Hunter traffic and harvest slowed during the second weekend of big game hunting in west-central Montana, but cumulative harvest totals at the region’s three hunter check stations are still up from the past three seasons.
White-tailed deer harvest totals are the highest since 2008. The Bonner hunter check station sees most of the region’s white-tailed deer harvest and was last operated daily in 2008, accounting for the higher historic (pre 2008) harvests of white-tailed deer checked.
Elk harvest reported so far this season is the highest since 2013. The Darby check station, where the most of the region’s elk are checked, was last operated daily in 2013, which accounts for the higher historic elk harvest compared to the weekend-only tallies obtained in 2014-2017.
“From here on out, weather will dictate the elk harvest, and the onset of the deer rut will improve buck harvests through Thanksgiving,” said Mike Thompson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Region 2 Wildlife Manager.
In all, during the first two weekends of the season, FWP checked 4,112 hunters, 157 elk, 21 mule deer, 162 white-tailed deer, seven black bears, one bighorn sheep and one wolf.
Check stations numbers only account for a portion of the total harvest but are an important part of monitoring trends and recording information on wildlife age, health and other observations from the field. Hunters must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 26.