Al’s Weekly Hunting Report- Week 3
From our friend Al down the hallway:
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.
At the six northwest Montana check stations through Sunday, November 6, a total of 8,696 hunters checked 273 white-tailed deer (208 of these were bucks), 29 mule deer, and 50 elk for a 4.0 percent rate of hunters with game. The number of whitetails taken was about the same, while the number of mule deer and elk checked was down from last year.
The counts at the six northwest Montana check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken. FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams notes that whitetail harvest remains slow at most check stations.
After another week of big game rifle season, check station totals show decreased hunter participation across west-central Montana compared to 2010 and the five-year average.
“We’ve seen less hunters in the field this season, primarily in the southern Bitterroot, and a large reason for this is the really restricted hunting regulations in district 250 (the West Fork),” said Mike Thompson, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “We know that these restrictions have a big impact on individuals and families that are used to hunting the West Fork, and now our check station numbers are showing us just how much it is decreasing overall hunter participation in this part of the Bitterroot.”
The Darby check station, which monitors the southern Bitterroot hunter numbers, has checked nearly 800 fewer hunters this year compared to last and nearly half of what it did five years ago.
Thompson said that it is also not unusual for hunters to slow down a bit during this point of the season. “We haven’t had a big dump of snow yet to get the animals moving and we’re still waiting for the rut to really pick up.”
Although the Bonner check station has been slower than last year for hunter numbers, the station has still checked 66 elk so far this year, compared to 56 at this same point of the season last year.
Elk harvest and hunter participation has been strongest in the Upper Clark Fork near Deer Lodge and Anaconda, where elk populations are at historic highs and hunting regulations have been liberalized accordingly.
“Many of these elk are on private land, where hunters must have permission, making reaching harvest goals difficult in some cases,” Thompson cautioned.
But, wildlife biologist for the Upper Clark Fork, Ray Vinkey, reports 50 elk so far this season, compared to 44 in 2010 and 33 five years ago.
Harvest for mule deer and white-tailed deer is down from last year and the long-term average in most parts of the region.
“Mule deer populations are down region-wide and even across much of the western United States right now,” said Thompson.
White-tailed deer has been slow partially due to suppressed populations in some areas and corresponding conservative hunter opportunities for antlerless whitetails, and partially due to it still being early in the season.
At the Bonner check station, which accounts for most of the west-central Montana white-tailed deer tallies, hunters have been reporting seeing a lot of does and fawns, but they are not seeing bucks with them yet, an indication that the rut is not fully underway in most areas.
“In the next few weeks, we should see a lot of bucks through the Bonner check station if things go like they usually do,” Thompson said.
Hunter check stations are also tallying the wolves that happen to pass through this season for the second time in Montana history. Hunters have taken 54 statewide since archery season opened Sept. 3, and 12 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.
At the end of another weekend of Montana’s big game general season, elk and mule deer harvest numbers are still below average on the Rocky Mountain Front.
The numbers were collected at Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ check station in Augusta.
“Things are still pretty slow,” says Brent Lonner, FWP wildlife biologist. “More hunters were out this weekend, so we did see a little increase in the harvest, but not enough to make up for the slow first couple of weeks.”
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 so far have brought in 79 animals (50 bulls, 25 cows and four calves) compared to the five-year average of 130 elk.
Mule deer at the check station have numbered 71 (44 bucks, 26 does and one fawn). The five-year average is 107 animals.
White-tailed deer are the lone near normal figure as this year’s count in Augusta stands at 79 (44 bucks, 34 does and one fawn), while the five-year average is 82.