September marks the beginning of the long-awaited hunting seasons in Montana. In fact, several seasons are already underway.

Communication Administrator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Ron Aasheim said some bird hunting seasons began on September 1.

"All upland game bird seasons, except pheasant, opened the first of September," Aasheim said. "We've got people out there hunting antelope with archery equipment, and that was a season that opened on August 15. The next thing that opens for us is September 7, the regular archery-only hunting season. That's a big day because we sell about 40,000 archery stamps. In fact, about 40 percent of our elk hunters use the bow and arrow."

Big game rifle seasons open a bit later.

"Bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose season opens on the 15th, and then the general rifle season opens the 26th of October," Aasheim said. "We're coming into the time that is the reason why people live here."

Aasheim explained the impact that hunting has on the state's economy.

"A quarter of a billion dollars [is spent annually by hunters], and that's in addition to the licenses people purchase," Aasheim said. "That number includes food, lodging, gas, ammunition, rifles, camping gear and more. A quarter of a billion dollars is remarkable."

Aasheim said elk numbers are good for the most part throughout the state.

"As far as elk go, we're in great shape," Aasheim said. "We've got a few areas that are down, like the Bitterroot and the upper Gallatin, and some of the areas north of Yellowstone Park. By and large, 70 percent of our elk management units are either at or above objectives."

Conversely, deer numbers aren't looking so good.

"Deer are another story, especially mule deer," Aasheim said. "They're just down in number, and that happens every few years. With whitetails, we have some issues out east where we had that tough winter. So as you head east, you'll see that whitetail deer and antelope numbers are down."

Aasheim said the first of December is the end of big game season.

Communication Administrator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Ron Aasheim: