Most of Montana’s upland game bird hunting seasons are underway, but many experienced hunters – and their trusty retrievers and pointers – are hoping for good shooting and cooler days ahead. In most areas of the state, wing-shooters should find fair to good game bird populations and some pockets of very good hunting potential.

Montana’s upland game bird hunting seasons generally run through Jan. 1, 2013. The exception is the sage grouse season, which closes Nov. 1. Montana’s pheasant season opens Oct. 6 and runs through New Year’s Day.

Here’s what upland game bird hunters in Region 3 (southwest Montana) can expect this season:

• Upland game birds came out of the winter with slightly above average numbers. That’s the case with both Hungarian partridge and mountain grouse. Mountain grouse appear to have had good size broods according to area biologists.
• Sharp-tailed grouse numbers have remained about the same, but the region isn’t a prime area for sharptails.
• Sage grouse – found mainly in the Dillon area – are up a bit, and biologists have noted good survival rates through the last winter.
• Pheasant numbers are about average thanks to very little winter mortality seen on the whole. Still, there’s not a lot of pheasant hunting in the region due to limited habitat. Most pheasant hunting in southwest Montana occurs on private land river bottoms.

New access for game bird hunters

A pilot program this year will open up 17,000 acres of walk-in game bird hunting in Montana. Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters, targets productive game bird habitats enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program for access and habitat protection.

Under the program, landowners receive payment for allowing walk-in hunting for game birds during fall seasons on tracts of up to 160 acres of CRP and, in some cases, adjacent land. Tracts are signed, so hunters can park and walk in with no further permission.

For 2012, 55 tracts are enrolled in north central, northeastern and eastern Montana. Contracts extend for a minimum of five years, with many tracts enrolled for up to 10 years. Funding for was included in the 2008 federal Farm Bill, delivered through Farm Service Agency to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks via a federal grant award. FWP officials say more landowners have applied to enroll than funding could accommodate.

Use TIP-MONT to stop poachers

Montana’s outdoor crime-stopper help line, TIP-MONT, is now online. Now citizens can report poaching and violations of hunting regulations at fwp.mt.gov. Click “TIP-MONT” to use the report form. Managed under the same guidelines that protect all crime-stopper callers, the online reports are checked several times a week. Callers to 1-800-TIP-MONT, and those who file reports online, may remain anonymous and may be eligible for an award of up to $1,000 if the information leads to a conviction.

Big game seasons

Antelope
• 900 Aug. 15 – Nov. 11
• General Oct. 6 – Nov. 11
Bighorn Sheep Sept. 15 – Nov. 25
Bison Nov. 15 – Feb. 15
Black Bear Sept. 15 – Nov. 25
Deer & Elk
• Archery Sept. 1 – Oct. 14
• Backcountry Sept. 15 – Nov. 25
• Youth-Deer Only Oct. 18 – Oct. 19
• General Oct. 20 – Nov. 25
Moose Sept. 15 – Nov. 25
Mountain goat Sept. 15 – Nov. 25
Mountain Lion
• Archery Sept. 1 – Oct. 14
• Fall Oct. 20 – Nov. 25
• Winter Dec. 1 – April 14
Wolf
• Archery Sept. 1 – Oct. 14
• Backcountry Sept. 15 – Feb. 28
• General Oct. 15 – Feb. 28
• Trapping Dec. 15 – Feb. 28

Upland game bird seasons

• Sage grouse Sept. 1 – Nov. 1
• Mountain grouse Sept. 1 – Jan. 1
• Partridge Sept. 1 – Jan. 1
• Sharp-tailed grouse Sept. 1 – Jan. 1
• Turkey (fall season) Sept. 1 – Jan. 1
• Pheasant Oct. 6 – Jan. 1

Waterfowl seasons

Pacific flyway
• General waterfowl Sept. 29 – Jan. 11
• Swan (permit only) Oct. 13 – Dec. 1
• Falconry – ducks, coots, geese Sept. 29 – Jan 11

Central flyway
• Duck, coot Sept. 29 – Jan. 3
• Goose Sept. 29 – Jan. 6; Jan. 9 – 13
• Tundra swan (permits only) Sept. 29 – Jan. 3
• Falconry – duck, coot Sept. 19 – Jan. 3
• Falconry – goose Sept. 29 – Jan. 6; Jan. 9 – 13

To learn more about Montana hunting, visit the Fish, Wildlife and Parks website at fwp.mt.gov and click “For Hunters.”