Shoulder Season Update – Oct 2016
By Toby Trigger

Posted: October 22, 2016

Elk shoulder seasons in Montana have gotten off to a quiet but effective start.

Wildlife managers in the regions with active shoulder seasons are seeing hunters taking a few elk and being effective at reducing late summer and early fall landowner conflict with the animals.

“Landowners have seemed to be satisfied that early shoulder seasons provided them with a tool to get trusted hunters on their croplands with a minimum of hassle,” said Mike Thompson, wildlife manager for FWP region 2 in Missoula. “We’ve received reports from archers who felt that bowhunting on public lands improved as a result of the hunting pressure on adjacent private lands. Complaints of game damage by elk on private land have been much fewer this year than in recent years.”

Approved by the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission in October 2015, shoulder seasons are a new opportunity for hunters in hunting districts where elk populations are over objective. The commission approved shoulder seasons in 43 hunting districts, mostly in central and southwest Montana.

A shoulder season is a firearms season that occurs outside the 5-week general firearms and archery seasons. While most shoulder seasons focus on antlerless elk harvest on private land and address problematic distribution of elk they are not intended to replace or reduce harvest during the existing archery or 5-week general firearms seasons.

Shoulder seasons have specific objectives and as such, the commission and department will monitor the success of shoulder seasons in each hunting district to ensure they are meeting the fundamental objectives outlined in the plan.

In FWP region 1, shoulder seasons have also been quietly effective. In this part of the state, shoulder seasons are limited to two hunting districts and 50 permits. This targeted effort has so far been working, said Tim Thier, wildlife biologist in the region. He estimates that hunters have taken about 20 thus far.

In region 4, hunters have yet to really take advantage of the shoulder season, but where hunters have been active it’s been effective.

“It’s been the kind of a hunt where there weren’t that many participating, but the ones who were out there were serious and they took some elk,” said Graham Taylor, region 4 wildlife manager.

In region 3, only a few hunters have taken advantage of shoulder seasons thus far, but interest is growing and biologists anticipate more participation after the conclusion of general rifle season.

Additionally, FWP regions with shoulder seasons are employing elk hunt information coordinators to specifically work with landowners and hunters. The contact information for these information coordinators can be found on the FWP website, shoulder season page.

While shoulder seasons are geared toward private land hunting, permission is always required to hunt on private land.

For more information on shoulder seasons, including an interactive map of hunting districts with shoulder seasons, look on the FWP website under Shoulder Seasons, a link to which is on the FWP homepage and the hunting home page.

(This is a news Release from the Montana FWP)