Depending on who's information one chooses to trust, there are now between 3 1/2- and 4-million muzzleloading hunters in the United States.
Likewise, every state in the country now offers a "special" muzzleloader season for those hunters - every state except one. And that state is Montana.
Sure, big game hunting is extremely popular in this state. And, if you live in this state and truly want to hunt with a muzzleloader - you can. But not during a season specifically for muzzle-loaded guns. In Montana, if you want to hunt with a muzzleloader, you'll have to do it during the 5 week general season - or other seasons set for hunting with a modern cartridge rifle, handgun, or shotgun. There simply is not a "Muzzleloader Only" big game season or hunt,
Montana Fish,Wildlife and Parks does absolutely nothing to promote hunting with a muzzleloader.
The incentive for hunting with a muzzleloader in other states has been seasons that have been established especially for the muzzleloading hunter. In fact, more and more states are now conducting several muzzleloader seasons each fall and winter - commonly an "early season" that takes place prior to the modern firearm seasons...and a "late season" which runs some time after the modern gun seasons have closed. Where states tend to offer just one muzzleloader season, it seems the majority are of the late variety - following the general firearms big game seasons.
Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission is not only cheating big game hunters in this state out of a special season that is extremely popular with hunters everywhere else in the country, this game commission is also cheating the Montana fish and game agency out of a very valuable management tool - and an opportunity to bring in additional revenue through muzzleloader hunting permit sales - just as it does for bowhunters. In this state, bowhunters get first crack at big game during an early 6 week archery season.
Montana muzzleloading hunters are forced to hunt side-by-side with center-fire toting big game hunters, packing super long range rifles in calibers like .300 Winchester Magnum or 7mm Remington Magnum. There is absolutely no incentive to hunt with a muzzleloader in this state. And consequently, few modern rifle big game hunters here know anyone who does hunt with a muzzleloader.
The state's whitetail populations are busting at the seams in some regions of the state, and need additional harvest. Several times, the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING ASSOCIATION has suggested that the state schedule a late muzzleloader season just for whitetails - but it has fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps the state's Fish, Wildlife and Parks is afraid of a muzzleloader season because no one within the agency truly understands muzzleloading and muzzleloader hunting - and to conduct a season they might just have to learn a little more about it. One thing is for certain, if they did they would quickly realize how many hunters really would like to hunt with a muzzleloader - just as game departments in other states have already come to realize.
What are your thoughts?