Though unable to fly, they—along with elk, mule deer, and pronghorn—must travel to and from distinct habitats just as birds do—and sometimes for remarkable distances. For many American hunters though, elk aren’t available in their backyard. “But it does require letting people know how they can live in migration routes without impeding wildlife movement.”. Montana’s application period ends on March 15. The data in this article comes from 173 Montana radiotelemetry studies and other reports dating to the 1950s that Jim Williams recently compiled. Montana

When cold and snow arrive, they move to lower-elevation foothills in search of exposed, windblown bunchgrass. Montana has it all for DIY elk hunters. Other states manage their elk herds to provide ample opportunity with plenty of. The answer completely depends on the species.”. Here are the four best options for hunters interested in going on their first do-it-yourself elk hunt. For instance, goats that spend much of the year at Our Lake, an alpine basin along the Rocky Mountain Front northwest of Choteau, will travel 5 miles over steep terrain to reach licks at Billie and Deep Creeks. There are plenty of states to choose from that offer great elk hunting. The first time he arrived, the fruit wasn’t ripe, so he returned to Lindbergh Lake and waited a few more weeks before heading back to find edible berries.Â. If possible, do some networking to talk to folks who’ve hunted your selected area. In and around Glacier National Park, mountain goats clamber across several miles of rocky cliffs every summer to reach mineral licks. Range expansion strategies of colonist elk in southcentral Montana. reduces and isolates cold and snowy alpine habitats.

Fish & Wildlife Service’s Prairie-Mountain Region.

“It’s a simple fact that most big game “migration”: 175 miles, Major migration concerns: Roads that increase But some make great migrations.

In the middle of this spectrum are states where tags aren’t sold over-the-counter but they do offer attainable tags and big bulls. Additional elk hunting opportunities can be found where, private landowners allow public access through collaborative arrangements with state wildlife management agencies, After you’ve nailed down some access points and established that there are elk to be hunted in those areas, you’ll want to get more detailed in your research. Colorado is often at the top of the list for beginner elk hunters. A phone call to the state fish and game agency will put you in touch with the biologist who is responsible for the management of the elk herd you’ll be hunting. policymakers accommodate sensible residential and energy development across Montana while ensuring that landscapes remain permeable to critical wildlife movement. Some of the best local intel you can get comes from state wildlife biologists. In August, grizzlies move to higher elevations to feast on the vast moth congregations. Average/longest documented migration distance: 15/125 miles, Major migration concerns: Loss of winter range from residental development; predators in some areas, Elk are the most well-known big game migrators in Montana. MAINTAINING CONNECTIVITY Big game animals must sense whether the trip is worth the effort. Tom Dickson is the editor of Montana Outdoors.

Average/longest documented migration distance: 46/350 miles, Major migration concerns: Fencing and roads from increased energy development.

This might seem like a hassle, but, Wyoming consistently boasts the highest elk hunter success rates in the West. There are plenty of states to choose from that offer great elk hunting. The longest documented whitetail migration in Montana is Most antelope don’t need to travel far, meeting their seasonal needs by moving only within their home range. Public lands access is excellent as well. All of this information will help you narrow down a few areas as possible hunting destinations.

In one recent study, biologists learned that a single pronghorn traveled more than 350 miles as it fled brutal winter conditions in search of food and shelter south of Glasgow. animals need to move seasonally to another region to avoid bad weather or find better feeding or breeding conditions,” says Joel Berger, a senior conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the John J. Craighead Chair in wildlife biology at the University of Montana (UM). 1991. Skinner, M. P. 1925. One FWP study followed radio-collared bighorns moving from winter range at the Beartooth Face near Red Lodge across the Beartooth Plateau to summer range at Wolverine Peak near Cooke City. Staying put is not an option, explains Kerry Foresman, a UM professor of biology. There they find refuge from driving winds and browse edible shrubs exposed on windblown ridges. Elk are doing well there, with herd numbers over objective in much of the state. The general elk tag is valid throughout much of the state during a six-week archery season and five-week rifle season. ON A COLLISION COURSE Montana has it all for DIY elk hunters. Average/longest documented migration distance: 12/51 miles, Major migration concerns: Vehicle collisions in valley winter range; climate change that reduces and isolates cool, wet habitats; predators in some areas. The idea was to manage winter habitat to support more elk while luring many of the animals away from adjacent ranchlands, where they competed with cattle for grass and knocked down fences.Â. Ask any big game hunter who lives in the Rocky Mountains what is their favorite species to hunt and you’re likely to hear “elk” as the answer. A do-it-yourself elk hunt is an aspirational, bucket-list trip for a  lot of sportsmen and women. Private land elk hunting opportunities are limited in the West and often require hiring an outfitter or paying a significant trespass fee. In summer 2006, one collared bear traveled twice from Lindbergh Lake in the Mission Mountains north along the Swan River to just outside Kalispell in the lower Flathead Valley, searching for ripe chokecherries. us | Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, CAPS: Montana crucial wildlife habitats mapping and planning system. Points can be purchased the calendar year before Wyoming’s application period opens in January. They also documented three generations of mule deer does that migrate from Yellowstone National Park north through the Paradise Valley and over I-90 to winter in lower elevations of the Bridger Mountains. Biologists tracked an annual spring migration from the Judith River WMA near Lewistown southwest across the Castle and Little Belt Mountains to summer grounds in the Gallatin Valley. Save the best habitat, the thinking went, and wildlife populations will survive.

Each spring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), thousands of elk in 6-8 populations migrate from far-flung winter ranges in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, to high-elevation summer ranges nearer to the core of Yellowstone National Park (YNP). expenditures. Demand often outpaces supply, so drawing this tag may require applicants to have a preference point.

When animals can’t move back and forth between core habitats, populations suffer. In the western forested region, the Montana Legacy Project maintained connectivity by allowing FWP, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and the U.S. Forest Service to purchase and secure more than 300,000 acres of private Plum Creek timberlands. In much of the United States, whitetails don’t need to move far. Elk are the most well-known big game migrators in Montana.

Conservation groups, state agencies, and others are trying different ways to maintain connectivity and big game mobility. “We need to understand the animals’ responses to natural areas and human development,” says Justin Gude, who manages FWP’s wildlife research Average/longest documented migration distance: 8/40 miles, Major migration concerns: Vehicle collisions when in valley winter range; disease. recently. Non-residents need to apply for their elk tag by the end of January each year. illegal kills and vehicle collisions; residential development that increases garbage problems that require bear removal; climate change that could lessen wild berry and whitebark pine production. All Rights Reserved. Preseason scouting begins by understanding the terrain you’ll be hunting and locating specific drainages, canyons and ridges where you’re most likely to find elk. Other measures include restricting motorized use in the backcountry to protect wildlife raising young, convincing energy companies to fragment less habitat, and asking ranchers in key migration routes to alter some fences a few times a year. “It’s not one or the other; you have to have both,” says Ken McDonald, head of the FWP Wildlife Division. Elk are doing well there, with herd numbers over objective in much of the state. Average/longest documented migration distance: 12/73 miles, Major migration concerns: In prairies, roads and fences from new energy development; in some mountains, residential development that alters routes and eats up winter range.

West of the Continental Divide, grizzlies move up and down elevation searching for large concentrations of huckleberries or whitebark pine cones. For instance, FWP helps grizzly bears move across the landscape safely by teaching black bear hunters how to distinguish between the two species and avoid accidental shootings. For rifle hunters, bull tags can be purchased over the counter for the state’s second and third rifle seasons. You can search for roadless areas that elk use during hunting season and get a quality view of the terrain and cover where you’ll be hunting. Ask any big game hunter who lives in the Rocky Mountains what is their favorite species to hunt and you’re likely to hear “elk” as the answer. of deer moving in late fall from the Seeley Lake area through the Seeley-Swan Valley to Goat and Squeezer Creeks, roughly 44 miles each way. The elk situation. You need to do all of this well in advance of your hunt, and it’s just the first step in the elk hunt planning process. The first question any prospective elk hunter needs to answer is where to go. “We’ve secured many core habitats,” says McDonald. These general licenses allow hunters to pursue elk in many areas of the state, with the exception of some controlled draw areas. are invaluable aids for elk hunters.

This story is featured in Montana Outdoors March-April 2013 issue. Colorado

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