July 22, 2021
PO Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620-0701
RE: MT-BHA Muzzleloader Season Public Comment
The Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers represents some 3,000 dues-paying Montana members who care deeply about public fish and wildlife habitat, public access and fair chase hunting and fishing practices.
We are concerned about the implementation of the upcoming muzzleloader season without any basis in an evidence and science-based management approach. The legislature mandated a nine-day season with only primitive muzzleloaders, and we disagreed with the legislature taking that season-setting prerogative out of this commission’s hands. We maintained that the commission is a more informed body that would make decisions regarding seasons based upon all available information and input, particularly principles of sound management for the benefit of all Montanans.
But as this season is now mandated, we ask that you take into consideration the best available science for the implementation of the muzzleloader season and use the same carefully measured approach as any other season setting. Specifically, we ask you take a targeted approach when assigning these new opportunities. By adding muzzleloader hunts only in units that are above deer and elk objectives - and ideally in areas that are currently archery-only and/or areas where private landowners may be uncomfortable with high-powered rifles - we could both add muzzleloader opportunity and work to address elk and deer management issues at the same time.
Our fear is that an extended state-wide season justified from a 'simplicity of implementation' standpoint ignores the management goals of the department and will lead to increased harvests in areas that may not be needed or desirable, thereby reducing our existing archery and rifle season lengths and/or decreasing general season opportunities in the near future. We're also concerned that, if not carefully targeted, these added opportunities could further concentrate deer and elk on private lands.
Jake Schwaller, Billings, MT
Eastern Montana Board Member, Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers