The first big game hunting season for Fall 2023 is underway here in Montana. Archery season is in full swing, and many Montanans are taking to the field in hopes of harvesting dinner with a sharp stick and string. Soon even more Montanans will be carrying their rifles in search of food. The annual harvest of one of Montana's most cherished resources is what makes Montana great.

What are some things to be aware of when harvesting an animal in Montana?

For the most part, populations of big game in Montana are healthy and thriving. In recent years some illness has been reported among some herds in different regions of the state. Chronic Wasting Disease has been a major topic for some time now. With both deer and elk reportedly showing symptoms of the disease.

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According to the CDC, the following are symptoms to look for in a deer or elk before you harvest it.

  • drastic weight loss (wasting)
  • stumbling
  • lack of coordination
  • listlessness
  • drooling
  • excessive thirst or urination
  • drooping ears
  • lack of fear of people

Just recently, we stumbled on a question about another thing to look for before harvesting big game in Montana. Does the animal have an ear tag? If so, what does it mean?

I reached out to the Region 2 office of the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to ask about a question that was posed on Reddit.

After talking with an FWP biologist, I was informed that a green or white tag signifies that the animal has been handled by the FWP. Whether that meant they had to rescue the animal from a fence or simply relocate it. The tag shows that the animal was tranquilized and is not safe to eat. The tranquilizer can remain in the animal's meat for a period of time, and potentially affect a human if consumed. Kind of like turkey does on Thanksgiving day, you may need a nap.

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