Application of Structured Decision Making to Elk Archery Regulation Decisions in Montana

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
wildlife management
cooperative wildlife research unit
Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit
archery season
working group
structured decision making
Volume 18, No. 1-4

Application of structured decision making to elk 
Archery regulation decisions in montana
Mike Mitchell *, US Geological Survey, Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Helena, 
Montana 59812
Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, Montana 59620
Justin Gude, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, Montana 59620
Prior to 2008, 22 hunting districts (HDs) in Montana had limited-draw, either-sex rifle 
permits, while the archery season was open for either-sex hunting to anyone possessing a 
general elk license. In addition, an unlimited number of hunters could obtain an either-sex 
archery elk permit in the 7 Missouri River Breaks HDs, where rifle hunting of bull elk is also 
limited. In 2008 the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) Commission implemented 
limited-draw archery regulations in these districts. These regulations have been very 
controversial since they were implemented. Certain public sectors have argued fervently for 
changes to these limited regulations in every MFWP season-setting process since 2008, and 
legislation that would reverse these regulations was introduced and defeated in the last two 
legislative sessions. In response to the contentious debate on this topic, in 2011 MFWP staff 
and the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit facilitated a 10-citizen working group 
composed of landowners, public sporting interests and commercial/fee hunting perspectives. 

Using a Structured Decision Making (SDM) process, the working group developed a problem 
statement, fundamental objectives and assessed the performance of multiple archery season 
options relative to the fundamental objectives to arrive at an elk archery season proposal. In 
December of 2011 the MFWP Commission used these results as a basis for tentative season 
proposals that they distributed for wider public input and comment.  Here we present the 
results of the SDM process and the working group proposal, as well as subsequent MFWP 
Commission action relative to the proposal.