The Gianforte administration is working to slaughter elk on our public lands for six months of the year to ensure that some landowners and outfitters can sell trophy bulls in the archery and rifle seasons.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks unveiled its plans to expand the extended “shoulder seasons” for cow elk up to six months and onto our National Forest lands in 19 hunting districts. These districts are areas that are heavily leased by outfitters for trophy hunting operations and therefore are not getting the needed harvest of cow elk to manage our public herds.
Shoulder seasons can run from Aug. 15 to Feb. 15. They were meant to supplement elk harvest in areas where the population is over the objective laid out in the statewide elk management plan, but not replace harvest during Montana’s archery and rifle seasons, which run from early September through November.
The shoulder seasons included criteria that at least half of the harvest come during the archery and rifle seasons. The districts where the extensions are proposed were cut back in 2019 because they weren’t meeting the criteria, and were beginning to replace general season harvest.
This new proposal was crafted without any data on the shoulder seasons in those districts. It amounts to building seasons around outfitters ability to sell trophy bulls, then have public hunters come in to deal with the overpopulation of elk by killing cows in deep snows and bitter cold conditions.
It also amounts to managing for low numbers of elk on our public lands. This is just the beginning of trophy management, and as we’ve seen in other states that means less hunting opportunity for the public and more for the wealthy.
Hunters need to say enough, and push back. Contact the Fish and Wildlife Commission today and tell them no to extended shoulder seasons on public lands.
By Nick Gevock