The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting in Bozeman increased the number of bison hunting licenses in the Gardiner and West Yellowstone area.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and parks Information Officer Andrea Jones said on Thursday, December 12, that a decision was made to expand the bison hunt in region three, which includes areas near Yellowstone National Park.

"For this last hunting season, we had already upped the number of licenses from 44 to 50," Jones said. "What today's decision did was to conservatively increase the number of guaranteed bison licenses to a total of 80. However, it also changed the hunt periods, breaking them up into two instead of three. The purpose was to give those earlier hunters more equitable opportunity for their hunt. We know from past hunts that the migration tends to occur later. Sometimes it doesn't occur until about the new year, so some of our earlier hunters weren't getting access to greater numbers of bison."

Jones said the hunting periods will be much easier to remember after Thursday's decision.

"Now, we have 20 licenses per hunt district per period," Jones said. "In addition to those license periods we also expended some of the boundary on the West Yellowstone side to include some previously inaccessible areas."

Jones said one of the biggest changes addressed by the commission concerned mule deer hunts.

"The commission decided to eliminate mule deer "B'  licenses, so most mule deer seasons statewide from now on will be for antlered only," Jones said. "We have both social and biological evidence showing a decrease in the mule deer doe populations. That was one of the discussions that took longest in the meeting today, because it was a sweeping decision."

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region Three Information Officer Andrea Jones