Montana's general rifle season ended at sunset Sunday, November 29, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks noted an average year in the west-central area of the state, which includes the Bitterroot Valley hunting districts.

Vivaca Crowser of FWP reported the Darby check station had a better success rate for hunters (at 7.8 percent) than anytime previous, as far back as 2013. However, the Anaconda checkpoint reported an almost 10 percent success rate, which is the highest in over 20 years.

Hunter numbers in the valley were down about 500 from last year, but that is partially due to the shorter operating hours at Darby. That checkpoint and the Bonner and Anaconda checkpoints reduced weekend hours as part of their COVID-19 restrictions.

Looking specifically at the Darby numbers, at the end of the season there were 162 elk, 29 mule deer and 72 white-tailed deer checked through. Those are all lower than last year, but when you consider a smaller number of hunters the success rate went up. The most deer harvested in the region again this year were at Bonner with 354 white-tailed deer and 31 mule deer. But, those were slightly below last year's totals.

In a news release, Mike Thompson, the Region 2 Wildlife Manager, said, "We didn't know what to expect this year, with all the influences of the pandemic at play, alongside the usual curveballs that weather can throw at hunters. All in all, we can say that nothing unusual stood out in this harvest sample, which tends to represent hunting effort on public lands." The Fish, Wildlife and Parks telephone surveys will be after the first of the year for more complete results of the general hunting season.

Though the general season is over, there are still a few special extended hunting seasons on selected areas of the state for those with special licenses.

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