Hunters support more public hunting access

Saturday, February 8, 2020
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More than 1,200 Montana hunters have spoken up in support of increasing public access to hunt elk on private and public lands during the late October and November general season in order to better manage our state’s elk herds.

That was among the findings of a survey of more than 1,200 Montana elk hunters conducted by the Montana Wildlife Federation to gauge public support for different approaches to elk management. The survey asked hunters several questions about management of elk in the state.

Eight in 10 respondents said in the survey it is very important or important to increase public access for hunting during the general season to achieve better elk management. Montana has the longest general rifle opportunity for deer and elk in the West, with a fiveweek season. For decades, public hunting during the general hunting season has been the primary management tool for elk and Montana hunters said they want to maintain that, and return to an emphasis on the five-week season.

The online poll was conducted by MWF between October 2019 and January 2020. The poll was not a scientific survey, but it was widely promoted through media outreach, online promotion and direct mail and it was open to any Montana hunter to weigh in.

MWF is releasing the results of this survey in order to help inform the work of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. FWP is in the process of setting hunting seasons for the next two years. That includes the shoulder seasons, which are rifle hunts for elk that run up to six months of the year, from Aug. 15 to Feb. 15.

Among the findings:

• 79% of respondents said increasing public hunting access to private lands is important or very important to helping control elk numbers.

• 81% of respondents said increasing public access to public land for hunting is very important or important to help bring elk numbers to objective levels.

• More than 90% of respondents said maintaining high ethical standards in elk hunting is important to future management planning for elk.

“This survey indicates Montana elk hunters are nearly unanimous in their desire for FWP to manage elk through public access and public hunting,” said Dave Chadwick, MWF executive director.

“We’re hopeful wildlife managers will take the input of Montana hunters under consideration as they move ahead with the season-setting process, and that legislators and other decision-makers will heed the preferences of hunters in mind as they make other elk management decisions,” he added.

In particular, MWF is calling on FWP to begin scaling back shoulder seasons where they’re not meeting the established performance criteria and look at other options that will genuinely improve elk management, address conflicts on private lands, and satisfy the interests of Montana hunters.



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