The number of big game animals taken continued to be high through the end of the season, even though hunter numbers remained below average.
Check stations saw occasional spikes in hunter numbers throughout the season. For the last weekend of the season, the Laurel and Columbus check stations saw a 70 percent jump in hunter numbers compared to the same weekend last year. The total number of hunters in the south-central portion of Montana, however, finished out at 4,749, low compared to the long term average.
Harvest success rates have been high throughout the season. The success rate for the 2006 big game season approached the long-term average with over 41 percent of hunters successfully harvesting an animal. Big Timber saw the highest success rate for the last weekend of the season at 57 percent.
Columbus had a very good final weekend for white-tailed deer harvest. A total of 52 whitetails were checked over the weekend. "This was the second highest number of whitetails ever checked on any weekend at the Columbus station,” said Shawn Stewart, FWP Wildlife Biologist from the Columbus check station. “The whitetail harvest was 62 percent above the long-term average harvest for the last weekend of the season.”
Overall whitetail harvest across the region was higher than last year and more on par with the long-term average.
The Columbus station also checked 62 mule deer, 32 percent above last year. However, biologists had hoped for a higher antlerless harvest. Bucks comprised about 71 percent of that total.
The season elk harvest was most notable in Lavina. For the year, bull harvest was the highest on record and more than 75 percent above the long-term average.
“We checked a total of 118 elk this year and have seen a higher number checked through the station only in 2003 and 1994,” said Jay Newell, FWP Biologist from the Lavina check station.
The 2006 big game season ended on November 26 with the following harvest statistics.