New deer permit area near Libby considered

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The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission may create a new mule deer permit area to be created in Hunting District 103 southeast of Libby.

The proposal, which comes from a citizens’ initiative, would require hunters to draw a permit before shooting a mule deer in the area, which they say covers 5.7 percent of the huntable mule deer acreage around the town. Neil Anderson, Fish, Wildlife and Park’s Wildlife Program Manager, expected it to make five to 15 permits available per year.

The initiative already claims the support of 454 hunters and Lincoln County’s sheriff and commissioners.

The initiative aims to increase the deer population’s buck-to-doe ratio and the age structure of the harvested population, thereby providing “hunting opportunity for older aged bucks in a limited number of districts offering reasonable public access.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks takes a more skeptical stance.

“There are a lot of factors that affect wildlife and survival, and hunting is just one of those,” said Anderson. “I think it’s reasonable to expect that if you reduce hunting by a bit, you would see more bucks on the landscape, and increase the buck-doe ratio, but we’re not yet sure.”

The agency included these doubts in comments submitted on the proposal, along with concerns that the permit area would drive hunters elsewhere, and that it could conflict with the state’s effort to manage the deer population for chronic wasting disease.

If approved by the Commission at its February meeting, the permit area would take effect for the 2018 hunting season and remain in force until removed by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Members of the public may view documents related to the initiative, find a schedule of public meetings that will discuss it, and submit comments at fwp.mt.gov/hunting/publicComments/2017/2018-2019deerSeasons.html. All comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 24. For more information, call 406-444-2612, or email fwpwld@mt.gov.

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