Hunter and Harvest Numbers Up in Region 5
By rowdyrob


Hunter numbers strong, harvest up as 2015 season ends

 

BILLINGS — The number of hunters who stopped at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations in south central Montana over the weekend generally was up from previous weekends and last year. And hunters brought home more animals, mostly on the strength of the mule deer harvests.

FWP biologists operate check stations throughout the general big-game season to gather statistical information about animals and hunters.

More than 1,000 hunters stopped at four south central Montana check stations over the weekend – the sixth and final weekend of the 2015 general big-game hunting season. Here are some details:

 

LAVINA

During the last weekend of the 2015 general big-game hunting season, 509 hunters stopped at FWP’s Lavina check station – up 43 percent from the 355 hunter who stopped during the same weekend last year. Of those who stopped, 35 percent had harvested game, up from 29 percent last year.

This year’s hunter success was driven primarily by seasonal temperatures, sunny skies and big increases in the number of deer harvested. FWP wildlife biologist Ashley Taylor checked hunters with 51 white-tailed deer – up from only 22 during the same weekend in 2014. The mule deer harvest was 86 for the closing weekend compared to 49 last year. Though the deer harvest improved from last year, the mule deer harvest remained 38 percent below the long-term average while the number of white-tailed deer checked was only 41 percent of average.

The elk harvest remained strong with 40 animals checked over the weekend at Lavina, up from 33 during the same weekend in 2014.

For the entire season, 1,977 hunters checked in at Lavina, up from 1,780 in 2014, but still below the long-term average of 2,275. Those hunters checked 103 white-tailed deer, up from 67 a year ago but below the long-term average of 214. Hunters checked 241 mule deer, up from 152 during the 2014 season, but below the long-term average of 355. Hunters had harvested 123 elk during the season, up from 118 in 2014 and a long-term average of 105.

Of those who stopped at the Lavina check station, 24 percent had harvested an animal, up five points from last season, but below the long-term average of 31 percent.

 

COLUMBUS

The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Columbus check station over the weekend was slightly lower than last year, but the deer harvest was up, leading to an increase in the percentage of hunters with tagged game.

FWP wildlife biologist Shawn Stewart checked 177 hunters over the weekend at Columbus, down from 184 during the closing weekend last year. The mule deer harvest was 39 animals for the closing weekend compared to 38 last year. Hunters harvested 30 white-tailed deer, up from 23 in 2014. The elk harvest, which has been strong all year, slowed with six animals checked, down from nine during the same weekend a year ago.

Of those who stopped at the Columbus check station, 42 percent had harvested game, up from 38 percent during the final weekend of the 2014 season.

For the entire season, 1,214 hunters stopped at the Columbus check station, up 21 from 2014 but down from a long-term average of 1,231. Hunters checked 153 white-tailed deer, up from 130 last year but still below the long-term average of 182. Antlerless white-tailed deer comprised 29 percent of the harvest while 78 percent of the bucks were at least two years old. Hunters had harvested 205 mule deer, up from 180 in 2014 but below the long-term average of 315. Of the mule deer bucks harvested, 73 percent were at least two years old. Though the elk harvest dropped off slightly to 53 for the year from 58 in 2014, it remained more than double the long-term average of 22. Two-thirds of the checked elk were antlerless.

Of those who stopped at FWP’s Columbus check station, 34 percent had harvested game, up from 31 percent in 2014 and below the long-term average of 43 percent.

 

BIG TIMBER

The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Big Timber check station over the weekend, as well as harvest numbers for all species, was higher than the same weekend in 2014.

FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh checked 250 hunters at Big Timber during the sixth and final weekend of the 2015 general big-game season – up from 208 checked during the same weekend last year and the highest numbers since 2004. Those hunters checked 40 white-tailed deer, up from 35 a year ago, and 49 mule deer, up from 27 in 2014. The elk harvest remained strong with 26 animals checked compared to 20 a year ago. Of those who stopped at Big Timber, 46 percent had harvested game, up from 39 percent on the season-closing weekend in 2014.

For the entire 2015 general season, Paugh checked 1,019 hunters at Big Timber, up from 932 last year and ahead of the long-term average of 994. Hunters checked 109 white-tailed deer, up from 86 last year but below the long-term average of 173. The mule deer harvest of 203 animals also was strong, above last year’s 152 animals, but still below the long-term average of 226.

The elk harvest recorded at Big Timber was the best on record – 111 for the season compared to 64 in 2014 and a long-term average of 49. Of those who stopped at Big Timber this year, 46 percent had harvested game, up from 38 percent in 2014 and below the long-term average of 52 percent.

 

LAUREL

The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Laurel check station over the weekend was nearly identical to the same weekend in 2014, but the percent of hunters with game was the best of the season thanks to a growing mule deer harvest.

FWP wildlife research specialist Jay Watson checked 119 hunters during the closing weekend of the 2015 season – just one more than the same weekend last year. Those hunters had 25 white-tailed deer – two fewer than in 2014 – and 30 mule deer, compared to 19 last year. Three hunters had elk, the same as the final weekend of 2014.

Of the hunters who stopped at Laurel, 49 percent had harvested game, better than the 41 percent who stopped during the same weekend last year. Hunters reported seeing a high number of mule deer does and generally were happy with the number of game animals they saw, Watson said.

FWP operated the Laurel check station during four of the six weekends of Montana’s general big-game season.

For the entire season, Watson checked 488 hunters, well below last year’s 513 and the long-term average of 808. They reported harvesting 56 white-tailed deer, more than the 44 checked in 2014 but fewer than the average of 97. Hunters checked 85 mule deer, 15 more than in 2014 but well below the long-term average of 187 for the season. The elk harvest reported at Laurel remained strong with 13 animals checked compared to seven last year and a long-term average of 10.

Of the hunters who stopped at Laurel, 49 percent had harvested an animal compared to 41 percent in 2014 and a long-term average of 37 percent.

 

 

 

-FWP-

 

 

 

Here are some details from the 2015 closing weekend at each check station:
    WHITE-     %
  NUMBER TAILED MULE   HUNTERS
STATION HUNTERS DEER DEER ELK WITH GAME
Lavina (355) 509 (22) 51 (49) 86 (33) 40 (29) 35
Big Timber (208) 250 (35) 40 (27) 49 (20) 26 (39) 46
Columbus (184) 177 (23) 30 (38) 39 (9) 6 (38) 42
Laurel (120) 119 (27) 25 (19) 30 (3) 3 (41) 49
(numbers in parentheses are from the final weekend in 2014)
Here are some details from the 2015 entire season at each check station:
    WHITE-     %
  NUMBER TAILED MULE   HUNTERS
STATION HUNTERS DEER DEER ELK WITH GAME
Lavina (1,780) 1,977 (67) 103 (152) 241 (118) 123 (19) 24
Big Timber (932) 1,019 (86) 109 (152) 203 (64) 111 (38) 46
Columbus (1,193) 1,214 (130) 153 (38) 39 (9) 6 (31) 34
Laurel (513) 488 (44) 56 (70) 85 (7) 13 (41) 49
(numbers in parentheses are from the entire 2014 season)





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