Curbs on Elk Hunting Pass; Lead Shot Ban Fizzles

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Montana wildlife commissioners on Thursday struck down a proposed lead shot ban for game birds, tightened elk hunting rules as herd sizes plummet in southwest Montana and approved a youth-only hunt for this fall.

The lead shot ban, spurred by concerns that the toxic pellets can kill or injure wildlife, was originally proposed for all state wildlife management areas. A federal ban on lead already is in effect for waterfowl hunters.

But after some sporting and shooting groups said the state’s proposal was unreasonable, the Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission defeated the ban Thursday on a 3-2 vote.

The proposed ban was unlikely to be revived in the next two years, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim. An existing lead ban on the Ninepipe and Pablo Wildlife Management Areas will stay in force.

In parts of southwest Montana, including the Gravelly and Tobacco Root mountains, elk hunters will be able to shoot fewer cow elk under rules adopted by the commission. To the east, around Gardiner, a late-season elk hunt will be closed.

Those changes come as elk herds decline in those areas because of more wolves on the landscape, continued hunting pressure and other factors.

However, elsewhere in the state, elk hunting rules are being loosened to allow some hunters to take more than one animal.

The youth hunt for deer, elk and antelope will be held the last two days before the general hunting season.

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