Game managers propose deer hunting changes

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After considering a number of factors, wildlife managers from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 are proposing eliminating either-sex white-tailed deer licenses for two districts in Northwest Montana.

Managers will ask the Fish and Wildlife Commission to limit hunting to only antlered bucks in District 122, which includes the Thompson River area in Sanders County, and in District 130, the Swan area in Lake and Missoula counties.

For the last three years, hunters have been able to harvest a white-tailed deer of either sex during the first week of the general hunting season, as well as the last week of the season on private lands only.

The commission will review the proposal at its Feb. 13 meeting in Helena. The commission will accept public comment on the proposal before taking final action.

If approved, the changes would take effect this fall.

“Our area biologists reviewed several factors, including decreased fawn recruitment in deer populations after the last two winters and the big game check station data from this fall. We also spoke to numerous sportsmen,” said Neil Anderson, FWP Region 1 wildlife manager. “We felt these changes were warranted in an effort to help white-tailed deer populations rebound after appearing to decline.”

Fish & Game regional staff recently hosted four meetings across northwest Montana – in Kalispell, Libby, Trout Creek, and Eureka - and presented information about deer population trends and harvest data, and discussed deer management with sportsmen.

The overall crowd at these meetings totaled nearly 150 people and generally expressed support for the tentative antlered-buck only proposal.

Several factors can contribute to the health of game populations, including winter weather that impacts fawn recruitment, predation, habitat changes and hunter pressure.

Northwest Montana experienced two recent winters with heavy snowfall that persisted well into early spring.

For a list of reports detailing wildlife populations and more in northwest Montana, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/regions/r1/.

Those that can’t attend the commission meeting in Helena can watch it on streaming live video at the Region 1 headquarters in Kalispell at 490 N. Meridian.

Meetings are also audio streamed online at fwp.mt.gov. Members of the public can comment at FWP regional headquarters during the meetings.

Hunting season regulations are reviewed and adopted every two years, but requests can come forward in between the formal season-setting process when wildlife biologists and managers demonstrate a need for a mid-cycle change.

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