The final results are in at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Havre check station for the 2015 hunting season. The check station was open from Oct. 10 (the open of general antelope) through Nov. 29 (the end of the big game season). In general, both hunter numbers and big-game harvest increased from last year.
Hunter numbers were up 12% from 2014, but are still down 18% from long-term average. “Weather conditions this year were mostly warm and dry, which may have helped increase hunter participation from last year,” said Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer, who manages the check station.
In addition, hunter success and hunter satisfaction seems to be on the upswing. “We talked to a lot of hunters that were pleased with seeing more game, especially since the winter of 2010-2011 and past epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreaks,” noted Hemmer, “and hunter harvest was in line with that.”
The antelope harvest of 77 animals was an increase of 15% from 2014, but is still 76% below the long-term average. The reduction in the long-term average is mainly due to fewer licenses available. “Antelope populations are still recovering from the harsh winter of 2011,” said Hemmer, “and in response, antelope license quotas have been kept at reduced levels until numbers increase.”
Mule deer harvest increased of 62% from last year, with 341 mule deer harvested. This increase was corroborated by reports from hunters of substantially better mule deer numbers. “Overall mule deer harvest was still 30% below the long-term average, but this is mostly due to the absence of “B” licenses and lower mule deer doe harvest,” noted Hemmer. Mule deer buck harvest was only 5% below the long-term average.
White-tailed deer harvest was up 33% from 2014, with 56 deer harvested, but was still 68% below the long-term average. Similar to mule deer, a majority of the drop in white-tailed deer harvest has been the result of lower antlerless harvest resulting from the absence of white-tailed doe tags. However, white-tailed buck harvest is still down 46% from the long-term average. “Hunters reported seeing increasing white-tailed deer numbers this year, but numbers did not appear to be back to pre-EHD levels in most areas,” said Hemmer.
Elk harvest at the check station was up early in the season, but slowed toward the end, with a total of 35 elk overall. Harvest was comparable to past years, being up 17% from last year, and 13% below the long-term average.
Upland bird harvest was strong this year. “Bird hunters reported above average numbers of sharp-tailed grouse and pheasant in the eastern part of Region 6, while hunter reports in the western part of the region were generally of more average numbers,” said Hemmer. Hungarian partridge reports, particularly in the western part of the region, were excellent.
Pheasant harvest (753 birds) was down 4% from last year and 14% below the long-term average. Sharp-tailed grouse harvest (186 birds) was up 6% from last year and 38% above the long-term average. Hungarian partridge harvest (131 birds) was up 87% from last year and 129% above the long-term average.
Information & Education Program Manager MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 6