Final figures compiled from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 6 hunter game check station outside Havre show a higher number of white-tailed deer and mule deer were checked in compared to last year.
“Overall harvest, hunter numbers, and success seen at the Havre check station during the eight weekends of the 2012 hunting season all were slightly improved from last year, but still down from the long-term average,” said FWP wildlife biologist Scott Hemmer. “Hunter numbers for the year were up 6 percent from last year but were 29 percent below those recorded in 2010.”
In all, a total of 763 parties with 1,580 hunters stopped at the check station this year. Pronghorn antelope licenses and antlerless B” licenses for white-tailed deer and mule deer were all significantly reduced in 2011 because of high mortality in several previous winters and an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease.
“The decrease in available B licenses and the less-abundant numbers for most big game species appeared to be major factors contributing to lower hunter participation this year,” Hemmer said.
Antelope harvest was down the most of all big game species, with a 19 percent decrease noted as compared to last year. This year’s figures were 81 percent below the long-term average.
“Hunters generally reported seeing fewer antelope, and many antelope were in smaller herds,” Hemmer said.
According to the regional check station results, the mule deer harvest was better than last year. While the harvest was up 14 percent this year, it was still 29 percent below the long-term average.
Hemmer said hunters generally reported seeing fewer mule deer in the Missouri River Breaks and in some of the northern hunting districts that were hit hardest by the winter weather two years ago. However, hunters reported average to above-average mule deer numbers in several other Region 6 hunting districts.
White-tailed deer numbers at the check station were up 34 percent from last year, but were still 46 percent below the long-term average. Hunters reported still seeing far fewer white-tailed deer than average.
“White-tailed deer populations are still recovering from the EHD outbreaks the past two years along the Milk River,” Hemmer said.
Check station results indicate the elk harvest was also down 47 percent this year when compared to last year and 44 percent down from the long-term average. Most hunters reported observing elk, but for a variety of reasons had difficulties harvesting them in substantial numbers.
Hemmer said the upland bird harvest was generally improved this year. Pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and Hungarian (gray) partridge harvest were all up from last year, but were still below the long-term average. Pheasant numbers appeared most improved, with harvest up 54 percent from the previous year. Sharp-tailed grouse harvest was up 15 percent, and Hungarian partridge harvest was up 12 percent from last year.
Hunters said sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge numbers were highly variable in the field. However, it appeared that upland birds in most areas fared well in spite of the wetter weather in late May and the hot, dry summer weather, Hemmer said.
“The drier conditions this summer resulted in less wetland habitat available throughout much of Region 6,” he explained. “But waterfowl harvest was still up at the check station, with the number of ducks checked in up 28 percent from last year.”
A main factor contributing to hunter success is the presence of private landowners willing to open their gates to public hunting.
“We are fortunate in Region 6 to work with some outstanding landowners who believe in Montana’s strong public hunting heritage,” said Michael “Mikey” Nye, FWP’s Region 6 hunting access coordinator. “Whether those landowners participate in a FWP access program or allow public hunting without being enrolled formally, their actions will ensure future generations will have opportunities for public access and hunting across the state. We extend our sincere thanks to all of them.”
While the Havre check station provides biologists with a firsthand opportunity to visit with hunters and check animals, FWP will also be conducting its annual big game harvest surveys by telephone this winter. Those surveys give a much larger sample size and provide more accurate harvest information for all game species.
2012 Havre Check Station Year-End Summary
% Change 2011
% Change LTA
Logo courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks