When I was a young man growing up in Idaho, hunting deer was a relatively straightforward affair, and most of the rules I had to follow were imposed on me by my mother: Wear your hunter orange. Eat your vegetables. Don't shoot your brother. Aw, those were the good old days n simpler times.
If you are a hunter in Montana and got your special applications in on time, you probably just finished wading through the bureaucratic sinkhole that our 2008 deer, elk and antelope regulations booklet has become. If God can get by with Ten Commandments, I see no reason why Fish, Wildlife and Parks needs 12 full pages of complicated definitions and thou-shalt-nots.
Here are some rules that are actually printed in Montana's big-game hunting regulations:
1. It is illegal to put explosive devices on the end of your arrow. (As in, "Our new broadheads are dynamite. No, really!")
2. It is illegal to hunt with a muzzleloader with more than two barrels. (A triple-barreled muzzleloader? Puh-lease!)
3. It is illegal to use electronic devices to track game and relay the information to the hunter. (This is so absurd that I must quote directly from page 21. "This includes, but is not limited to: remote operated camera or video devices; seismic devices; electronic trip wires, photo beam, or laser devices used to activate tracking or recording devices; thermal imaging devices; and satellite and radio-telemetry devices." Hey, Tommy, hurry and get dressed. Looks like something tripped our photobeam device!)
4. It is illegal to use night vision equipment or electronically enhanced light gathering optics, even though the season closes daily at 30 minutes after sunset. (Perhaps FWP should cancel its subscription to Soldier of Fortune.)
For an absolutely delightful piece of bureaucratic jibberish, read on page 21 the half page under the title, "Transport of Wildlife." I don't know how you transport your wildlife, but after reading this, I'm pretty sure that however you transport it, it's wrong.
No wonder hunter recruitment is at an all-time low. But wait, there's more! After the definitions and regulations are the actual unit-by-unit season dates and special permit quotas. I would like to congratulate whoever wrote this portion of the regulations as they must certainly have graduated valedictorian from the Anal Retentive School of Redundancy and Technical Writing.
For example, let's go to a unit I hunt quite a bit, unit 212, on page 43. At the very top of the page is this sentence: "Hunters using archery equipment, see page 18 for licensing requirements." Actually, this sentence is on the very top of every page from page 28 to page 97. That's about 70 repetitions. I think we get it.
Under unit 212, the first season listed is for a General Deer A License. "Sep 06 Oct 19 Antlerless Mule Deer. Archery Only Season. Only valid Prison Ranch ArchEquip only Area.*" The second listed season is also "Sep 06 Oct 19 Either-Sex White-tailed Deer, Archery Only Season. Valid Entire District including Prison Ranch ArchEquip only Area.*" There are seven (seven!) separate seasons and sub-seasons just for a General Deer A License in unit 212.
By the way, ArchEquip stands for "Archery Equipment." FWP is big-time into abbreviations, as evidenced when you look at the bottom of page 43. Hunters are asked to get a prison ranch map and legal description from FWP-R2HQ.
Speaking of abbreviations, one of the general elk license seasons for unit 212 is this: "Oct 26 Nov 30 Brow-tined Bull or Antlerless Elk. Only youth ages 12-15 and hunters with a PTHFV."
If I went to a doctor and he said I had a PTHFV, I would think that was really bad. However, a thorough reading of page 17 enlightens us that PTHFV stands for "Permit To Hunt From Vehicle." These permits are given by the grace of FWP to hunters with disabilities.
So, let me get this straight. I can't set out a seismic device and use a triple-barreled muzzleloader to shoot a deer, but some other guy can shoot one right out the window of his truck just because he is disabled?
I'm just kidding, of course. I really love the idea of disabled hunters getting a PTHFV. In fact, it's such a great idea that archery hunters with disabilities can also get a PTMAE. (Permit to Modify Archery Equipment). That's right. A PTMAE. Don't believe me? Look it up on page 17. Consider buying a 002-80 A9B 12 if you have a PTHFV. That's a good idea right there. Somebody at HQ needs a PTPHO n Permit To Pull Head Out.
All told, it takes a half page of ink just to list the hunting seasons for unit 212. It takes a whopping 71 pages to list all the deer, elk and antelope seasons in Montana. By comparison, Wyoming's 2008 booklet takes 13.
I believe it's possible to simplify all of Montana's Region 2 deer and elk seasons into four easy-to-read pages. It would take some consolidation and streamlining, and every landowner and biologist might not get his way, but it could be done in a way that protects the resource and enhances the hunting experience.
Beyond that, I could suggest cutting the onerous and ineffective regulations by more than half, which would free up lots of space for those revenue-friendly paid advertisements and still maintain fair-chase hunting ethics, all the while making life that much better for both hunters and FWP. Wouldn't that be something? A simplified hunting process in Montana that is less complicated, more user friendly and more effective.
Chris Dahl has lived and hunted in Montana for more than 20 years. He writes from Drummond.