At the six northwest Montana check stations, whitetail deer and mule deer harvest finished slightly ahead last year’s totals as the season wrapped up on Sunday.
At the six northwest Montana check stations through the end of the season on Sunday, November 25, a total of 17,635 hunters checked 941 white-tailed deer ( 830 of these were bucks), 131 mule deer, and 78 elk for a 6.5 percent rate of hunters with game. This is slightly higher than the 6.1 percent of hunters with game last year.
Hunters checked 10 percent more whitetail bucks, 27 percent more mule deer, and 36 percent fewer elk as compared to last year. The number of hunters in northwest Montana was down 5 percent. The reduction in elk checked through the stations could be partly due to the lack of a youth antlerless opportunity this hunting season
According to FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams, deer populations are still down overall, but there are signs that whitetail numbers are beginning to increase. Williams notes that a high number of yearling whitetail bucks were checked this season, which reflects good fawn survival last winter. For example, 48 percent of the whitetail bucks checked at Olney and 35 percent checked at Highway 2 were yearlings. Trophy bucks (5 years and older) were also well represented, making up 12 percent of the bucks at Highway 2 and the Swan.
Williams adds that annual buck harvest is a reliable indicator of population trend. “Based on the total number of whitetail bucks at our check stations, deer populations are up slightly as compared to last year in northwest Montana,” says Williams. “The number of yearling whitetail bucks in the harvest is what we expected to see based on our spring fawn survival counts, and it’s good news for hunters in the coming years.”
The counts at the six northwest Montana check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken. Details of total harvest for each hunting district will be known after telephone hunter surveys are completed this spring.
Wolf harvest: Through November 25, hunters in northwest Montana have taken 27 wolves. Statewide, 80 wolves have been taken. The wolf hunting season continues until February 28. Hunters can still purchase a wolf hunting license, but there is a 5-day waiting period before it is valid. Wolf trapping begins on December 15. Wolf trappers must purchase a furbearer trapping license to trap wolves.