Hunting in Montana: Captain’s Column (10.30.14)
Deer and elk general rifle season is now underway. The opening weekend last week had pretty much a normal first weekend which means the FWP hunter check stations saw a mixed bag of successful hunters. With the opening of big game rifle season that means that most of the hunting seasons are underway. Antelope numbers at local wild game processor H and H meats is down from previous years primarily due to hunters not getting tags in the popular 700 hunting district according to the owner John Peterson, “in years past we have received a lot business from our customers that head east past the Musselshell River and hunt antelope but this year the animal count is just not there and FWP limited the tags that they give out”. I normally put in for an antelope tag to hunt by Jordan Montana but this is the second year in the past three that I didn’t receive an antelope tag for that area.
The pheasant hunting in Western Montana has not been very good especially from hunters that I spoke with that have hunted up in the Ninepipes area near Charlo. That area normally gets a lot of pressure anyway but with the lack of birds hunters and their dogs have been disappointed. The waterfowl hunting on the other hand has been good with Canada goose numbers up across the region. The colder weather should start bringing down some of the northern duck flights as we head into November.
Archery season for deer, elk and lion ended October 19. I know that some elk hunters had success, in fact Brandt Hamernick of Missoula told me he shot his bull elk within two hours of the opener way back in September 6th, “I couldn’t believe the number of bull elk that we bugled in opening weekend, I think we counted 16 different bulls with about half of them within range”. I hunted over east by Fort Peck Reservoir and I didn’t have an opportunity to get close enough to an elk to get off a shot; however I did manage to get eaten alive by mosquitoes while I was hunting. They were everywhere as the result of one of the wettest Augusts on record for that area. The additional moisture also made it difficult to hunt the elk as it changed their migratory habits with all the new found green grass and watering holes that the rains created. That additional moisture may have made the elk hunting more difficult but the short and long term effect on Fort Peck Reservoir water elevation will be positive. “ Our forecast has us rising about a foot by the end of February to 2234. Our lake level is 2233 this afternoon. It is too early to tell what kind of spring runoff we will see”, said John Daggett of the US Army Corp of Engineers. Fort Peck which is 134 miles long came up over two feet in one week as a result of the rain that the area received during just a few days in August.
(Written by the Captain)