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Montana 2007 Bison Season Re-Cap

March 15, 2008.

The 2007 Montana bison season has ended. While over 50 lucky public hunters were able to experience a rare opportunity to harvest one of these incredible animals, the hunt was overshadowed by the controversy around Montana's ongoing failure to responsibly and sensibly manage its bison herd.

The 2007 Montana bison season was broken in to 3 splits: November 15 - December 31, January 1 - 22, and January 23 - February 15.

There are two hunting districts, one north of Yellowstone National Park (HD385) and one west of the Park (HD395). HD395 decisively provided the best hunting opportunities throughout all 3 splits for both bulls and cows.

A total of 28 either-sex were issued to the general public, as were 28 cow/calf tags (All of the cow tags were issued for HD395; no cow tags were issued for HD385). Additional tags were issued to Native American tribal members.

Mandatory harvest reporting is not required, but here are the best estimates I've been able to accumulate:

Split HD385, Public Hunters HD385, Tribal Hunters HD395, Public Hunters HD395, Tribal Hunters
1st split harvest
2nd split harvest
1 total
29 total
3rd split harvest
10 total
28 total

Based on the numbers above, 109 bison were taken by state and tribal hunters. A bison advocacy group known as Buffalo Fields Campaign estimates 166. Out of the population of approximately 3,900 bison in Yellowstone, this is an easily sustainable harvest and a great opportunity for both state hunters and tribal members.

While the level of hunting opportunity offered is great, unfortunately the state of Montana also herded 848 bison in to traps and slaughtered them this year. (As of March 13, 2008). The Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) has a tremendous say in the management of wild bison in Montana, and annually conducts this level of slaughter.

DOL employees herd bison in to corrals when they leave Yellowstone National Park, then transport them to slaughter. The tax-funded mismanagement of this public resource is not conducted based on wildlife management principles, but rather based on the DOL's Ahab-like adherence to a poorly-formulated, unfounded, and inflexible brucellosis prevention policy. For ideas about the many alternatives that exist that could stop this senseless waste of our public resources, interested hunters should check out the web site of the American Buffalo Foundation.

DOL hazing operations actually caused the hunt to be suspended for 2 days during the 3rd split of the 2007 season.

In addition to the cloud that Montana's indefensible management policy casts over the hunt, the presence of well-meaning but somewhat kooky bison activists also impacts the hunt. Members of the group known as the Buffalo Fields Campaign follow hunters around and video tape their hunts.

The stated intent of the BFC members is to document the plight of the bison, and they are know for conducting themselves in a respectful manner. However, there are few hunters who would feel that having a bunch of well-meaning hippies tag along on your once-in-a-lifetime bison hunt is adding to the experience.

The Montana bison herd needs to be managed, and hunting is the tool to do it. Hopefully hunters will continue to apply for this hunt. But, although I remain an enthusiastic bison hunter, I won't be applying again until Montana revisits the policies that overshadow this hunt.

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