Hunting license sales up this year

by MACKENZIE REISS
Bigfork Eagle | November 4, 2020 3:30 AM

After a record-setting cold spell in October, temperatures are climbing and so is interest in hunting. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish said he anticipates a good harvest this year for Montana hunters due to last year’s mild winter.

“With last year’s winter being mild and the spring and summer providing favorable conditions for feeding, we anticipate the recruitment of young deer was high and the health of herds to be high. In other words, Mother Nature wasn’t too cruel on our local animals,” Tabish explained.

General rifle season for deer and elk opened Oct. 24 and there are still opportunities to harvest bighorn sheep, black bear, moose and other large game through the end of this month. Increased participation in hunting activities is anticipated as the season continues due to the onset of mating season for deer, known as rut. A mix of rain, snow and overcast days are forecast in the coming weeks. Snowy weather makes it easier to track animals, but can also present challenges when temperatures dip and animals lay low for longer periods of time, Tabish noted.

This year, FWP has seen a moderate increase in the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Statewide, resident hunting license sales are up by approximately 15%, Tabish said.

“This tracks similar to our fishing license sales increase. We are seeing a lot of interest in getting outdoors and enjoying the best of Montana,” he explained. “Hunters have a lot of public land to access, or corporate timberland that is open to free access, which is a true blessing. That helps spread people out and increase the chances of success. Everybody has a preference on the types of hunting geography they prefer, and we’ve got it all in Northwest Montana.”

In lieu of traditional check stations, this year FWP is operating voluntary chronic wasting disease sampling stations. The fatal neurological disease infects deer, elk and moose and has no known cure. People are strongly encouraged not to consume meat infected with CWD, though it hasn't been confirmed to infect humans. The CWD checkpoints will help FWP gather data to guide future management of areas where the disease has been identified.

“The loss of the check stations does not hamper our ability to track harvests because we gather a much more substantive set of info during our winter survey calls when we contact hunters directly and ask them about their season. We use that data to gauge our seasons and management,” Tabish said.

For a full list of hunting regulations, hunting maps and to purchase a license, visit www.fwp.mt.gov/hunting. Licenses can also be purchased locally at Ferndale Market, Papa’s Woods Bay Market, Swan Lake Trading Post and Your Turn C Stop.

Find a CWD Sampling Station

Sampling stations will be located at U.S. Highway 2 West of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney. Near Libby, a sampling station will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 11 a.m. to dusk at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town.

FWP will also operate a sampling station in Eureka at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds on Mondays from 11 a.m. to dusk and at Thompson Falls the sampling station will operate on Mondays from 11 a.m. to dusk. FWP will also assist hunters with sample collection and submission at its office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hunters who want their animal sampled are reminded to leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.

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A hunter carries elk antlers in Montana. Courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks