Sunny skies and mild temperatures made for two beautiful days of hunting for the 2013 general deer and elk season opening weekend. FWP biologists, staff and volunteers manned seven check stations to account for hunter harvest rates in the south Tobacco Roots and Upper Ruby (Alder), the Madison (Cameron), Pioneers and Upper Big Hole including Fleecer and Mount Haggin (Divide and Mill Creek), the Gallatin, Park County (Livingston), and the Helena area (Silver City).
Elk harvest numbers at the Cameron check station doubled that of 2012, and are the highest seen since 2006 when the check station was open for longer hours. Over 15% of hunters who stopped at the check station had successfully taken an animal (and this does not include the seven antelope harvested).
Area Biologist Julie Cunningham reported, “Hunters seemed really happy to be seeing elk and getting lots of opportunities. It was a really positive and busy weekend.”
Hunter success was also relatively strong at the Livingston check station (open only on Saturday and seeing 97 hunters), checking in 4 white-tailed deer, 3 mule deer, and 8 elk. The same appeared to be the case at the new Alder check station which saw 454 hunters pass through, checking in 10 white-tailed deer, 2 mule deer, and 44 elk. Divide and Mill Creek also saw a slight uptick in overall game harvest.
Meanwhile, the season got off to a slower start at the Silver City check station north of Helena which typically sees the highest numbers of hunters pass through. By closing time on Sunday, 685 hunters had passed through, less than 5% successfully harvested an animal.
The Gallatin also saw more hunters than last year, but success dropped to just 2.2%.
Hunters with or without game are required to stop at game check stations. The information gathered at check stations helps not only with hunting statistics, but in determining future season setting, and in augmenting species population data.