MILES CITY, Mont.--Region Seven, located in southeastern Montana continues to be known for its hunting opportunities. With general antelope season beginning October 12th many sportsmen are preparing to hit the field. Here is a snapshot of what they may expect this fall.
Antelope populations are recovering but remain well below long term averages. While there is a promising 21 percent increase from 2012, it's is still 50 percent below long term average and 66 percent below the 10 year peak count that occurred in 2006. Populations are rebounding nicely in the southern portion of the region, but seem to be struggling in the northern portion. Hunter success rates measured at the Broadus Check Station have equaled 72 percent each of the past two years and similar rates are expected again this year. FWP recommends that hunters head to the southern portion of the region to hunt antelope this fall
While not typically a hot spot destination, outside of the Missouri Breaks, elk here are primarily found on private land. While elk populations are above management objectives in all hunting districts, public hunting access is limited.
Mule deer numbers are still more than 32 percent below the long term average due to the severe winter of 2010-11 that resulted in significant winter-kill of adults and fawns. Overwinter survival last year was high, and fawn recruitment this spring—up to 53 yearlings per 100 adults—increased relative to the previous year. That good news, however, was dampened by reduced fawning rates due to nutritional stress in does after the extreme winter of 2010-11. Drought conditions the summer of 2012 continued to impact deer nutrition, but forage and precipitation levels have been exceptional so far in 2013. Trend area surveys indicate that mule deer populations are up 11 percent from 2012 and deer populations are expected to continue a gradual climb. Hunters may have better opportunity in the southern portion of the region.
White-tailed deer populations are currently 7 percent below the 10-year average. The reduction in white-tailed deer numbers, however, is not all bad. Wildlife biologists note that whitetail numbers prior to the EHD outbreak in 2012 were too high and fewer deer on the landscape will allow habitat to recover along with deer numbers. Forage and precipitation levels have been exceptional so far in 2013. White-tailed deer can recover relatively rapidly from declines, and with double the fawn recruitment rates of last spring, it appears this process has already begun. Wildlife biologists tallied an average of 57 yearlings per 100 adults in 2013 trend surveys. Hunters who do their homework by scouting and visiting with private landowners should have success locating good areas to hunt whitetails.
For more information on big game hunting in other regions across Montana, visit FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov, click "Hunting" then click Hunting Guide.