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Fall Hunting/Management Update 2013

 Benton Lake NWR received almost no runoff this past spring and, as a result, a decision was made in late March to not provide any supplemental water from pumping for the remainder of the year.  

This year Refuge staff began work on a baseline inventory of selenium contamination levels in the Refuge wetlands.  Selenium sampling of water, sediments and invertebrates across approximately ½ of the wetland basin (units 2, 4c, 5, 6 and the inter-unit canal) was completed.  Waterfowl eggs were collected from nests in and around these units.  A total of 209 samples were collected, with the majority being sediment samples as that is likely to be the best indicator since it is not dependent on the presence of water.  Results from this sampling effort should be available later in the coming winter.  Additional sediment sampling will be completed in the remaining wetland units next summer and additional water, invertebrate and egg sampling will be completed over the next two to five years as water conditions allow. 

During the structured decision making process that Refuge and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff conducted in the fall of 2012 to complete the Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan it was agreed that the Refuge would  provide waterfowl hunting opportunities for 11 out of every 15 years.  Of the four non-pumping years there would be no more than three in succession.  This year will be counted as the first non-pumping year in the next 15.  The drying of the wetland units during non-pumping years is a management tool to reduce selenium contamination on the Refuge and to stimulate increased productivity when flooding resumes. 

Waterfowl hunting will not be available on the Refuge this fall as all of the hunt units are dry.  Currently the only Refuge unit with water is Unit 2 and it is drying rapidly.  The Refuge hunt area will open for sharptails and huns on September 28th and pheasants on October 12th.  The Refuge will be open for the special youth only pheasant season on September 21st and 22nd.  All Refuge hunting will close on  November 30th. 

Plans for next year will be developed during the winter as Refuge staff begin to write the Refuge habitat management plan and the outlook for runoff and funding becomes more clear. 

For more information contact Bob Johnson, Deputy Refuge Manager at 406-727-7400x226  

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2013
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