HELENA-The end of summer and the beginning of fall are the busy season at Capital Sports and Western in Helena.

“That’s kind of our Christmas time, hunting season,” said co-owner Dave Tobel.

This week, many customers are getting ready for general archery season, which starts on Saturday. Hunters will bring their bows in for service if they need new strings, if a piece is broken or missing, or if the arrows just aren’t flying the way they’re supposed to.

Tobel said Capital Sports has seen strong business through the month of August. But over the last week, he said he heard from a number of hunters concerned about the effects of smoke and the ongoing hot, dry weather.

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“Not finding the animals at their typical watering holes, and also just the danger from vehicles, campfires, whatever starting fires up in the hills,” he said.

Leaders with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks say they haven’t closed any hunting districts because of high fire danger. But they have given private landowners who open their property to hunting through the block management program the option to limit hunting.

“What we’re encouraging hunters to do is to make sure that they’re checking in to the block management areas and seeing what the restrictions are in those management areas and if there are any closures,” said Laurie Wolf, acting administrator of FWP’s Communication and Education Division.

FWP operates a Hunt Planner tool on its website, where you can find the latest restrictions for the areas you plan to hunt. You can also get that information by calling the regional FWP office for your area.

Wolf said hunters can take steps to help reduce the risk of fire. That includes driving only on established roads, camping only in designated areas, smoking only inside a vehicle and carrying a fire extinguisher. Authorities have also prohibited all campfires on public lands in the Central Montana Zone, which covers 16 counties, including Lewis and Clark, Cascade, Broadwater and Jefferson.

Earlier this week, FWP released its annual big game hunting forecast. The report says if mild weather continues well into hunting season, it will make it harder to find animals. But it says deer and elk numbers around Helena and Great Falls remain strong.

“We are encouraging people to get out there and continue hunting, but just to be really conscious of checking where they’re hunting first and looking at what the fire restrictions are in that area,” Wolf said.

“If you do go to the woods this summer, we wish you luck, and be careful in the hills,” said Tobel.

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