Al’s Hunting Report–Week 2
Our good friend Alan K, down the hall with the Craig & Al Morning Show, puts together this stellar hunting blog each week. So I busted KC’s balls about not having his own hunting blog and he pointed out that Al is already doing such a great job with it, why don’t we just steal his? So that we shall do. A new hunting report from Al will be posted here each Tuesday, hope you find it helpful.
|Hunter #s||White-Tailed Deer||Mule Deer||Elk|
Just last week officials closed an area north of Gardner where bears were feeding on an elk carcass. The elk had been shot by a hunter. As he walked toward the downed animal several bears came out of the trees and began to feed on it. The hunter retreated and called Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.
Several years ago a hunter was killed in the Blackfoot/Clearwater Game Range area when he was attacked by a grizzly bear. Game officials then said it appeared the bear had heard the gunshot and came to investigate. They also theorized that bears were beginning to equate rifle shots with food.
Biologists have captured and relocated nine grizzly bears in northwestern Montana over the past two weeks. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said that eight of the bears were captured in several incidents in the northeastern Flathead Valley. The bears included a female with two young cubs, a female with a yearling, two young males and an adult male. Most of the were bears fitted with radio collars or ear-tag transmitters and released in more remote sites including Frozen Lake, Spotted Bear, and the Sullivan Creek drainage. A 3-year-old male grizzly was captured and relocated in the Yaak Valley after it killed some chickens.
Wildlife officials in the Northern Rockies want to sharpen their grizzly bear safety message after two hikers were fatally mauled over the summer in Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone region’s grizzly population has expanded in recent years to about 600 bears. Visitor numbers are way up at Yellowstone National Park. Last year there were a record 3.6 million visitors. Chief Ranger Tim Reid says the park has done well instructing hikers who camp overnight about the dangers of traveling in bear country. He says the park has been less successful reaching day hikers such as the two mauling victims.
West-central Montana check station totals were slow but steady for the first week of rifle season and showed a below average harvest for deer, alongside an above average elk harvest.
The above average elk harvest, according to Regional Wildlife Manager, Mike Thompson, is not consistent across all parts of the region. Elk numbers and hunter license opportunity are down in the southern reaches of the Bitterroot Valley, the northern Blackfoot Valley, and in much of the western part of the region, while the eastern parts of the region are at historic highs.
The Darby check station running total of 173 elk is on par with the five-year average, but a large proportion of these elk were harvested in southwestern Montana’s Big Hole Valley, not the Bitterroot districts. And elk hunting in the Blackfoot Valley is a mixed bag. Harvest totals reported at the Bonner check station are below the five-year average, but on par with last year.
Elk harvest has been strongest in the Upper Clark Fork near Deer Lodge and Anaconda, where elk populations are at all-time highs and hunting regulations have been liberalized accordingly.
Ray Vinkey, FWP biologist in the Upper Clark Fork, has already seen 44 elk through his check station near Anaconda this year. According to Vinkey, although the hunting season is only 25 percent complete, the elk harvest through Anaconda is already 66 percent of the total harvest for the 2010 season.
Regional Wildlife Manager, Mike Thompson says that many of these elk are often concentrated on private lands, where hunters must have permission and exercise extra respect for the landowners.
Harvest for mule deer and white-tailed deer is down from the long-term average in most parts of the region, due largely to a moderate decline in populations that has spurred tighter hunting regulations in many districts.
Biologists noted that the deer rut is beginning, and the Bonner and Darby check stations saw a few large bucks through this weekend as a result.
“We’ve checked a few very nice bucks through the Darby station, but overall our warm, dry conditions are keeping harvest slow,” said FWP Bitterroot biologist, Craig Jourdonnais. “Until conditions change to move the animals around and make them easier to track, we’re likely to see deer and elk just trickle through the check stations.”
Hunter check stations are also tallying the wolves that happen to pass through this season. Hunters have taken 44 statewide since archery season opened Sept. 3, and 10 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 week of the season, nearly eight percent of hunters that passed through one of the region’s three hunter check stations harvested game. The stations tallied 5,593 hunters and a harvest of 266 elk, 47 mule deer, 124 white-tailed deer, three wolves and three black bears. During last year’s opening week 6,142 hunters reported 263 elk, 65 mule deer, and 146 white-tailed deer and six black bears.
The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 27.
At the six Region One check stations through Sunday, October 30, a total of 5,783 hunters checked 207 white-tailed deer (155 or 75% of these were bucks), 22 mule deer, and 37 elk for a 4.6 percent rate of hunters with game. The second weekend of the season saw a similar number of hunters afield and animals harvested as compared to last year.
Hunters are reminded that it is buck-only for whitetails in northwest Montana. Antlerless whitetails remain legal game for youth 12-15 years of age and disabled hunters with the Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle. Mule deer are buck-only for the entire season. Elk are brow-tine bull only except for youth 12-15 years of age who can take an antlerless elk. Spike bull elk are not legal game for any hunter in Region One. Hunters should refer to the hunting regulations for the hunting district they plan to hunt.
Elk and deer harvest numbers continue below average on the Rocky Mountain Front at the close of the second weekend of Montana’ s general big game season.
The numbers were collected at Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ check station in Augusta, says Brent Lonner, FWP wildlife biologist.
“We’re seeing fewer elk and deer, both mule deer and whitetails, brought to the station,” Lonner says. “We’re also seeing fewer hunters stop by. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the mild weather, or maybe it’s the economy.”
Elk hunters so far have brought in 39 animals (24 bulls, 12 cows and three calves) compared to the long-term average of 68 elk.
Mule deer at the check station have numbered 42 (23 bucks and 19 does). The long-term average is 59 animals.
With whitetails, this year’s count in Augusta stands at 35 (16 bucks, 18 does and one fawn), while the long-term average is 46.
Information compiled by Alan K, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org