As hunters head into the hills on the first weekend of the general hunting season, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are reminding them that safety and courtesy are the keys to any successful hunt.

Sergeant Dan Curtin, game warden with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said on opening day, Saturday, October 26, that participants should remember the lessons they learned in hunter's safety classes.

"The important things are to be aware of your surroundings, to make sure that you have checked and double-checked your weapon to make sure it's empty at both the beginning and the end of the day," Curtin said. "Make sure you have permission ahead of time to get on private property, and help that landowner out by making sure gates are closed, so livestock can't escape."

Once an animal has been shot, Curtin said there are certain procedures that every licensed hunter must follow.

"First of all, you want to make sure it's been humanely dispatched," Curtin said. "Then, you need to get your game tag on that animal. You validate the tag by cutting out the day and the month, and then attaching it to the animal carcass in a visible manner. That tag then stays with the carcass until the animal is processed."

When out of the field and back on the road, Curtin said hunters must stop at the nearest FWP check-in station, whether they were successful or not.

"Whether it's on a one-lane back road or the interstate, hunters must stop at a check-in station whether they shot an animal or not," Curtin said. "That tells us a lot. We need to know how many people are unsuccessful, as well as successful, so we can figure out what's going on with the game population."

Curtin said if anyone witnesses a hunting violation or anything that may be illegal, they can call 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-817-6668) to report it. He said that is the best way to get a warden to respond to an area.

Sergeant Dan Curtin, Game Warden with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks: