The big game season was welcomed by hunters this year. It opened last Saturday and FWP expected more than 100,000 hunters to take to the field. I went hunting elk with Bob Culp and Chuck Harnist, of Frenchtown, to the Southwest part of the state.
The number of elk that we saw this year was up from the last couple of opening weekends. Harnist was able to capitalize and he shot a 5 point elk opening day. You may view that elk along with other successful hunters on www.montanaoutdoor.com.The hunter numbers were up in southwest Montana too! Most of the hunters that we spoke with were still looking for an opportunity to harvest an elk.
It was another busy weekend for the wild game meat processor in Dell, Montana, a small town located off the interstate 30 miles south of Dillon. The word from the help was the elk that they were receiving were coming in from just about everywhere within a few miles of the shop. Sunday the area known as Sawmill, which is southwest of Lima, produced quite a few elk.
Closer to Missoula, John Peterson of H and H Wild Game Processor in Missoula was very pleased with his opening weekend.
“We were a little down after the youth hunt on Thursday and Friday, but on Saturday we took in more animals than last year,” added Peterson. “Sunday was a huge day with 47 animals that came in and 13 of them were elk.”
When I spoke with Peterson on Monday afternoon, H and H had already received 13 elk and 20 deer for Monday.
FWP reported that the hunter numbers were down in the hunting check stations in Region 2, but they were down only slightly.
“Bitterroot districts were slow, but hunters returning from Big Hole on Sunday bumped the elk harvest through Darby to a level 32 percent higher than the five year average for opening weekend,” added Mike Thompson FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “Elk harvest through Darby from the Big Hole normally drops off sharply after the first weekend.”
In the northwest part of Montana, they had a solid opening weekend according to John Fraley from FWP region office One. They totaled 2879 hunters through all 6 hunting check stations in the region. The number of hunters were down about 10 percent, but number of hunters with game was up 5.5 percent this year compared to last year. FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams noted that deer and elk seasons in northwest Montana remain conservative, with adult hunters limited to buck-only whitetail and mule deer, with very few b-tags for antlerless deer.
In Region 4, fewer hunters took slightly more elk, mule deer and white-tail deer this year compared to last. Region 4 is located on the eastern edge along the Rock Mountain Front. Elk hunters this year brought in 35 animals compared to last year when only 12 elk were checked in on opening weekend.
Montana’s big game rifle season for deer and elk still has a long ways to go before it closes. The last day is Sunday November 25.