Deer harvest has been slow to pick up pace this big game season in west-central Montana, with totals that are 30 percent behind last year’s first week for white-tailed deer and mule deer. The elk harvest for week one was right in line with the first week tally from last season and just shy of the five-year average.
Through Oct. 28, the three west-central Montana check stations reported 7,634 hunters that checked 260 elk, 115 mule deer, 364 white-tailed deer, two moose and three bighorn sheep for 9.7 percent of hunters with game.
Last year at this time, just over 8,000 hunters had checked 263 elk, 160 mule deer and 519 whitetails for 11.8 percent of hunters with game.
Mule deer harvest is 26 percent behind the five-year average, and white-tailed deer harvest is 9 percent shy of the five-year average.
The slow season start may be due in part to the warm, dry weather the region experienced during most of week one. The high elevation SNOTEL weather information sites reported decreasing snow levels as the week progressed.
The Bonner station checked the most deer with 61 mule deer and 308 whitetails reported. Elk harvest is up slightly compared to last year at the Bonner station and just below at Darby and Anaconda. Elk harvest totals at each check station are all within 10 of last year’s first week.
Hunter numbers at the Bonner check station were down nearly 500 from last year, but the station had the highest percentage of hunters with game at 14.4 percent. Hunter numbers were about average at the Darby check station and above average at Anaconda.