Forest Tips to Hunters

Packstring in the Fall near Salmon Mountain



Good luck to all hunters looking for that trophy bull elk or other game animal in the Bitterroot National Forest.  The Forest Service hopes you have a good hunt and offers some tips for making your hunt even more enjoyable.

  • All hunters during the firearm deer season should wear "hunter orange" (hat, cap, vest, jacket or rain gear). It must be the outermost garment and be visible from all sides.  Also, put an orange vest or bright bandana on pets (dogs, horses, etc.)
  • Hunters should treat every firearm as if it were loaded and be careful where they point the muzzle. Know where your hunting partners are at all times and never assume you are alone in the woods.
  • Leave a trip itinerary with family or friends.  If hiking by yourself and don’t have family or friends in the area with whom you could leave an itinerary with, leave an itinerary in the vehicle.
  • Every hunter should carry these “ten essentials”: map, compass, flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothes, sunglasses, first-aid kit, pocket knife, waterproof matches, and fire starter.
  • Shooting and/or hunting is prohibited in developed recreation sites and trailheads, such as within the Lake Como Recreation Area.
  • Be aware that there may be bears in the area, store food properly.  Also, carcasses should not be closer than 100 yards to your sleeping area.
  • Your cell phone can save your life, but don’t depend on having sufficient coverage, particularly in remote parts of the Bitterroot National Forest.
  • Follow the ‘Pack It In, Pack It Out’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ principles while camping.
  • Campers, hunters and others are not allowed to camp for more than 14 consecutive days in one location. New camps must be located five air miles from the previous camp.
  • Be sure to stop in one of our offices to get a Bitterroot National Forest map.  Our maps are sold in two parts, split into the North and South half of the forest.  Maps are $10 each.  Office hours are 8am to 4:30pm, Mon-Fri.  You’ll find Forest Service offices in Hamilton, Stevensville, Darby, West Fork and Sula.

You may drive up to 300 feet off a road or trail only to reach a temporary camping spot, but otherwise, including for firewood cutting, keep your wheels on the road.  Throughout the national forest, vehicles are prohibited on roads/trails that are narrower than the vehicle.  Do not drive around barricades, gates, or snow drifts.  Barricades and gates are meant to close a road, frequently for the benefit of wildlife.  Violations of these closures can result in fines.  Check the maps for the travel rules in the area you’re interested in.

Please notify the Forest Service if a violation or resource issue is observed (example, driving behind a locked gate, camping for more than 14 days, tree blocking road, washout, etc.)

If you use horses, mules, goats or llamas anywhere on National Forests, BLM, and State lands in Montana, you're required to bring in only certified weed free hay, cubes, pellets or grain.  All National Forests in Idaho require certified weed free hay and cubes.  In the past, contaminated feed introduced invasive weeds to many prime wildlife backcountry areas.  Help stop new invaders from getting started.

Power wash the undercarriage and inside/outside of the bumpers of your trucks, horse trailers, ATV’s or other vehicles you drive into the hills.  Invasive weed seed can travel over a thousand miles on vehicles and bounce out at the wrong time on our rough mountain roads.  If you have any questions about invasive weeds, call the Bitterroot Forest Invasive Plant Program at (406) 821-2318.

The Bitterroot National Forest has many roads and trails open to motorized travel, but some roads and trails are closed this time of year.  All vehicles must stay on existing routes and not drive cross-country.  Most seasonal use restrictions include the period from October 15 to December 1.  These types of restrictions help to reduce hunting pressure on big game animals and allow Fish, Wildlife & Parks to maintain desired elk numbers and herd structure.

In Montana, outfitters and guides must be licensed to operate on federal, state, as well as private lands unless it’s their own.  Be sure your guide or outfitter is licensed.  Call the Montana Board of Outfitters at (406) 841-2304 or Idaho Outfitter and Guide Licensing Board at (208) 327-7380 for more information.

Choose a site for a campfire carefully, near water if possible, and clear it of any combustible material.  Remember, just because it’s cold in the morning doesn’t mean fires can’t spread quickly!  NEVER walk away from a smoldering campfire.  ALWAYS make sure a fire is dead out.   Most human-caused fires in Southwest Montana start in the fall, either from cigarettes or warming fires.

Good luck to our local hunters!