Parker Heinlein

Parker Heinlein

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It’s time to start all over again.

Hunting and fishing licenses expire Feb. 29. So do boat validation decals. Unoccupied ice fishing shelters in the Eastern District need to be off the ice by March 1.

And there’s only a month to decide what special permits I might want for the upcoming hunting season.

Permit application deadlines used to be staggered throughout the spring. You could miss the chance to apply for an antlerless elk tag, but still have a shot at an antelope tag. No more. All special permit applications this year are due April 1.

The new, red boat decals are good for three years. They are free, available online, and replace the old green ones.

Purchasing a new fishing license, moving the ice house, and ordering a new boat sticker require little thought. Special permits, on the other hand, do.

I like to put them off until the last minute, or at least until my friend Dave calls and reminds me they’re due the next day. I’d sometimes miss the early deadlines, but usually had it all together by the time the final one, on June 1, rolled around.

Now I’ve only got a month to figure it all out and decide where I might want to hunt elk, deer and antelope. Anything more exotic like moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goats are no longer on the agenda. There’s simply not enough time.

I blame the dogs, who insist I take them bird hunting most days from September through December. A few days off to chase pronghorn, deer and elk, however, is always a treat.

A proud procrastinator, I used to be able to wait until the last minute to apply for special permits at least three times every spring. Now I’ve got just one shot.

I can be late buying a new fishing license, put off getting new boat decals for a month, and probably even leave the ice house out for a few more days, but miss that April 1 deadline and I won’t get another chance until next year.

At least I can do it at home. All applications for permits this year will be done online or electronically at a Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks office. FWP says the change to online applications will allow for quicker drawings, and says results of the elk and deer drawings will be available two weeks after the deadline.

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Parker Heinlein is at pman@mtintouch.net.