Antelope hunters should find plenty of pronghorns in northeastern and north-central Montana this fall, with the highest populations in the western half of Region 6.
In the eastern portion of the region, antelope populations continue to rebound from the deadly winter of 2003-04 but are still below long-term numbers in some hunting districts. In the western portion of Region 6, populations are similar to last year and hunting license quotas have increased in proportion to the population.
“Antelope numbers were up 30 percent in Hunting District 620 last year and have stayed about the same this year, except that buck numbers appear to have increased this year,” says wildlife biologist Mark Sullivan in Malta. “Antelope licenses were increased from 500 to 800 in District 620 (southern Phillips County). Antelope numbers in the eastern portion of District 600 (northern Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties) are similar to last year.”
In the far western portion of Region 6, antelope populations increasing for the second straight year and hunters in southern Blaine, Chouteau and Hill counties should see abundant pronghorns in both native range and in wheat stubble habitats.
Kelvin Johnson, wildlife biologist based in Glasgow, says antelope numbers continue to increase in both the northern and southern portions of Valley County and this year’s survey indicates populations are above the long-term average. In the western portion of McCone County’s District 650, antelope numbers are 15 percent higher than 2005 levels and nearing long-term averages, says Johnson, who notes that this year’s fawn production in the area was excellent.
In the eastern portion of District 650, pronghorn populations are about 15 percent below the long-term average, reports biologist Scott Thompson.
“Fawn production is near average this year, while the ratio of bucks to does is about 35 bucks per 100 does, near the long-term average and within the department’s objective for this habitat type,” says Thompson. “Dry summer conditions will likely take their toll on antelope in eastern McCone and Richland counties. This may be more important as winter nears.”
To the north, in the eastern half of District 670 (which includes portions of Daniels, Sheridan and Roosevelt counties) antelope habitat is marginal and aerial surveys are not conducted. But Thompson notes that informal observations indicate good fawn production and typical numbers of antelope.
Montana’s archery antelope season started Aug. 15 and ends Oct. 7. The rifle antelope season opens Sunday, Oct. 8 and runs through Nov. 5.