General season for deer and elk closed on Sunday, but there are still opportunities for any unlucky hunters to fill their freezers this year.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) use shoulder seasons in some hunting districts to help reduce elk populations in areas that are considered overpopulated.
“We have shoulder seasons now in 53 hunting districts and some of these districts are way overpopulation objective,” said Game Management Bureau Chief John Vore. “I think the worst one is about nine times our population objective.”
A shoulder season is defined as a firearm season that occurs outside the five-week general firearms and archery season.
Shoulder seasons are performance-based, meaning that certain criteria for timing and number of animals harvested must be met.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the concept in October 2015 and around 4,200 cow elk were harvested in the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 shoulder seasons.
Most shoulder seasons focus on antlerless elk primarily found on private land and hunters are strongly encouraged to check the regulations for each hunting district.
Vore said shoulder seasons are an important game management tool for FWP, but that tool only works with partnerships between FWP, hunters, and landowners.
“We know that we’re not going to be able to get populations to objective without the cooperation of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, in cooperation with landowners, in cooperation with hunters,” said Vore. “So we’re all in this together.”
Hunters should also establish connections early with landowners as it is illegal to hunt on private land without the landowner permission.
For more information about shoulder seasons in Montana, people can visit the FWP website.
Story by John Riley, MTN News