Slow Montana hunting season ends with a bang

Slow Montana hunting season ends with a bang. By Perry Backus. Missoulian.

Just to remind folks how much difference weather makes in a hunting season.





  1. SAP Avatar

    Yes, weather makes a HUGE difference. When it’s warm, those elk are hunkered down on the timbered north slopes, often in crusty snow. Hard to get close to them, harder still to get a shot, and you’re looking at an ugly retrieve if you do get one.

    Also, you’ll see in the story that the elk season was extended by two weeks in much of southwest Montana. That extension takes in all of the Gravelly-Snowcrest country between the Madison and Beaverhead Rivers.

    What do we have for wolves in that country? Well, it looks like at least four different packs throughout that chunk of country. Maybe more. Three packs have radios, one previously unknown pack evidently has no radios but were seen and herd consistently by hunters this fall.

    Yet the elk herds remain large and robust.

    Part of why those elk herds remain large is that some hunters deceive themselves into thinking that driving around looking for elk is an effective strategy. Nope. Gotta get out and go after them.

    Some hunters seem to think there was some golden age of elk hunting, when the elk were out in the open and you could kill them and load them whole into the pickup.

    Near as I can tell, there may have been a handful of years in the late 70s or maybe the 80s when that happened. The human population was still rather low, lots of private ranchlands were still readily accessible, the elk herds had grown from the sparse numbers of mid-century, and we still got some brutal cold weather by late October back then.

    Maybe that was the golden age. Population growth, privatization of hunting opportunities, warm weather, and changes in hunter behavior have changed things a lot.

    The biggest changes I would identify in hunter behavior are not improvements (this may be just a few bad apples, but they leave a very bad impression, even amongst their fellow hunters):

    ** they aren’t respectful of private lands (gates left open, pastures rutted up, things shot);
    ** they aren’t willing to trade sweat equity for access by helping out on a ranch (fencing, branding, pulling weeds);
    ** they don’t use horses (don’t wait til you’re old and fat to figure out how to work them!);
    ** their hunting equipment consists of a cushy pickup, lots of gas, a cellphone, and some monster rifle they don’t know how to shoot.

    It’s going to be a long hard road to change things and get back to a general level of hunter competence. A lot of these folks ought to just get out, sell their rifles, go in on a bison with their friends if they want meat in the freezer. Because they’re just driving around wasting gas and then whining about the rich California-imported ranch owners, wolves, and the agencies.

    And to pick up the funding slack to pay for habitat conservation, as people all over this blog’s spectrum seem to agree, the non-consumptive wildlife enthusiasts need a mechanism for contributing.

  2. Cowboy the Cat Avatar

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few days now, and wanted to say I think it’s great. SAP, I think bad hunters having little success may actually end up being a boon to the western economy. The trend in outfitters and hunting guides is up, up , up, and people being clueless about hunting, but just wanting to kill something will be more willing to spend that extra cash to do it. It would be nice for the diversification of the economy anyway. Maybe that oversimplifies things… Also, guides and outfitters maybe could contribute to keeping up rancher’s property in exchange for leading hunts on them. Again, oversimplification, but a man can dream.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think SAP wrote a very good comment, and he gets my applause.

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    As a horseman, I shudder to think that some of these guys would start using horses. I’d rather they quit altogether.

  5. SAP Avatar

    Robert – I second that. I see all sorts of crimes against horses every fall: bad cinch galls, torn up feet, animals not mentally or physically prepared.

    Opening week, I had to re-tie a highline for some doofuses (doofi?) in a backcountry camp — they had just tied the horses directly onto the rope instead of tying them into fixed loops, so the horses got themselves all tangled up and were fighting the line and each other. The people were out being “sportsmen” somewhere. Typical.

    It’s a wonder more horses and their ignorant riders aren’t hurt every hunting season.

  6. elkhunter Avatar

    The weather was horrible for our CO deer hunt this year. It was 65 degrees on average. And the deer were very scatterd, not rutting or moving at all. It was a tough hunt all the way around. I have never hunted harder either, we saw a few deer, 1 big bull that I failed to buy a OTC tag for, I lost a little sleep that night over that. But SAP is right, seasons like this nobody should be blaming wolves etc, it just makes things almost impossible, no matter how good of a hunter you are.

  7. Anthony Avatar

    I agree with SAP 100% people if you want to kill an elk your going to have to get out of your car in order to do so! stop driving everywhere and go for a hike, or use horses


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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