This summer, massive heat waves and catastrophic wildfires have ravaged hundreds of thousands of acres in the West, and we’re not even to the heart of fire season. Montana has borne the greatest brunt of the season, with the Ashland Fire in the Custer National Forest alone consuming more than 250,000 acres. Colorado is also taking a hit with close to 170,00 acres burned.
The Custer National Forest is a popular destination for archery and rifle hunters looking for Booner bull elk. Those who drew that coveted tag need to think about adapting their strategies. But Custer Forest hunters aren’t the only ones.
Other popular destinations like the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, and the Pawnee Grasslands in Colorado which have had close to 90,000 acres scorched, and the Bighorn National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grasslands have reported fires of almost 100,000 acres.
The Forest Service or BLM will shut down these popular hunting destinations due to safety concerns. Road damage, falling trees, contaminated water sources and a host of other safety concerns mean that until some rehab is done, these areas simply aren’t safe for folks to be in.
Luckily, there are some resources that can help you plan your hunt. The main source of information for hunters is the Incident Information Website. This site will help you decide if your hunting area was impacted by wildfire, and give you an idea of how big those fires were. It's never a bad decision to rethink your plans in light of this fire season. Using the Inciweb site, and the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Websites, you can find the contact information for your particular forest, and call the local land managers. It's never a bad idea to contact the local wildlife managers either.
Fires can drastically change where we hunt and fish. They can also result in hazardous hunting conditions. Taking a few moments to find out if your area was burned will help you be successful in filling your tag, not to mention keeping you and your hunting partners safe.