Antelope hunters in Montana will have to work a bit harder to find good antelope hunting this fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials say.
While fawn production and winter survival have rebounded after a series of extreme winters, most populations are only now climbing back to average levels across the state.
"Antelope hunting will be a challenge," said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' wildlife sections coordinator in Helena. "Populations, especially in eastern and north central Montana, are still in recovery mode."
Montana's antelope archery season will close Oct. 5 and the general rifle season for antelope will run Oct. 6-Nov. 11.
For more information on antelope hunting in Montana, visit FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov, click "Hunting" then click Hunting Guide.
Here's a regional rundown on what antelope hunters can expect this season.
Region 2—Western Montana
• Pronghorn distribution is centered in the Deer Lodge area and few licenses are being issued to conserve this island population. Fawn survival has been poor in recent years and doe-fawn licenses were reduced.
Region 3—Southwestern Montana
• There was generally good production of antelope over the past year. Overall, the population is stable, and hunters should see antelope numbers about the same as, or a little above, those of last year. In some areas–like the Madison Valley–it looks as if numbers are down slightly and that's reflected in fewer tags allotted this year.
Region 4—Central Montana
• Antelope numbers are mostly down. After a couple of harsh winters and an EHD outbreak–a fatal virus spread by biting midges–antelope have been slow to rebound. For hunters this means FWP issued fewer doe-fawn tags over the past couple of years.
Regions 5 — South Central Montana
• Antelope continue to appear in record low numbers, though biologists are seeing some encouraging signs of recovery in the eastern part of the region, where more fawn antelope were counted than in the past few years. Reproduction has been a concern for three years following an outbreak of EHD–a fatal virus spread by biting midges–that decimated much of the herd in 2008. In most areas, antelope numbers remain at historic lows–37 percent of the historic average–with fawn numbers at just 53 percent of normal. Those trends are reflected in fewer tags issued this year.
Region 6—Northeastern Montana
• All hunting districts will again see low license numbers because of lingering impacts from the severe winter of 2010-11. Overall, populations are far lower than long-term averages, and fawn production also remains low in most areas. Decreased harvest quotas are expected to persist for at least several more years as pronghorn populations recover.
Region 7—Southeastern Montana
• The early story here for autumn is drought conditions combined with an extreme fire season on the heels of a rather mild and dry winter. Populations are stable, yet still below long term averages. Fawn production—due in part to the favorable winter of 2011-12—was fair this year at about 47 fawns per 100 does. Permits were reduced due to low numbers of antelope.