HAMILTON – A southwestern Montana sportsmen’s group is hoping to encourage wolf hunting in the Bitterroot Valley by holding a drawing for a rifle from among the names of those who successfully bag a wolf in December.
The drawing is an effort to fill quotas set for wolves in two areas where elk populations have been declining, Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association President Tony Jones told the Ravalli Republic.
“It’s been a long, hard-fought battle to get a wolf season in this state,” Jones said. “We have a legal quota set by (Fish, Wildlife and Parks), and now our next step is to make sure that we fill it.”
Bitterroot hunters have seen a loss of opportunity to hunt elk, deer and moose over the past five years. The state virtually eliminated elk hunting opportunities in the southern Bitterroot Valley after several years of poor elk calf survival.
“Bitterroot sportsmen have been great in their response,” Jones said. “Every time that Fish, Wildlife and Parks has requested a reduction in hunter opportunity, they’ve given. Hunters have been more than patient.”
Jones said about 50 percent fewer hunters have come through the FWP tag checking station at Darby than the area usually sees.
“With that reduced number of hunters in the field, we are in danger of not getting the wolf quota filled,” Jones said, adding that the loss in hunter opportunity is also hurting area businesses.
The sportsmen’s group is holding a drawing for a .223-caliber rifle among hunters who kill a wolf in the southern Bitterroot Valley after Dec. 1 and choose to enter the drawing.
“It’s strictly volunteer,” Jones said. “Wolf hunters don’t have to participate. We are not going to spread anyone’s names around. If people want to remain anonymous, we’ll respect that.”
Successful hunters can enter their names through the association’s website at http://www.rcfwa.org.
State officials set a quota for 18 wolves for Hunting District 250, which includes all of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River drainage. As of Friday, three wolves had been killed in that district.
The East Fork is part of a larger wolf management unit south of Missoula and west of Anaconda. Hunters have killed 14 of the quota of 36 wolves allowed in that area.
The state’s wolf hunting season is scheduled to end Dec. 31, but the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission could extend that for another month.
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