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Jeff Vonk, Secretary of South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Elected 2012-2013 President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

September 30, 2012

Jeff Vonk, Secretary of South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Elected 2012-2013 President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The membership of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) elected Jeff Vonk, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, as its new president on September 12, 2012 during AFWA’s 102nd Annual Meeting in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

“We’re in a time of great change and how we influence national policy is central,” said Vonk. “The election is going to be a lynch pin and will present opportunities and challenges.”

In accepting AFWA’s presidency, Vonk conveyed that though it may be a daunting task to lead the Association, he intends to summon the strength of its members.

“In these uncertain times, we will all be called to act—and the call will come,” said Vonk. “I’ll call on you because collectively we do know the answers.”

Other action items on Vonk’s presidential agenda include launching a task force on the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Vonk also plans to activate a new Technology Committee and develop a cohesive strategy to protect state authority for fish and wildlife conservation.

“I’m going to work hard for you and I’ll do my best to represent this organization in a positive way,” concluded Vonk.

Vonk currently serves as the chair of AFWA’s Agricultural Conservation Committee and as a member of the Energy and Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Resource Policy and Leadership and Professional Development Committees.  He also represents AFWA’s interests on the boards of the American Wind Wildlife Institute and the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. Vonk will serve as AFWA President through September 2013.

Prior to joining the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks in 2007, Vonk served as Director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from 2001-2006. Previously, he worked for 22 years with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

He holds an M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Maine at Orono; a B.S in Forest Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry and a B.S. in Biology from Syracuse University.

Also at AFWA’s Annual Meeting, Dan Forster, Director of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, was elected Vice President; Larry Voyles, Director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, was named Chair of AFWA’s Executive Committee; and Carter Smith, Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife, was named Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee. Virgil Moore, Idaho Fish & Game Department and Bob Ziehmer, Missouri Department of Conservation, were selected as new members of the Executive Committee.

To view the full slate of AFWA’s 2012-2013 Officers and Executive Committee, go to http://bit.ly/AFWAExComm

Read Jeff Vonk, Secretary of South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks, Elected 2012-2013 President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

New Texas Hold ‘Em by Wildgame Innovations

September 30, 2012

New Texas Hold ‘Em by Wildgame Inovations

New Roads, Louisiana – Wildgame Innovations, a leading manufacturer in game management introduces their new Texas Hold ‘Em attractant specifically designed for feeders.

Texas Hold ‘Em is a specially formulated attractant for Texas hunters and game managers in the south who believe in something better than corn for their feeders.   This revolutionary product was developed exclusively for Texans, who are the proud founders of quality deer management, and who takes pride in the health of wild game.  Texas Hold “Em is a “trail mix” packed with proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that deer crave for proper development.  This attractant is the ultimate corn substitute or it can be mixed to drastically enhance corn, protein, grains or any other feed.

Texas Hold “Em is designed to work in most feeders and is sold exclusively in Wal-Mart stores in Texas and Louisiana.

Read New Texas Hold ‘Em by Wildgame Innovations in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

Hunters, Anglers, Firefighters Hope for Rain in Washington’s Forecast

September 30, 2012

Hunters, Anglers, Firefighters Hope for Rain in Washingon’s Forecast

Some of Washington’s most popular hunting seasons get under way in October, when hunters take to the field for deer, ducks, geese and other game birds. But state wildlife managers caution that persistent wildfires could make planning a hunt more challenging than usual in some areas of the state.

“Hunters need to keep a close eye on the fire reports and road closures, particularly in areas of central Washington,” said Matt Monda, a regional manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) based in Ephrata. “The situation calls for an extra amount of caution and preparation – at least until the rain moves in.”

In late September, WDFW closed three wildlife areas managed by the department in central Washington – Colockum, Quilomene and Whiskey Dick – but reopened them several days later after the immediate danger had passed.

Monda reminds hunters and others going afield that campfires are still prohibited – and some other activities restricted – on all lands owned or managed by WDFW. A notice of those restrictions, posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/sep1812b/, includes links to updates issued by the U.S. Forest Service, the state Department of Emergency Management and other agencies involved in controlling wildfires burning around the state.

Aside from its virtues as a fire retardant, a good steady rain would also improve overall hunting conditions during the weeks ahead, said Jerry Nelson, WDFW’s deer and elk specialist. Both species benefitted from the mild winter last year, but bone-dry leaves and branches make it difficult for hunters to stalk their prey, he said.

“Until we get some rain, it’s like walking on cornflakes out there,” Nelson said.

The general deer-hunting season for hunters using modern-firearms starts Oct. 13 in designed areas throughout the state, falling on the heels of a muzzleloader season that ends Oct. 7.

Salmon, too, would benefit from some rain, because that is their signal to move upriver, said John Long, WDFW salmon manager. Without a push from precipitation, salmon – particularly coho salmon – can remain “bunched up” in the lower ends of rivers and may not be able to take advantage of the spawning habitat available to them upstream.

“That’s not good for salmon, and it’s not good for salmon anglers either,” Long said. “Once we see some rainfall, we’ll also see fresh fish moving up the rivers that are more inclined to bite.”

Read Hunters, Anglers, Firefighters Hope for Rain in Washington’s Forecast in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

Commission to Set Big Game Regulations Oct. 5 in Salem: May Adopt $10 Penalty Fee for Not Reporting Deer and Elk Hunts

September 30, 2012

Commission to Set Big Game Regulations Oct. 5 in Salem: May Adopt $10 Penalty Fee for Not Reporting Deer and Elk Hunts

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, Oct. 5 at ODFW Headquarters in Salem (3406 Cherry Ave NE) to set 2013 big game hunting regulations.

The meeting begins at 8 a.m. An agenda for the meeting is at the link below: http://dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/12/10_oct/index.asp

Several new big game regulations could be adopted by the Commission during the meeting. One hunters need to be aware of is that beginning with 2012 deer and elk tags, failing to report the results of their hunt by the deadline (Jan. 31, 2013 for most tags) could cost them $10. The fee would be assessed when the hunter purchased his or her 2014 hunting license. Only one $10 fee would be assessed per individual.

Reporting hunt results for all deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, cougar, bear and turkey tags has been mandatory for several years. ODFW needs the information to determine harvest levels, estimate populations and set tag numbers. But last year, results were reported on only 41 percent of tags.

The Oregon State Legislature gave ODFW the ability to charge a penalty fee of up to $25 last year. Deer and elk tags are some of the most under-reported and information from these hunts is critical for setting tag numbers.

Elk hunting on National Forest land on the west slope of the Cascades may also change in 2013. ODFW is proposing that the bag limit become bull-only on National Forest land for all hunters, including archery, muzzleloader and disabled hunters who formerly were able to take any elk.

The change is due to a decline in elk numbers and calf ratios (number of calves per cows) in many areas of the west Cascades. Protecting females should help boost the population. Due to similar concerns on the Ochoco, the Commission will be asked to split the unit into two types of archery tags, one with an antlerless and one with a bull-only bag limit. The total number of archery tags will remain the same but antlerless harvest on National Forest land will be reduced, again to help boost populations.

Wenaha, Mt Emily and Walla Walla units are known for their trophy elk hunting and archery tags with a bag limit of one bull elk are difficult to draw. But ODFW and OSP are seeing spike-only tag holders take branch-antlered bulls in these units, pretending they shot the elk in another unit. To close this loophole, ODFW is proposing to change spike-only archery tags from general season to controlled in these units. Bowhunters that draw the controlled tag will only be able to hunt in that particular unit too, which will restrict tags to hunters truly dedicated to these units. New proposed rules would also require a controlled elk tag to archery hunt deer in the three units, again to reduce poaching.

Other proposed changes include:

  • Limiting camping to designated sites and ending cross-country motor vehicle travel at the White River Wildlife Area.
  • Some boundary changes to travel management areas.
  • Reducing size of bowhunting closure area in the Columbia Basin unit.
  • Language changes to clarify the definition of “spike only” and proof of sex requirements.

The Commission also will be asked to amend the wildlife integrity rules to allow people to raise tilapia indoors for personal consumption without acquiring an ODFW Fish Propagation license and add two addition tilapia species to the list of “controlled fish”. A fish transportation permit would still be required to move live fish. The rule changes came in response to a citizen petition presented at the August Commission meeting.

ODFW staff will brief the Commission on the Mule Deer Initiative, an effort to help Oregon’s struggling mule deer populations, the Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy and the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program Annual Report.

The Commission is the policy-making body for fish and wildlife issues in the state. Public testimony before the Commission is held Friday morning immediately following the expenditure report. Persons seeking to testify on issues not on the formal agenda may do so by making arrangements with the ODFW Director’s Office, at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting, by calling 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044.

Reasonable accommodations will be provided as needed for individuals requesting assistive hearing devices, sign language interpreters or large-print materials. Individuals needing these types of accommodations may call the ODFW Director’s Office at 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044 at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

Read Commission to Set Big Game Regulations Oct. 5 in Salem: May Adopt $10 Penalty Fee for Not Reporting Deer and Elk Hunts in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

Arizona Deer and Elk Hunters Can Assist in Monitoring for CWD

September 30, 2012

Arizona Deer and Elk Hunters Can Assist in Monitoring for CWD

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for assistance from deer and elk hunters in monitoring efforts for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Hunters can provide assistance by allowing Game and Fish personnel or a cooperating taxidermist or game meat processor to collect a tissue sample from their harvested deer or elk.

CWD is a neurodegenerative wildlife disease that is fatal to cervids, which include deer, elk and moose. Clinical signs include loss of body weight or emaciation, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, stumbling, trembling, and behavioral changes such as listlessness, lowering of the head, and repetitive walking in set patterns. No evidence has been found to indicate that CWD affects humans, according to both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

CWD has been detected in 22 states and Canadian provinces as of August 2012. Arizona Game and Fish began conducting CWD surveillance in the state in 1998 and has since collected more than 16,000 samples. No samples have yet tested positive for the disease, but Arizona shares borders with three states—Utah, Colorado and New Mexico—in which CWD has been found.

“The success of the CWD surveillance program is reliant upon the participation of hunters, meat processors, and taxidermists,” said Wildlife Disease Biologist Carrington Knox. “To ensure that CWD has not entered Arizona from neighboring states, we are concentrating our efforts in the game management units that border Utah and New Mexico.”

For Kaibab and Arizona Strip hunters (Units 12A, 12B, 13A, and 13B), the Jacob Lake check station will be open for collecting samples on the following dates: Oct. 12-16 during the juniors-only deer hunt; Oct. 26-Nov. 5 for the general deer hunt; and Nov. 23-Dec. 3 for the late season hunt. The check station will be operational from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for the day following the end of each hunt (Oct. 16, Nov. 5, and Dec. 3) when the check station will close at 12 noon.

Department biologists will also be collecting samples during the juniors-only elk hunt in Units 1 and 2C from Oct. 12-15. In addition, biologists will be working in the field from Nov. 2-5 and Nov. 16-19 in Unit 28, seeking successful hunters to provide samples for the CWD monitoring effort in this area.

Hunters who wish to assist the monitoring effort by bringing in the head of their recently harvested deer or elk to a Game and Fish Department office for sampling are requested to do so between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Place the head in a heavy plastic garbage bag for delivery and keep it cool and out of the sun. If the weather is warm, it is best to either bring in the head within a day of harvest or keep it on ice in a cooler before delivery.

When submitting heads for sampling, please provide accurate, up-to-date hunter information (name, street address, city, state, zip code and phone number) as well as hunt information (hunt number, permit number, game management unit harvested in, county, state, and hunting license), as this information is crucial should CWD be detected in a sample. If this information is not provided, the Department will be unable to test the sample.

Test results are available online at www.azgfd.gov/cwd, by clicking the “Chronic Wasting Disease Test Results” link on the right side of the page.

Additional information about CWD can be found at www.azgfd.gov/cwd or www.cwd-info.org.

Read Arizona Deer and Elk Hunters Can Assist in Monitoring for CWD in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

California Offers Wild Pig Hunts at Tejon Ranch in Southern California

September 30, 2012

California Offers Wild Pig Hunts at Tejon Ranch in Southern California

The Department of Fish and Game will hold permit-only wild pig hunts in Southern California from December 2012 to April 2013.

Offered through the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Program, a total of 50 hunters will be selected to hunt wild pigs through a random drawing for an access permit.

Located 100 miles north of Los Angeles and 25 miles southeast of Bakersfield, hunts will be held at the Tejon Ranch. Hunters will have access to approximately 100,000 acres of beautiful rugged mountains, steep canyons and oak covered rolling hills.

Allowing SHARE hunters to participate in the Tejon Ranch wild pig management hunts helps the ranch achieve long-term conservation management objectives, which include providing public hunting opportunities and controlling the wild pig population.

A total of 5 SHARE access permits will be provided to wild pig hunters through a random drawing for each two day hunt. Successful applicants will be allowed to bring a hunting partner.

Hunt dates:
Dec 7-9, 2012
Feb 1-3, 2013
Feb 22-24, 2013
March 22-24, 2013
April 19-21, 2013

Hunters with a valid California hunting license may apply through the Automated License Data System. A $10 non-refundable application fee will be charged for each hunt choice. Applicants may apply for multiple hunt periods but will only be drawn for one period per property. To apply for these hunts please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/. For step by step instructions please go to the SHARE Program link below.

The SHARE Program offers incentives to private landowners who allow wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities on their property. The goal of the SHARE Program is to provide additional hunting, fishing and other recreational access on private lands in California. Participating landowners receive liability protection and compensation for providing public access to or through their land for recreational activities.

For more information about the Tejon Ranch Wild Pig Management Hunts or the SHARE Program please go to: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/share/.

Read California Offers Wild Pig Hunts at Tejon Ranch in Southern California in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

Province Partners with Manitoba Metis Federation to Uphold Métis Harvesting Rights, Natural Resource Conservation

September 30, 2012

Based on rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada involving aboriginal rights for Métis people, the government of Manitoba is partnering with the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) to recognize Métis rights to harvest natural resources for food and domestic use in Manitoba, and to acknowledge the Métis peoples’ commitment to conserve and respect the resources that sustain those rights, Premier Greg Selinger and David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, announced today.

“In addition to recent jurisprudence, history makes it clear that Métis people have aboriginal harvesting rights in certain regions of Manitoba,” said Selinger.  “Through co-operation with the MMF, we have been able to attain a balance of recognizing those rights while ensuring an orderly approach to conservation and enforcement.  I commend the MMF on their commitment to meet the traditional responsibility to protect the wildlife, fish and other resources we all depend on.”

The agreement, signed today at the MMF’s 44th Annual General Assembly, provides for the recognition of Métis harvesting rights in mutually agreed to regions of the province, and relies on the MMF’s Metis Laws of the Hunt as the basis for the development of new provincial regulations to govern Métis harvesting.  As well, MMF Harvester Cards will be recognized as a means to identify Métis harvesters.

The agreement also commits to collaborative processes for examining Métis harvesting right claims in regions of the province outside of the designated Métis Natural Resource Harvesting Zone and for establishing a working group to monitor and address issues relating to Métis rights-based natural resource harvesting.

“Based on many years of discussion and decisions from the courts, I am very proud to jointly announce this Métis Harvesting Agreement between the government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Métis,” said Chartrand.  “Our Métis laws and the provincial laws will now work together to improve resource management and sustainability.  I want to thank Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh for his dedication to getting to this historic moment.  With this agreement, the Selinger government is taking a leadership role within Canada on the recognition of the constitutional rights of the Métis people.”

“The conservation principles of the Métis Laws of the Hunt are similar to those for licensed hunters and anglers,” said Reid Woods, president, Manitoba Wildlife Federation.  “I commend the MMF for this responsible approach, and encourage other provinces to look to Manitoba for an exceptional model of dedication to sustainable use of natural resources.”

As part of the recognition of Métis harvesting rights, Métis people will continue to be required to follow safety and conservation regulations.  It is expected the regulations respecting Métis harvesting, based on today’s agreement, will be finalized later this fall.

Read Province Partners with Manitoba Metis Federation to Uphold Métis Harvesting Rights, Natural Resource Conservation in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

California Artist Robert Steiner Wins 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

September 30, 2012

Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest.  The announcement was made today by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Rowan Gould at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, during the annual art contest – the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government.

This is Steiner’s second Federal Duck Stamp Contest win.  His art previously appeared on the 1998-1999 Federal Duck Stamp.

Steiner’s acrylic painting of a common goldeneye will be made into the 2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale in late June 2013.  The Service produces the Federal Duck Stamp, which sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year to provide critical funds to conserve and protect wetland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge system for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of people.

Of 192 entries in this year’s two-day competition, 17 entries made it through to the final round of judging.  Paul Bridgeford of Des Moines, Iowa, placed second with his acrylic painting of a pair of northern shovelers.

Gerald Mobley of Claremore, Okla., took third place with his acrylic painting of a pair of northern shovelers. Mobley’s art appeared on the 1985-1986 Federal Duck Stamp.

“I congratulate Robert Steiner on his second Federal Duck Stamp Contest win, and my appreciation goes out to all of the artists who entered the contest this year,” said Gould.  “I look forward to seeing this beautiful artwork adorning the 80th Federal Duck Stamp – one of our nation’s oldest and most successful conservation programs – when it goes on sale next June.”

“Whether you buy a Duck Stamp to hunt waterfowl, add to your stamp collection, admire in a frame, or contribute to conservation, you are buying a piece of history,” said Jerome Ford, the Service’s Assistant Director for Migratory Birds.  “For nearly 80 years, hunters, wildlife watchers, and millions of other people who purchase Federal Duck Stamps have made a direct contribution to wildlife conservation through the protection of wetland habitats.”

The judges for this year’s Federal Duck Stamp Contest were: Dudley Edmonson, a wildlife photographer, filmmaker and author; Paul Higgins, an outdoor photographer whose work has been displayed in galleries and appeared in national outdoors magazines; Don Paul, a wildlife biologist who served 34 years with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Marjory Sente, a stamp collector specializing in first day covers; and Christine Thomas, dean and professor of natural resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  The alternate judge was John Cornely, a retired Fish and Wildlife Service waterfowl biologist.

Waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry the current Migratory Bird Conservation and Hunting Stamp – commonly known as the Duck Stamp. Conservationists, stamp collectors and others may also purchase the stamp in support of habitat conservation.  A current Duck Stamp can also be used for free admission to any National Wildlife Refuge open to the public. Refuges offer unparalleled recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, bird watching, and photography.

Ninety-eight percent of the proceeds from sale of the $15 Federal Duck Stamp go to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which supports the purchase of migratory bird habitat for inclusion into the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since 1934, Federal Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $850 million, helping the Service purchase or lease 6 million acres of wildlife habitat on hundreds of Refuges in nearly every state.  There are 560 National Wildlife Refuges spread across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

Wetlands serve a number of important functions and provide benefits to humans and wildlife.  Many species are dependent upon wetlands for all or a portion of their life cycles.  For people, wetlands support vegetation that acts as a flood buffer and reduces stream bank erosion during floods.  Wetlands improve water quality by filtering polluted runoff from cities and agricultural lands, and provide recharge to aquifers.  Finally, wetlands serve for recreational purposes such as hiking, bird watching, wildlife photography, and hunting.  These activities bring tourism dollars into rural communities in the U.S. and provide critical support to local economies.

Read California Artist Robert Steiner Wins 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Contest in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

Montana Big Game Hunting Forecasts

September 28, 2012

Montana Big Game Hunting Forecasts

2012 ANTELOPE HUNTING OUTLOOK

Antelope hunters in Montana will have to work a bit harder to find good antelope hunting this fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials say.

While fawn production and winter survival have rebounded after a series of extreme winters, most populations are only now climbing back to average levels across the state.

“Antelope hunting will be a challenge,” said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ wildlife sections coordinator in Helena.  “Populations, especially in eastern and north central Montana, are still in recovery mode.”

Montana’s antelope archery season will close Oct. 5 and the general rifle season for antelope will run Oct. 6-Nov. 11.

For more information on antelope hunting in Montana, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, click “Hunting” then click Hunting Guide.

Here’s a regional rundown on what antelope hunters can expect this season.

Region 2—Western Montana

  • Pronghorn distribution is centered in the Deer Lodge area and few licenses are being issued to conserve this island population. Fawn survival has been poor in recent years and doe-fawn licenses were reduced.

Region 3—Southwestern Montana

  • There was generally good production of antelope over the past year. Overall, the population is stable, and hunters should see antelope numbers about the same as, or a little above, those of last year. In some areas–like the Madison Valley–it looks as if numbers are down slightly and that’s reflected in fewer tags allotted this year.

Region 4—Central Montana

  • Antelope numbers are mostly down. After a couple of harsh winters and an EHD outbreak–a fatal virus spread by biting midges–antelope have been slow to rebound. For hunters this means FWP issued fewer doe-fawn tags over the past couple of years.

Regions 5 — South Central Montana

  • Antelope continue to appear in record low numbers, though biologists are seeing some encouraging signs of recovery in the eastern part of the region, where more fawn antelope were counted than in the past few years. Reproduction has been a concern for three years following an outbreak of EHD–a fatal virus spread by biting midges–that decimated much of the herd in 2008. In most areas, antelope numbers remain at historic lows–37 percent of the historic average–with fawn numbers at just 53 percent of normal. Those trends are reflected in fewer tags issued this year.

Region 6—Northeastern Montana

  • All hunting districts will again see low license numbers because of lingering impacts from the severe winter of 2010-11. Overall, populations are far lower than long-term averages, and fawn production also remains low in most areas. Decreased harvest quotas are expected to persist for at least several more years as pronghorn populations recover.

Region 7—Southeastern Montana

  • The early story here for autumn is drought conditions combined with an extreme fire season on the heels of a rather mild and dry winter. Populations are stable, yet still below long term averages. Fawn production—due in part to the favorable winter of 2011-12—was fair this year at about 47 fawns per 100 does. Permits were reduced due to low numbers of antelope.

2012 ELK HUNTING OUTLOOK

There are elk in Montana’s hills and if the big sky drops some snow hunters could be in for a banner season in many areas.

“Most hunters are going to find elk populations in good physical shape and will benefit from liberal hunting opportunities,” said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ wildlife sections coordinator in Helena. “If the weather cooperates, and if hunters do their homework and line up access early where it’s needed, we’d expect very good harvest numbers by season’s end in late November.”

Montana’s general, five-week long, elk hunting season opens Oct. 20.

Kujala noted that cold and snowy conditions should lead to elk hunting success, while mild weather usually spells lower elk harvests, despite additional elk-hunting permits and more liberal seasons.  “We’re all hoping the weather tips to hunters’ favor this fall,” Kujala said.

Predation on elk by wolves has contributed to some depressed elk populations in parts of western and southwestern Montana. Also, Montana’s forest fires may have changed local elk distributions and access opportunities.  Hunters need to understand that some landowners will be busy rebuilding fences and other structures lost to fire this fall. A call ahead of time, and especially an offer to help, would be long appreciated.

For more information on elk hunting in Montana, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, click “Hunting” then click Hunting Guide.

Here’s a regional rundown on what elk hunters can expect this season.

Region 1—Northwestern Montana

  • Elk populations remain stable. Spring surveys revealed a regional average of 25 calves per 100 cows. More than 3,470 elk were counted during spring helicopter surveys. Hot spots for elk include the lower Clark Fork region and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex.

Region 2—Western Montana

  • Elk numbers are generally above the long-term average but the distribution and trend of elk populations raises concerns for the future. Calf production and survival is low in several districts along the border with Idaho and adjoining the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness areas, where opportunities to hunt antlerless elk are sharply reduced.
    To allow bull numbers to rebound, a special permit is required to hunt bull elk in Hunting Districts 250 and 270 (Upper Bitterroot). Elk numbers generally remain high on private lands located east of Missoula, but calf survival was unusually low through last winter.

Region 3—Southwestern Montana

  • Overall, the milder winter of 2011-2012 led to good calf recruitment, and depending on weather conditions, the harvest could certainly see a notable increase from last year. A hunter’s best bet will be in the southwestern part of the region—and in the Helena area—where high numbers are being seen. The same applies to the Shields Valley where hunters should find a healthy population of elk. The upper Gallatin and the Paradise Valley elk numbers are down, while the number of elk in the Gravelly Range remains about the same as last year. The Pioneers and the Elkhorns are at or above average.  A word of warning for next year, however: persistent drought conditions could play a factor in both the 2012 harvest and next year’s calf production.

Region 4—Central Montana

  • Elk populations are solid. The biggest challenge for hunters, whether along the Rocky Mountain Front, central Montana’s island mountain ranges or in the Missouri River Breaks, continues to be finding access.

Regions 5 — South Central Montana

  • Elk populations are healthy and growing. The numbers, however, are not a harbinger of hunter success. In areas where hunter access is good, elk numbers are low. In most areas where public hunter access is limited, elk numbers are well above FWP’s elk management objectives.

Region 6—Northeastern Montana

  • Biologists say elk numbers are at or above management objectives in most hunting districts. All elk hunting in the Bears Paw Mountains and the Missouri River Breaks is by special permit, which are awarded in the annual drawing. Elk in these areas are most often found in core-habitat areas a mile or more from active roads and other human activity. Hunters should note that elk densities are very low in the general-season hunting area north of U.S. Highway 2.

Region 7—Southeastern Montana

  • While not typically a hot spot destination, outside of Missouri Breaks, elk here are primarily found on private land. While elk populations are above management objectives in all hunting districts, public hunting access is limited.

2012 DEER HUNTING OUTLOOK

Deer hunters in Montana will find a mix of hunting opportunities across the state when the general season opens Oct. 20.

“Conditions have been mixed the past several years and deer in many areas of the state are still rebounding from the tough winter of 2010,” said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ wildlife sections coordinator in Helena. “The good news is that we’re seeing better fawn survival and good fawn production in many areas, but some are still struggling with low numbers and production.”

Overall, the better mule deer and white-tailed deer populations are currently in parts of Region 4 and some areas of Regions 2, 3 and 5.That’s due in part to central and western Montana dodging the recent winter losses experienced by deer in eastern Montana.

“Mule deer and white-tailed deer will be found in local concentrations based upon habitat,” Kujala said. “One generalization is that white-tailed deer are most often associated with the forested habitats of northwestern Montana and in riparian areas,” Kujala said.  “In addition to scouting for good habitat and access to private lands, a spate of cold and snowy weather often leads to good hunting.”

Montana’s forest fires have plagued much of Montana this season. Hunters need to understand that some landowners will be busy rebuilding fences and other structures lost to fire this fall. A call ahead of time, and especially an offer to help, would be long appreciated.

For more information on Montana’s five-week long general deer hunting season, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, click “Hunting” then click Hunting Guide.

Here’s a regional rundown on what deer hunters can expect this season.

Region 1—Northwestern Montana

  • Biologists counted more than 5,580 white-tailed deer this spring and observed a fawn adult ratio of 44, which indicates a stable to increasing regional herd. Near Kalispell and the surrounding area, white-tailed deer herds continue to grow as a result of the recent mild winter. White-tailed deer are plentiful in the Swan Valley and the Lower Clark Fork Valley.   Hunting access is good but involves stalking game in heavy coniferous habitats. Mule deer populations remain stable with a recruitment rate of 28 fawns per 100 adults classified via helicopter surveys this spring.  Hot spots for mule deer include the Cabinet and West Cabinet mountains, the high country of the Lower Clark Fork, the Whitefish Range and the subalpine areas of the Mission and Swan mountain ranges. Mule deer hunters typically are more successful at the higher altitudes.

Region 2—Western Montana

  • White-tailed and mule deer are common but numbers generally are below historic averages. FWP has restricted hunting opportunities for antlerless deer this year to limit any further declines and speed population increases. Hunting for whitetail bucks should be average overall. Hunting for mule deer bucks is by permit-only in several hunting districts.

Region 3—Southwestern Montana

  • Mule deer are down in most places across the region except for a slight uptick in the southern hunting districts.
  • White-tailed deer populations–found mostly in river bottoms–are stable due to the mild winter. Fortunately, southwestern Montana didn’t see whitetail die-offs from Epizootic hemorrhagic disease as did other populations in central and eastern Montana.

Region 4—Central Montana

  • The news for deer is mixed. White-tailed deer populations are solid. That’s not the case for most mule deer populations. “With whitetail we have good numbers,” said Graham Taylor, FWP’s wildlife manager in Great Falls. “Mule deer numbers are mostly down.”

Regions 5 — South Central Montana

  • Mule deer populations in the breaks and prairies north of the Yellowstone River are on the upswing, reversing a decade-long trend. Biologists noted good numbers of fawns this year, which they believe is an indicator of recovery in some of those populations. In the mountainous areas, particularly south of the Yellowstone River, a decline in mule deer numbers continues.
  • White-tailed deer living in the prairie environments north of U.S. Highway 12 have been in slow decline for a number of years because of hard hunting pressure, poor fawn winter survival and last year’s bout of EHD–a fatal disease spread by biting midges. In the mountains south of the Yellowstone River, however, populations are near average and stable.

Region 6—Northeastern Montana

  • Effects on mule deer from the winter of 2010-11 are still being seen with regional numbers 30 percent below average. Buck ratios are similarly below average with fewer older-age-class bucks due to a high winter mortality in 2010-11. There has been little recruitment the past two years, but strong fawn production was expected this year. Doe licenses in most areas have again been significantly reduced.
  • White-tailed deer numbers in the Milk River Valley east of Malta to Nashua and in the Missouri River bottomlands below Fort Peck Dam were heavily impacted; both by the harsh winter of 2010-11 and an EHD outbreak in 2011. In those areas, numbers remain well below the long-term average. In the Malta to Havre area, numbers are slightly below average this year. A small EHD outbreak, however, was confirmed this summer in the Chinook area. In the northeastern corner, numbers are slightly below average in prairie habitats and down 50 percent in the Missouri River bottoms. Whitetail doe licenses were also significantly reduced this year. Hunters should also be prepared to see increased mineral development activity.

Region 7—Southeastern Montana

  • Mule deer numbers are still more than 40 percent below the long term average due to the severe winter of 2010-11 that resulted in significant winter-kill of both adults and fawns. Overwinter survival last year was high, and fawn recruitment this spring—up to 47 fawns per 100 adults—increased relative to the previous year. That good news, however, was dampened by reduced fawning rates due to nutritional stress in does after the extreme winter of 2010-11. Drought conditions this summer are impacting deer nutrition as well, but lower-than-average mule deer numbers means that prime habitat is available for a greater portion of the population. Data gathered last hunting season at hunter check stations indicates that the mule deer population is comprised primarily of young, fit individuals with high reproductive potential. Thus, even though mule deer numbers are down this year, if Mother Nature cooperates, the population should soon begin a rapid recovery.
  • A widespread EHD outbreak in the fall of 2011 reduced populations of white-tailed deer, but populations remain high in localized areas where disease did not occur. White-tailed deer can recover relatively rapidly from declines, and this process has already begun, as fawn recruitment rates this spring doubled over last year. The reduction in white-tailed deer numbers is not all bad. Wildlife biologists note that whitetail numbers prior to the EHD outbreak were too high and fewer deer on the landscape will allow habitat to recover along with deer numbers.  Hunters who do their homework by scouting and visiting with private landowners should have success locating good areas to hunt whitetails.

Read Montana Big Game Hunting Forecasts in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

Montana FWP Commission to Meet in Helena Oct. 11

September 28, 2012

Montana FWP Commission to Meet in Helena Oct. 11

Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission will meet Oct. 11 in Helena to adopt 2013 fishing regulation changes and approve adjustments to elk plan objectives in some western Montana hunting districts.

The meeting, set to begin at 8:30 a.m., will be held at FWP’s Helena headquarters, 1420 E. Sixth Ave.

Commissioners also will consider Smith River and Montana State Parks rule proposals; and receive an update on a draft statewide fisheries management plan. As part of the Elk-Brucellosis Working Group’s efforts, FWP also will update the commission on the status of brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can result in miscarriages in some pregnant animals, including domestic cattle, and bison and elk.  Related to the upcoming wolf trapping season, FWP also will seek commission approval on an additional trap equipment requirement.

On land matters, commissioners will be asked to approve an acquisition of about 1,100 acres on the east side of Big Lake Wildlife Management Area, northwest of Billings; and the “Kootenai Valleys Conservation Easement Project,” which seeks to conserve 28,000 acres of northwestern Montana timberland and associated fish and wildlife habitats near Troy. FWP’s proposal to complete a mineral rights purchase on Spotted Dog WMA northeast of Deer Lodge also will be considered for final approval.

For the full agenda and additional information, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov. Click “For Commission Information.”

FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to individuals with special needs. To request arrangements call FWP at 406-444-3186.

Read Montana FWP Commission to Meet in Helena Oct. 11 in its entirety on OutdoorHub.com.

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