Daytime high temperatures are finally settling into the 50s and not a moment too soon for rifle hunters in Montana who are eagerly awaiting Saturday's opening of the general season.
While the golden leaves and larch and cooler temperatures help the pulse race a bit, it's still fairly warm so hunters should keep a couple thoughts in mind, even though most are already well informed.
The warm temperatures and lack of snow means bears are still out looking for food. So the Flathead National Forest put out a reminder that hunters should be bear aware.
If the recent publicized bear-human run-ins should teach anything, it's that everyone should carry bear spray and know how to use it. It should be ready for a quick draw, not packed in the bottom of a backpack.
At night or when away from camp, all food, including game meat, and attractants should be locked up in a bear-resistant container, or inside a vehicle, enclosed horse-trailer or hard-shelled camper.
If you have a kill, field-dress the animal, move the gut pile away from the kill site and any trails, and pack the meat out as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for bears during the process.
The relatively warm days can also cause the meat to spoil if not processed promptly.
Aside from bears, the dry conditions in Montana pose another threat: wildfire. Hunters should be careful when parking their vehicles, especially those with catalytic converters, in tall grass or brushy areas. Make sure campfires are completely out before leaving your campsite and put out your cigarettes and maybe even field dress them if you smoke.
Finally, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds hunters to know the regulations. You should always be certain of your target and what lies beyond it (people, houses?). Shooting from roads is illegal and you should carry a detailed map and maybe a GPS if you have one to avoid trespassing on private property. Be aware of sunrise and sunset times.
FWP asks that all hunters stop at the check stations even if they weren't successful so that FWP can tell how well the season is going in the various regions. Finally, report any poaching or violations to TIPMONT.
Best of luck.