With Montana experiencing so many wildfires this season, hunters need to check carefully which areas are closed due to fire danger.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Vivaca Crowser said on Wednesday, that there are definite access limitations for hunters this season.

“The seasons are opening as planned, and hunting districts will be open as planned, but where you start to see impacts to hunters is where there are land closures, and we do have a number of them,” Crowser said. “It started with our federal lands, the BLM and forest service lands that have areas that are closed or roads that are closed or restricted.”

Crowser said many privately owned lands are also off limits to hunting this year.

“Weyerhaeuser and Stimson are closing because of the extreme fire danger,” she said. “For years they’ve kept those lands open to public access, so that’s really going to affect the plans of lots of hunters. In addition, the Nature Conservancy, another private landholder has also closed their lands in western Montana. For now, it is going to alter plans. Now, there are still lots of open lands, but it’s definitely something you want to check before you head out.”

Crowser was also concerned about area fires devastating winter range needed for the wildlife in western Montana.

“One spot in the region that is closed right now to hunter traffic because of the potential of the Rice Ridge Fire to cross over into that zone is the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management area,” she said. “That’s an area that’s an important winter range for deer and elk especially,” she said. “If we do see fire start to burn onto the Wildlife Management area, that could be one area where we could see wildlife impacted right away this winter.”

Crowser said wildlife in the fire zones have a natural ability to move away from the danger and find food and water away from the wildfires.

“It’s just part of the natural cycle that wildlife deal with,” she said.

For information on which areas are closed to hunters this season, click here.

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