I’d Like to Go Hunting – Now What?

By Beacon Staff

We’re often asked, “How do I read and understand the deer and elk regulations?” The best advice is to start at the beginning with the general information that pertains to the whole state, then narrow your search down and continue on to boundary maps, then district specific regulations which show season dates (archery and rifle), species/sex requirements and a listing of additional tags and/or permits available in that district. Also, any exception or special regulation would be noted under the district information. Montana has seven different regional areas for Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), each region then divides into districts. Legal descriptions of the districts are provided at the back of the regulations.

Many folks often want to know, “What is the difference between a permit, a license, or a tag?” Well, it depends on where you’re from and what you’re used to calling these items. In Montana, a permit is special, allowing a hunter to harvest an animal in a specific district or a portion of a district, but then “tag” the animal with a general license (or tag) for that species; it doesn’t allow an additional animal to be harvested. Permits have to be applied for in advance. A tag (or license) can be a general (purchased any time throughout the license year or by a certain date in certain circumstances), or applied for during the special drawing process. “Special” licenses can be in addition to your “general” tags, such as a “B” tag for deer, which would allow an additional deer to be harvested in certain districts or regions.

Be aware of the date (drawing and purchase deadlines, season dates) – these can sneak up (and pass you) in a hurry. FWP’s license year runs from March 1st through the end of February the following year, and in between there are many dates to remember. Our website at fwp.mt.gov is a useful tool along with regulations and by calling any of the regional offices throughout Montana.

Knowing the species and habitat is helpful. Information specific to Montana big game animals can be found using FWP’s website. There is a multitude of useful information on our site, including the Montana Field Guide which provides animal descriptions, distribution, foot habits, and ecology to name a few.

Getting to know the area you want to hunt is also an important first step of a successful hunting season. Successful harvests usually begin with some groundwork; “scouting” the area you are planning to hunt. Get to know the geography, land ownership and potentially, game habits in that area. Access can be a big issue when you’re selecting an area. FWP provides information on public and private land hunting opportunities on our website and at regional offices. FWP’s block management program is a great program to investigate. FWP cooperates with private landowners to provide public hunting on their lands. Booklets with cooperator information are available approximately during mid-August of each year.

Another effective tool for planning your hunt is the “Hunt Planner” on the website. It has numerous resources such as drawing statistics and harvest reports. The amount of information you will find as you click around our website is amazing (and very useful).

Of course, this is an overview, just the beginning, and there are always other questions and/or exceptions to a standard rule. So, feel free to get answers to your particular questions pertaining to hunting, fishing and recreating in northwest Montana by calling the FWP Region 1 Headquarters at 406-752-5501 or {encode=”[email protected]” title=”send us an email”}. That’s what we’re here for!

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