Hunters assemble in small Montana town for elk hunt
A sleepy little town nestled in Montana’s snowy mountains has gained national attention over the past few weeks as elk hunters hone in on the nearly 4,000 elk that live within its neighboring mountains. Thanks to the newly established elk shoulder season, hunters who haven’t harvested an elk yet and have either an A or B tag can try again in one of four hunting districts; three of which unite near White Sulphur Springs, MT.
“The interest is amazing,” says Bruce Auchly, regional information officer for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Great Falls. “We’re getting calls from Washington, Texas, California and North Dakota, and those are just the hunters that I've talked to.”
The elk shoulder season, which began Nov. 30, runs through Feb. 15 in hunting districts (HD) 445, 446, 452 and 449. Elk hunting is only permitted on private lands, federal Bureau of Land Management lands and state of Montana school trust lands, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP).
Auchly says that there have been thousands interested in the extended cow elk season with some even taking out ads on Craigslist to seek out special hunting opportunities within the approved districts or requesting local guiding services. Regardless of the interest, the hunt is not an easy one and hunters should be prepared to pack out meat that can weigh up to 500 lbs. in places where ATVs are not permitted. MFWP warns hunters to be careful and understand Montana’s winter conditions before heading out.
“Whenever we explain to them that this is real hunting in winter conditions, that makes some of them think twice,” says Ethan Lula, an FWP wildlife biologist in White Sulphur Springs. “A lot of guys asked, ‘Has the snow pushed the elk down to the bottom?’ It has, but the snow is knee deep for hunters, too.”
What’s one thing that hunters should remember; no matter how excited or anxious they are to harvest that elk? Follow the rules. Respect landowner borders. Auchly adds, “It’s not a free-for-all.”