Huntin’ Season About Here!

The wait is just about over. 

A memory from the 2019 season.

The Wait is just about over.

While thousands of Montana hunters have been out doing their thing, whether it’s upland birds, archery hunting, pheasant hunting, waterfowl hunting, etc., the big day for the rest of us is this Saturday, October 24, when the general deer and elk seasons start at sunrise. 

From then, until sunset on November 29, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Montana hunters, as well as non-resident hunters from around the country, will be criss-crossing the state in search of mule deer, whitetail deer, and, of course, elk, the big deer that fills freezers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that upland bird and waterfowl hunters have put their shotguns away for the duration, either. In these coming weeks just about everybody who hunts will be out in the great outdoors pursuing their passions. 

For example, most people look at the “general” deer and elk season as the rifle season for big game. It is, but archery hunters will likely still be out in the field hoping to take their deer and elk the old-fashioned way. 

Of course, even the most dedicated pheasant hunter will likely take time out for a deer or elk hunt. In my case, I’ve been lucky the last few years, getting nice whitetail bucks on a one-day hunt. 

As hunters head for the mountains and prairies in search of game, it is important to remember some basics.

First of all, big game hunters, including archery hunters, must wear a jacket or vest with 144 square inches of hunter orange, or blaze orange, if you prefer. While it isn’t required, I strongly recommend that upland bird hunters also wear hunter orange, as well. Believe me, pheasants and grouse pay no attention to your orange vest. For that matter, I’ve had deer walk up to me in the woods. It’s motion and scent that alarms deer and elk.

I also advocate that hikers, bird watchers, farmers, ranchers, and anyone else out in Montana’s fields and forests should wear orange in these coming weeks. It only makes sense to let anybody in potential shooting range know that people are around.

Respect private property. Remember, whether you’re hunting ducks, pheasants, or elk, you must have permission to hunt on private property. A landowner doesn’t have to post their property to keep out uninvited hunters, though it seems most do. 

Millions of acres of Montana farm and ranch lands are open to public hunting through the Block Management Program. Keep in mind that going through whatever hoops are there, whether simply signing a register at a sign-in box, or making a reservation and getting a permission slip from the landowner, is part of the process of legally hunting on that private land.

If you harvest a deer, be aware that it may be infected with chronic wasting disease. If there’s any doubt in your mind, especially if the animal looks less than healthy, have it tested before consuming any meat from the animal. The FWP website tells you how to do it.

In any event, be careful and be safe in these coming weeks, as the seasons change from autumn into winter. Above all, have fun. Whether your outings result in a freezer full of venison or not, it’s a great time to be with friends and family.

Changing topics, I’ll note the death of Frank Cook, of Butte, on October 5. Frank was a nationally ranked competitive pistol shooter, who competed, and won championships, all over the U.S. Frank died after a long struggle with cancer. 

Sometime around 20 years ago, I did a profile on Frank for the Montana Standard and in the process spent a most enjoyable afternoon interviewing Frank in his “man cave” in his garage, where he did reloading and other gun stuff. 

Frank would also occasionally come and play tennis in our morning tennis group. 

I can confirm that, whether on the shooting range or on the tennis court, he deserved the nickname we gave him, “Deadeye.” Whether he was using a pistol or a tennis racket, he didn’t miss many shots.

Rest in peace, Frank.

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