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Montana approves OTC bighorn hunt for diseased herd

 

Large bighorn sheep rams
Photo credit: Getty Images

Last week, Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission decided to move forward with the sale of over-the-counter (OTC) bighorn sheep hunting licenses for the Tendoy Mountain herd. Either-sex bighorn licenses valid for Hunting District 315 will be available to purchase over a two week period beginning August 3.

Officials estimate that there are 40 to 50 bighorn sheep with four to six adult rams within the Tendoy Mountain herd, which has been impacted by chronic disease since 1993. Once hunters remove the herd, wildlife officials plan to restock the area with 50 healthy wild sheep. The initial plan was proposed back in January as an option to manage the failing herd. 

“There has been significant interest in this hunting opportunity both from residents and nonresidents,” says Craig Fager, a biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “We anticipate the majority of bighorns will be harvested pretty quickly; however, this is a new form of sheep management in Montana and there is a chance that some sheep will survive into October and November. Hunters should recognize that opportunity will diminish as the fall progresses. I encourage individuals that are interested in this unique opportunity to assess their own ability to scout the area prior to the season.”

Continued below.

Licenses will cost $125 for residents and $750 for nonresidents. The archery-only season will run September 5 through September 14 and the general season will run September 15 through November 29.

According to MFWP, hunters who are interested in purchasing a bighorn sheep license for the Tendoy Mountain herd should note the following:

  • Hunters successfully harvesting a ram or lamb (of either sex) as part of this hunt will have to wait seven years before applying for another bighorn license;
  • Hunters that have harvested a ram in the previous six years cannot take a ram or lamb in this hunt;
  • Harvested rams must be brought to FWP to be checked (rams of ½-curl or larger will receive an identifying plug by FWP in one of the horns);
  • All hunters harvesting any sheep in this district must call the Harvest Reporting Line at 1-877-FWP-WILD (877-397-9453) within 48 hours of the kill;
  • FWP will contact license holders and request their help in collecting biological samples from harvested bighorns to assess herd health;
  • Hunting District 315 boundaries were shrunk in 2015 and no longer include the Beaverhead Mountains south of Pass Creek;
  • There may be high concentrations of hunters in this area especially around season opening and closing dates.

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