Quiet start for deer, elk season
By Hookemharry

Posted: October 30, 2003

Montana’s general deer and elk season started off a little quieter than usual with the weather playing a huge role.

Warm, and in places windy, conditions kept the harvest down on opening day, according to reports I’ve heard from various parts of western Montana.

That’s really not surprising. Colder weather and snow help hunters in many ways. Deer and elk are on their feet longer in colder weather. Snow helps in tracking and spotting.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that big game numbers are in good shape this eyar. Look for colder weather and snow in the forecast. When that happens, the hunters’ success rate will go up dramatically.

I had a couple of comments concerning my Hunters Checklist, which ran October 16 in The Missoulian.

Ken Hill from Dixon Montana suggested adding flares to the list. Hill is a certified Hunters Safety Instructor for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. “I recommend that all my young students carry at least two road flares with them in the field,” Hill wrote in a letter explaining why he thinks flares should be added.

He went on to say that as your hands get colder, the nerves and muscles in the hands lose their fine motor skills which are needed to flick your Bic or strike a match.

Lighting a road flare to get a fire going only uses very crude motor skills and can be accomplished with cold hands according to Hill. Flares also work well in wet conditions and are obviously a good choice to let search parties know where you are if they come looking for you.

Andy Kulla e-mailed me about using toilet paper to mark your trail to return to the place where you downed a deer or elk.

Even though it biodegradable, Kulla, who is a Resource Staff Officer from the Missoula Ranger District, says that the practice of flagging the trail is not consistent with the Leave No Trace (LNT) program.

Kulla wrote, “We work in our LNT education program to encourage people to bury personal wastes (including toilet paper) and not leave flagging in the woods. Leaving a trail of toilet paper is neither an approved or accepted LNT practice. It is offensive to other hunters and hikers, gives a negative perception of hunters and is contrary to what we teach 6th graders in our annual LNT presentations.”

Kulla says they visit 30-35 6th grade classes every spring. Kulla suggest using a GPS unit to find your way to and from camp as well as your downed game.

But in the absence of a GPS unit flagging is acceptable as long as the hunter uses the minimum needed and takes all of it down on their last trip from the kill site.

Unacceptable practices according to LNT include hatchet blazing, sawing a trail through the woods, litter trails on/off road or closed area motorized travel. The objective according to Kulla is to leave no trace, even if you think your trace is biodegradable.