Hunters took to the field Saturday and Sunday across northwest Montana for the opening weekend of the general deer and elk season. At the six northwest Montana check stations, a total of 3,146 hunters checked 136 white-tailed deer, 25 mule deer, and 31 elk for a 6.1 percent rate of hunters with game. Of the whitetails checked, 95 were bucks and 41 were antlerless. The Highway 2 check station had the largest number of whitetail deer taken (40), while the Swan (31) and Olney (29) check stations weren’t far behind.
FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams noted that because of the two-day opening weekend this year, direct comparisons can’t be made to deer and elk harvest numbers in previous years. He added that deer and elk seasons in northwest Montana are very conservative, with adult hunters limited to buck only for whitetail and mule deer, with very few B-tags for antlerless deer.
The Thompson Falls check station had the largest number of elk taken (15). According to Biologist Bruce Sterling, a number of impressive bull elk were brought through the station Saturday and Sunday. The lower Clark Fork traditionally checks more elk than any other check station in northwest Montana. “This was a great opening weekend,” he said.
There was no shortage of hunting stories at the check stations around the region. At the Swan Valley check station on Highway 83 south of Bigfork, hunters checked in steadily on Sunday afternoon. Six nice bull elk were brought through the station. Seven youngsters came through with their first deer, all whitetail does and young bucks.
John Vore, the biologist who is in charge of the Swan check station noted that there were a good number of yearling bucks in the harvest. “We expected that yearling deer would make up a significant portion of the harvest this year,” he said. “We observed good survival of these young deer through the relatively mild winter last year.” He added that at the Olney check station, yearling deer made up about half of the harvest.
Hunters are reminded that regulations for whitetails and mule deer in Region One are buck-only through the end of the hunting season. Youth 12-15 (and some qualifying 11-year olds, see the regulations) can take antlerless whitetail deer.
Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only. Youth 12-15(and some qualifying 11-year olds) can take antlerless elk. Spike elk are not legal game. These regulations apply in most Region One hunting districts. Check the Montana hunting regulations for the district you plan to hunt.