As you might expect, some areas showed improved herd growth and some areas see lower numbers.

Either way, it's helpful information for Montana hunters who are starting to focus their energy on fall hunting opportunities. And annual aerial surveys help give us some preliminary indications of where and why some areas may be more plentiful than others.

During the spring season, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife staff get a pulse on deer and elk numbers by conducting aerial spring trend surveys across the state. The flights occur in the same areas year after year so biologist can understand population trends.

During the flights, staff count the total number of deer and elk they see. Fawns and calfs have survived their first winter and are factored into the count. The ratio of adults to young is also a vital indicator. The data gathered from these surveys also helps FWP with any necessary license quota adjustments.

Deer and Elk Hunting in Montana
Image courtesy of Getty Images, EEI_Tony


Northwest Montana - Region 1

Deer: In this area of the state, aerial surveys are difficult because the tree canopy is dense. In hunting District 124, white-tailed buck harvest has declined in recent years. In response to declining white-tailed buck harvests, FWP is reducing the number of white-tailed antlerless B licenses from 50 to 25 in HD 124. They are expecting increased doe survival, allowing the deer population to grow.

Elk: The total number of elk counted during the 2024 spring surveys was 330, making the three-year average 339. FWP reduced the number of antlerless B licenses from 50 to 25, to help reduce harvest on female elk and help increase elk numbers toward the population goal of between 360 and 510.

Western Montana - Region 2

Spring monitoring surveys were normal and FWP is making no license quota adjustments for the 2024 hunting season.

There is an overview of the entire state here. Whatever areas you hunt, here's wishing bountiful harvests in 2024.

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