I don’t know about you but lately if I didn’t look at the calendar, I wouldn’t know we are in November. The weather this month has made it seem more like September and if you are a hunter the conditions are challenging. Lack of snow or no snow at all in the higher elevations combined with bright sunny days with above normal temperatures are not weather conditions that elk hunters need to be successful. The numbers from the FWP’s hunting check stations reflect that with the elk being check through down throughout the state.
The weather for the next few days does not appear to be much different than it has been with mild temperatures and very little precipitation in the forecast so elk hunters will need to go deeper in the woods or higher in the mountains to locate elk. The elk are out there you are just going to have to find them. While elk hunting success is down for the most part, deer hunter’s success rate is a mixed bag all across the state. The deer rut has started and that should help hunters.
The Big Timber check station noticed an uptick in deer numbers according to FWP; the deer harvest was strong with hunters checking 13 white-tailed deer, up from eight in 2015, and 27 mule deer, up from 12 last year. However, the deer harvest was down at the Columbus check station also in south central Montana:
“The 45 white-tailed deer checked is 33 percent below the long term average while the mule deer harvest is down 45 percent from the long-term average”, reported FWP.
In Region 4 at Augusta, which is the sole biological check station for that region, elk numbers are way down and deer number are holding their own as mule deer numbers are 5 percent below the long-term average, and white-tailed deer are right on the 10-year average.
In Northwest Montana five of the six check stations reported whitetail harvest up but the number of whitetail bucks checked was down 10 percent across the region, however the number of mule deer checked is up.
Hunters traveling through the six check stations to date is down slightly from 2015. West Central Montana hunters traveling through the Darby and Anaconda check stations are having challenges harvesting game. The elk hunters, for example, only checked through 88 elk so far this year compared to 144 last year at the Darby check station while mule deer checked was also down from 17 in 2015 to 10 this year and white tail hunters checked through 32 deer this year compared to 40 last year.
As one hunting buddy of mine said, “There is still plenty of time left in the season” which is true if you don’t take into account that we are over half way into the general deer and elk hunting season which ends November 27. Just remember we do live in Montana and we are just one storm away for the elk hunting conditions to improve.
Colder temperatures and snow on the ground will have the elk on the move and hunters tracking them in the hope of filling their freezers.
(Written by the Captain – aka Mark Ward)