This weekend marks the start of waterfowl season in Montana – for the young hunters anyway.
Youth waterfowl days will take place Saturday and Sunday September 22-22. The rest of us will have to wait until Sept. 29 when the general waterfowl seasons open in the Central and Pacific Flyways.
Legally licensed hunters ages 12 through 15 may hunt ducks, geese, coots and mergansers on the special weekend, but must be accompanied by an adult at least 18 years of age. While the accompanying adult may not shoot, he or she can assist with setting decoys, calling and retrieving.
Keeping our youth involved in the outdoors, whether it be hunting or fishing, is a valuable reason to promote and take part in things like the youth waterfowl days.
By going through hunters education and then realizing a real life hunting experience, it is bound to add discipline and a respect for firearms and the outdoors no matter what later life will bring them.
It is also another way for our youth to gain self-esteem through their hunting accomplishments.
I also think this is very important in light of the national statistics that have come out recently. I recently read a news release that indicted the number of hunters has decreased in the U.S. When you live in a hunting-happy state like Montana, these numbers certainly don’t reflect what is happening in out own backyard.
“We are staying steady with the amount of young hunters that are going through our hunter education program,” said Ron Aasheim, from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.
Annually, the number of hunters being educated runs between 6,500 and 7,000.
Yes, hunting may be declining nationally but in Montana it is as strong as ever.
“We have around 190,000 residents that hunt in the state,” adds Aasheim. “We have the highest per capita in the U.S. of persons 16 years and older that participate in hunting.”
According to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, in 2006, 104,000 elk license were purchased. In 2005, elk hunters bought 103,867.
The numbers behind these hunters really turns into dollars for the state.
“Resident and non-resident hunters contribute a tremendous amount of dollars to the states economy,” says Aasheim.
According to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, elk hunters spend $100 million on transportation, lodging, food, guide services and other expenses associated with a hunting trip.
Deer hunters spend $75 million. Bird hunters spend $50 million. And antelope hunters spend $7.5 million.
When you break down the elk numbers between resident and non-resident hunters on a daily expenditure basis, non-residents spend $355 per day and residents spend $75 per day.
“Ten years ago, the US Dept of Commerce showed that $6 million was spent on ammo and $10 million was spent on guns in Montana,” reports Aasheim.
Yes keeping our youth involved in the sport of hunting is good. It helps keep the hunting heritage alive that we have established for years in Montana. It also gives them unforgettable memories that they will cherish and talk about for the rest of their lives.
Special thanks should go to all the landowners who open their land for public hunting. In today’s world, we need all of us working together to continue to grow the sport of hunting. It is the reason many of us live in and enjoy Montana.