Most of the hunters who came through Region 7 check stations Sunday after the opening of general antelope season found ample opportunities to harvest animals. Upland game bird hunters had a little more difficulty finding quarry, but that was somewhat expected with impacts from the ongoing drought.
Most hunters visiting check stations at Custer, Broadus and Mosby were after antelope, but a few were still chasing deer or elk before archery season wrapped up or hoping to bag some birds.
Broadus check station
Broadus did not see as many hunters as the other two stations, but the ones who stopped were very pleased with what they encountered.
“Opportunity and satisfaction were high, 95% and 96%, respectively,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Ryan DeVore. “Opportunity was higher than in 2016 (85%), and satisfaction was similar between years. Most hunters had little trouble finding robust numbers of antelope. Pressure sounds like it was heavy in select areas.”
Seventy-three hunters came through Broadus on Saturday, up from 48 in 2016. Fifty antelope were harvested – 43 bucks and 7 does – compared to 33 last year. Hunting parties had a good day, with 29 of 32 groups bagging antelope for a 91 percent success rate. The individual success rate for antelope was 66 percent. One adult pheasant rounded out the bounty coming through Broadus.
“Most hunters thought antelope numbers are high,” DeVore said. “What does seem to be the case, however, is apparently the best densities are south of Ekalaka (in the southern third or fourth of the region), but as you go north of Ekalaka, numbers are more sparse.
One of the parties pursued both antelope and upland game birds, and another party pursued both deer with archery and antelope.
DeVore was joined by Upland Game Bird Biologist Justin Hughes and wardens Connor Langel, Tim Fawell and Zach Phillips.
Custer check station
Traditionally, Fish, Wildlife & Parks operates a check station at the Hysham area rest stop, but recent construction moved that to the Custer rest stop. The FWP crew there saw 231 hunters, up from 211 last year.
Staff checked 124 antelope, compared to 114 in 2016. Sixty-two percent of hunters were successful, compared to 85 percent last year. Earlier antelope surveys had indicated that populations haven’t recovered quite as well in areas north of Hysham and Forsyth as they have elsewhere in Region 7.
“I was expecting to hear reports of ‘a lot of antelope’ in some portions of the region, but I don’t recall any such comments, not even those folks who hunted HD 705,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Steve Atwood. “But overall, antelope hunters did well and found sufficient harvest opportunities and were satisfied.”
Pheasant hunters struggled, however, according to Atwood.
“The last few years we’ve been seeing hunting parties with daily bag limits. This year, hunters were bringing home a couple birds per party,” he said. “Pheasant hunters who focused along the rivers or irrigated land reported less of a decline in bird numbers, which makes sense in a year of extreme drought that bird numbers would be less impacted in these areas. I thought it was interesting to observe how the word has circulated amongst the bird hunting community. This was evident by the fact that we did not check any nonresident bird hunters.”
Custer was manned by Atwood, Wildlife Manager John Ensign, Non-Game Biologist Brandi Skone and Hunting Access Coordinator Travis Muscha.
Mosby check station
“It was a windy weekend with scattered showers, but the roads were mostly passable,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Jesse Kolar of conditions at Mosby.
“We had 67 parties and 106 hunters stop at the check station between 10 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. Hunters were primarily targeting antelope,” Kolar said.
Seventy-eight antelope were checked – 49 bucks, 13 does, 15 fawns (one animal’s age was not recorded). Of the 93 hunters targeting antelope, 67% were successful – a slight drop from last year’s 72%. Only five hunters were unsatisfied with their experience, and of those, three hunted in the Cherry Creek area. Low densities of antelope were observed by most hunters who chose that area.
“We saw many bucks in the 12- to 14-inch range (avg. 12.5”), and the largest buck was right at 16 inches,” Kolar said. “Of the 65 successful hunters who had an either-sex tag, hunters selected 48 bucks, 5 does and 11 fawns. So 11 total does were harvested with an either-sex tag.”
The eight upland game bird hunters queried saw very low numbers of birds, but it wasn’t quite as bad as they expected.
Kolar was joined at Mosby by fellow Wildlife Biologist Melissa Foster, volunteer Mayra Foster and Warden Captain Jack Austin.
General season for deer and elk opens on Saturday, October 21.