DILLON — Many public lands in Montana -- including the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest -- have implemented Food Storage Orders in recent years that affect hunting practices and how hunters set up camp.
Remember that all attractants must be acceptably stored at night and attended or acceptably stored during the day. Carcasses or partial carcasses may only be left on the ground if they are one-half mile away from any sleeping area and 200 yards from any Forest Service system trail.
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest instituted a forest-wide order on June 1, 2014 which is in effect from March 1 through December 1 annually. The storage requirements and tips can be viewed online. For more information contact your local Forest Service office.
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest officials are offering up some tips for storing food, attractants and carcasses to help hunters develop good habits as bear populations expand.
- Bring your animal carcass home or to the butcher before you finish your hunting trip if you live within driving distance. If you’re from out of town, some businesses offer storage for carcasses. There are many butchers, outfitters or other businesses with walk-in freezers can provide space to hunters. Moving the carcass off forest minimizes the chance of encountering an animal feeding on your carcass. Bears feeding on hunter killed elk have led to human injuries.
- Plan for animal carcass storage while camping. Bring storage for the carcass for example, in the form of a truck with topper, enclosed trailer, horse trailer with full doors, or certified bear resistant containers. If you use hang poles, the carcass must hang ten feet high at its lowest point and four feet away from climbable supports and must be 100 yards away from your camp. You may also want to bring pulleys and ropes to help hoist your carcass between trees.
- Borrow bear-resistant containers for FREE from your local US Forest Service office. Call ahead to your local Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF office to find out what is available. Also, you can go online to find a list of tested and approved bear resistant products.
- Pack a tarp or strong plastic sheet to be able to move your gut pile in case you down your game near a trail or need to leave your carcass overnight. Gut piles are the most attractive to bears and other scavengers. If you use a tarp or plastic sheet to drag the gut pile away from your animal you may avoid finding a bear on your carcass in the morning. You must drag gut piles at least 200 yards from National Forest system trail to help prevent trail users from surprising a bear feeding on it.
- Don’t hang or butcher your animal in camp. Blood on the ground is a powerful attractant to bears and other scavengers.
- When retrieving game, leave a member of your party to “attend” the carcass if possible. If not, drag your carcass to an area that is visible from at least 200 yards away to tell if it has been moved, buried or claimed by a bear.
- Take advantage of the permanent food storage boxes and carcass hangs in and near Forest Service campgrounds for your food and other attractants.
- When in doubt, call your local Forest Service office or MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks office. They are happy to help you plan your trip and troubleshoot any attractant storage concerns. Be aware that Montana State Wildlife Management Areas have similar requirements.