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Montana's 2008 Elk Outlook

October 7, 2008.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

One thing’s for certain this hunting season. Montana’s got elk and hunters by the thousand are making plans for what’s shaping up to be a great season.

Montana’s general elk hunting season opens Oct. 26.

"Hunters are going to see very healthy populations of elk and liberal hunting opportunities. If the weather works in hunters’ favor, and they do some advance work, to gain access where it’s needed, plenty of elk are potentially available for harvest,"   said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife division management bureau chief.

And all eyes will be on the weather.

Over the past several years, Montana has experienced mild winters and late snows. Kujala pointed out that the mild weather has contributed to lower elk harvests in some areas of the state, despite the additional elk-hunting permits and more liberal seasons on the books.

"This has been a pretty good weather year in Montana," Kujala said. "We’re all hoping it leans in the hunters’ favor this fall."

Hunters may obtain a free Hunting Access guide from the FWP region where they plan to hunt and access FWP’s hunter tool kit on the FWP web site at, on the hunter access page.

Here is an overview of 2008 elk hunting opportunities in the state.

Regions 1 & 2—Western Montana

In FWP Region 1, in northwestern Montana near Kalispell, elk populations are stable to increasing.   Spring surveys revealed a regional average of 19 calves per 100 cows which is down from last year due in part to a more normal winter in northwest Montana.. Over 1,600 elk were observed in the lower Clark Fork region during spring helicopter surveys. Other hot spots for elk in northwest Montana include the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, the Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge area of the Purcell Mountains and the North Fork of the Flathead River.

In FWP Region 2, biologists observed healthy elk numbers in many parts of the region.The signs point to a good 2008 harvest if fall brings cool weather and snow.

Regions 3 & 4—North Central and South Western Montana

In the northern portion of FWP Region 3, in south central Montana, elk populations are near objective and recruitment is good. In the Gravelly-Tobacco Root complex, hunting opportunities are liberal with five weeks of brow-tined and antlerless hunting. West of   Interstate Highway 15, populations are within or slightly above objective and there are some liberal opportunities for hunting either-sex and antlerless elk.   Elk numbers are high in the eastern portion of FWP Region 3 with a liberal five-week brow-tined bull and antlerless elk season and unlimited A9/B12 licenses in hunting districts 315 and 393.

Elk populations in FWP Region 4, in north central Montana, remain strong throughout the region. There is also a good distribution of older age animals. As always, pursuit of access arrangements well before hunting may yield benefits later during the fall hunting season.   Opportunities exist in specific hunting districts along the Rocky Mountain Front and elsewhere for hunters to acquire an additional antlerless elk license and pursue additional hunting days.   These licenses are district specific and are targeted at elk elk herds currently exceeding management objectives.   Again, hunters are strongly urged to plan ahead to make access arrangements well before the season begins.

Regions 5, 6 & 7—Eastern Montana

In FWP Region 5, in the Billings area, spring population surveys indicated that elk numbers are near and in some cases well above population objectives set in the statewide elk management plan. Bull numbers are also good. Where access is available and if weather is favorable, hunters can look forward to good hunting with some of the most liberal elk seasons Montana has seen. A hunter’s biggest challenge in some cases will be to obtain access to hunt on private land.   Hunters are strongly urged to plan ahead to make access arrangements well before the season begins.

In FWP Region 6, in the Missouri River Breaks and Bears Paw Mountains, elk numbers are   at or above management objectives set in the statewide elk management plan. All elk hunting is by special permits, but those hunters who drew permits should find abundant elk in core habitats. In the general-season elk hunting area north of U.S. Highway 2 in FWP Region 6, elk densities are very low.

Elk populations are building in the Missouri Breaks and the southern portions of FWP Region 7   with conditions that promote good winter survival and productivity. Winter post season surveys in the Missouri Breaks found 36 bulls for every 100 cows. Of the bulls, 42 percent were yearling and 58 percent of the remaining bulls were six point or better. Access to private land should be arranged well in advance of the hunt and may be difficult to obtain.

Montana’s elk season closes Nov. 30. For details on the season, see the 2007 Montana deer and elk regualtions available on the FWP web site under Hunting, Hunting Regulations, and at FWP offices and license providers.

For more information about hunting elk in Montana, visit FWP’s Deer, Elk & Antelope Hunting Guide and Montana’s online Animal Field Guide.


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