sportsmen for montana, mountain goat

Opportunity & Habitat

There is a reason Montana has one of the longest and most liberal big game hunting seasons in the nation. Big game needs big country. Don't let anyone take that from you.

Key Opportunity & Habitat Issues
Big Game Needs Big Country

Big Game Needs Big Country

Where the road ends is where the good hunting begins. We all know it. Roadless country is where the wild things are. No noisy vehicles and no crowds of weekend warriors to push the bulls around. It's just you and your skills matched up against the cunning of your prey. You're hunting on their terms, the way it was meant to be.

There's a dose of reality that comes with leaving the road. It stirs the little voice in the back of your head to tell you: This is where the elk are. It's quiet, foreboding and wild. You're five miles in, and well beyond the vehicle hunters and guys who can't seem to get out of camp.

Effort and Reward
You're in Montana's Roadless Country. It takes effort and sweat to find that booner bull in Roadless country. Nobody said it would be easy to hunt elk on their terms, in their house. But the payout is worth it. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks commissioned a study that showed elk hunters were significantly more successful in Roadless areas (25%) versus roaded lands (15%).

Why it Matters
Inventoried Roadless Areas in Montana make up some of the most productive hunting grounds in the state. Your prey needs a solid foundation for their habitat needs. Roadless areas provide that foundation in Montana. All that productive security habitat is the reason Montana has one of the longest elk and mule deer seasons in the nation.

Roadless country represents the last of the best wild country outside of Wilderness. These are the migration corridors for elk and mule deer, our headwater streams full of cutthroat, rainbows and brookies. Roadless is more than just a management prescription, it's the honey hole you'll never tell anyone about. It's the last best piece of the last, best place.

Threats to Big Country
But these places are always being threatened by the short sighted and the uncaring. Legislation in the House of Representatives would eliminate protection on approximately 85% of all Inventoried Roadless Areas in Montana, about 5.5 million acres.

What you can Do:
The Montana Wildlife Federation recently launched their Roadless Hunters and Anglers Campaign to raise awareness about hunting and fishing in Montana's Roadless Areas.

Check it out, and see what you can do to help keep your success rates high.

Responsible Off-Road-Vehicle Use

Responsible Off-Road-Vehicle Use.

We've all been there. Its ten minutes before sunrise, the sweat from the morning hike is fresh on your back. Elk hug the fringe of timber as they feed. You're in a perfect position. Then you hear the whine of engines. So do the elk. They bolt, and you're left with only the memory of the herd bull, five minutes before legal shooting light.

Most hunter success starts with a pair of dusty boots, not the saddle of an ATV. Elk and mule deer just don't like a lot of traffic. Any experienced mule deer hunter knows the nastier the coulee or the thicker the brush, the bigger the buck. Habitat security is critical for keeping those older-class critters out there, waiting for us. That habitat security is either strengthened or weakened by the travel planning process.

How it Works
Travel planning is a public process used by our land agencies to decide what roads and trails are open for what uses; whether that be travel corridors for motorized use, quiet trails, or horse and foot traffic only.

Travel planning happens about every 15 years. It's a careful balancing act. It's also a long, painful process full of stakeholder meetings, maps, yelling matches and sometimes a good knockdown, drag out fight. It may not be much fun, but its very important work. The decisions made on these plans determine how pushed around wildlife will get and the quality of the habitat you encounter. If done right, we can ensure folks have plenty of places to ride their ATVs but also plenty of big open country full of elk and mule deer.

What you Can Do
Just as we fight for our opportunity and for wildlife at the FWP commission, legislature or congress, hunters and anglers must constantly be vigilant when it comes to Forest Service travel planning, or BLM land use planning. That means going to the meetings and advocating for what's best for wildlife because - what's best for wildlife, is what's best for hunters and anglers.

You're an important voice in the discussion. When you engage in the travel planning process you do your part for sustaining long-term hunter opportunity.

Learn more about Responsible Off-Road-Vehicle Use at Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Our Shared Bounty and Responsibility

Our Shared Bounty and Responsibility

Big Game and wildlife, belong to no one, but depend on the public to manage them effectively. Montana has led the way in wildlife management but it you want to get involved, you can't be gun shy.

It's complicated, making sure everyone's happy and nothing bad ever happens. It's also impossible. If you're looking for a sure fight, wander into the Pony Bar, Augusta Buckhorn, or Sydney Sports Club and disagree with someone about wolves or bison for instance.

Democracy in Action
Montana's wildlife and wildlife habitat managers have a huge task ahead of them managing all those highly-charged emotions. They have to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of man. Often times, wildlife loses. Sometimes, wildlife wins.

The people, represented by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, rule over the management of wildlife. Go to any FWP Commission meeting, and you'll see a cross section of Montana unlike any other public event. Ranchers, farmers, hunters, anglers, animal rights folks, environmentalists and a host of everyday people show up, and speak their mind. You gotta love that.

Likewise, the people we elect to office also determine future opportunity for sportsmen and wildlife. Hunters and anglers need to know where the candidates stand on issues involving habitat, sportsmen's rights, natural resources and safeguarding the public trust. While getting engaged in politics can taste a lot like the energy bar you forgot in your pack for a few months, you want to do your research and not give your vote away to just anybody.

What you can Do
Montana made a commitment a long time ago to leave enough room for our critters. That commitment came in the form of some of the earliest hunting and fishing regulations, legislatively establishing Wildlife Preserves, and protecting winter range for elk, deer and other critters. Montana's wildlife management model has long been the envy of other states. But it's been a constant fight to do what's right for wildlife.

That fight isn't over. To learn more about what the Fish and Parks Commission is up to or to understand how Montana elections can determine the outcome of your hunting and fishing opportunity look up the fellas at Montana Sportsmen Alliance.

Additional Noteworthy
Issues and Efforts

From wolf management and the fate of our backcountry public lands to discussions about bison reintroduction and the Rocky Mountain Front; these are the headlines that made waves this past year and impact opportunity and habitat.

issue_arrowTester Proposes Expansive Sportsmen’s Act
As the latest Farm Bill lands on the U.S. Senate floor for consideration, Montana Sen. Jon Tester has proposed an expansive amendment designed to increase access to public lands, fund new shooting ranges and reauthorize a federal grant program that protects wildlife habitat, among other sportsmen-related measures... Read On

issue_arrow9th Circuit clears amendment that shielded wolf delisting from court review
A three-judge panel unanimously rejected the arguments of several environmental groups that claimed wolves lost their federal Endangered Species Act protection in Montana and Idaho before their populations had recovered... Read More

issue_arrowSally Mauk: Conservationist Posewitz says bison should have place in wild
can easily recall the first time I heard a bull elk bugle. I was several miles inside a northwest Montana wilderness when I was startled by the piercing whistle... Read More

issue_arrowBaucus backs Heritage Act
Sen. Max Baucus announced Friday that he will introduce wilderness legislation this session to protect ranching and hunting opportunities along the Rocky Mountain Front for future generations... Read More

issue_arrowProposal to release roadless, wilderness study areas gains backers, opponents
A proposed bill to release federal roadless and wilderness study areas to local management and development is gathering lengthy lists of supporters and opponents, even though it’s stalled in Congress... Read More

issue_arrowRoads To Nowhere: A Motorized American Wilderness is Looming
There is a place northeast of Malta, Montana, and just south of the Canadian border, called Frenchman’s Creek. There’s not much of a creek there, although long ago, in some rainier, ice-melting epoch of atlatl-throwing hunters and thundering bison, there must have been, because there’s a wild and complicated system of breaks there--coulees cut deep by water, with wind scoured badlands, strange hoodoo figures of soft rock carved and sculpted by weather... Read More