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Tribal Action Could Reduce Bison Hunting Opportunity

November 1, 2007.

A pair of Idaho-based Native American tribes have been in discussions with Montana officials about starting an annual bison hunt outside of Yellowstone beginning with the winter of 2008-2009.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes would become the third Native American group to exercise their 19th century treaty rights by sponsoring an off-reservation bison hunt. Currently, the Nez Perce Tribe of central Idaho and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes conduct bison hunts outside of Yellowstone.

The basis for the Shoshone-Bannock claim to hunting rights comes from the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, which states that the tribes "shall have the right to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon." It appears that the Shoshone-Bannock claims are valid, although discussions and research are still in progress.

While I fully support and respect the rights of the Shosone-Bannock to hunt bison, it's not good news for hunters who hope to draw a bison tag in Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks adjusts their harvest plan to incorporate quotas that are agreed upon with the tribes. In 2007, 44 either-sex bison tags were issued, 16 of which were to be allocated to tribal members. That left only 28 either-sex tags available for the general draw.

Depending on the agreement reached between the Shoshone-Bannock and MFWP, there will likely be even fewer tags available to sportsmen in 2008.

Coverage on the Shosone-Bannock action is available from The Missoulan.


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