Deer and elk hunters will take to the field Oct. 24 for the general big game season and they’ll all need to keep in mind a few important pieces of information.
Be bear aware
Grizzly bear populations are continuing to expand in western Montana, and though we often say that anywhere in the western half of the state is grizzly bear country, not all recreationist, particularly hunters are ready to encounter a grizzly bear.
Carry bear spray, be prepared and know how to use it.
Hunt with a partner and let someone else know your plans.
Pay attention to fresh bear sign. Look for bear tracks, scat, and concentrations of natural foods.
Use caution when hunting areas that have evidence of bear activity or areas with scavenging birds such as magpies, ravens or crows.
Get harvested big game out of the woods quickly.
Upon returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site at a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise.
Never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass.
Contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable.
For more on bears, visit FWP's website.
Bear spray – carry it, know how to use it
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends the use of bear spray and urges hunters to learn other bear-aware safety measures.
Most grizzly bears will leave an area if they sense human presence. Hunters who observe a grizzly bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area. If you do encounter a grizzly, stay calm, don't run, and assess the situation by trying to determine if the bear is actually aware of you. Is it, for instance, threatening or fleeing? Always keep the bear in sight as you back away, and leave the area.
Guidelines for using bear spray:
Bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.
Each person should carry a can of bear spray.
If a bear is moving toward you from a distance of 30-60 feet direct the spray downward toward the front of the bear so that the bear spray billows up and creates a cloud that acts as a barrier between you and the bear.
If the bear is within 30 feet spray continuously at the front of the bear until it breaks off its charge.
Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you. Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge.
Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.
A full canister of bear spray is essential for bear encounters.
The expiration date on the spray should be checked annually.
Purchase products that are clearly labeled “for deterring attacks by bears,” and that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.
No deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, bear spray has demonstrated success in a variety of situations in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved.
For more on living with bears and being bear aware, visit FWP website at fwp.mt.gov; then click Be Bear Aware.
For more on bear resistant products, go to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website.
If you do shoot something and have to come back to pack out all or part of it, make sure to move the meat away from the entrails, if possible.
TIP-MONT works 24-7 to stop poachers
Montana's outdoor crime-stopper help line, TIP-MONT, has an online option to report poachers and other hunting-season violators.
Now alert citizens can report poaching and violations of hunting regulations by going to the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov. Click "TIP-MONT" to use the online report form.
The TIP-MONT toll-free number—1-800-TIP-MONT or 1-800-847-6668—is the best way to report crimes that are in progress, or where immediate assistance is needed.
While the online service isn't a real-time TIP-MONT connection, the reports are checked several times a week. Online TIP-MONT reports remain confidential and are managed under the same guidelines that protect all crime-stopper callers.
TIP-MONT callers most often report violations of Montana's hunting rules and regulations. Other important calls pertain to vandalism at Montana state parks and on public lands.
Here are some of the most common hunting season violations reported:
failure to obtain permission from landowners before hunting on private property
wasting any part of a game animal suitable for food
failure to properly validate a license or tag, or securely fasten it visibly to a game. animal immediately after it is taken and before it is moved or transported from the kill site
taking game from the wrong hunting district
using someone else's tag on a harvest game animal
failure to leave evidence of sex attached.
Callers to 1-800-TIP-MONT, and those who file reports online, may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash award of up to $1,000 if the information leads to a conviction.