Montana Administrative Register Notice 12-328 No. 18   09/20/2007    
    Page No.: 1442 -- 1444
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In the matter of the amendment of ARM 12.9.1105 pertaining to hunting season extensions


To: All Concerned Persons


1. On June 7, 2007, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission (commission) published MAR Notice No. 12-328 regarding a public hearing on the proposed amendment of the above-stated rule at page 750 of the 2007 Montana Administrative Register, Issue No. 11.


2. The commission has amended ARM 12.9.1105 as proposed.


3. The commission received 14 comments regarding the proposed amendment. A summary of the comments appears below with the commission's responses:


Comment 1: Nine individuals expressed support for the season extension ARM amendments or recognized that season extensions have a place in management.


Response: The commission appreciates the support of the individuals offering these comments.


Comment 2: One person thought that the hunting season extensions had a place but thought they would be even more effective if game barrier fences were required around subdivisions and other places where game cannot be hunted.


Response: The commission does not have authority to require that subdivisions build game barrier fences. This authority lies with the governmental body that approves the subdivision. The commission's authority over land is limited to lands acquired or operated by the commission. 87-1-303, MCA.


Comment 3: As part of or an alternative to season extensions, a few people recommended reducing game numbers by allowing a hunter more licenses and tags or allowing hunters to use licenses for longer periods of time, even all year long. Another person recommended any hunters with unfilled tags should be able to participate in an extended season and additional tags should be issued.


Response: In some cases, multiple licenses are available. Hunters who have not filled their tags are allowed to hunt when a season is extended. Hunting throughout the year is not currently allowed as Montanans have traditionally respected sensitive calving and fawning periods.


Comment 4: A few people wanted a return to early or late season hunts. They thought the late seasons hunts offered more opportunity to harvest game animals and decrease herd populations than the current 35 day season with season extensions. These people stated that late seasons should be reinstated when game numbers are over objectives. Those advocating a return to early and late season hunts thought the current five-week season was not flexible enough. One person said he thought the department needed to be able to extend a season on 24 hours notice.


Response: The intent of the ARM amendments is to increase the commission's flexibility to extend a hunting season when the need arises. Under ARM 12.9.1105, a season could be extended on 24 hours notice. The reason seasons are not usually extended this quickly is that the commission wishes to provide reasonable public notice.


The commission's recent decision to move away from broadly applied early and late seasons was based in large part on the fact that these seasons were not effective in managing game populations. The data revealed that the hunts failed to cap game populations in many areas and populations grew. The current 35 day season may be extended, under certain conditions, when game numbers are over objectives.


Comment 5: A few people addressed hunter access. One stated that the department should not extend a hunting season in an area where landowners do not allow hunter access. Another stated that the reason not enough elk are harvested is that there is not enough general hunting access to private lands because of outfitting. This person presented a specific plan pertaining to the Madison Valley.


Response: The commission agrees that better access should improve elk harvest. Available access is currently an element of season extensions criteria. ARM 12.9.1105(1)(c) requires that adequate public hunting access during the five-week general hunting season be present before any extension is applied. The Madison Valley data and recommendations were forwarded to the commission for its consideration when adopting the 2008 hunting regulations.


Comment 6: Two people thought the commission was not using data collected by biologists in making its season setting decisions. One maintained that less data was now being collected than in years past. Another person thought the past system of allowing early and late season hunts would still be in effect if the commission had made its decision based on data.


Response: The commission gives serious consideration to available data before making any season setting decisions. ARM 12.9.1105 sets out criteria based on biologic data that the commission must use when deciding whether or not to extend a hunting season. The department currently collects as much, if not more, data as it has in the past. Relative to both population and harvest surveys, the department continues to evaluate what information is best to collect, how best to collect it and how best to apply it. This effort includes internal and external review and research. Game survey data revealed that the former practice of conducting numerous early and late season hunts did not successfully manage game populations in many areas. This information was one of several reasons the commission decided to adopt the current five-week hunting season.


/s/ Steve Doherty
Steve Doherty, Chair
Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission
/s/ Rebecca J. Dockter
Rebecca J. Dockter
Rule Reviewer


Certified to the Secretary of State September 10, 2007.

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