Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists have completed the 2016 survey of the Missouri River Breaks (MRB) and Bears Paw elk herds in Region 6. The aerial surveys were completed in February and March by Region 6 biologists Scott Hemmer and Drew Henry. Overall, the surveys found that elk numbers in both areas increased since the last survey.
“Both management units are doing well,” said Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer. “Favorable weather conditions the past two years have resulted in increased elk production and survival, contributing to the increased number of elk observed.”
Missouri River Breaks (MRB) Elk
The MRB elk survey across Hunting Districts (HD) 621, 622, 631, and 632, was completed in February and is done biennially. Neighboring breaks districts are typically flown concurrently to limit the potential for elk to be missed or double counted due to movements between districts.
A total of 3,404 elk were observed across the four districts, with 2,869 in HDs 621/622, and 535 in HDs 631/632. The total number of elk is 20% above the long term average, with average calf-cow ratios and above average bull-cow ratios.
The management objective for the MRB districts is 1700-2000 elk. FWP implemented changes during the season-setting process for additional elk hunting opportunities for the 2016 hunting season. 300 antlerless elk permits (application deadline March 15) were added, which are valid for HD 620, 621, 622, 630, 631, and 632, but not valid on CMR National Wildlife Refuge lands. In addition, 500 antlerless elk B licenses (apply by June 1) are available for a December 15-31 shoulder season in HD 620, 621, 622, 630, 631, and 632, also not valid on CMR National Wildlife Refuge lands. The additional antlerless elk hunting opportunities were designed with the help of the Breaks Elk Working Group to provide private landowners with more elk management options.
Bears Paw Elk
The Bears Paw elk survey, completed in March, is flown annually and includes HDs 680 and 690. There were a total of 435 elk observed, which is up 13% from the long term average. Calf-cow ratios were average and bull-cow ratios were below the long-term average.
The management objective for the Bears Paw is 250 elk. With elk numbers over objective in the Bears Paw districts, FWP implemented additional antlerless elk hunting opportunities for the 2016 hunting season. 100 antlerless elk permits (application deadline March 15) were added, which are valid for HD 680 and 690 on private land outside block management areas. In addition, 100 antlerless elk B licenses (apply by June 1) are available for a December 15-31 shoulder season in HD 680 and 690, valid on public and private land.
With above average elk numbers across Region 6 elk management units, hunters should look into additional elk hunting opportunities available through the drawing. It is also a good reminder to secure permission on private lands early to make the most of the 2016 hunting season.