The first nine days of hunting in the Montana general hunting season saw less hunters in the west-central region of the state, but a better success rate than in the previous four years, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. From the three check stations, the department checked through 3,131 hunters, with 1,388 coming through the Darby Check Station over two weekends. For the region, 118 elk were taken, along with 24 mule deer and 87 white-tailed deer. At Darby, the totals were 85 elk, 12 mule deer and 15 white-tailed deer. The Darby station also checked through one goat and one wolf. The success rate for the Bitterroot hunters was 8.2 percent, up from 7.9 percent last year and only 6.2 percent the year before.

Vivaca Crowser of FWP said that the record-setting snow and cold in the first days of the general hunting season affected the numbers, but the bad weather also caused the animals to move to lower areas, which helped hunters. And access was improved, with temperatures into the 50s and 60s by the end of last week. Although that resulted in "crunchy" snow, making a quiet hunt a little harder.

Mike Thompson, FWP Missoula-area Wildlife Manager, said in a news release that the COVID pandemic had its affect. "This is a really hard year to compare with any other year, for obvious reasons. On top of the slightly reduced hours of operation at the check stations and the changes in people's lives that affect their hunting patterns, the weather has helped and hurt, all at one time."

The general rifle hunting season in Montana continues until November 29.