montana graws fireMore than 70 wildfires are burning in 8 Western states, dozens of them in hot and dry Montana, where 2017 archery elk and deer seasons are opening up.

Residents and the many out-of-staters that hunt Big Sky are wondering how the dry conditions and fire danger might affect their hunting. As of today, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is not recommending the closure of any seasons. “(But) if a private landowner or an agency such as the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management makes the decision to restrict or postpone hunting or other activity on their property, that is a decision we respect and accept,” said FWP Director Martha Williams.

Due to fire danger, currently more than 80 block management areas (BMAs) are restricted or closed at the request of landowners. Check the FWP website for more information.

As hunters hit the Montana prairies and woods this week, Director Williams says, “It is critical to be careful, and be safe. Hunters have to take personal responsibility to prevent wildfires and keep themselves and the property and lives of others safe.”

One of the biggest concerns in Western states are grass fires caused by trucks. Every fall as hunters drive off-road, vehicles’ hot exhaust pipes ignite tall, dry grass in roadbeds and parking areas, sparking grass fires that if not contained can spread into wildfires.

Montana FWP asks hunters to follow these fire safety precautions; it is good advice regardless of where you hunt:

Park your vehicle on bare ground or ground completely void of vegetation.
Drive only on paved and well graveled roads.
Camp only in designated camping areas.
Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.
Check on any fire restrictions in the area where you are hunting.

Fire experts from Oregon add that hunters should plan ahead. Have basic fire-fighting equipment in your truck and close at hand–at least 5 gallons of water, a fire extinguisher and a shovel. Burlap sacks are useful; you can wet them down with water and use the wet sacks to beat down flames. Always have way to call for help, such as a cell phone or citizen’s band radio in areas where there’s no cell service.