Montana Looks to Extend Elk Hunting


There are so many elk in Montana that landowners are practically begging hunters to shoot them. Now state wildlife officials are looking to extend the elk hunting season to reduce the population.

Rancher Ron Wetsch told the Independent Record that overpopulation had gotten so bad on his proverty that if something wasn’t changed soon he and his neighbors might take action on their own.

Last year, Wetsch said 147 elk were hunted on his property but this spring the numbers were expected to increase with an estimated 600 calves born on the land. The cost to his livelihood isn’t cheap either. Wetsch estimates that elk cost him $80,000 in feed and $75,000 already this year.

“Our biggest problem is Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” he said. “If it don’t work, change it.”

A proposal to allow elk hunting possibly before and after the regular archery and rifle season was met with mixed response so that wildlife officials extended the comment period to 60 days. Some critics say the real problem is getting enough landowners to allow elk hunting on their property.

Commissioner Matt Tourtlotte of Billings argued wildlife officials could do more under the current elk management plan to reduce populations.

But the realities of hunting in eastern Montana in vast country that’s remote and rugged poses natural barriers to taking advantage of a large elk population. It’s just not that easy to access, so many hunters pass it up.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Tourtlotte said.

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