And So It (Hunting Season) Begins...
HUNTING SEASON IS FINALLY HERE!!! Sportsmen are celebrating their annual ritual of venturing into the outdoors. We only have so many seasons in our lives and none of us want to waste any. Fall in Montana is special to all of us that live here or visit Big Sky Country. We are renown for our amazing diversity of wildlife such as waterfowl, gamebirds, elk, moose, antelope, and deer.
Non-hunters need to bear with us when it comes to hunting. Humans are Hunters and Gatherers. It is in our DNA. These skills are what allowed humans to survive throughout time. Hunting season lasts only a few months annually. Our public places are open to all year-round.
Public wild places are a result of hunting and fishing licenses, fees, and taxes. Open space funds are distributed to every state based upon the volume of license sales. Taxes on hunting and fishing gear are a wonderful way to create revenue to manage, maintain, and expand public lands, access sites, and programs.
Not just anyone can hunt. Hunters need to complete a Hunter Safety program. Once you are certified, you can then apply for a resident or nonresident license. Many additional permits to hunt certain places or critters are permitted on a lottery basis only. Montanans get first crack at most of these permits and opportunities. Nonresidents pay higher fees and are eligible for fewer permits.
There are no guarantees that you will fill any tags. It is called “hunting,” not shopping. This means that time, skills, expense, and some luck are required to successfully harvest wild game. Physical ability and age limit many hunters as to what and where they can hunt.
All Montanans are blessed with vast public lands. Non-hunters are welcome to celebrate the outdoors. Winter sports like snowmobiling and skiing are popular. These folks pay no fees or permits for this privilege. Thank your fellow hunters and fishermen for sharing these wild public places.
Hunting is primarily a fall event. September 1st is the start of archery season for deer, elk, antelope, and other big game critters that require a special permit. Everyone needs to be aware of the hunting season. It is only fair that hunters get their shot to enjoy the sport they love in the public lands they help sustain. Non-hunters are wise to wear florescent orange colors and be safety-minded when afield in the fall. Most hunters will be in camouflage unless required by law otherwise. Most hunting seasons end around Thanksgiving or when the snow begins to stack up.
Hunters enjoy harvesting meat that will support and feed their families. This healthy, organic meat has no additives, antibiotics, or chemicals. Wild game is also the most expensive meat available. Once you add up all the costs for weapons, ammunition, gear, travel, other equipment, time, preparation, butchering costs and licenses, wild meat is not cheap. Honestly, it would be cheaper to buy store bought meat.
Why do we hunt? It is in our nature. There is a primal voice inside us that excites us to perform this annual tradition. Hunting is at the core of many ranchers, families, friends, and communities. Harvesting this annual, renewable resource is exciting and satisfying.
The pride a hunter feels when supplying meals to others is rewarding. Hunters are also the primary management tool to keep wildlife populations healthy and sustainable.
Our wild lands can only sustain a certain healthy population. This is called “Carrying Capacity.” There is only so much habitat, food, and space for critters.
Too many critters, or overpopulation, can destroy habitat and overgraze food sources. Disease and stress will then eliminate and waste these animals. Some of these diseases can impact domestic animals and human populations.
Seasons and harvest quotas are determined by federal and state wildlife management agencies and professionals. Centuries of data go into determining healthy limits and harvests. Annual reproduction will replace harvested populations annually. Other factors such as predation, weather, other mortality, and carrying capacity, determine these decisions as well.
Some folks want to allow nature to take her course. Let the fires burn, let the critters find their own levels of population, allow predators to determine population balances. This would be fine if humans did not live in the same ecosystems. You can’t have it both ways.
Hunters and humans are predators. Our forward-facing eyes, ears, and canine teeth make us omnivores. Our diet includes meat, fish, and plants. We can choose to be Vegan, herbivores, or limit our diet in other ways but… our ecosystem is also our grocery store.
With the aging of our Baby Boomer generation, hunter populations are dwindling. This may be wonderful news to anti-hunters, but who will pay for the wildlife, parks, and watersheds in the future? The Millennials, and younger generations, love the outdoors, but fewer hunt and fish. They get a free pass to enjoy the public resources provided by past hunters, fishermen, and sportsmen.
Montana will be one of the last places to give up hunting. We are a pioneer population that chooses to live off the land. We are also a state where wealthy people are buying up huge tracts of land and hope to keep others off. Restricted access is always a problem to consider. Hunting and fishing will become a sport for Kings and Queens, as it is in Europe, if this trend does not change.
For now, we hunt! There is something incredible and empowering about hunting. Hunting is a Blood Sport. In the end, a critter dies and provides food. It is a sad but rewarding moment. Many hunters give a silent prayer after harvesting and tagging what will become their family’s sustenance. Big game, fowl, game birds. sheep, bears, turkeys, and other critters fill our winter pantries with food. Hides, pelts, and antlers supply clothing, decoration, and tools. Many hunters do not fill their tags. The hunt is still a rewarding experience. The friendships, experiences, stories, and sunrises are enough. Hunters are simply hunting for happiness, joy, and fulfilment, even if it’s to hunt just one more season.
Hunt hard, safe, and for as long as you can!