ALERT: Montana proposes BIG changes to elk management and hunting


Photo credit: Getty Images

There are changes in the works for Montana elk hunters as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) considers some new ways to manage elk populations for improved hunting opportunities on public land. With 14 hunting districts (HD) 200% over objective due to a burgeoning elk population across the state, the problem is in the data: the majority of elk seem to be congregating on private land, which results in limited opportunities for public land hunters, according to the agency.

“What we know is the status quo isn’t working,” said MFWP Director Hank Worsech. “So, we’re going to propose a few new strategies we think can finally help us make progress in addressing the problem, both for hunters and for landowners.”

The following strategies should help better manage elk to meet population objectives, address issues with elk gathering on agricultural land and, generally, provide improved hunting opportunities. Per MFWP, these proposed changes would apply to the 14 HDs with limited permits that are currently way over objective:

  • In all targeted HDs, some or all limited either-sex permits would be removed.
  • In eight of these HDs “where problems with distribution, population and access tend to be more acute,” MFWP would keep the limited either-sex permits; however, these permits would only be valid on public land. HDs 411, 417, 426, 535 (new HD for 2022), 590, 702, 704 and 705 would be affected by this change.
  • Anyone with a general elk license would also be able to use it on private land as an either-sex elk only tag in the above eight districts. This change includes general archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. 
  • Early and late antlerless seasons would stay the same and only be valid for antlerless elk in the districts they are for.

“We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. We have to try something different. This proposal is a new strategy we can implement for two years and see if it has the desired effect – more elk harvest, better elk availability on public lands, fewer landowner conflicts, and elk at population objective,” said Worsech. “In some hunting districts, we have broad public tolerance or outright support for limited permits, and we want to keep those in place.”

By allowing different season types in multiple areas with similar issues (over objective with hunting valid only with limited either-sex permits), MFWP hopes to determine which strategy best keeps elk numbers manageable and moves more elk onto public land.

MFWP will propose these proposed changes during the Dec. 14 meeting of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission. Stay tuned to goHUNT for further updates.

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