BILLINGS — The number of hunters who stopped at Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations in south central Montana during the opening weekend of antelope season was up 6.5 percent from last year. But the antelope harvest remained nearly identical.
On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7-8, 720 hunters stopped at check stations at Billings, Big Timber and Broadview. During the opening weekend in 2016, 676 hunters stopped at the three check stations.
This year hunters checked 330 antelope, down just one from the opening weekend a year ago. Because more hunters were in the field, the percentage of hunters who harvested game fell slightly to 46 percent this year compared to 49 percent in 2016.
The antelope season runs through Nov. 12. The five-week general deer and elk season opens Saturday Oct. 21, immediately following a two-day youth-only deer hunt. In south central Montana, FWP will operate check stations at Billings, Lavina, Laurel, and Big Timber and Columbus throughout the seasons.
Hunters are reminded that they must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, whether or not they have harvested game. Check stations primarily are intended for biologists to gather statistical information about animals and hunters.
In addition, this fall biologists will extract samples from deer and elk to check for chronic wasting disease, or CWD.
CWD is a progressive, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer, elk and moose. It has not yet been discovered in Montana’s wild populations, but it has been detected in 21 other states and two Canadian provinces – some very near the border with Montana.
As the disease continues to expand, FWP officials believe it is only a matter of time before it is in Montana. Biologists believe that early detection provides Montana with best chance of containing CWD.