The big game hunting season closed on Sunday with elk and mule deer harvest on par with last season, and white-tailed deer harvest solidly higher at all three hunter check stations in west-central Montana.
The Bonner Check Station is Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s bellwether for whitetail harvest in Region 2, where the season total of 382 was the highest since the 2010 season, and 7 percent above the four year average, despite only tallying 6,108 hunter-trips, down 10 percent from the four year average. When elk, mule deer and other harvests are included, the Bonner check station logged 8.1 percent of hunters with game, the highest harvest rate since 2010.
White-tailed deer harvest also increased at the Darby and Anaconda Check Stations this season. At Darby, the harvest of 110 whitetails was up 8 percent from the harvest checked on weekends last season, and this year’s harvest of 22 whitetails at the Anaconda station was up 47 percent from last season.
Elk harvest began slowly in Region 2, but by season’s end approached last year’s totals. The tally of 51 elk at Bonner was 47 percent below the 4-year average, but came within five elk of last season’s harvest. At Darby, hunters checked 161 elk on the weekends this season, only four animals off last season’s pace, and Anaconda’s tally of 41 elk differed by five from last year.
As with elk, the mule deer harvest sampled in Region 2 was predictably low, but close to last year’s totals. The harvest of 56 mule deer at Bonner was 16 percent below the four year average, but slightly above last year’s total of 51. This year’s harvest of 35 mule deer through Darby was off by two deer from last year’s tally on the weekends, and the mule deer harvest of 15 in Anaconda equaled last year’s total.
Liz Bradley, who succeeds Vickie Edwards as the FWP wildlife biologist for the Missoula Valley west to Lookout Pass, operated a check station at the mouth of Fish Creek during the last weekend of the hunting season, checking 296 hunters with four mule deer and 25 white-tailed deer. This compares with 340 hunter-trips, three mule deer, 20 white-tailed deer and one elk checked at Fish Creek in the closing weekend at Fish Creek last season.
(Report by Montana FWP)