States urge extra precaution in the backcountry
Dry weather conditions continue to spark wildfires across the West. Massive fires have burned thousands of acres in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California and countless backcountry trails and outdoor destinations have been lost, including the Sperry Chalet within Glacier National Park. According to the Spokesman-Review, countless fires are still out-of-control:
Montana’s Rice Ridge Fire has spread to more than 100,000 acres;
The Jolly Mountain Fire is ongoing in Washington;
The Jack Creek Fire has closed the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness;
The Diamond Creek Fire is raging in the Pasayten Wilderness; and
The North Fork Hughes Fire and Noisy Creek Fire block access to the east side of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness in northeastern Washington.
“Nationally,” Outside Magazine reports, “137 large wildfires are burning across 7.8 million acres, already exceeding the ten-year average by 2.25 million acres.”
While many of the fires are linked to lightning, others have been caused by careless humans.
With new fires popping up daily, outfitters and hunters need to take extra precautions when heading out to hunt. If you’ve planned a hunt in areas affected by new or ongoing fires, knowing if the area you intend to hunt is still accessible should be your first priority. You should also be prepared should a fire start while you’re in the field. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation urges that hunters bring along a shovel, bucket, axe and garden-type weed sprayer full of water just in case. Hunters heading out should keep to paved and/or established roads and avoid using grass or brush as parking spots as sparks from catalytic converters or mufflers can start fires. Montana is also temporarily restricting campfires, but allowing propane and gas stoves with an on/off switch, NBC Montana reports.
“Hunters have a big responsibility to be fire conscious,” says Andrea Jones, spokeswoman for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Helena. “It is a matter of human safety and protecting private property.”
Before you head out, check in with your state’s fish and game department to ensure the area you plan to hunt is still open. Colorado, Montana and Idaho have all announced closures impacting hunters. You can also check InciWeb for up-to-date wildfire information.