Montana Approves New Hunting Regulations in Wildlife Management Area

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In 2021, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks purchased a 772-acre plot of forestland along the Flathead River, bringing the massive swath of land and all of the flora and fauna within under its protection. Rather than a portion of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. campus, the land is now the publicly accessible Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area.

Both CFAC and the City of Columbia Falls were overjoyed by the unanimous decision to protect critical habitat for Montana’s countless breathtaking wildlife along the Flathead River.

“The City of Columbia Falls is thrilled to have the Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area purchase finalized,” said Don Barnhart, Mayor of Columbia Falls. “This area greatly enhances and gives the citizens of Columbia Falls and the surrounding area a wonderful opportunity to recreate and enjoy the pristine nature of this land and access to the beautiful Flathead River, right next door to our community.”

Following the monumental purchase, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission got to work setting regulations for the new outdoor space. In their latest release, the commission shared information about hunting, including winter closures and recreational access.

Hunting Regulations for Montana Wildlife Management Area

When it came to hunting regulations, the FWP had three options. They could open the area exclusively to youth hunters, open it to the general public with no age restrictions, or create a hybrid of the two. In collaboration with residents in the area, they came to the following decisions.

With valid licenses, any species may be hunted with a rifle at the WMA. Thursday through Sunday, only youth hunters (ages 10-15) are eligible to hunt. The only exception is those with a permit to hunt from a vehicle, who can be any age.

Those who wish to hunt at the new Wildlife Management Area must receive written permission in advance. They also must enter a lottery drawing and be chosen for that date.

Hunters who prefer bows and arrows to rifles may enter the WMA as well. Archery hunting is open to all ages and legal species. However, it’s also restricted by the lottery. Only two archers per week will be awarded entry.

As for turkey hunting, lottery winners ages 10-15 will have access to the spring turkey season for two consecutive days. Bear hunting is strictly off-limits.

At the end of hunting season in late November, the WMA will close to the public to protect big game. Though hunting is acceptable at the Wildlife Management Area, wildlife habitat conservation is the top priority. On May 15, the area will reopen for spring hunting.

Motorized vehicle use in Bad Rock Canyon WMA is largely prohibited. However, they’re acceptable on designated access routes, public roads, and parking areas. Those who don’t want to travel on foot can adventure on horseback or non-motorized bicycle.