White-tailed deer harvest picked up markedly at the Bonner Check Station in the fourth week of the general big game hunting season, and whitetail harvest remained higher than last year’s pace at the Anaconda and Darby Check Stations in west-central Montana.
FWP employees and volunteers kept busy checking 99 white-tailed deer on Saturday and Sunday at Bonner, raising the total to 294 white-tailed deer checked through Bonner so far this season, up 17 percent from last year and 14 percent above the four-year average. The mule deer harvest of 52 was also up at Bonner, 10 more than at this time last year and more than any season since 2010.
“We saw a lot of deer come through the check station, and it seemed like we saw a jump in the age-class, too. There were some nice bucks, and good hunter success with fewer hunters in the field,” said Scott Eggeman, FWP’s wildlife biologist for the Blackfoot.
The total of 5,046 hunters checked through Bonner lagged 7 percent below last year and 8 percent below the four-year average through the first four weeks of the season. But, hunters with game jumped to 7.7 percent, compared to 6.4 percent last year and equal to the success rate in 2010—the highest in the last five-year period.
Elk harvest was down at Bonner and the other two check stations in west-central Montana. The elk harvest of 39 is the lowest recorded for this time of the season at Bonner since that check station went to weekends-only operation in 2010, and amounts to just over half of the four-year average elk harvest of 73.
“Weather drives elk harvest,” said Eggeman. “We haven’t had that much snow in the Blackfoot so far, and hunters reported that the back roads have been icy and pretty treacherous, especially on Saturday.” Snow depth reported from the Snotel site at Copper Camp in the upper Blackfoot Valley totaled only 5 inches on Saturday, down from 25 inches at this time last year, and was the lowest for this time of year in the past five years. That same Snotel site reported increased snowpack overnight on Monday morning.
At the Darby Check Station, the weekends harvest through the first four weeks of the season stands at 136 elk, down 4 percent from the weekends-only elk harvest tallied at Darby last year. And, at the Anaconda Check Station, the elk harvest of 36 represented a decline of 16 percent from last year, and 32 percent from the four-year average.
The deer harvest through Darby was down for mule deer and up for white-tailed deer, compared with last year. The mule deer harvest of 27 is down 25 percent, while the whitetail harvest of 89 is up 11 percent.
The Anaconda Check Station reported a mule deer harvest of 24 through the first four weeks, 26 percent above the four-year average. White-tailed deer harvest, while normally low in Anaconda, was up to 15, compared with the four-year average of 11.
Hunter trips through the Darby and Anaconda Check Stations remained up through the fourth week of the season. FWP checked 3,864 hunters through Darby on weekends through the first four weeks of the season, up 12 percent from the similar time period last year. Hunter-trips through Anaconda stand at 1,377, up 15 percent from last year, and 2 percent above the four-year average.
The 2014 general big game season closes on November 30.
(Report by Montana FWP)