With less than one week remaining in general deer and elk season, west-central Montana hunter check stations continue to report a deer harvest slightly up and elk down, compared to last season.
The deer rut prompted more harvest in some parts of the region during the season’s fourth week, and overall, white-tailed deer harvest totals are 12 percent ahead of this point in the 2011 season. Mule deer totals are up three percent.
Jay Kolbe, FWP wildlife biologist for the Blackfoot districts, reported that the hunter check station near Bonner was busy with successful deer hunters over the weekend.
“As expected, white-tailed deer harvest picked up this weekend, and we checked a relatively high number of younger age-class deer in addition to some really nice older bucks,” says Kolbe. “Unfortunately, elk harvest continued to lag well behind recent years.”
But while the deer rut helped some hunters find success, warmer than average weather and lack of snow hindered those watching for some tracks to follow or hoping for elk movement to lower elevations.
In the eastern reaches of the region, the check station near Anaconda felt the effects of these less than ideal elk hunting conditions. Elk harvest reported at the station sits at 44, compared to 70 at this point in the 2011 season.
In the southern Bitterroot, deer harvest through the Darby hunter check station is up over last year while the effects of restrictive regulations for elk in Hunting Districts 250 and 270, combined with mild weather, are reflected in decreased elk harvest and hunter trips through the station.
According to FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager, Mike Thompson, even though hunter trips were fewer, the overall harvest through Darby tracked fairly closely with last year’s tally.
“Increased deer harvest is making up the difference for the decrease in elk,” Thompson says.
As has been the pattern all season, hunter success was up to 8.7%, the highest since 2005, when elk migration into Hunting District 270 from the Big Hole helped many hunters find success. Darby Check Station crews checked one wolf last week, and wolf harvest from west-central Montana stood at 20 on Monday morning.
Nearly eight percent of hunters that stopped at one of the region’s three hunter check stations during the first four weeks of the season harvested game. Check stations tallied 11,050 hunter trips and a harvest of 332 elk, 136 mule deer, 371 white-tailed deer, five black bears, two moose, three bighorn sheep and two wolves. The check station counts represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
Hunters are reminded that they must stop at all check stations that they pass on their way to or from hunting, even if they have not harvested any animals. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through this Sunday, Nov. 25.