Web ends hunt for information

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"Evolving doors"

Hunters in Montana can now go to the Web to plan their day in the field.

The state's Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) department has pulled together an interactive site where hunters can pull down regulations, quotas, area maps and other information. They can even find out where the best hunting might be for any given time of the season.

The interactive planner (at fwp.state.mt.us) displays hunting districts against Montana's newly created digital highway map. It also can show topographic maps to let hunters know the kind of terrain they can expect, as well as such things as land ownership maps so they can see public and private boundaries.

"We've been online since 1996 with [several] of the databases, and they've also been available in such things as microfiche," said Tom Palmer, information bureau chief at the FWP. "But we've never had them all available in the same place and online. It was about a year ago that we felt we wanted to be more current with what was going on with the Internet."

The department has been pleasantly surprised with the reaction to the site, Palmer said. It was officially announced last week, but the planner had been online as a test site. Simply by word of mouth, information about the site spread rapidly, he said, "and the server ended up crashing by the hour until we figured out what the problem was."

An early component of the site that has basic, educational information — such as telling the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear — got thousands of hits a day alone, he said.

The interactive hunt planner currently contains information on antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose and mountain goats. A component on black bear is expected to be online this month, and a similar fishing planner site will likely be developed in the future.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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