(This guest editorial was submitted by the board of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance.)
We find the press being put out by Fish, Wildlife & Parks touting the shoulder seasons to be disturbing, at best. FWP and even Gov. Steve Bullock have promoted these seasons as successful. Our question is “By what metric?”
If it is just killing elk, it raises the question: “If the same level of access were available during the general season, would it not have achieved the same results or better?” Is it not disingenuous to call this a success without any data on what is happening related to the original objectives and performance measures? Most of us were led to believe it was a package deal. Obviously, we were misled.
Certainly, we realize there are instances of a lack of elk in some areas during the general season. Those landowners need some help. But it seems that the driving force stems from little or no public hunting access on private lands that are outfitted during the general season. In essence, this is another bailout for the private land outfitters and harborers; another expected entitlement.
In jumping from a small pilot project to shoulder seasons on 44 hunting districts, has FWP done the required homework with the landowners? Is there buy-in from landowners who know the original goals and objectives? Have we changed the rules on the metrics used to evaluate shoulder seasons? What happened to the measurable objectives decided upon earlier? Is this top-down management? Just what is the other side of the story, i.e., what is the cause of these over-objective numbers? Would local businesses not flourish during the regular season if access weren’t an issue?
We think it is only fair to let the public know if rules are changed.
Our advice to FWP: Slow down, stop the rhetoric, stay the course, stick to the original rules, collect the data and present it honestly and factually.