Survey results indicate there is a real passion among Montana hunters for the species.

So, with Montana mule deer populations in decline in much of the state, to help measure concerns, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is beginning research efforts to look into the declines. Part of that efforts involves determining how engaged hunters are about their attitudes on mule deer management and hunting.

Montana FWP has typically tracked mule deer numbers over large areas using aerial surveys. Like any species, declines can be attributed to many different things. Was there a lot of  winterkill? What about short-term habitat changes, such as drought? Have they fallen victim to more predation?

By their own admission, FWP believes that "some of the data we’re using to guide decisions needs to be updated, and it’s time to start testing our old assumptions and make sure our efforts are in line with the expectations and desire of hunters.”

An expansive public opinion survey was sent out to nearly 5,000 randomly selected resident hunters this past winter. The survey was very similar to one conducted in 2011. So were the results.

Perhaps not to sway opinion, the survey did not release any percentage of estimated decline in population. And it does indicate continued support for Montana's current mule deer management with regards to the length and time of season, and the opportunity to hunt mule deer every year. But there were noticeable differences of opinion, too.

For example, when it came to the question of being allowed to hunt bucks every year or hunting them once every several years, about 60 percent of hunters liked the ability to hunt mule deer bucks every year. However, nearly 40 percent of hunters would choose to hunt mule deer bucks once ever several years if it meant having the opportunity to harvest a mature buck.

If you happened to be one of the nearly 5,000 random recipients of the survey, you know that it covered quite a bit of ground. If you were not one of those surveyed, and you would like to see how your opinions compare to others in Montana, you can see Montana FWP's Final Research Summary here.

We think you might find it interesting to see how important a species it is to Montana hunters.

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