Montana Mule Deer Hunting: The People Have Spoken
By Dan Pickar
Research performed by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks was conducted by mailing out 4800 deer license holder surveys to the residents of the state. The purpose of the survey was to get an idea of the importance of mule deer in Montana, the reasons for hunting mule deer and satisfaction with the hunting in the state, among many other things.
2000 mule deer hunters responded to the survey, with some very conclusive findings to many of the questions. The first was that nearly two-thirds of hunters support the hunting of mule deer bucks in Montana during the rut: 16% oppose it, with 71% supporting the five week general rifle season during the rut, 11% oppose the 5 week season.
The five week season has been the status quo, for my lifetime at least (35 yrs), and I don’t see this ever going away. Montana is unique in that they are the only Western state that is truly focused on opportunity for hunting, not trophy quality. On top of that, 61% would rather hunt every year in Montana with a lower chance of harvesting a mature buck than to hunt once every several years with the chance to harvest a quality, mature buck. 76% of residents are satisfied with the mule deer regulations and management in the state of Montana just as they are.
Finally, we come to the antlerless mule deer harvest. While many Western states strictly regulate the harvest of mule deer does or don’t allow it all together, Montana sets aside thousands and thousands of tags a year for mule deer does. 38% of residents have an interest in harvesting antlerless mule deer, while 41% are very disinterested in hunting and harvesting a mule deer doe.
To round this all out, 75% of survey respondents rate mule deer management in the state of Montana to be satisfactory. I don’t expect mule deer hunting or management to change any time soon in Montana so enjoy the opportunity the state has to offer while you can.