Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) biologists in west-central Montana reported continued low elk harvests through Region 2 check stations, while deer harvests are on par with recent years through the first three weeks of the general big game hunting season.
“The deer rut is definitely picking up and we’re seeing some bigger bucks come through,” said FWP’s Scott Eggeman, who operates the Bonner Check Station. “We’ll need some weather to push elk around, and it looks like we might get it later this week.”
Snow depths recorded at higher elevation Snotel sites around the region illustrate the weather woes to this point, with only two inches at Copper Camp in the Blackfoot, which was comparable to last year, but significantly down from the six, 14 and eight inches reported at this time in 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Elk hunting conditions were even more challenging in the southern portion of the region, where snow levels were down to one inch and zero inches at Snotel sites in the Anaconda and Darby areas, compared with 10 inches and 12 inches at this time last year.
Elk harvest at check stations across the region stands at 170, down 32 percent from last year. Those declines are due to low elk harvests checked at Darby and Anaconda so far, which are down 39 and 47 percent from last year.
The percentage of hunters with game was bumped by an average harvest of mule deer and an above-average harvest of white-tailed deer through the Bonner and Darby check stations so far this season.
FWP has no plans at this time to extend the hunting season in Region 2. Late-season “shoulder seasons” for elk are already in place and listed in the 2016 elk hunting regulations for specific districts where elk numbers are chronically above objective. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 27.