Antelope Populations Looking Healthy
Two weeks ago, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ biologists were busy flying over Montana’s prairies counting pronghorn, or antelope. This week antelope licenses were drawn for the upcoming hunting season. These two circumstances are directly related and demonstrate how work on the ground directly affects hunters and the opportunities they have each fall.
First, it’s important to set the stage.
Every two years, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission establishes a quota range for most species of game animals, including antelope. This range is based on recommendations from FWP biologists. For example, biologists can recommend a quota of 150 antelope and a range of 100 to 200. This allows FWP to adjust quotas within the range quickly based on herd populations and health.
When antelope licenses were drawn earlier this week, the number of licenses drawn in each hunting district were based on recommendations biologists made after they completed aerial surveys of antelope herds during the past four weeks.
After a biologist completes a flight, she compares the numbers counted to the number of animals harvested last season and then makes a recommendation to set a quota that is within the range the commission has already approved. The regional supervisor, the wildlife manager and game management bureau chief also review and approve the recommendation. The new quotas are entered into the licensing system before the drawing.
For antelope, surveys are typically flown in late July and early August. This year, the quota recommendations were due Aug. 2, provided to licensing on Aug. 4, and the drawing was held Aug. 8. A pretty quick turn-around from field work to conducting a drawing, but with archery antelope season starting soon, FWP staff hustle to make it happen.
“Originally this year, things were due to me a week earlier — July 26,” said Brian Wakeling, FWP’s game management bureau chief. “We gave our biologists as much time as we could to get complete recommendations to us. We felt that would ensure the most accurate quotas for hunters and the future health of the herds.”
Wakeling explained that complete survey data was critical this year because of the potential effects of drought and severe winters on ungulate populations.
“If you go into winter in bad condition, it’s harder to get through that winter,” Wakeling said. “Biologists needed to complete those surveys to make sure we were making those recommendations consistent with how the herds are performing.”
Most quota adjustments were small, Wakeling said. The adjustments were made so that the number of hunters would be commensurate with the number of pronghorn on the landscape. In general, though, most hunting districts will have slightly fewer licenses issued than last year because of recent severe winters and prolonged drought.
“Hunters who did draw licenses should expect a relatively good year,” Wakeling said. “We had a good spring following a wet winter, and not a brutal summer. Horn growth should be good, and the animals are in good body condition.” Antelope Drawing Results Now Available The drawing for antelope licenses is complete.
There are a few ways to get your drawing results. Visit fwp.mt.gov, click on MyFWP Login in the upper righthand corner, then click on “Lookup Draw Results, Register for Lists” tab on the left-hand menu, or login to your My-FWP account. You may also sign up for an account at fwp. mt.gov/MyFWP. Applicants may also call any FWP Regional office or the licensing office at 406-444-2950.
Most FWP offices with license sales are open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.