In anticipation of strong interest in upcoming antlerless elk “shoulder seasons” in five central Montana hunting districts, state wildlife officials are contacting landowners and working out details for hunters interested in participating in the post-season hunts.
The shoulder-season hunts, aimed at reducing elk populations in some areas, are pilot projects approved earlier this month by the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission for hunting districts on the north and east sides of the Big Belts, the Castle Mountains, and in the Missouri River Breaks.
The elk shoulder-seasons in hunting districts 445, 446, 449, and 452 will begin on Nov. 30, 2015 and end on Feb. 15, 2016. The shoulder-season in hunting district 410 will begin Jan. 1, 2016 and end Feb. 15, 2016. All hunts are for antlerless elk only.
The new shoulder seasons are in response to concerns from Governor Steve Bullock, lawmakers, hunters, landowners and others about overabundant elk in some hunting districts. In all, 80 of Montana’s 138 elk management units are over objective to some degree. Shoulder seasons can occur before and after the general archery and rifle seasons.
“We’ve been pleased and encouraged with the response from landowners and hunters,” said Jeff Hagener, FWP director in Helena. “A number of landowners will be working with FWP to define and provide access to take good advantage of this additional harvest opportunity authorized by the commission. We need that cooperation and we’ll need hunters to be respectful and capable guests on private land.”
Hagener noted that hunters must obtain permission to hunt on private lands and stressed that they will not need to register or be selected from any roster. In hunting districts 445, 446, 449, and 452, hunters only need a valid 2015 general elk license or a Region 4 004-00 “B” license to participate. Hunters with valid either-sex elk permits for hunting district 445 – and a valid 2015 general elk license – can also participate but can only harvest antlerless elk.
In hunting district 410, hunters must possess a valid 2015 410-20 either-sex permit or 410-00 “B” license to participate. Hunters can only harvest antlerless elk.
These shoulder season opportunities are available on private lands, Bureau of Land Management lands, and State of Montana School Trust Lands only. No elk shoulder seasons will occur on national forest lands, the Charles M. Russell Wildlife National Wildlife Refuge or on any FWP wildlife management areas.
Hagener directed anyone interested in participating to visit FWP’s website for additional information. “We’ll post information there as needed,” he said.
For information, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Elk Shoulder Seasons”.
FWP FACT SHEET – FAQs – 2015-16 ELK SHOULDER SEASONS
What are elk shoulder seasons?
“Shoulder seasons” may be used to create elk-hunting opportunities with firearms before and after the general archery and rifle seasons to increase harvest and improve management in specific places, mostly on private lands where elk numbers exceed local elk population objectives.
Where are the elk shoulder-seasons for this year?
- The 2015-16 shoulder-seasons will be open in portions of the following central Montana elk hunting districts:
- 410–Missouri Breaks
- 445–Hound Creek
- 446–Northeast Big Belt Mountains
- 449–Castle Mountains East, and
- 452–Castle Mountains West
- These pilot-project opportunities are available on private lands, federal Bureau of Land Management lands, and State of Montana School Trust Lands only.
- No elk shoulder seasons will occur on national forest lands, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge or on any FWP wildlife management areas.
When will the elk shoulder-seasons begin and end?
- The elk shoulder-seasons in hunting districts 445, 446, 449, and 452 will begin on Nov. 30, 2015 and end on Feb. 15, 2016.
- The elk shoulder-season in hunting district 410 will begin Jan. 1, 2016 and end Feb. 15, 2016.
What licenses and/or permits are required?
- Hunting during elk shoulder seasons will be for antlerless elk only.
- In hunting districts 445, 446, 449, and 452 hunters only need a valid 2015 general elk license or a Region 4 004-00 “B” license to participate.
- Hunters with valid 2015 either-sex elk permits for hunting district 445 – and a valid general elk license can participate but can only harvest antlerless elk.
- In hunting district 410, hunters must possess a valid 2015 410-20 either-sex permit or 410-00 “B” license to participate. There is no general license hunting opportunity in hunting district 410. Hunters can only harvest antlerless elk.
- By state law, a hunter may only harvest a total of two elk during a license year.
Can hunters purchase a 2015 license to participate after the general season ends Nov. 29?
Yes, as long as they haven’t already harvested two elk. General elk licenses for the 2015 license year will be available for sale through Feb. 15, 2016. Or, hunters can use their previously purchased valid 2015 general license, a permit or B license previously awarded through the drawings, or a surplus 2015 B license valid for the districts where the shoulder seasons will occur; these licenses and permits will remain valid in their respective hunting districts during the shoulder season dates listed above.
What access options are available to hunters?
- Hunters must obtain permission to hunt on private lands.
- Hunters need to be prepared to arrange their own permission with landowners in the same way they do during the archery and general hunting seasons.
- FWP Region 4, headquartered in Great Falls, will provide additional resources throughout the shoulder season – including hunt coordinators who will work with area landowners to provide hunters with up-to-date information about private land access opportunities and elk distribution.
- Hunt coordinators will provide information, they will not manage hunters. Contact information for area hunt coordinators will be available on the FWP website and from the Region 4 office prior to the start of the shoulder seasons.
- Hunters shouldn’t assume that Block Management Areas that provided elk hunting opportunities during the general season will be open. BMAs may or may not provide elk hunting during a shoulder season. The area hunt coordinator and Region 4 staff will be able to provide hunters with BMA-specific information.
- State school land and federal BLM land that is legally accessible may also provide elk hunting opportunities. Hunters are reminded that landowner permission is required to cross private land to reach state and federal lands that are not otherwise legally accessible.
Are bull elk included in these elk shoulder seasons?
No. Hunters can only take antlerless elk during these shoulder seasons.
How can I keep informed?
For more information, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Elk Shoulder Seasons”.
2015 Elk Shoulder Season Hunting District list and map.