Here we are into the first part of August, temperatures are in the 80’s and there is plenty of sunshine. It is a normal beginning for a time of the year and a month that most view as the last days of summer in Montana, at least as far as the weather is concerned. What is not normal is that hunters will be stalking elk with their rifle because the Elk Shoulder hunting season will begin Monday August 15th.
Elk Shoulder season you say, “How does that work”?
The answer is not as short as the question. This past winter, Montana’s Fish & Wildlife Commission approved elk shoulder seasons in 43 hunting districts for the 2016/2017 hunting season with the primary purpose being to reduce elk populations in areas that are over population objective as outlined in the Montana Elk Management Plan. A shoulder season is a firearms season that occurs outside the 5-week general firearms and archery seasons.
In Region 2 for example shoulder season opportunities are offered in HDs 210, 212, 213, 215, 217, 290, 291, 292 and 298. Check the regulations for open season dates in these districts. Hunters may hunt only private lands and of course just like the regular hunting season hunters have to get permission from the landowners to gain access. Block Management Area opportunities will not be available beginning August 15th but some could open up on or after September 1. In Region 2 only holders of an elk B license may hunt elk during the shoulder season.
Hunters must have applied by June 1 and been drawn for one of the limited elk B licenses that were available for HDs 210, 212, 213, 291 and 292. However FWP began selling elk B licenses last Monday August 8th for HDs 215, 217, 290 and 298 over the counter or on line at fwp.mt.gov. The key to hunter success during this early elk shoulder season is gaining permission from landowners. In fact FWP suggests that you gain access before buying an elk B License over the counter. If you are successful in harvesting an elk during this time of the year with your rifle know how to field dress your elk in the summer heat. Here are a few tips from wildlife meat processors so you won’t have spoilage. The animal’s bones retain heat and cause meat to sour. Expose large bones to ambient air before they transfer heat to the muscle. Better yet, remove the bones. Split down the spine from the inside, through the spine and backbone to the hide. The carcass should be opened up all the way from the pelvis to the neck. Open up the round area of the back leg by cutting through the round into the bone.
That’s another place that is a significant problem for heat retention. Have lots of ice available. Bring an extra cooler with blocks or bags of ice. Ice stored in a closed cooler will last for days and be available when you need it in the field. Blocks last longer than bags. Drain water from the cooler to maintain the ice. Skinning a carcass cools it fastest, but if you’re making a short trip from the field to home or field to camp, you can fill the body cavity of an unskinned elk with ice bags to help cool it. Beware, however, as body heat can remain in the thickest parts of the animal, such as the hindquarters, and stuffing with ice is only a temporary measure. If it’s too warm to hang an elk outside, skin and quarter it and put the meat on ice. A large cooler will hold most or all of a cut-up elk. Remember to leave evidence of the animal’s sex. Know where the nearest meat processing facility is located and know hours of operation. Do a little homework before hunting so you will know where and when you can take your game to cool it quickly. Oh and Good Luck!
(Written by the Captain aka Mark Ward)