Be aware of fire danger as hunting seasons open

The wait is nearly over, as upland game bird hunters will be back in action on Sept. 1, and archery seasons for deer, elk and antelope open Sept. 2. But as hunters prepare to head into the field, the threat of wildfires should factor heavily into their planning.

By Marla Prell,

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Information Officer

The wait is nearly over, as upland game bird hunters will be back in action on Sept. 1, and archery seasons for deer, elk and antelope open Sept. 2. But as hunters prepare to head into the field, the threat of wildfires should factor heavily into their planning.

“As the hunting seasons quickly approach, we would like to remind hunters about the extremely high fire danger in eastern Montana,” said Fish, Wildlife & Parks Hunting Access Coordinator Travis Muscha. “All of Region 7 is currently experiencing the driest year in decades. Landowners are very concerned about the upcoming hunting season and wildfire dangers.”

There are no hunting season closures due to fire danger, and FWP does not anticipate there will be any; however, there are some early-season impacts to the Block Management Program.

“We currently have several Block Management Areas (BMAs) that are closed or restricted due to high fire danger,” Muscha said. “You may experience additional restrictions as you venture into the field beginning September 1. Please be courteous and respect the restrictions put in place by landowners.”

As of Tuesday, nine BMAs in Region 7 are closed or restricted until conditions improve. The closures involve not quite 96,000 acres, and less than 25,000 of those acres are in Custer County. But that leaves 247 BMAs and more than two million acres open to public access, plus a wealth of opportunities on other public and private lands. Block Management staff at FWP regional headquarters in Miles City are available to assist people seeking areas to hunt.

On Tuesday there were close to 20 fires burning across southeastern Montana, with little to no rain forecast. Hunters should be aware that all of Region 7 is under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which means that campfires in hunting camps are banned, and smoking is allowed only in a vehicle or in an area clear of vegetation.

Muscha mentioned some things sportsmen and women can do to help alleviate the start of any wildfires:

Park your vehicle on bare ground or ground completely void of tall grass

Drive only on established roads

Avoid driving through trails that may have tall grass

After you leave an area, please wait for few minutes to make sure that a fire has not started where your vehicle was parked

Bring along a fire extinguisher or water-filled weed sprayer, shovel or axe

Check on any fire restrictions in place in the area where you are hunting

“Eastern Montana landowners and state and federal land management agencies very much appreciate and thank you for being extremely cautious and careful as you venture out this fall,” Muscha said. “Have a safe, happy and successful hunting season.”

Despite the ongoing drought and a busy fire season, hunters doing their homework should still have ample opportunities to harvest animals. Mule deer populations in the region continue to trend upward, antelope numbers are near average in most areas, and the elk outlook is good – particularly if hunters can access private lands. Upland birds will be a bit challenging with the drought impacting cover, vegetation and recruitment, but diligent hunters should see some success.

      



GAMES