Saturday, Oct. 21, marks the start of the 2023 general deer and elk rifle hunting season in Montana.
The general season is set to run through Nov. 26. In Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1, which encompasses northwest Montana, a total of 9,521 deer were harvested with rifles in 2022, with the vast majority being white-tailed deer. That number was down slightly from the 9,668 harvested with rifles the previous year. Likewise, over the same period, 763 elk were harvested with rifles in Region 1, which was up slightly from the 728 harvested in Region 1 in 2021.
There have been no known cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) affecting people, but hunters in areas with known cases in the deer, elk and moose population of the progressive, fatal neurological disease are advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have their harvested animals tested, and to not consume meat from animals known to be infected. CWD has been previously detected in Region 1, and the CDC guidance also applies to hunters harvesting animals in areas adjacent to areas where CWD has been detected. Infected animals may present symptoms including drastic weight loss, stumbling, a lack of coordination, listlessness, drooling, excessive thirst or urination, drooping ears and a lack of fear for people.
Additionally, Montana FWP prohibits the dumping of game carcasses. That includes dumping carcasses on public property and state-owned and managed lands, including FWP fishing access sites and wildlife management areas. The carcass of animals infected with CWD can transmit the disease for at least two years. In order to prevent the spread, parts of the head or skull containing brain material and/or spinal columns of deer, elk and moose harvested in Montana must be left in the field at the kill site, or, if transported for further processing, including taxidermy, those materials must be disposed of in a class II landfill after processing has been completed.
Prior to the start of the season, there will be a two-day window for a youth-only deer hunt stretching from Oct. 19 through Oct. 20. In order to participate in the youth hunt, hunters must be legally-licensed 12- to 15-year-olds who have completed hunter education and have a non-hunting adult accompanying them. The youth hunt is also opened to “properly certified and legally licensed apprentice hunters,” between the ages of 10 and 15, who are accompanied by a “non-hunting adult ‘mentor’” who is at least 21 years old.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, in a recent press release, noted that youth hunters must wear hunter orange and follow all hunting district regulations.
For FWP guidance on responsible hunting practices, click here. Additionally, Montana FWP encourages using its 24-hour toll-free hotline 1-800-TIP-MONT to report wildlife poaching, property damage, and violations of fish and game laws.
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