Game Management & The Idaho - Montana Divide

Jefferson County, MT ranchers want to institute a county bounty program for wolves.  You can read all about that here at the Billings Gazette.

If you remember, I suggested that the issue of bounties should be revisited in this post back in December.  I knew that sooner or later bounties would enter the discussion amongst those fed up with wolves.

But a county bounty program seems problematic for several reasons, one of which is that there can be a lot of fraud with bounties.  I don't know how a county could provide bounties without getting taken advantage of.  If a hunter kills a wolf in Madison County, and then trucks it to Jefferson County to get the cash, who would know?

Jefferson County Commissioners are against the idea, but a majority of ranchers in favor of it could force the county into action.  Besides commissioners, sportsmen are speaking out against it.

"What?!?" was my initial thought.  I thought there must be a mistake.  Consider this from the article:

Three men who describe themselves as avid hunters and houndsmen said that while they're not big fans of wolves -- and all three were part of the 18,000 people who bought a $19 permit this year to shoot one -- they want the commission to cut FWP and the federal government some slack when it comes to managing wolves. This is only the second year that wolf hunting has been legal in Montana.

"Give them the chance to learn about this, and let the process work a little bit," said Josh Pallister. "It's not that I love wolves, but we are uneducated about them."
While discussing this with some fine folks over at OYOA's Hunt Talk Forum (where there is a wealth of information for do-it-yourself adventures), the sentiment of Montana sportsmen seems to be consistent with the quote above.  Give Montana FWP a break.  Cut the feds some slack.  We don't know exactly how much damage the wolves do to the elk.  We need to take wolf management slow, and act reasonably.  Etc., etc.

It wasn't what I expected.  There appears to be a divide in the thinking between Idaho and Montana sportsmen.  Most Idahoans I know would rather take a stick to the feds.  Cutting the feds "some slack" doesn't even register.  And that's just generally speaking.  On the issue of wolves, the sentiment runs deeper and more volatile.

Montana wants to manage game with predators.  Idaho wants to manage game with hunters.  Consider this from the Montana Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife website on how MT & ID differ on wolf management:

  • Wolves on a quota.
  • NO Trapping
  • NO baiting
  • NO snaring
  • NO electronic calls
  • One tag per year.
  • Gun season runs from October 22- Dec 31
  • non resident fee $350.00
  • Must wear Orange
  • Trapping YES Nov 15 thru March 31
  • Baiting YES
  • Snaring YES
  • Electronic calls YES
  • Gun Season runs from Aug 30 till June 30.
  • Wolves can be killed during spring bear season.
  • Each person may kill up to 5 wolves per year between trapping and hunting
  • You can put a deer tag or elk tag on a wolf during the general hunting season
  • Non resident tags are $31.75 each
  • NO Orange 
It is quite true that we don't have all of the data on what role the wolves play in the ecology.  They are still somewhat of a mystery.  But we got rid of them once in Idaho because ranchers and sportsmen wanted them gone.  Idaho still feels the same way, and even more so this time because of the fact that the feds forced them down our throat.

While Montana dilly dallies around trying so hard to stay out of the fed's doghouse (where WY has been), Idaho is getting busy by at least trying to take out one of the predators that is harming, to some extent, declining elk populations.  I find that comforting, and I hope that it is not the case that Idaho sees a lot of non-resident hunters coming over from MT in 5 years.

~ J. Bunch

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