Montana’s general elk hunting season is over and before I go any further, the answer is a resounding NO!
No, I didn’t get an elk this year. Yes, I came up short in my quest.
It’s not that I didn’t have my opportunity along the way or that I didd’t give it a solid effort. I can’t ever remember walking as much mountain terrain as I did this season.
When you finally come across four bull elk and they are only 40 yards away, you would think that the situation would be just right to fill your tag. That is, unless you are hunting in an area where you can’t shoot spike bulls and at least two of the bulls are spikes.
Knowing your target is what they teach in Hunters Education classes and that’s one of the rules you absolutely must follow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pick out a legal brow-tine bull before the little herd turned the corner and went out of sight.
That experience prompted a call to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks following the season. I had a few questions for FWP like: Are they going to extend the season in the area that I hunt?
The weather was so mild in that area this year in November that bare ground was all hunters saw instead of the foot of snow that normally blanket the area. The mild weather affected the migration of elk to their winter grounds, so maybe the season would be extended like it was two years ago.
“No, don’t look for any seasons to be extended at this time,” said Quentin Kujala, FWP Management Bureau Chief based out of Helena. “The harvest through week four of the season was within 20 percent of the five-year average.”
Simply put, that is the criteria the department uses for the determining weather it will extend the season in any district for elk. There might be some game damage hunts but if there is, they will be announced at a later date.
One way those hunts are triggered is by a landowner needing help reducing elk on his land if, in fact, the landowner has given reasonable access to hunters during the five-week general season.
“The department has tried to bring more focus on our five-week hunting season in Montana to accomplish the harvest objectives that we have set,” said Kujala, “We would strongly look at extending the season in a hunting district if the elk harvest is down through week four of the current season more than 25% when compared to the five-year average.”
That is apparently what took place two years ago in some of the 300 series hunting districts. The department gave hunters two more weeks to hunt for their elk.
Why can’t you shoot spikes in some hunting districts? “It depends on the couple of reasons,â€? added Kujala, “We look at the bull-cow harvest ratio and we also like to see more mature bulls taken in some hunting districts as well.”
In other words, if a hunter is faced with shooting a elk bull or a cow the hunter will more than likely take the bull elk. A bull elk will grow brow tines to make it legal to shoot in almost all hunting districts by the time they’re two-and-half years old.
The five-week window for hunting is the cornerstone that FWP wants to use accomplish its harvesting objectives.
However because of the mild weather Montana has experienced the last few Novembers there has been talk of possibly moving the five-week window either up or down the calendar.
The chances of this happening are remote at best for a number of reasons including the traditional last weekend hunting that includes families hunting together because of Thanksgiving.
Overall, the message is clear from FWP: get your elk during the five week general big game hunting season that Montana offers hunters. It is one of the most liberal windows for hunters to bag their game in the USA.