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Average Harvest for West-Central Montana Big Game Opener

Hunting - Region 2

Monday, October 28, 2019

During opening weekend of the general big game hunting season, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) reported checking 2,325 hunters and 179 harvested animals at its three permanent check stations in west-central Montana, on par with average first weekend totals.

Region-wide, hunter harvest and participation was comparable to last year’s opening weekend, with a few hot spots. At the hunter check station near Darby, FWP saw 1,012 hunters, the highest total since 2015, and 73 elk--the highest since 2011. 

The elk harvest of 16 reported at the Bonner check station was the lowest since 2014 but still on track with a typical opening weekend.  At the Anaconda hunter check station (which was not operated in 2018), FWP checked 292 hunters, comparable to the 295 hunters checked in 2017, and the harvest of 10 elk was down from slightly from 2017 but the same as 2016.

Julie Golla, FWP biologist in the Upper Clark Fork, reported that 62% of the weekend hunting pressure and 65% of the elk and deer harvest came through the Anaconda station on Sunday.  “Saturday was a cold, snowy and windy day—a tough day to be out there,” Golla said.  “Sunday was cold, but clear and a more enjoyable day for hunting.” 

Deer hunters also saw average harvest success on opening weekend region-wide. The Bonner check station recorded a harvest of 53 white-tailed deer on opening weekend, which was up from last year, but right on track with the five-year average.  The Darby and Anaconda Check Stations each added nine white-tailed deer to their harvest totals, which was on par for whitetails at those check stations.

Mule deer harvest was low, as usual, with three at Bonner, two at Darby and one at Anaconda.  Hunting for antlered mule deer is by permit only in much of west-central Montana’s Region 2 and few opportunities are offered for hunting antlerless mule deer.

In addition to these long-standing stations, FWP again operated a hunter check station at the mouth of Fish Creek in Mineral County for the fifth consecutive opening weekend where wildlife biologist, Liz Bradley, checked 174 hunters, up from 2018, but down from previous years.  The harvests of two elk, three mule deer and two white-tailed deer were on track with a typical opening weekend, and three turkeys rounded out the harvest checked at the mouth of Fish Creek.

All-in-all, hunter check stations sample a small portion of the effort and harvests across the region, but they do record important trends and biological information. “Check stations are the key way for us to see how harvest is shaping up compared to historical averages and they are really important for gathering information on wildlife age, health and other observations from the field,” Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager, said.

Hunters must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals.  The general big game season runs through Sunday, Dec. 1.

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