With the general big game season ending Nov. 26, many hunters are turning their focus again to the elk shoulder season.
This winter marks the second year of Montana’s statewide antlerless elk shoulder season primarily on private land after the end of the general elk season.
Like last year, 43 hunting districts statewide are open in six Fish, Wildlife and Parks regions. Regulations differ among the hunting districts, and hunters need to know the difference.
For example, some of the hunting districts are open only to holders of B licenses obtained through the drawings earlier this year. A few districts are open to holders of unfilled general elk licenses. And not all the districts have the same opening and closing dates.
All the districts, license types and shoulder season dates are listed on page 10 of the deer, elk and antelope regulations and on the FWP website: http://fwp.mt.gov/
For the shoulder season in FWP Region 4, hunting is allowed only on private, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and federal Bureau of Land Management lands. No elk shoulder seasons will occur on federal Forest Service lands, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge or any FWP wildlife management areas.
Because this is primarily an elk season on private lands, it is the hunter’s responsibility to obtain landowner permission and find a place to hunt. Occasionally a landowner will ask FWP for hunters, but that’s not guaranteed.
“Hunters should prepare to hunt elk before showing up in a town or hunting district,” said Gary Bertellotti, FWP Region 4 supervisor. “I would ask hunters to do their homework. See if they or a friend have a connection in a shoulder season district; like a relative, friend or coworker who is or knows a landowner.”
Often hunters ask about how FWP’s Block Management Program fits into the shoulder season.
Block management ends Jan. 1. Some but not all of the block management areas are participating in the shoulder season. To find out if a BMA is taking part refer to the rules on the back of each BMA map.
FWP has also hired hunt coordinators to help hunters and landowners in hunting districts near Great Falls and White Sulphur Springs.
In Great Falls, shoulder season questions can be answered by visiting the FWP office or calling (406) 595-6689, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In White Sulphur Springs, shoulder season information is available by calling (406) 836-0451, seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for holidays.
Prospective hunters should be aware that the hunts may not be easy, especially for those who are not familiar with the area, Bertellotti said. The majority of access and retrieval will be walk in only.
“People should not have unrealistic expectations,” Bertellotti said. “This is not a game damage hunt. At times this will be an arduous hunt.”