Winter storms buffeted NW Montana with snow and hazardous driving conditions, and game was hard to come by for many Region 1 hunters. Snow conditions didn’t help to improve hunter success over the weekend. “I expected hunter numbers and overall success to increase this weekend since there was snow on the ground, but that didn’t happen,” said Neil Anderson, R1 Wildlife Manager. “A lot of hunters indicated that game just wasn’t moving much.” Overall, hunter numbers are slightly below last year at this point in the season, with a total of 7,597 hunters stopping at the 5 game check stations in Region 1. The Thompson Falls check station has seen the largest drop in hunter numbers, down over 27% from last year. The Eureka and Canoe Gulch (near Libby) check stations have seen an increase in hunter numbers.
With the exception of the Swan, hunter success for the first three weekends in 2017 is below 2016 levels, with 7.1% of the hunters harvesting big game compared to 8.7% in 2016. The percentage of hunters with game at the Swan check station was 8.9% compared to 8.0% in 2016. Jessy Coltrane, the Kalispell area biologist said, “Most of the of the harvest still consists of younger whitetail bucks, but we anticipate an increase in mature bucks being harvested over the remainder of the season with the onset of rut.” Elk harvest did increase this weekend after a slow start. Fifty elk have been checked at the 5 game check stations in Region 1, compared to 49 last year. Whitetail harvest was slightly below 2016 levels, and the number of mule deer bucks harvested was 19 compared to 75 for the first three weekends of the season.
Hunters are reminded that only antlered buck whitetails are legal on a general license until the last week of the season. From November 20-26, hunters can harvest an antlerless whitetail on private property (excluding corporate timber lands) on a general license. Apprentice and youth hunters under the age of 16 can harvest antlerless whitetails all season long.
Mule deer are buck only and elk are brow-tined bull only. Check the Montana hunting regulations for the district you plan to hunt.