It was a very chilly and snowy weekend Nov. 9 and 10, but many hunters still ventured out in southeastern Montana on the closing weekend for antelope season and the third week for deer and elk rifle season.
The two biological check stations operating Nov. 10 in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 saw about the same number of hunters, with 148 in Ashland and 137 in Hysham. Hysham saw a little better success rate, with nearly 60 percent of hunters harvesting something, compared to 37 percent at Ashland.
In terms of biological data collected at the Hysham station, the metrics were above average in comparison to the same weekend in previous years, according to Wildlife Biologist Steve Atwood. For example, hunter numbers were 10 percent above average, the number of successful hunters was 14 percent higher, and there were 45 percent more mule deer than what FWP typically sees at the Hysham station at this point in the general season. Given that many hunters did not hunt on Sunday because of severe conditions, it was apparent that hunters in general took advantage of better conditions on Saturday.
Hysham staff checked 68 mule deer (44 bucks, 21 does), 17 whitetails (14 bucks, three does), seven antelope (six bucks, one doe), 32 Canada geese, five ducks and two pheasants. Ashland checked 51 mule deer (35 bucks, 16 does), seven whitetails (three bucks, four does), eight antelope (five bucks, three does), one cow elk and no birds.
Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance continues
As of this date, Chronic Wasting Disease has not been detected in FWP Region 7, but surveillance efforts continue.
CWD check stations at Hysham, Ashland and Ekalaka will continue to operate on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to sunset and on Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon through Dec. 1. Hunters can have their animals tested for free at these stations. FWP will submit the samples, and results should be available online at fwp.mt.gov/cwd in about three weeks. All hunters are required to stop at check stations, even if they do not have game.
Hunters in the Broadus area may bring animals to the FWP office on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to sunset to have samples collected. In Sidney on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., hunters can come to a bay at the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department. There is no cost for these services.
Other options for testing are to collect the sample yourself and mail it to the FWP lab in Bozeman, or bring the head to the Miles City FWP office or any other regional FWP office. FWP will pay for testing of any deer, elk or moose harvested anywhere in Montana. In FWP Region 7, CWD testing is still voluntary. However, transport restrictions are in place in CWD Management Zones, preventing hunters from taking complete heads, brains, spinal columns or carcasses outside of that zone. Consult the map at fwp.mt.gov/cwd to check for transport restrictions across Montana.
The Priority Sampling area for CWD in southeastern Montana is in the southern portions of Hunting Districts 702, 704 and 705. If you harvest an animal in these areas, FWP recommends having it tested. There has been no evidence of CWD transferring to people, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not eating the meat of infected animals.
The general big game season wraps up on Sunday, Dec. 1. That day will be the last day for check stations to collect CWD samples as well as biological information.