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FWP making changes to opening day for antler hunting in Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area

State wildlife officials are looking to address safety issues caused by traffic congestion along Highway 83
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Posted at 9:03 AM, Jan 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-26 11:03:02-05

State wildlife officials are looking to make some changes to the opening day for antler hunting at Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is looking to address safety issues caused by traffic congestion along Montana Highway 83 and is asking for the public's help.

The Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA in the Blackfoot Valley is a popular destination for antler hunters when it opens annually at 12 p.m. on May 15.

FWP notes the growing popularity of the area is causing safety issues so the Montana Highway Patrol, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) and FWP are working to address the problem.

“We know we need to make a change in how we manage traffic for the opener at the Blackfoot-Clearwater WMA, but we want people to help us work through the specifics of what those changes are going to be,” said FWP Regional Supervisor in Missoula Randy Arnold.

Many of the specifics of the opening day access plan will be decided over the next few months, but some basics have been set, according to a news release.

For example, FWP won’t limit the number of people or vehicles that can access the WMA on opening day.

However, new this year, antler hunters planning to enter the WMA in a vehicle will not be allowed to stage along Highway 83 and will instead register for a spot in line ahead of opening day.

According to FWP, it’s typical to see several hundred vehicles setting up along the highway, some for several weeks ahead of opening day, which causes safety issues along Highway 83.

“Safety of the traveling public is MDT’s top priority,” said MDT District Administrator Bob Vosen. “We’re offering our full support to FWP in its efforts to make this season a safe season for antler hunters and all who travel along Montana Highway 83.”

FWP is looking for feedback to help set up the pre-registration process and other opening-day logistics for vehicles, walkers, bikers and horse traffic.

Click here to see a summary of the issues to be addressed, initial ideas and, eventually, a comment box to provide feedback.

A meeting, available both in-person and online, has been planned to provide background on the issue and gather ideas from the public.

The in-person and online meetings will take place beginning at 6 p.m. on February 15 at the Missoula FWP office and at the U.S. Forest Service Seeley Lake Ranger Station.

Details on how to join the meeting online can be found on the project web page.

Click here for more information, to provide input, track the planning process and see the final access plan when completed this spring.