could also help with landowner burnout of dealing with hunters for such long seasons.
If you shorten the season you will focus more people in the field for the time given. As is they hunt at their convenience. Given a two week season or less- everyone will be there because they have to or give it up. I've seen the mess in Washington- no thanks! So much of the success in areas I hunt is soley dependant on weather. Many times if you miss the weather event it's better luck next year !!

I saw someone wanted to isolate us to a region. Unless you do that by species many of us will have to choose what we want to hunt. I hunt 5 region three districts. I haven't seen a legal buck at any time of the year for at least 7-8 years and then it was a forky. At least in region 1 I might be able to find a deer. How about predator control. When I'm cutting fresh mt lion tracks 3 out of 5 days I think I know where the deer went.

You want to raise money for FWP. How about an audit of how the money is spent. The biologists I know have multiple districts and other than the winter range survey never get out onto many of them.

How about moving Parks to the DNRC. The opportunity to pay for stinky toilets out of my license fees didn't set well with me when they did it and it still sucks.

As a resident I favor raising NR fees to $2000 and the successful can only apply every 5 years.

Outfitters? How about only on private land and they have to be a resident?

A bit of a radical? Yes! Maybe I have had enough.
 

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