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Deer hunting and harvest slightly down, bird harvest up

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Headlines - Region 6

Check station: Fewer hunters harvest more deer and upland birds

After a slow start earlier in this fall’s big-game season, hunter success in northeastern and north-central Montana has risen in the second half of the season. And while fewer upland bird hunters are going afield in Region 6, they are having more success than last year. 

Those are early conclusions from Al Rosgaard, the wildlife biologist who manages the Havre check station. The station, located on U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre, is the only location in Region 6 that collects biological data from hunters. Biologists determine the age and sex of deer, elk, antelope as well as waterfowl and upland game birds.

Montana’s general deer and elk season ends a half hour after sunset on Sunday, Nov. 27. Hunting season for sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge extends through Dec. 15, and pheasant season runs through Jan. 1, 2006.

Through the first five weekends of the general deer season, Rosgaard reports that the total number of mule deer is down 4 percent from 2004 while the number of mule deer hunters is down 7 percent. That’s a smaller decline than Rosgaard noted in the first half of the season, when mule deer hunters and harvest were down 10 and 15 percent, respectively. The total number of white-tailed deer checked at the station is up 11 percent from 2004 but the number of hunters is down 9 percent.

“It seems the number of hunters and their success is increasing later in the season,” says Rosgaard. “Perhaps it is because gasoline prices have gone down or maybe hunters were waiting until the end of the season to go afield.”

The number of antelope hunters checked this year was down sharply, some 20 percent, compared to last year and their harvest was 24 percent behind last year. Montana’s rifle antelope season ended in early November.

Rosgaard says bird hunters aren’t showing up in large numbers, but the hunters who are getting out are generally having success.

“For 2005 so far the number of bird hunters is down 23 percent from last year, but the total number of pheasants checked is up 5 percent, sharptail harvest is up 47 percent and Hungarian partridges are up 22 percent.”