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Weather a mixed bag for general season opener in Region 7

Hunting - Region 7

Thu Oct 26 13:36:00 MDT 2017

Weather was a mixed bag for this weekend’s opening of the general big game season in Region 7 - warm at times, rainy at others and windy throughout - but hunters had no problem finding deer in good numbers.

“Despite the warm, windy conditions, hunters did quite well,” said Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Steve Atwood, who helped man the check station at Custer.

“As is typical for opening weekend, some hunters fulfilled their goals of putting meat in the freezer, while others chose to be more selective and held on to their tags,” Atwood said. “Most hunters reported observing above-average numbers of mule deer. It was also apparent that the youth hunt and apprentice program are being utilized, as there were several hunters who were taking home their first deer.”

People who are age 10 or older can apply to be an apprentice hunter for two seasons without completing a Hunter Education course, as long as they hunt with a mentor and follow other guidelines. For more information on becoming an apprentice, visit fwp.mt.gov.

Atwood said operations went well at Custer, where staffers saw 113 hunters and 87 parties come through. That’s down a bit from 2016, when 194 hunters and 95 parties stopped at the Hysham rest stop. The Hysham site was not available this season due to construction of new rest stop facilities.

Hunters enjoyed a 49 percent success rate, compared to 56 percent last year. They bagged 38 mule deer, 13 white-tailed deer and 32 antelope. Harvest in 2016 was 51 mule deer, 7 white-tailed deer and 26 antelope.

Atwood was assisted by Biologist Jesse Kolar, Wildlife Manager John Ensign and Warden Captain Jack Austin.

The FWP crew at Glendive did not see as much traffic as usual, probably owing to sketchy weather.

“The check station was pretty slow due to high winds and rain,” said Biologist Melissa Foster. “Deer hunters were generally seeing lots of deer, and some were pulling the trigger. We had seven mule deer bucks, one mule deer doe, three white-tailed bucks, two white-tailed does and four antelope.” 

Upland game birds were more elusive.

“As expected, bird hunters were not seeing numbers,” she said. “We only checked nine pheasants and two Hungarian partridges all day.”

Foster was joined by Warden Ryan Karren at the Glendive station.

The Ashland check station saw a lot of activity on October 22.

“Despite the breezy conditions opening weekend in the Ashland area, hunters hit the field hard,” said Wildlife Biologist Ryan DeVore. “As is typical with the first weekend, many hunters were selective and decided not to fill their tags. A total of 115 parties came through the Ashland check station, with a total of 225 hunters. Forty-three percent of hunters were successful (same as 2016), while 76 percent had an opportunity to harvest the species they were chasing (up from 2016). All but one hunter primarily pursued big game.”

“As is typically the case, hunter opinions of how big game populations are doing varied widely,” DeVore said. “However, the vast majority observed healthy to very abundant antelope and deer numbers. Most hunters had a quality experience, with 92 percent of them being satisfied with their time afield.”

The Ashland FWP crew checked 86 mule deer (44 bucks, 42 antlerless); five white-tailed deer (3 bucks, 2 does); 33 antelope (27 buck, 4 does, 2 unrecorded); and 10 elk (5 bulls, 5 cows).

“The number of elk coming through was a fair bit higher than normal,” DeVore said.

Hunters also harvested two sharp-tailed grouse, three green-winged teal, and one female black bear, which was the final bear of the fall quota in Bear Management Unit 700. 

DeVore was assisted at the check station by fellow biologists Brandi Skone and Justin Hughes and Warden Jordan Straley.