Deer hunters in northeastern and north-central Montana finished the season by going afield in relatively high numbers and finding success, especially with bucks.
Fish, Wildlife & Parks checked 226 hunters during the final weekend of the big-game season, and 68 percent had harvested deer. Wildlife biologist Al Rosgaard, who manages the check station located on U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre, reported that 72 mule deer bucks and 38 whitetail bucks were checked during the final weekend of the 2005 season. Biologists also checked 29 antlerless mule deer and 17 antlerless whitetails last weekend.
The final weekend’s buck harvest was about 66 percent above the total for the same period last year. More hunters went afield during this year’s final weekend, too, reports Rosgaard. According to the check station, FWP’s only consistent barometer of hunting activity in the region, this year’s hunter numbers were about 23 percent ahead of last year’s final weekend.
That hunter participation bucked a season-long trend toward lower activity. Rosgaard noted early in the season that hunter numbers were down about 25 percent from last year during the first two weekends of the 2005 season, but climbed back toward normal levels during the second half of this year’s season. Overall, mule deer hunter numbers were down 2 percent from last year; whitetail hunters were up 2 percent from 2004.
For the season, the total number of mule deer checked at Havre was up 3 percent from 2004, with a 6 percent bump in buck numbers and a 4 percent decline in antlerless harvest. The total number of white-tailed deer was up 16 percent from 2004, perhaps evidence of a return to more normal populations after the 2003 loss to EHD along the Milk River. The whitetail buck harvest was especially strong, up 36 percent from last year; the antlerless whitetail harvest was down 1 percent from 2004.
Rosgaard reports that bird hunting remains strong. So far this fall, the total number of pheasants is about 10 percent higher than last year. Sharptail harvest is up about 45 percent and Hungarian partridge is up 30 percent from last year’s pace. Sage grouse harvest was down 13 percent from 2004. Upland bird hunter numbers are down 16 percent from 2004.