Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Havre game check station was fairly active over the weekend of general deer and elk opener, with most species seeing an increase in harvest from the past few years. This is the third weekend that the check station has been open.
Weather conditions over the opening weekend of general big game season were warm and dry with very little wind. There were 221 hunters in 113 parties checked, which was up 23% from 2014. Hunter numbers were lower on Saturday, but activity picked up on Sunday when the majority (71%) of hunters were checked.
“Overall, big game harvest was up from last year, but for most species, harvest was still below the long-term average,” said Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer. Antelope harvest was up from last year, with nine bucks and two does checked in this weekend, but was still 77% below the long-term average. Since the open of general antelope, 70 total antelope have been checked at the station, which is a 21% increase from 2014, but still 75% below long term average. Antelope hunters have reported seeing increased antelope numbers, although they still have not recovered from the winter of 2010-2011.
Mule deer harvest during the weekend was also up from last year, with 25 bucks and four does brought through, but was still 49% below the long-term average. There are still no deer “B” licenses available anywhere in Region 6, and in four hunting districts (600, 611, 621, and 622), only antlered mule deer can be harvested with a general deer license. Mule deer hunters reported seeing higher numbers of mule deer than in recent years.
White-tailed deer harvest was up 75% from last year, with seven males brought in, but was still 56% below the long-term average. According to Hemmer, “White-tailed deer are still recovering from the 2011 and 2013 outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease and population levels are still below average in most areas.”
Elk harvest during the weekend was up 83% from last year, as eleven cow elk were brought by the check station. No bull elk were harvested. This was 52% above the long-term average. The majority of the elk hunters checked over the weekend were hunting in the Missouri River Breaks, and most reported seeing elk.
“Upland bird harvest, and hunter reports of birds, has also been strong this year in most areas,” said Hemmer. For the first three weeks that the check station has been open, pheasant harvest has been comparable to both last year (-2%) and the long-term average (-2%). Sharp-tailed grouse harvest is down 4% from last year, but is up 63% from the long-term average. Hungarian partridge harvest has seen the greatest increase and is 66% above last year and 162% above the long-term average.
Remember that all hunters are required by law to stop as directed at all designated check stations on their way to and from hunting, even if they have no game to be checked.