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A lighted nock allows hunters to better see where a shot lands

Over concerns that an ancient sport was getting too modern, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners approved letting archers use lighted nocks on their arrows.

“The lighted nock has always made a lot of sense to me,” FWP Commissioner Matt Tourtlotte said during the board’s Friday meeting. “I would hate for it to be a gateway for this other technology to come tumbling into a sport that has its roots in a primitive core. But I advocated for it in the past, and I support it now.”

The nock is the notch at the end of an arrow that slips over the bowstring. Current Montana rules don’t allow any artificial light, luminous chemicals or electronics on archery bow sights or arrows during hunting seasons. Those additions are allowed for archers hunting during the general rifle hunting season. Friday’s meeting changed the rule to allow lighted nocks during archery-only hunting seasons.

The archery hunting record service Pope and Young Club previously did not consider animals taken with lighted or electronic assistance. But the club changed its rules in 2015 to allow lighted nocks.

“It’s almost like having a tracer bullet being used,” Commissioner Gary Wolfe said. “If an animal jumps but doesn’t run off, you adjust your shot and shoot again.”

Wolfe added it could encourage hunters to take legal shots at the end of the day they might not take if they had to recover the animal in the dark. While there was nothing officially wrong with that, and it might mean fewer game animals went unrecovered, it also took away one of the sport’s inherent ethical challenges.

On the other hand, supporters noted that lighted nocks make it easier for archers to recover arrows that might otherwise be lost until they stab through a tractor tire or farmer’s foot.

Commission Chairman Dan Vermillion argued the board had done a thorough job listening to the hunting community on the values of lighted nocks, and was in a better position to monitor the change than the Legislature. A bill to allow lighted nocks is currently progressing through the state Capitol, and Vermillion said board approval might make that unnecessary.

A one-month public comment period between December and January drew 1,515 responses, with 1,400 in favor of allowing lighted nocks. Another 114 opposed the idea and one had no comment. Supporters included the Montana Bowhunters Association, while the Traditional Bowhunters of Montana opposed it.

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