Drastic Changes to Quality Elk Hunting in District 313 Proposed

For an outfit that has repeatedly stated their desire to simplify and improve public engagement, a proposed last-minute change in FWP’s hunting regs seems mighty rushed.

Long after the biennial season-setting last spring and squashed between two holidays, Montana's Fish & Wildlife Commission’s Vice Chair Tabor is pushing a drastic change to elk hunting in southwestern Montana.

Sounds complicated, doesn't it? It is.

The change would eliminate a unique, limited-entry 2-week hunting opportunity that currently exists in a district bordering Yellowstone National Park. It would replace it with an unlimited, over-the-counter 5-week hunting season, including an unprecedented nine days of muzzleloader hunting in December as well.

While some welcome and others oppose this amendment, we can all agree that this isn't the right way to go about significant changes to our hunting regulations that would impact quality hunting opportunities in Montana.

No FWP biologist is pushing for this change, no science or data justifies it, and the local comments we've seen are mostly in opposition. The loudest supporter of this proposal is the outfitters and guides industry. This is understandable considering the massive influx of potential clients this change from 50 limited-entry permits to an unlimited free-for-all would create.

FWP's Director Worsech recently penned a piece highlighting his department's efforts to increase public participation in setting hunting regulations. And we thank him and the Department for that. But the intended improvement in this process is far from perfect.

This 11th-hour proposal was not brought by Commissioner Byorth - the Commissioner who lives in and represents this region. Instead, it was brought by the Vice Chair, Commissioner Tabor, the former outfitter who lives 350 miles away. And while there’s nothing procedurally preventing Vice Chair Tabor from bringing this proposal forward, it sure strikes us as odd.

This is bad practice and bad optics.

The last time Dir. Worsech asked for feedback on elk management decision, he said he ”got an earful, which is exactly what I wanted.”

It’s time to fill his ears again.

We encourage you to make your voice heard during the December 20th Commission meeting, either in person in Helena, via Zoom*, or at your regional FWP office. You can also contact your regional commissioners by email here.

*If you wish to make a comment via Zoom, you must register by noon on December 19.

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