Elk numbers and in particular bull numbers have suffered from drought and predation severely enough that the Montana FWP is proposing further restrictions for hunters to try to help keep elk from continuing to plummet. The following is an excerpt from the proposal by FWP Biologist Karen Loveless for unit 313 for the 2015-2016 hunting season:
1. Describe the proposed season / quotas changes and provide a summary of prior history (i.e., prior history of permits, season types, etc.). REMEMBER THIS STEP IS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED BY THE INITIAL ENTRY INTO THE DATABASE—SO FOLKS CAN START THIS NARRATIVE WITH #2 BELOW.
a. Institute limited draw permits for brow-tined bulls during archery and general rifle season with a quota of 75 and a quota range of 50 – 150. The limited draw permits are proposed as first-choice only.
b. Create youth-only antlerless B license with a quota of 30, quota range 15 – 50
c. Eliminate youth-only brow-tined bull or antlerless permit
d. Create antlerless B license with a quota of 30, quota range 15-50
2. What is the objective of this proposed change? This could be a specific harvest amount or resulting population level or number of game damage complaints, etc.
The objective of this proposed change is to increase the brow-tined bull: cow ratios to within 20% of the long-term average, and to adjust the current youth opportunity to be consistent with the limited draw permit structure. Additional B licenses are being created in order to provide additional opportunity, with a conservative quota in order to minimize biological impact to overall population numbers.
Brow-tined bull ratios have been at very low levels in recent years. Since 2009 we have observed on average 2.2 brow-tined bulls per 100 cows, as compared to an average of 19.5 brow-tined bulls per 100 cows observed during 1995-2005 (Table 1, Figure 1)
This elk population spans the boundary of Montana and Yellowstone National Park (YNP). The decline in brow-tined bull ratios observed within HD313 has also been observed across the total population, with 9 brow-tined bulls per 100 cows observed on average since 2009, as compared to 31.8 brow-tined bulls per 100 cows observed on average during 1995-2005 (Table 1, Figure 1). The decline in mature bulls in the population is also evident from harvest data: the proportion of 6-point or better bulls in the harvest has declined from 88% to 46% since 2004 (Table 2).
We have made attempts to address the low brow-tined bull ratios in 313 since 2012 with unlimited bull permits. These have been ineffective at reducing harvest. The unlimited permits were introduced in 2012, and bull harvest in 2012 and 2013 was equal to the average bull harvest during the previous 5 years. In 2014 the unlimited permits were changed to first-choice only, and harvest increased with the highest number of bulls harvested since 2006 (Table 1).
What do YOU think about this proposal?
For the full proposal visit: http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/publicComments/2015/2016-17huntingSeasonChangesProposed.html