Ollin Magnetic Digiscoping System

Montana - Time to Shake it Up?

Weather, habitat, predation, summer disturbance, competition from elk, etc are all part of the discussion.

The harvest matrix is what the commission can act on outside of the new deer mgt plan & soon to be announced mule deer working group. Additive to that is how elk fit into all of this both in terms of competition and how elk hunting pressure effects other species. Mule deer no doubt become targets of opportunity. Nothing wrong with that until the animals tell us differently, and they are doing so across their range, not just in MT. Other states make big shifts in hunting strategies based on herd condition. Montana traditionally has been more liberal in harvest due to a variety of factors but those things are changing (loss of habitat to development, weeds, etc) and at the same time elk hunting is getting worse (more days, less harvest) on public land while that population soars.

Furthermore, we continued to add pressure & sell more licenses as herds were nose-diving. I don't think that was anyone's goal, but it does seem a bit like folks recognized the problem a little late & the overcorrection was severe (no doe harvest for 6 & 7 in public).

So from the 50,000 foot level, license sales & season length are 2 critical pieces of the puzzle. Those are also areas where the commission has shown receptiveness to citizen engagement, and where there is some commonality between hunters, landowners & outfitters.

The habitat issue is being worked on by various groups & agencies while the weather is really in God's hands. The effort to improve how mule deer are managed through hunting is only a part of the overall picture. While some are passionate about that (thankfully), I don't think anyone is ignoring the rest of the picture.

And to anyone thinking of jumping into that dumpster fire mismanagement thread,

View attachment 316506

Your mental health will thank you.
I will have to find the name but one of the lead biologists in Utah was on a rokslide podcast and the correlation from elk out competing muleys is a theory and has not been proven.

I encourage anyone that cares about mule deer to dig into the mismanagement thread. One of the best on hunt talk. Right behind the cat thread.
 
It's a proven theory that if there are too many mule deer bucks taken for too long and too many does taken on public land that most of the animals will end up on private land and most of the mule deer bucks will be young. Should we continue this trend? Some may think changes are necessary and welcome.
 
It's a proven theory that if there are too many mule deer bucks taken for too long and too many does taken on public land that most of the animals will end up on private land and most of the mule deer bucks will be young. Should we continue this trend? Some may think changes are necessary and welcome.
Forget to switch accounts….I knew it
 
It's a proven theory that if there are too many mule deer bucks taken for too long and too many does taken on public land that most of the animals will end up on private land and most of the mule deer bucks will be young. Should we continue this trend? Some may think changes are necessary and welcome.
I just reported this comment so nobody else needs to. Bill Christy can’t be controlled.
 
Maybe I just get lucky with where I have chosen to hunt (which I don't believe is the case) but I legitimately can't fathom Spending an entire day in mule deer country looking for mule deer and not seeing more than 5 deer...? Big and old bucks are (and have always been) tricky to find, but the areas I have hunted mule deer in Montana have turned up plenty of deer. Yes, I live here and have hunted here for many years.

Help me understand where you're coming from with your statements because your observations are drastically different from my observations and it's not because I'm such a phenomenal hunter.
I have no intention of telling people where I hunt but a considerable amount of the area is wilderness or wilderness study area. The area that I glassed is the winter range for this area. A couple of other areas that I hunt have had the doe tags moved to private land only, recently. I tell the above story to illustrate just how bad it has to get before FWP will restrict even public land doe hunting. In one area where doe b tags have been recently made private land only, the FWP biologist recommended it be made LE permit (it wasn't) 2 years before they got around to restricting doe B harvest on public. This unit is not where I was glassing.

I do live in one of the worst areas for mule deer hunting in MT and most would go elsewhere to hunt them, but it wasn't always that way.
 
So serious question for the powers that be. If measures were taken( best case scenario) immediately in Montana to restore the muledeer population( and a" mature" age bracket for bucks) what would be a time line? 8-10 years?
No one has mentioned recovery time which maybe is a mute point.
 
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I will have to find the name but one of the lead biologists in Utah was on a rokslide podcast and the correlation from elk out competing muleys is a theory and has not been proven.

I encourage anyone that cares about mule deer to dig into the mismanagement thread. One of the best on hunt talk. Right behind the cat thread.
Gravity is technically a theory too....

As far as elk vs mule deer, WY also has some science to back it up. However, at least in the areas I hunt that have transitioned enormously to elk that used to hold tons of mule deer, there have been noticeable habitat changes that favor elk much more so than mule deer. On the surface that looks like elk are outcompeting mulies, but the landscape is making that much easier. In areas that we can provide disturbance (fire, logging, heavy thinning) those deer can rally back, at least temporarily.
 
Gravity is technically a theory too....

As far as elk vs mule deer, WY also has some science to back it up. However, at least in the areas I hunt that have transitioned enormously to elk that used to hold tons of mule deer, there have been noticeable habitat changes that favor elk much more so than mule deer. On the surface that looks like elk are outcompeting mulies, but the landscape is making that much easier. In areas that we can provide disturbance (fire, logging, heavy thinning) those deer can rally back, at least temporarily.
I think we need peer reviewed studies to blame elk for mule deer decline. Anecdotal isn’t going to cut it.
 
I think we need peer reviewed studies to blame elk for mule deer decline. Anecdotal isn’t going to cut it.
I did a very, very cursory search. There is more.


This is an article explaining the research that K. Montieth has done at the University of WY.


Now, do I think it is cut and dry competition for resources, I don't. I think part of it is that but I think another part is landscape scale changes that are beneficial to elk and not mule deer. Elk are generalists (like white tail deer). They can utilize a wide range of habitat types. Mule deer are the opposite and as specialists are more sensitive to subtle (some not so subtle) changes in habitat, land use, etc. As we (humans) make the landscape more and more homogenous we bend that landscape more and more to generalist species. No logging, no fires, conversion of shrub to grassland, sage brush conversion to cropland, etc, etc.

Now, I am not saying we shoot the living hell out of elk for the sake of mule deer. I don't think the body of research is there to justify that, nor would I even want that if it did. But to say competition is not a piece to the puzzle is ignorant.
 
So serious question for the powers that be. If measures were taken( best case scenario) immediately in Montana to restore the muledeer population( and a" mature" age bracket for bucks) what would be a time line? 8-10 years?
No one has mentioned recovery time which maybe is a moot point.
I had a similar thought. What it you just shut down MD hunting for 2 yrs? What would be the impact? I doubt there would be an impact on the internet bitching, but on the actual population structure?
 
Do you think more bucks overall would be killed during an October season vs the November rut hunt?
I think at first there would be a lot of long faces. The hunting tactics that worked mid Nov would no long be nearly as effective. I never really understood how the lazy rut hunting made many of Montana's hunters were until I hunted CO in the mid 80s. Opening day I was better then a mile up the mountain on top of the divide between the Rio Grand and the Arkansas. I fully expected not to see another hunter until at least ten in the morning. I was wrong. When the sun came up there was several hunters in sight. If you didn't get after it in CO you went home with tag soup. Over time hunters in Montana would adapt. Those that adapted would be rewarded, those that did not would complain. The same would happen with outfitters. Those that are currently trying to manage the number of deer on the properties they lease would be winners, Outfitter that over hunt the first two weeks and count on the rut to bring in bucks from other properties would have to change. For example, near me a WY outfitter leases 500 acres of open and undeveloped river bottom. The only thing this property has gong for it is that it sets between two large irrigated alfalfa fields on large well managed ranches. A few years ago I heard the outfitter took 15 bucks off of the 500 acres. The only reason he was able to take that many was because during the rut the bucks are traveling back and forth between the two fields. With out the rut he would be lucky to take two bucks a year. The value of that 500 acres would drop out of sight. The landowner would likely make quite a bit more money with BM as the property does have access to quite a bit of public.
In time I think the number of bucks taken may not change that much, but I also agree with @huntin24/7 . A lot of hunters would settle for smaller two and three points rather then hold out and shoot a two or three year old four point.
 
@Elky Welky Any meaningful change seems highly unlikely. I hope you remember these conversations 5-10 years down the road if you are still hunting. Maybe the light will switch on and you will realize we weren’t blowing smoke. How bad are we going to let it get.
I am hopeful that in five year that we will see a marked improvement on public land with the elimination of public land doe tags. Unfortunately I am just as confident, as soon as there is improvement there will be loud voices calling for public land doe tags by the truck load.
 
I would also say that not recognizing that there is a weather component (at least as far as recent total population in R7) and putting the blame solely on overharvest is not going to help matters when talking to commissioners or the department.
I agree that the recent weather has had negative effect on the population. I am confident we will bounce back in the years to come with better weather. The long term trend on public land is not good and just like a bouncing ball, the next bounce is not going to be as high as the last and those bounces are going to continue to slide until there is hardly any bounce at all.
 
HD270 and HD261 went LE in 1998.

Single digit buck to doe ratio was the reason. Had absolutely nothing to do with making it a trophy unit.

By 2004 it was incredible. IIRC buck to doe was 30.

Then along came Vore.

If you know you know.
 
Actually it would be even less. Oct has 31 days, the current season is 36 days long.
What do you think completely separating mule deer and elk seasons would do? Say, mule deer rifle runs Oct 1-Oct 31, Elk Runs Nov 1-31 or later? I wonder if more people would hunt mulies strictly because there is no elk to hunt? Or, these incidental deer hunters that are actually hunting elk just stick to elk? IDK, I rarely have an elk tag in pocket anymore past bow season, so it wouldn't change my life, but I am curious what you an others think.
 
HD270 and HD261 went LE in 1998.

Single digit buck to doe ratio was the reason. Had absolutely nothing to do with making it a trophy unit.

By 2004 it was incredible. IIRC buck to doe was 30.

Then along came Vore.

If you know you know.
Didn't a lot of that area also burn in the early 2000's, specifically 2000-2001?
 

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