Going back to our first heavy snowfall in late September, and subzero temperatures in October, we’re having a long winter. But, cheer up! We’re just about at the end of February, even if this is a leap year with that extra day in February.
We could probably make a good case for having that extra day on June 31, when it’s warm and sunny. It would be a good day for a holiday and an outing.
Of course, that would be unfair to people living in the southern hemisphere. Tacking leap day to the end of June would steal a day of their summer and move it to winter.
The reason we have leap years and leap days is that Earth’s trip around the sun isn’t exactly 365 days. It’s 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds. Without those leap days, our calendars after 100 years would be off by 24 days.
Julius Caesar is responsible for those leap years, which he implemented in 45 BCE, just a year before his death on March 15, 44 BCE. His calendar, the Julian calendar, was a good step, but adding that leap day every four years was a bit too much. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which basically skips leap years in century years that are not divisible by 400. So, the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, though 1600 and 2000 were. This isn’t perfect, of course, but it’s pretty good, as it’s off only one day per 3,030 years.
Even with that leap day, it’ll be March 1 on Sunday. The Vernal Equinox doesn’t happen until March 19, but March 1 marks the beginning of Meteorological Spring. Even here, in the northern Rocky Mountains, we can sense that the season is changing.
That changing season also means that it’s time to buy new fishing and hunting licenses for the 2020 license year that begins on March 1.
In January Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced some changes in the licensing procedures.
If you’ve usually purchased your licenses at an FWP office, or at a license vendor, your licenses have been printed on a weather-resistant paper. The technology for printing those licenses is out of date, so licenses this year will be printed on standard 8 ½ x 11-inch paper. Further, if you buy your license online, an electronic version on your mobile phone will be acceptable in case of a license check.
Further, carcass tags will also be printed out on ordinary paper. FWP recommends that you carry them in a small sandwich bag to protect them when you tape the tag to your critter.
Additionally, hunters applying for special licenses or permits will have to do it online or at an FWP office. Mail-in applications will no longer be accepted. This will speed up the drawing process, and drawing results will be available in just two weeks after the application deadline, instead of around six weeks in past years.
When the changes were first announced, some people expressed dissatisfaction on the FWP Facebook page, especially with printing tags on ordinary paper. While it might be a bit of a bother to put tags in a little baggie, we’ll get used to it.
In recent years I’ve gone online every spring to buy my fishing, upland birds and waterfowl licenses all at once. As the license I get is an online PDF document, I print a number of copies and put a copy in each fishing vest or hunting vest plus a few extra for my vehicles. I don’t plan to rely on a license on my phone, as I don’t normally carry it when I’m on the water or in the field. I have it on good authority that phones on the bottom of a river or cattail slough are mostly useless.
I always look forward to that spring rite of getting licensed for another year of fishing and hunting, especially here in Montana where the possibilities are almost endless. It’s going to be great.