Hunters took to the field Saturday and Sunday across northwest Montana for the opening weekend of the general deer and elk season. At the six northwest Montana check stations, a total of 3,154 hunters checked 150 white-tailed deer (123 of these were bucks), 33 mule deer, and 11 elk for a 6.2 percent rate of hunters with game. This compares with a 4.1 percent rate of hunters with game last year at the check stations.
According to FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams, the opener was solid, reflecting the good fawn recruitment over the past three years. “We’ve had very good survival of young deer for several years running and this is showing up in the buck harvest this weekend, with lots of yearling and 2-year old bucks.” Williams noted that the Swan and North Fork lagged behind the other four check stations, with very few animals checked.
The Olney check station saw the best results. Hunters checked 33 whitetail bucks, 8 whitetail does, 1 bull elk, and 5 mule deer bucks, for a 10.3 percent rate of hunters with game. The Highway 2 Check Station also saw strong results, with 75 whitetail deer taken.
“This is one of the better opening weekends we’ve ever had,” said Tim Thier, FWP Wildlife Biologist at Olney. “There was a nice distribution of age among the whitetail bucks, with yearlings up to 3-year olds. I couldn’t be happier with how the hunters did this weekend.” Thier added that reports across the region also indicated a strong harvest of deer by young hunters the previous week during the October 16 and 17 youth hunt.
Hunters are reminded that regulations for whitetails and mule deer in Region One are buck-only through the end of the hunting season. Youth 12-15 (and some qualifying 11-year- olds, see the regulations) can take antlerless whitetail deer.
Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only. Spike elk are not legal game. These regulations apply in most Region One hunting districts. Check the Montana hunting regulations for the district you plan to hunt.
(Report by Montana FWP; Feature photo via missoulian.com)