Al’s Weekly Hunting Report
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. Here we go with Opening Weekend;
|Hunter #s||White-Tailed Deer||Mule Deer||Elk|
Hunters took to the field Saturday and Sunday across northwest Montana for the opening weekend of the general deer and elk season. At the six northwest Montana check stations, a total of 3,174 hunters checked 114 white-tailed deer, 14 mule deer, and 22 elk for a 4.7 percent rate of hunters with game. This compares with a 6.1% percent rate of hunters with game last year at the check stations. Of the whitetails checked, 83 were bucks and 31 were antlerless.
Of note, two harvested wolves were checked at the Highway 2 check station, and one wolf was checked at the Thompson Falls check station.
Montana big game rifle season opened Saturday, and thousands of hunters headed into the wet western Montana weather to bring home an elk and deer harvest on par with last year and above the five-year average for elk.
Overall, during the first weekend of the season, eight percent of hunters that travelled through one of the region’s three hunter check stations harvested game, which is a success total on par with the long-term average. Mike Thompson, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Region 2 Wildlife Manager noted that hunter numbers through the check stations were in line with last year’s opening weekend for the region and slightly above the five year average.
The check stations tallied 2,894 hunters and a harvest of 145 elk, 25 mule deer, 70 white-tailed deer, three wolves and one black bear. During last year’s opening weekend 2,835 hunters reported 137 elk, 26 mule deer, and 82 white-tailed deer.
Hunters that explored the Blackfoot hunting districts this weekend got wet, says Blackfoot-area biologist, Jay Kolbe, and also quite a few got elk and deer, despite more limited hunter opportunity.
The Blackfoot is feeling the effect of tighter hunting regulations that are more limiting for antlerless harvest for elk and deer. For the second year in a row, FWP eliminated the first eight-day either sex season for white-tails that had been tradition for nearly a decade.
Ray Vinkey, FWP biologist for the eastern part of the region near Deer Lodge and Anaconda, reported a strong opening weekend for elk at his check station near Anaconda, with a lot of cows checked and a high number of hunters in pursuit. Deer harvest was slow.
For the second consecutive season, opening weekend elk harvest at the Darby station set records, due to high numbers of elk checked from hunting districts in the Big Hole Valley. Workers at the Darby check station handled 86 of the region’s 145 elk harvested. According to FWP Bitterroot-area biologist, Craig Jourdonnais, although harvest out of the Big Hole Districts is strong, elk hunting opportunity and harvest is limited in much of the southern Bitterroot Valley due to elk numbers that are sitting below population objective.
The Darby station totals also include two wolves harvested on opening weekend in the Bitterroot Valley. One wolf harvested in the Swan Valley was checked at the Bonner station.
The number of elk and mule deer taken by hunters opening weekend of this year’s general big game season was about half of last year’s totals on the Rocky Mountain Front. White-tailed deer numbers, however, were higher than last year.
The numbers were collected at Fish, Wildlife and Parks check station in Augusta, says Brent Lonner, FWP wildlife biologist.
“The somewhat lower harvest is not due to lack of deer and elk,” Lonner says. “It’s more about getting to the animals and the lack of access.”
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 this year brought in 12 animals (six bulls and six cows) compared to last year when 28 elk were checked—23 bulls and five cows.
Mule deer numbers this year at the check station came to 11 animals (seven bucks and four does), where as last year hunters brought in 21 mule deer: seven bucks, 10 does and four fawns.
With whitetails, this year’s opening weekend count in Augusta was 15 (seven bucks, seven does and one fawn), while last year hunters checked in nine animals: five bucks, two does and two fawns.
Hunter participation was down this year compared to last year. This year, 196 hunters heading afield stopped at the Augusta check station. Last year the number was 221.