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General hunting season opens Sunday

| October 22, 2004 12:00 AM

By Roger Morris Western News Publisher

Everything is in place for northwest Montana to have a great hunting season, according to state Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

The general rifle season opens Sunday in Montana and extends five weeks until Nov 28.

³It should be a great year for hunting,² said Jerry Brown, local FWP biologist. ³We¹re getting to the point where we are building up a good age class population for our bucks.²

Brown noted that the white-tail deer population has recovered significantly from the killing winter of 1996-1997. Combined with this year¹s wet summer, the white-tail population is strong in numbers and healthy.

It has allowed FWP to expand antlerless white-tail hunting to the first two weeks of the season, Oct. 24 through Nov. 7, before it goes to bucks only. It reverts back to either sex white-tail for the last four days of the five-week season, Nov. 25-28.

Young hunters 12-14 can hunt anterless whitetails throughout the season.

FWP officials are hoping the extra days of either sex whitetail hunting will help reduce the booming deer population.

Elk hunting is also being seen as better than usual.

³The elk populations are really good,² Brown said. ³the archers were getting into them pretty heavily earlier this fall.²

Brown noted that 2003 was the best year for elk hunters during the past decade although the early part of the season was better than the latter portion because of weather.

³It was a great year for elk and it¹s looking to be a greater year this year,² he said. ³They¹re strong all over the region.²

In northwest Montana ? for hunting districts 100, 101, 102, 103 and 104, it¹s browtine bulls only unless a hunter has a special permit. Young hunters, 12-14 years old, do not require a special permit to hunt anterless elk in districts 100 and 104.

The idea is to give youngsters a better chance to harvest an elk in areas where elk populations are high.

Brown said even the weather appears to be cooperating this year with snow on the ground up high and cool, wet weather continuing to appear in the forecast.

³It could change in a heartbeat with warm, dry weather but it¹s shaping up to be a good one,² Brown said. ³People should enjoy it.²

Brown reminds hunters to properly fill out their tag and attach it to their harvest.

Many hunters make mistakes with the month and date, he said.

³A lot of people still have trouble with that,² Brown said. ³And don¹t put the deer tag on the elk or the elk tag on the deer. People just get real excited out there. But the big one is hunters marking the wrong day.²

Also, all hunters are reminded to stop at hunter check stations.

³It¹s the law,² Brown said. ³You have to stop whether you got anything or not.

Hunters can expect to encounter two basic types of game check stations — law enforcement stations and biological stations.

Officers at law enforcement stations will normally ask to see hunters¹ licenses and if they were successful in bagging an animal. They will also check to make sure that any animals taken are properly tagged and that all other laws and regulations governing the taking of that animal were observed.

Wildlife biologists generally operate biological checking stations. When hunters stop at biological checking stations, they may be asked a variety of questions including how many deer or elk or antelope they saw and in which drainages or general locations their hunting took place. The biologist may weigh the animal, measure its antlers or horns, or remove a tooth from its lower jaw, all to provide an index to the health and condition of a particular herd or population.

In the Libby-Troy area, the only check station is the Canoe Gulch Ranger Station of the U.S. Forest Service. Biologists will check all game harvested to create a record for future management decisions.

Game wardens frequently set up law enforcement stations on popular hunting roads.