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General season trend of more hunters, more deer continues

Hunting - Region 7

Wed Nov 30 16:16:00 MST 2016

Cooler temperatures held off until after Sunday’s close of the general deer and elk season, but the trend of more hunters and more deer coming through Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 check stations continued through the final weekend.

“Overall, hunters seemed to have good success on the last weekend of the season,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Steve Atwood. “Like on most closing days, deer hunters had mixed results based on their objectives. Many just wanted to put meat in the freezer and were happy with any deer. Others were patient and eventually harvested the type of buck they wanted. And some hunters saw a lot of bucks this season but didn’t find the right one for them.” 

Hysham Check Station

The Hysham check station visited with 190 hunters Sunday, up from 128 on closing weekend last year. Hunters enjoyed a 68 percent success rate on the weekend, bringing in 77 mule deer, 38 white-tailed deer and four elk. White-tailed deer and elk harvests were very similar in 2015, with 36 deer and three elk taken, but mule deer were up quite a bit from the 40 seen last season.

“With the warm weather and lack of northern geese in the area, we didn’t have any goose hunters pass through the check station,” Atwood said. “I suspect most open water up north will freeze soon and the Canada geese from the Hi-Line population will move down to the Yellowstone Valley in the next couple of weeks.”

On the same weekend last year, hunters at the Hysham check station had bagged 64 geese.

Ashland Check Station

Nearly three-quarters of the hunters coming through Ashland’s check station had opportunity to harvest an animal, but only 43 percent were successful. Still, 81 percent were satisfied with their hunting experience.

“Most hunters were again happy with the abundance of game they were seeing,” said Wildlife Biologist Ryan DeVore. “Many sportsmen mentioned that their harvested deer were in excellent body condition, which should bode well for winter survival this year.”

Ashland got 136 hunters, up considerably from 83 in 2015. They harvested 49 mule deer, 10 white-tailed deer and five elk. That’s compared to 27 mule deer in 2015, along with 19 white-tails and one elk. All of the parties were primarily after big game. There were no sharp-tailed grouse to check this year, while last year hunters bagged six.

“Several sportsmen were in a typical hunter's conundrum at the end of the season: they decided to harvest a smaller buck than ones they had already passed up earlier in the season,” DeVore said. “That's the way it goes sometimes.”

Glendive Check Station

Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Melissa Foster was happy to report that the Glendive check station is getting busier.

“Hunters were pulling the trigger, getting last-minute game for the freezer,” Foster said.  

Foster checked a total of 32 deer - 14 mule deer bucks, 11 white-tailed bucks, five mule deer does and two white-tailed does.

“Several folks had already filled their buck tags and were just out one last time, tagging along with those who still had un-punched tags or were looking to harvest antlerless deer,” she said.

Foster saw 37 hunting parties, 76 percent of whom had game. Of the 72 individual hunters who came through Sunday, 86 percent had the opportunity to harvest an animal, and 97 percent were satisfied with their hunt.

“One happy hunter said he’d hunted hard all season, passed up several nice bucks, had a great time in the field,” Foster said. “That day he decided he’d shoot the first deer he had an opportunity at, because he was tired of hunting and wanted to watch football. He accomplished his mission, harvesting a three-point mule deer buck.”

Most hunters were targeting deer, but nine were after upland game birds and six hunters were after both birds and deer. Deer hunters had a 49 percent success rate, while bird hunters fared slightly better at 53 percent.

“Bird hunters were way down compared to the last couple of years,” Foster said.

She attributed that to several factors, including the weather, a response to decreased bird numbers and more difficult hunting compared to previous years, and higher deer numbers leading folks to dedicate more effort toward hunting deer, or people looking to avoid deer hunters. 

Foster reported a total of 14 pheasants, very few compared to the last few years in Glendive.