MT public late hunts going away?

RobG

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There are some changes in the works that could seriously impact the general public's ability to hunt private land in MT, especially during the late hunts. They could potentially allow rifle hunt outfitting on private land for 7 months of the year.

This is a simplified description of the proposals.

Background:
For several decades the public has been able to participate in late hunts to help reduce the number of animals congregating on private land. The hunters have been chosen by lottery so every hunter had the same chance to participate. That changed last year when 25% of the hunters could be hand picked by the landowner. This year there are two proposals that could change that number to 100%. The concern with letting the landowner pick the hunters is that he will chose the ones that pay (i.e. outfitting) just like he does during the regular season.


First issue: The proposed shoulder hunts.
http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/publicComments/2015/guidelinesForElkShoulderSeasons.html
This would create new rifle seasons starting as early as August and ending in February. The rules are currently being made, but if we don't require the participants to be chosen from random drawings (i.e. not landowner picked) we will face the same difficult task of finding elk as we do during the regular season. There are many other issues with this approach - see the comments here: http://onyourownadventures.com/hunttalk/showthread.php?t=263856&highlight=shoulder

Comments due Aug. 11.

Second issue: New Hunt Roster Rules
http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/rules/pn_0168.html
First, Karen Loveless told me that the shoulder hunts, if they pass, be used instead of the hunt roster. As mentioned earlier, last year the HR went from a fair opportunity where every willing participant had an equal chance at participating to one where the landowner could chose 25% of the participants. The new proposed rules changes could change that to 100%. If that happens the general public will again have the same problem of obtaining access to these hunts and the landowner could outfit the lands until February under the guise of reducing populations.

Comments due Aug 21. The proposal is attached to this post.

Is this concerning to anyone but me? Response has been underwhelming.
 

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RobG

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Hi folks -
Normally this topic would get a lot of responses so I rewrote my post. Hopefully this will make it clearer what is at stake.
 

bigskyblueman

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It appears this may be headed in the wrong direction, and just where the legislature wanted it to go. FWP taking on an advisory role while the landowners ramrod the hunts, and pocket even more cash. Elk objective numbers gerrymandered low by landowner pressure fit right in with this 7 month season. This has all the appearances that FWP has thrown in the towel.
 

Nameless Range

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Thanks for clarifying this RobG. This is concerning to me. I don't have a lot to add other than MT FWP needs to establish and not weaken the attitude that if you want wildlife managed on your property, the public is your only recourse, and that is one of the things that is great about MT. I will be giving my comments to the FWP.

Something Oak wrote in the other thread referenced in the OP is something I will ask and stress in my comments after airing out my concerns with the issue.

I'm not sure why MT hunters would want to move towards the CO management system
 
M

MN Public Hunter

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I fail to see the issue here, it's private land and they should be able to do what they want on their own land?
 

Big Fin

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I'm just fine with things being how they currently are. A lot of the perceived problems this idea is trying to fix are self-created and were very predictable.

That said, there are some pissed off Republican Legislators who feel they got screwed over in the last Legislative session by making some compromises. The stuff they caved in on got passed and the stuff they were provided as part of the compromise got vetoed by the Governor. Politicians might have short memories of the promises they make while running for office, but they never forget a deal where they think they go screwed. These guys will be back in 2017, with ill will, to see that they get their way. And given the scars they have from a compromise that went askew, don't expect them to even think about a compromise next time.

Given that political reality, I can understand the Department taking up the issue for consideration. Yet, they have to walk a very fine line, as if they go too far, they are going to get hammered by hunters. If they do nothing, the Legislature will use the recent Legislative Audit report on game damage rules to beat the hell out of the Department for many things other than just game damage.

Surely worth keeping an eye on, but I would suggest adding the political realities to your judgement of why the Department is taking up this issue.
 

ingomar

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The proposed Shoulder Season Structure and proposed Amendments to the ARM rules pertaining to selection of participants for Game Damage hunts, Management hunts is indeed a very scary proposition.

FWP has perpetuated the myth that the majority of the units in Montana are over objective which is inaccurate when you actually read the current elk management plan established in 2004/2005. The plan clearly states that "Elk populations in portions of some EMU's may be almost entirely inaccessible to hunters during the general hunting season or accessible to only a few hunters. To avoid over-harvest of accessible elk on public lands or private lands lands open to hunting, in inaccessible elk MAY NOT be included in objective numbers".

The objective map put out by FWP shows the vast majority of elk units in the eastern half of the state as being over objective. Not sure that you will find elk over objective on public land or private land open to the general public on those units.

The worst part of the Shoulder season proposal is "Shoulder seasons could be early and/or late seasons and MAY INCLUDE ANTLERED AND/OR ANTERLESS OPTIONS. We already have 11 weeks where we can hunt bulls, do we really need to extend bull hunting when most every biologist will tell you that to control a population you need to shoot cows!! Additional bull hunting opportunities on private land will not increase access.

Sportsmen opposed SB 245 that would have given the option of late season anterless hunts if FWP so desired. These shoulder seasons could be potentially far worse for the average sportsmen. This shoulder season proposal was sitting on the FWP directors desk prior to SB 245 being vetoed. Feels like we were hoodwinked by the Dept on this whole issue as the Shoulder Seasons are what they wanted all along.

People need to write the FWP Commissioners on this Shoulder Season proposal as they are the final decision makers. Not sure, but the Amendment to the Game Damage ARM rules may not have to go through the Commission.
 

Bugle 'Em In

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MN Public Hunter - you're absolutely right that private land rights need to be upheld.

The nice thing about MT is that we protect our PUBLIC resources with our full might. The critters on the private land are not private...keep that in mind. I personally wouldn't want to see the CO model brought into MT.

I had already commented on this issue via FWP's site a while ago, but thanks for sharing RobG.
 

JLS

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I fail to see the issue here, it's private land and they should be able to do what they want on their own land?

So managing wildlife as a public trust doesn't apply to private land? Are we in Texas now (sorry NHY)? When agencies lose sight of the public trust and allow landowners to manage as they please, then we have regressed to a European system.
 

Ben Lamb

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While I tend to agree with Rob & Vito & Randy here, I would think that hunters can see some other reasons for shoulder seasons, if done responsibly and with deference to the Public Trust.

Climate change is something to think about. We've gone from traditional harvest results when we got strong weather in the later part of the rifle season that pushed elk down low, and caused increase harvest.

We've seen a number of well done studies show us that forage quality on public land is suffering from extended drought, causing a different distribution of animals to lands with higher forage quality, mostly low lands that are irriagated, and private.

If we are adherents to the NAM, then we should be thinking of ways to manage elk at the numbers set (while still fighting for an updated elk management plan) rather than shooting down every idea because it's not perfect.

As for this proposal, I don't believe that intruding on the archery hunt is necessary on public lands, nor do I think that these seasons need to be focused anywhere other than private land that has issues with overpopulation. If FWP wants to go through with this, then they need to follow the law that says private landowners can seek relief from game damage after they've proved they're a part of the solution through some kind of public hunt (This is also what FWP got dinged with in the audit - that they weren't following those rules and were too lenient with game damage hunts - which is pretty ironic if you think about it in the political landscape FWP operates in, especially at the Legislature).

So, if I had a magic wand, and wanted to increase elk harvest on private land where people are active partners with FWP and the citizens of Montana, I'd look more towards what R4 is doing with the 004-00 tag and keep it focused on private land. I'm not sure that extending the season into December isn't something we should be looking at in other areas as well, especially if we're not meeting objective.
 
M

MN Public Hunter

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So managing wildlife as a public trust doesn't apply to private land? Are we in Texas now (sorry NHY)? When agencies lose sight of the public trust and allow landowners to manage as they please, then we have regressed to a European system.

That's not how I see it. Everyone hates when the government tells us what they are going to do with our public land and now you want that same government to force private land holders to allow public hunting on THEIR land. You can't have it both ways....

I'm sorry, I bet if people here had 20,000 acres and were told this they would have a totally different attitude.
 

jryoung

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That's not how I see it. Everyone hates when the government tells us what they are going to do with our public land and now you want that same government to force private land holders to allow public hunting on THEIR land. You can't have it both ways....

I'm sorry, I bet if people here had 20,000 acres and were told this they would have a totally different attitude.

If you're a landowner and want governmental assistance, you should have to relinquish some of that control of how said assistance is administered. You can't have it both ways.
 

JLS

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That's not how I see it. Everyone hates when the government tells us what they are going to do with our public land and now you want that same government to force private land holders to allow public hunting on THEIR land. You can't have it both ways....

I'm sorry, I bet if people here had 20,000 acres and were told this they would have a totally different attitude.

I'm not saying we should force them to allow the public onto their land. However, if they want agency assistance that is outside of the norm for population reasons, then yes they should have to meet certain requirements.

If I had 20,000 acres I would allow public hunting, so it would be a moot point.
 
M

MN Public Hunter

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I'm not saying we should force them to allow the public onto their land. However, if they want agency assistance that is outside of the norm for population reasons, then yes they should have to meet certain requirements.

If I had 20,000 acres I would allow public hunting, so it would be a moot point.

:hump:
 

RobG

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I fail to see the issue here, it's private land and they should be able to do what they want on their own land?

It is complicated, part fairness, part history. I'll give my opinion. Let's focus on elk, but deer and antelope also are hunted late. In the winter they congregate on ranches and eat the rancher's grass, haystacks, etc. Brucellosis is also becoming a concern. I forget the case, but the MT constitution says that is the price of living in Montana - i.e. you shouldn't have moved here if you didn't like elk. However, for as long as I remember (~40 years) we have helped out the ranchers by having late hunts.

A key thing is that the participants of these hunts have always been determined by a lottery system. This means that everyone had the same chance to fill their freezer. In the hunts I remember around the Madison River if you drew a permit you and a couple dozen other successful people were assigned certain dates (3 or 5 days IIRC) to hunt. Hunter groups were rotated throughout the season. Most ranches let you onto their land even if they didn't during the regular season, and the limited number of hunters meant it wasn't too crazy for the landowners or hunters even though 500-1500 permits were issued in a district. The randomness meant it was fair to the general public and most participants got an elk.

Around 2006 we changed from a system where we applied for a permit to one where we signed up on a "Hunt Roster" and were called when elk were on a participating landowner's property. It was similarly fair in that the order in which the participants were called was determined by lottery. The big difference was that in order for a landowner to get the favor of reduced elk populations he had to allow the public on his land during the general season. Many hunters felt that landowners can't have it both ways; i.e. making money by outfitting during the general season, yet having crop damage reduced with cow hunts during the late season. However, many ranches apparently made more money outfitting than they lost to the elk eating their crops, and others want to control the number of people who get on their land without block management. Thus the number of places where the elk could be hunted late decreased.

Also about that time the legislature passed a law that required the MFWP to reduce the elk population significantly. This is most effectively done during the late season, but also districts that are "over objective" allow cow harvest during the general season (Bearing in mind the objective was changed from carrying capacity to rancher tolerance.)

So now you have a situation where the FWP is mandated by the legislature to kill more elk at the same time the number of landowners that want to participate in a late hunt dropped. Where late hunts are allowed the elk are simply chased onto adjacent properties where they can't be hunted. On top of all that, many elk hunters are asking themselves why the hell are we trying to reduce the elk population to satisfy the nuts in the legislature instead of biologists! Also, the cow hunt during the general season simply pushes the cows onto private property where they learn they are safe and well-fed year round.

As interesting and problematic that situation is, it does not explain the proposed changes to the Hunt Roster or the "shoulder seasons" where the landowner gets to choose who participates in the hunts on their property. The controlled number of hunters during the late hunts aren't a problem for the landowner. What it does smell like is a continued opportunity to outfit that land under the guise of reducing elk populations. Not surprisingly, there is talk about allowing bull hunting during this late season, which does not reduce elk populations. In other words, the outfitters are getting a cash cow, the hunters who want more opportunity are getting screwed, and the situation for the ranchers who want less elk isn't being changed.

That's the simplified version as I understand it. ;)
 

Straight Arrow

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I fail to see the issue here, it's private land and they should be able to do what they want on their own land?
That is a common misstatement and exaggeration of private property rights too often expressed by those of us who "own" property. The responsibilities and limitations imposed by law are easily overlooked and result in such expressions and selfish attitudes, sometimes significantly exacerbating the problems between landowners and state and federal agencies responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws.
 

onpoint

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Just a thought for MN Public Hunter. I am a Minnesota native. Grew up fishing BWCA and the rest of the Arrowhead Country. Learned to bird hunt chasing ruffies with a .22. Sat on my first deerstand up the Gunflint Trail. However, at 21 years old, packed my bags and moved west. Been Away from MN for 31 years now. I have no idea about the current issues back there (that this forum deals with) and how MInnesotans feel about the current management of their states wildlife/fisheries resources. Armed with no facts nor personal experience I'll choose to not comment on MN sportsman's issues. Actually, I wish Minnesotans who stand up for similar issues well, and support them.
Still a die hard Twinkies fan..........
 

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