Mule deer hunters generally were more successful than last year in northeastern and north-central Montana, and elk harvest in Region 6 was a third higher than last year’s total. White-tailed deer hunter numbers and harvest in the region was essentially unchanged from 2005.
Results from FWP’s Havre check station, the only check station in Region 6 that collects biological information from hunters and their harvested game, indicates that mule deer buck harvest was up 16 percent over 2005, antlerless mule deer harvest was 27 percent over last year but mule deer hunter numbers were up only 5 percent.
“That indicates to me that mule deer were more abundant than last year, and as a group mule deer hunters were more successful,” says Al Rosgaard, the FWP wildlife biologist who manages the check station on U.S. Highway 2 east of Havre. “Hunters reported seeing plentiful animals this year across the region. Bucks were heavy into the rut for the last two weekends of the season and were visible.”
FWP closed the check station on the final Saturday of this year’s season because of snowpacked and icy roads, but even without counting that day, 757 mule deer hunters passed through the station, submitting 541 deer, including 332 bucks and 209 antlerless mule deer. Last year, also discounting the final Saturday of the season, 718 mule deer hunters stopped at the station and checked 451 deer.
Rosgaard notes that elk hunters and harvest were up sharply from 2005. Last year 64 elk hunters checked 3 bulls and 40 cows at the Havre station. This year 127 hunters checked 17 bulls and 46 cows.
Whitetail hunting participation was essentially unchanged from last year, with roughly 220 hunters stopping at the check station. A total of 162 whitetails – 84 bucks and 78 antlerless deer – were checked at the station this year.
Bird hunting continues to be slow across Region 6. Rosgaard’s crew checked 8 percent fewer upland bird hunters than last year and 16 percent fewer pheasant. Sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge numbers checked at the station were down 50 percent from 2005.
While the general 5-week big-game season has ended, special game-damage and management seasons may be held in Region 6 later this winter. They are likely to include hunting opportunities for mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk and will be designed to reduce big-game populations on land where free public hunting was available during the regular season.