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Big game animals in good shape going into winter

Hunting - Region 7

Wed Jan 18 16:48:00 MST 2017

Region 7 Elk

Region 7 Elk

After experiencing several mild winters, Southeastern Montana is in the grips of a more typical winter, with below-freezing temperatures and good snow accumulation. Such conditions are tough on wildlife, but according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7, the big game populations are in good shape going into the winter.

“With good fall green-up and an easy fall weather-wise, FWP staff and sportsmen saw big game in very good body condition, which should bode well for making it through winter,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Ryan DeVore, who is based in Broadus.

FWP had positive feedback on the populations prior to, during and after the big game hunting season. And what they are seeing in post-season aerial surveys bears that out. The flights help biologists to determine post-season buck-to-doe or bull-to-cow ratios and fawn or calf recruitment.

DeVore has photographed several good herds of elk in his survey areas, including a number of mature bulls, and shot some video of the largest antelope herd he’s seen.

Following the big game season, DeVore reports that mule deer numbers are 47 percent above the 10-year long-term average, elk herds are increasing and expanding into new locations, and antelope numbers are on the rise in much of Region 7.

“Hunter numbers were up substantially at check stations, partially due to better game numbers, more licenses and a warm fall,” DeVore said. “Hunters in general were very pleasantly surprised at big game abundance.”

Deer populations feature many younger animals, but he foresees good hunting opportunities in the future. “Barring any major die-offs in the next year or two, these young bucks will reach maturity. Hunting will be phenomenal, and likely one of those eras people look back on as ‘the good ol’ days.’”

For more details on the 2016 big game season in Region 7 and a look ahead, view DeVore’s video, “2016 Montana FWP Region 7 – Big Game Season Recap,” on YouTube ( or on Facebook at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks – Region 7. FWP has a new YouTube channel, titled Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7, where periodic video updates from wildlife biologists and other staffers will be posted.