Spotted Dog in tricky transition



General hunting season in Montana starts this Saturday, and the newly purchased and designated Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area (WMA) northeast of Deer Lodge will be open for business. However, an Oct. 18 release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has a lengthy list of warnings as it continues phasing in its management plan for the 27,000 acre spread, and they make recreational use look like a serious headache.

First off, due to a number of private in-holdings within the Spotted Dog, vehicle access is limited to just four roads. But according to the temporary regulations governing the WMA, the property is predominantly only open to foot and horseback traffic. Adding to the slight confusion around motor restrictions is the fact that livestock owners retain motorized vehicle access to roads that are otherwise closed to the public.

Speaking of livestock, FWP's release cautions hunters that much of the Spotted Dog still accommodates cattle grazing and they should "be sure of their target." And if you're planning to camp inside the WMA this fall, be sure to bring a map. Camping is permitted on FWP land in the Spotted Dog, but not the scattered plots of land held by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Firewood cutting is restricted throughout the WMA, and overnight camping is prohibited on school trust lands if you have a horse.

The Spotted Dog WMA is open for public use until Dec. 1, when it will close until noon on May 15 to protect winter range for wildlife. Designated snowmobile trails will, however, stay open.

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