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FWP holds virtual meeting on proposed hunting regs

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | November 2, 2021 7:00 AM

State officials held a virtual open house meeting last month in hopes of informing the public on a series of proposed changes to regional and statewide hunting regulations.

The Oct. 14 meeting, hosted via videoconference software by officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1, covered possible alterations to the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The changes, which aim to simplify license structures and reduce the number of hunting districts, would make it easier for hunters to navigate regulations while following scientific recommendations, according to FWP wildlife managers.

The proposed regulation changes focus on elk and deer. Neil Anderson, Wildlife Program Manager for FWP Region 1, said a primary aim for the agency was replacing antlerless permits with B licenses. To this end, FWP suggests removing an existing permit that allows hunters to take antlerless elk from a vehicle.

Anderson noted that around 60 percent of the people who apply for the permit aren’t eligible for it. A permit to hunt from a vehicle allows hunters, who have certain certified disabilities, to take game from a self-propelled or drawn vehicle.

Within Lincoln County and surrounding areas, FWP biologists propose combining hunting districts 103 and 102 into Hunting District 103. Hunting districts 101 and 109 would become district 101. FWP officials would keep the three-week general, two-week limited mule deer regulation for the new Hunting District 101. The antlerless elk shoulder season would reflect the new district number.

Anderson said FWP officials took care when combining districts not to overstress local game populations. He pointed out that while consolidation would help reduce confusion among hunters, applying local regulations to a wider area could lead to strain on certain herds.

To make the border between districts 103 and 101 clearer, state officials suggest slightly shifting the delineation.

FWP has proposed removing a limited draw permit for mule deer in the northeast portion of Hunting District 103, which state officials argue has created confusion.

To see a full list of proposed regulation changes, hunters should visit the FWP website. State officials accepted comments until Oct. 20.

Officials plan to update the draft regulations based on input from the public between Oct. 21 and Dec. 13. The state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission will select which proposals enter another 30-day comment period on Dec. 14. The commission will adopt final regulations in early February.