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Al’s Weekly Hunting Report- Week 4

If you’re looking for a place to find out how successful hunters have been in Montana I’ve got one for you. Thanks to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks I’ll be posting weekly results right here. I’ll have info from Region 1 (NW Montana), Region 2 (W Central Montana) and Region 4 (The Rocky Mountain Front).  As the season progresses I’ll add in more info as it become available. If you want to send some pictures of your success or hunting  adventures have it. Who knows you might see yourself on our webpage.

Region 1 :

At the six northwest Montana check stations through Sunday, November 13, a total of 11,842 hunters checked 379 white-tailed deer (294 of these were bucks), 52 mule deer, and 64 elk for a 4.2 percent rate of hunters with game. Harvest was down as compared to last year when 5.3 percent of hunters checked game. The number of whitetail bucks checked is down 15 percent, mule deer numbers are down 47 percent, and elk are down 23 percent as compared to last year’s check station results at the same point in the season.

Wolf Harvest: Hunters have taken 30 wolves in Region One to date, of the total quota of 71 for the region. This is a complete count of the number of wolves taken, because hunters must call in their harvest within 12 hours. Hunters have checked six wolves through the six Region One check stations. The remainder were checked at FWP headquarters or by wardens.

Region 2 :

Mid-season figures compiled from west-central Montana hunter check stations show less hunters in the field, an elk harvest on par with last year and deer totals that are lagging behind.

        “Hunters usually experience mid-season doldrums after opening weekend but before heavy snows move elk and the rut spurs buck harvest,” says Jay Kolbe, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologist responsible for the Bonner hunter check station. “This year, though, this mid-season lull was especially pronounced.  The third week harvest recorded at the Bonner check station was very low compared to historic numbers, despite the weekend’s fresh snow.”

        Harvest totals through the season’s third weekend at the Bonner station are comparable to last year for elk, but down considerably from the long-term average. White-tailed and mule deer harvests lag behind 2010 and the long-term average.

        Only three elk and 41 deer passed through the Bonner station over the weekend, and hunters and biologists are waiting to see if the winter weather and deer rut will spur more harvest in the last two weeks of the season.

        “We’re on the leading edge of the first winter storm of the season, which can get animals moving around,” say Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “If we get the dump of snow that’s predicted, we should see some elk migrations.”

        The Darby station, which checks hunters from the southern Bitterroot and parts of the Big Hole Valley, has also been slow. Elk harvest, which started off strong due largely to hunter success in the Big Hole Valley, is now tallying in slightly behind last year and 25 percent behind the five-year average. 

        Harvest numbers and hunter participation have been strongest in the Upper Clark Fork near Deer Lodge and Anaconda, where elk populations are at historic highs. The Anaconda station is reporting 61 elk so far this year, compared to 46 last.

        Wildlife biologist for the Upper Clark Fork, Ray Vinkey, reminds hunters that the elk in some areas often concentrate on private lands where hunters must have permission. 

        Hunter check stations are also tallying the wolves that happen to pass through this season for the second time in Montana history. Hunters have taken 73 statewide since archery season opened Sept. 3, and 16 of those were harvested in west-central Montana’s Region 2. The state quota is set at 220 wolves, and hunters must report their wolf harvest within 12 hours.

        Overall, during the first three weeks of the season, about 7 percent of hunters that passed through one of the region’s three hunter check stations harvested game, which is on par with 2010. The stations tallied 9,873 hunter visits compared to 11,482 in 2010 and show a hunter harvest of 353 elk compared to 358, 104 mule deer compared to 139, and 210 white-tailed deer compared to 303. Six wolves, five black bears, two moose and one mountain goat have also passed through the stations.

       The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 27.

Region 4:

            At the end of the fourth weekend of Montana’s big game general season, harvest numbers for elk and mule deer are slow on the Rocky Mountain Front. The numbers were collected at Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ check station in Augusta.

“Compared to the five-year average we’re below average for elk and mule deer,” says Brent Lonner, FWP wildlife biologist. “But compared to last year by this date, we’re only below average on mule deer.”

For white-tailed deer the numbers checked so far at Augusta are above both the five-year average and last year.While the numbers at the Augusta check station – FWP Region 4’s sole biological check station – apply only to a handful of hunting districts on the Rocky Mountain Front, they often mirror conditions elsewhere in north central Montana.

Elk hunters so far have brought in 130 animals (79 bulls, 45 cows and six calves) compared to the five-year average of 164 elk.

Mule deer at the check station have numbered 107 (76 bucks, 30 does and one fawn). The five-year average is 175 animals.

            White-tailed deer numbers stand at 138 (76 bucks, 58 does and four fawns), while the five-year average is 119.

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