HELENA (AP) – Archery hunting of elk in 31 central and eastern Montana hunting districts would be limited under a proposal state wildlife commissioners advanced Thursday.
Areas affected by the proposal, which will be up for public comment at 44 meetings to be held statewide this winter, include the Missouri River Breaks, a place Commissioner Shane Colton said supports “the last greatest public elk herd in the United States.”
After the series of meetings, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will take final action in February on the 2008-09 hunting regulations.
Supporters of the effort to limit archery hunting said it would help control hunter crowding, and provide some equity between archers and gun hunters.
Some hunting districts now have much more liberal opportunities for archers than for hunters with guns.
“If I have to draw a permit, why don’t archers have to draw a permit?” asked Vito Quatero of Bozeman.
Opponents of the proposal said it was driven by social concerns, not by wildlife management objectives.
Many urged that the commission refer the proposal for study, saying that the 44 meetings around the state are not the proper forum for evaluating it.
Mary Ellen Schnur of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association said the proposal would deny too many hunters the opportunity to pursue game.
“Where are they going to go?” Schnur said. “Should they just quit hunting?”
Other critics said the bow-hunting restrictions are like those rejected by the Legislature and repeatedly rejected by previous members of the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission. Small-town businesses that rely on a hunter influx to make money would be harmed, the opponents said Thursday.
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