With record high temperatures earlier this week, it is hard to imagine that Saturday marks the opening day for duck and goose hunting season in Montana.
Western Montana is in Zone One and we can only hope that the opening weekend should produce some successful hunters despite the warm weather.
John Firebaugh, wildlife manger for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks in Missoula, reports that the Canada goose population is excellent off the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Firebaugh says that because of the mild winters we have had in the last couple of years, a lot of geese are making their home just about year-round in Western Montana. The local duck population is about up to par as it has been the last couple of years, as well.
Drought conditions, as of yet, have not had an adverse effect on local waterfowl.
The main rivers, local backwaters and sloughs along the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers should be good.
unters are reminded to make sure they ask landowner permission when it is needed for access to these areas. Shooting hours Saturday start at 7:02 a.m. (a half-hour before sunrise) and end at sunset which is 7:19 p.m. in Western Montana.
Hunters will need a conservation license, Montana Migratory stamp ($5) plus the Federal Migratory stamp ($15).
Hunters heading to the popular Flathead Indian Reservation should expect average populations of ducks and geese, according to Rich Janssen from the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribe.
Janssen says that tribal bird biologists have also told him the birds are healthy because of the mild winter and they are bigger. He also added that the now-famous meadow vole population is rebounding and so the pheasant hunters should see a better pheasant population than last year but still off from the highs from few years back.
Because of the better meadow vole population, predators have concentrated more on them than on the waterfowl and upland birds as a food source.
Shooting hours Saturday on the Flathead Reservation begin at 7:32 a.m. (sunrise) and end at sunset which is 7:19 p.m.
Hunters that are Montana residents will need the state and federal stamps along with a tribal permit for waterfowl and upland birds ($26) to hunt.
It’s a good idea to review regulations for both on and off the Flathead Indian Reservation before you go hunting. The use of steel shot is required anywhere you hunt waterfowl in the state.