By Mike Bodenchuk, Editor-at-Large
Our job is to keep you posted about events that might affect your hunting. Almost every month we devote some space to covering potential (usually negative) impacts of wildfires, diseases and other factors on world hunting opportunities.
Right now, wildfires such as those burning in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan all have the potential to cancel specific hunts, even if they don't impact the hunting season as a whole. As we go to press, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is not recommending that the Wildlife Commission close any hunting seasons, but fire restrictions, including access due to fires, private land closures due to fire risk, and camping restrictions definitely will affect some hunters. Similarly, Idaho hunters with early season tags (archery elk, deer, etc.) were prohibited from entering Units 20A and 26 due to fire closures.
Some of these western fires are huge. As of Sept. 19, the Chetco Bar fire in Oregon has burned 190,237 acres and the Rice Ridge fire in Montana has burned 160,181 acres, and both were estimated to be only 65% contained. The Lodgepole Complex in eastern Montana burned 270,723 acres of sagebrush habitat west of Jordan, MT, earlier this summer. Last month we detailed the possible impacts of the extensive fires in British Columbia (see page 10, Article 4130
On the other side of the fire coin is the habitat changes that can occur. The fires in the Idaho wilderness will undoubtedly improve habitat for elk. This summer's burns should produce some improvements starting in 2019 and 2020. Where fires occur in sheep habitat, such as some of those in BC, expect benefits to sheep if the winter range isn't severely impacted. I've seen sheep horn growth nearly double following a fire simply because access to good feed increases....