No real surprises this year in the Montana general hunting season. The third weekend Region 2 reports from check stations in Bonner and Darby showed fewer hunters out and about, but the harvest totals were "on track or even a bit above average," according to Vivaca Crowser of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this week.

Usually, there are reports from three check stations, but the Anaconda station has not operated due to staff illness. So, as of November 9, the total number for the check stations were 3,978 hunters, which is around 2,000 lower than the last few years' totals. The Darby check station has about half of those numbers with 1,857 people checking through on three successive Saturdays and Sundays. For that station, it's 18 percent lower than previous years. Last year, 2,353 had checked through, 2018 had 2,144 and in 2017 at this time, 2,234 hunters had come through the roadside stop. And, as mentioned in previous reports, this year the check stations are operating for fewer hours due to the COVID-19 threat. FWP noted that the Anaconda station might open up this next weekend, November 14 and 15.

Even so, the Bitterroot area hunters have had an 8 percent success rate, about two percent higher than previous years. so far, 103 elk have been taken, along with 19 mule deer and 24 white-tailed deer. As we reported last week, one goat and one wolf were also brought through the check station.

Mike Thompson, FWP wildlife manager in Missoula, said, "It's a bit early in the season to draw any conclusions about the difference in harvest in some parts of the region. In the Bitterroot, harvest seems to be going pretty much as expected, while harvest has been slower to pick up in the Blackfoot. Some hunters stopping at the Bonner check station reported that hunting weather has been tough."