Bill: More elk tags for hunter-friendly landowners

A bill proposed by the Private Land Public Wildlife council would up the incentive for landowners to allow members of the public to hunt on their land.

With landowners pressuring Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to control elk populations that are over FWP objectives, the agency needs to find ways to open up more access to private land that is normally closed to public hunting. So House Bill 96 would increase the proportion of elk tags available for willing landowners from 20 percent to 25 percent.

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Commission approves elk shoulder seasons, reduced season near Gardiner

In many parts of the state, elk season will now last as long as six months.

On Thursday, the Fish, Wildlife & Parks commission sat through more than two hours of discussion and comments before approving, with a few modifications, the next round of elk shoulder seasons. For the next two years, rifle season will extend mostly from Aug. 15 until Feb. 15 in about 40 hunting districts. But outside the general season, hunters can harvest only cows.

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FWP slates shoulder-season hunts for 44 elk districts

Pilot projects to test the new elk shoulder seasons are barely a week underway, but Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is already planning more than 10 times as many shoulder seasons next year.

At Thursday’s FWP commission meeting, Big Game Chief John Vore ran through an extensive list of elk hunting districts where shoulder seasons would be opened as early as August 2016 and run through the following March. The shoulder seasons would be effective for the next four years, although Vore said the commission could terminate a season at any time.

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Legislative committee OK's damage-hunt rule changes

A legislative committee approved changes to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s damage-hunt rule, but some legislators echoed the public’s confusion over the difference between damage hunts and the new shoulder seasons.

On Monday, the Environmental Quality Council heard FWP Public-Private Lands Coordinator Alan Charles summarize proposed changes to the damage-hunt rule and additional revisions made in response to public comment.

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Landowners speak out against shoulder seasons

The new elk shoulder seasons will be tested in a handful of pilot projects this winter, but the seasons are getting pushback from the very people they were supposed to help: landowners.

On Thursday, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commissioners approved five hunting districts for a late elk season this year but rejected FWP’s recent inclusion of a sixth district partly because of opposition from landowners in the district.

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Hunters, landowners nervously await FWP elk decisions

Thursday’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks commission meeting promises to be lively as commissioners take up the elk-shoulder season proposal among other things, and FWP may reveal its final decision on the game-damage rule.

Sportsmen are anticipating a struggle with a few landowners who are pushing FWP to give landowners more control over hunts on their land. Even though sportsmen fund most of FWP's budget, a few state legislators have tried to manipulate FWP rules in landowners' favor.

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Elk hunting proposals breed confusion, distrust

Following the 2015 Legislature, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks hurried to launch some big projects. But a few proposals are similar enough that they have caused confusion for sportsmen, and that’s bred distrust.

The two most contentious proposals deal with Montana’s elk season, or rather the hunts that can be allowed outside the normal five-week season. For the past two months, FWP commissioners have received lots of calls about proposals dealing with shoulder seasons and game damage hunts.

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FWP hastens rule changes for game damage hunts

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks managers say they want public input on some elk-hunting rule changes, but they held comments to a minimum at two poorly advertised meetings.

During a Wednesday night videoconference, FWP landowner/sportsmen coordinator Alan Charles explained a number of changes that FWP managers want to make to administrative rules pertaining to game damage hunts. A similar videoconference was held Tuesday night for different FWP regions.

The changes were prompted by a June Legislative audit of FWP’s game damage hunt program, which found 11 deficiencies.

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Few favor Wilks proposal but council approves land-swap concept

While favoring the concept of a land swap, an advisory committee stopped short of approving a new Wilks brothers proposal to trade parts of their property for landlocked federal parcels in eastern Montana.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management Central Resource Advisory Council finished up a two-day meeting in Lewistown by passing a motion to consider the concept of a land swap as an alternative to building a new road to access the Bullwacker area near the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument.

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New blood, ideas needed for Private Lands/Public Wildlife Council

Managing wildlife is challenging when animals roam onto land where biologists cannot follow. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks increasingly finds itself in that situation when dealing with wildlife and private property.

Often, the best way to find workable solutions is to bring the interested parties to the table. So Gov. Steve Bullock is seeking landowners, hunters, anglers, outfitters and others interested in wildlife issues who are interested in a 2-year appointment to the Private Lands/Public Wildlife Council.

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Audit finds lack of consistency and clarity in game-damage program

A legislative audit has taken Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to task for a lack of consistency and oversight in carrying out a program to reduce game damage to property.

On Tuesday, state auditor Joe Murray explained the 11 problems he and his staff found with FWP’s game-damage program based upon almost 600 landowner requests made over the past five years.

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