HUNTING OR FISHING? – Montana hunting and fishing information

Which choice is the best? Hunting and fishing are similar but not the same. We hunt fish, but not the way you hunt a creature. In autumn the hunting season has priority, but you can fish all year round. 

What if there could only be one? which one would you take We no longer hunt and fish for food or survival like we used to. Today these sports are more about recreation, sport, trophies and fun. If you skunk, you can still eat when you get home.

Both hunting and fishing are “sports”. People like to be outside, enjoying nature and gathering food. Nothing is more exciting than pulling a trigger or setting the hook. Knowing that your goal has been successfully achieved is a sense of accomplishment.

When you hunt, you “hunt for food”. If you fish, try to “catch a fish”. Humans are “hunters and gatherers”. It’s what we do to survive.

Fish can be released. A shot creature is finished. Knowing how much work it takes to tag a moose or a deer, I often wished there was a way to make a digital kill and get a coupon for meat from the butcher.

Hunting is not a cheaper way to support your family. The cost of weapons, training, processing, travel, time off work, and all the equipment makes venison the most expensive meat available. Hunting teaches many great life lessons about safety, rules, boundaries, choices, regulations, and survival skills.

Hunting is much more seasonal. This means that the game has a chance to repopulate every year. They have limited seasons to harvest game. Pioneers had no seasons and hunted all year round. This eventually led to wild populations becoming endangered. Cutting down forests and clearing cover for agriculture didn’t help either.

Fishing has seasonal ups and downs but can be practiced all year round. Spawning runs mean big harvests. Feeding, spawning, migration and routine movement patterns create better times for fishing. Even if you don’t fish, you can tie flies, craft rods and lures, or get ready to fish. Ice fishing is cold but offers hot fishing.

It’s easier to look for a place to fish than a place to hunt. In the past, landowners were more connected to the earth and hunting/gathering. Today, wealthy landowners want no one to set foot on their land or waters. Fortunately, Montana has a generous Power Access Act that allows fishermen to legally wade into our watersheds. Wealthy people hate this law and there is a constant lobby to get rid of it. At the moment there are many more places to fish.

Over half of the State of Montana’s lands are enclosed by closed private land. That means they have access, but citizens don’t. Many hunters with great access often take it for granted until it’s gone. Then they end up in the same limited boat as everyone else. Every hunter I know understands the loss of a great hunting spot.

It is easier to accommodate old or disabled fishermen than old hunters. As rivers move, anglers can swim to new spots. Access and transportation to remote hunting grounds are not as easy to navigate.

My mentor, outdoor author and master fisherman Lefty Kreh was a great athlete. He hunted and fished. As he got older, he gave up hunting and focused on fishing. Lefty was a great shot, but fishing was more of a year-round sport. Access became frustrating and wild populations declined in the 1980s. The hunt required jumping through so many hoops that he got tired of constantly looking over his shoulder or being attacked by my anti-hunter and anti-gun guys. I can relate.

We all hope to catch or chase happiness and joy in our lives.

Montana Grant