Hunters coming out for Saturday’s big game opener in Southeastern Montana were met with almost balmy conditions, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying the experience and harvesting a fair amount of game
“Hunters at the Ashland station generally had a fantastic time afield, given the great weather,” said Ryan DeVore, Broadus-area wildlife biologist with Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7.
“Some hunters decided to put some meat in the freezer, while many others were being selective since there is plenty of season left,” DeVore said. “The majority of parties found plenty of game and had good hunts.”
The station saw 333 hunters Sunday, most chasing big game, and 40 percent had success. That’s similar to 2017’s harvest success rate, but DeVore observed that the percent who had an opportunity to harvest an animal was higher than last year. The number of both deer species taken also was similar to 2017, but the number of antelope and elk was quite a bit higher.
Hunters took home 83 mule deer – 46 bucks, 32 does and five fawns. Four white-tailed deer were checked, all bucks. FWP saw 54 antelope – 45 bucks, eight does and one fawn. Nineteen elk came through the station, with two bulls, 15 cows and two calves.
Workers also checked four turkeys, one sharp-tailed grouse and one pheasant.
“It was a very busy check station, and I’m very thankful for all the help we had there,” DeVore said. “It was easily the most hunters I’ve seen at any of the ones I’ve run so far.”
DeVore was assisted by FWP Regional Supervisor Brad Schmitz, Upland Game Bird Biologist Justin Hughes, Wardens Jordan Straley and Kyle Queer, and volunteers John Kuntz and Lenora Dombro of the U.S. Forest Service.
The Hysham biological check station also saw good traffic and satisfied hunters.
“Hunters seemed to enjoy the pleasant fall weather, even if it didn’t make for the most effective hunting conditions,” said Steve Atwood, Miles City-area biologist for Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7. Atwood was assisted by fellow biologists Emily Mitchell and Melissa Foster, Warden Jason Howell and Hunting Access Coordinator Travis Muscha.
Atwood said traffic was steady, with average hunter numbers and harvest.
“As is common with opening weekend, some folks were not ready to fill their tags, while others were happy to get meat in the freezer,” he said. “Based on what was coming through the check station, it appears there are strong 3- and 4-year-old age classes, which, given the forage conditions this year, are making for some nice bucks.”
Workers checked 206 hunters in 116 parties, and they enjoyed a success rate of 58 percent.
Forty-three antelope came through, with 33 bucks and 10 antlerless. They saw 45 mule deer – 29 bucks and 16 antlerless, and five white-tailed bucks – five bucks and three antlerless. No elk passed through the station.
Antelope season opener
Generally speaking, antelope hunters did well on the Oct. 6 opening weekend across Region 7.
Visitors to the Hysham check station reported a lot of hunters afield, but also a lot of antelope, which is encouraging following a tough winter.
The station saw 206 hunters, slightly down from 227 in 2017. Rainy and sometimes snowy weather may have played a role. Of those hunters, 161 were chasing antelope and 41 were seeking birds.
Workers checked 130 antelope, with 111 bucks and 19 does or fawns. That number is up from 113 antelope last year. The overall success rate was also up, with 79 percent compared to 62 percent in 2017. Workers also saw one bull elk and two white-tailed does.
Bird hunters again reported very low numbers, especially sharp-tailed grouse and Huns. That’s not surprising, following a drought in 2017 and a very wet spring impacting 2018 recruitment. Eighty-eight pheasants came through, up from 62 last year, and one turkey.
Lots of hunters and antelope was also the story at the Broadus station. Forty-eight hunters visited, and 31 antelope (23 bucks, eight does) were checked, for a 61 percent success rate. There was also one cow elk, a mule deer doe and a pheasant.
The Mosby station saw 71 hunters, bringing 49 antelope, with a harvest success of about 69 percent. Some hunters saw lots of antelope, while others reported few and far between. However, most hunters were happy with the harvest opportunities they had.
“The wet spring this year is likely affecting distribution, spreading animals out more than in past drier years,” said Jordan-area Wildlife Biologist Emily Mitchell.
(via MT FWP)