Hunter numbers were up overall during the opening days of the general big game season in southwest Montana. Although deer harvest was comparable to the last year, elk harvest was up by over 70 animals.
The Silver City check station west of Helena saw a significant increase in hunter numbers over 2005 with 740 hunters passing through on Oct. 22. Twenty-eight elk were checked through Silver City on opening day, up slightly from the 2005 harvest on opening day of 24 elk.
The Cameron check station south of Ennis saw a good opener according to FWP Madison-Gallatin wildlife biologist Craig Jourdonnais. “Several storms moved through the area in the week before the opener bringing a fair amount of snow into the mountains and some rain on top of it,” said Jourdonnais. “The freezing conditions up high made it pretty tough for elk and drove the animals down fairly early.”
Hunters checked 50 elk through Cameron on Oct. 22 and 23, up from 10 in 2005. Hunter numbers were almost doubled at Cameron with 492 hunters up from 250 in 2005.
Two new check stations were added in southwest Montana this year. A station was added at Horse Prairie southwest of Dillon replacing Big Sheep. “We moved the check station a little farther north to Horse Prairie to increase our hunter contacts and better monitor harvest success,” said Kurt Alt, Region 3 wildlife manager. A new check station was also added at Feely south of Butte on the Mount Fleecer face.
In addition, FWP has made a big change to the Cameron check station to enhance brucellosis surveillance. Throughout the general season, Cameron will operate seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hunters are encourage to stop in and visit and warm up with a cup of coffee.
Overall on opening weekend, 3,375 hunters passed through the nine Region 3 check stations with 192 elk, 63 mule deer, and 25 white-tailed deer.