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Jordan Watkins

Jordan Watkins of Missoula took this elk with a 350-yard shot during the second week of hunting season on the Beaverhead/Deerlodge National Forest.

HAMILTON — Wide-ranging changes are being proposed for deer and elk regulations in the Bitterroot Valley, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will hold a public meeting Jan. 16 in Hamilton to provide information, answer questions and gather input on the tentative 2018-19 hunting regulation proposals adopted earlier this month.

Hunting regulations are adopted biennially for most game species, and the proposed regulations cover deer, elk, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bison, black bear, mountain lion, wolf, turkey, and upland and migratory birds.

The Hamilton meeting — one of 12 scheduled for Region 2 — begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Bitterroot River Inn.

According to FWP, in most cases, the 2017 regulations are being re-proposed for 2018 and 2019.

But in the Bitterroot, some fairly significant changes are being put forth, according to Rebecca Mowry, a FWP wildlife biologist in Region 2.

“These changes sound complicated because a lot of steps being taken,” Mowry said. “But in the end we predict the changes will make it simpler to hunt, easier to understand the regulations, and add more opportunities.”

Some hunting districts will have new “shoulder seasons” where people can hunt elk before and after the regular six-week big game season. Boundary changes are recommended for Hunting District 270, so it will be two rather than three areas.

“The biggest thing region-wide is the elk B licenses on private land only, will be available over the counter to purchase before the general season,” Mowry said, adding that the rules regarding weaponry and timing may differ from district to district. “It’s meant to be a tool to address game damage.”

A major change for mule deer involves trophy hunting in districts 261 and 262. Hunting District 261 is one of the most popular trophy areas in Montana, but that means no one is taking any of the smaller, non-trophy bucks that are creating quite a bit of damage on private lands in the area. So now, they’re proposing 15 trophy tags in HD 261 and 25 in HD262.

“We want to be able to manage the population, and right now we don’t have those tools. Little herd of bucks are running amok and they’re untouchable,” Mowry said. “There are people who want to stay in a trophy area, but there are a lot of hunters frustrated by the lack of opportunities and want to hunt bucks every year. We are trying to accommodate both.”

Other proposals overall in Montana deal with season dates, the biennially adopted quota ranges for licenses and permits, exemptions to the ban on urine used in scents, and changing the two-day, youth-only deer season to a four-day season.

In addition, the commission is considering adopting elk season structure for the 43 hunting districts that had shoulder seasons in 2016 on an annual basis, instead of biennial, to make it easier to evaluate their efficiency. They also would be revisited on a three-year cycle.

Another proposed change would make it illegal in all hunting districts in Regions 1, 2 and 4 to take a female mountain goat that has a kid, or is in a group that contains one or more kids.

A full list of the proposed changes can be read online at. The pdf includes links to the master list of proposed changes for both deer and elk.

Comments will be accepted online from the hunting homepage under Opportunity for Public Comment or by clicking on links in the “interested persons” letter at the above link. They also can be mailed to FWP Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701 or by email to

The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24. The Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to adopt changes at its Feb. 15 meeting in Helena.

For more information, contact the Wildlife division at 406-444-2612 or by email at

Mowry said people with questions also can call her at 406-363-7141.

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