Deer harvest is ahead of last year, while elk lags behind at the close of the first week of hunting season in west-central Montana.
Hunters checked 58 mule deer and 153 white-tailed deer at the region’s three hunter check stations during week one, figures that are both 23 percent ahead of where they were at this point in the 2011 season.
“We saw the first signs of the deer rut this weekend, which has helped to bump that harvest a bit,” says Jay Kolbe, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologist for the Blackfoot area. “Despite the recent mountain snow, elk still appear to be well distributed and have not yet been pushed toward winter ranges.”
Kolbe checked 102 white-tailed deer and 13 mule deer at the Bonner hunter check station so far this season. Young bucks were well represented in the white-tailed deer harvest, which generally forecasts growth in a population.
In the southern part of the region, the hunter check station near Darby reported a deer harvest that is up 46% from last season’s week one.
“Local hunters may be focusing more effort on deer hunting, now that elk hunting regulations are so restrictive in the East and West Forks of the Bitterroot,” FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager, Mike Thompson, says.
Elk harvest reported through the Darby station is down 23% from last year, largely the result of requiring a permit to hunt a bull elk since 2009 in Hunting District 250 and beginning this year (except for youth) in Hunting District 270 to compensate for low calf survival.
The trend at the Anaconda hunter check station was similar, with hunter numbers and elk harvest down, but deer harvest and the percent of hunters with animals up.
While hunter numbers are down region-wide, those hunters who participated reported a higher rate of harvest through the Darby and Anaconda stations than in any season since 2006.
Nearly nine percent of hunters that travelled through one of the region’s three hunter check stations during the first week of the season had harvested game. Check stations tallied 4,901 hunters and a harvest of 204 elk, 58 mule deer, 153 white-tailed deer, three black bears, one moose and one bighorn sheep.
In Montana’s third wolf season, hunters have marked a statewide harvest of 31 wolves so far. Eleven of those wolves came from west-central Montana’s Region 2.
Hunters are reminded that they must stop at all check stations that they pass on their way to or from hunting—even if they have not harvested any animals. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 25.