The weekend after Thanksgiving brought more wintry weather for big game season-closing check stations on Sunday, Dec. 1. Hunter numbers were down from last year at two of three stations in Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7, along with success rates.
“Hunters seemed generally satisfied with their seasons,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Melissa Foster, “but many acknowledged that the weather limited their time in the field this season.”
Spring aerial surveys showed that both mule deer and white-tailed deer populations in Region 7 remained above long-term averages before the general season, but wider forage patterns and spotty weather likely had an impact on harvest success.
A wet spring and lush habitat meant plenty of food for wildlife heading into winter, so animals may have been a bit more spread out than usual. Couple that with on-again, off-again winter weather throughout the season, and conditions were challenging at times for hunters to harvest game.
Glendive check station
Traffic at the Glendive station was steady despite wintry conditions the previous two days, with a handful more hunters than last season and a bit higher success rate. Glendive saw 42 hunters, and nearly 60 percent harvested something.
Glendive checked 21 mule deer (14 bucks, seven does) and three whitetails (two bucks, one doe) on Dec. 1. Hunters also brought seven pheasants through.
Hysham check station
Hysham had 93 hunters come through, with nearly 64 percent of them successful. The same time last year, workers there saw 159 hunters and a 68 percent harvest rate. This year hunters bagged 35 mule deer (25 bucks, 10 does) and 32 white-tailed deer (26 bucks, six does). One Canada goose and two sharp-tailed grouse also made the tally. In 2018, hunters harvested 78 mule deer and 29 white-tailed deer.
Ashland check station
Harvest rates were down at the Ashland station, with just 31 percent of the 64 hunters finding success. Workers checked 11 mule deer (five bucks, six does), 11 white-tailed deer (six bucks, five does) and two cow elk. This was down from 64 mule deer, 13 white-tailed deer and seven elk last year.
Deer in Rosebud County tests positive for CWD
Last week samples from 25 deer harvested around the state tested positive for CWD, including a white-tailed buck taken in Hunting District 702 in Rosebud County between Miles City and Ashland. The deer was harvested in an area where CWD had not previously been detected; however, the site is adjacent to an existing CWD Management Zone.
This is the fourth deer that has tested positive for CWD in Region 7, with the first three cases being reported in just the past two weeks. Portions of southeast Montana are priority surveillance areas for CWD this season.
The other CWD-positive animals in Region 7 include a mule deer buck shot 60 miles north of Miles City in Hunting District 701 in Prairie County, a white-tailed buck harvested two miles north of Hysham in HD 701, and a white-tailed doe taken near Decker in HD 704. The Decker-area deer was harvested within the surveillance area and the Southern/Yellowstone CWD Management Zone, which includes transport restrictions.
FWP is still processing CWD samples from the general season, so hunters who have submitted samples should continue to check for results online at fwp.mt.gov/cwd. It takes about three weeks to obtain results, so people may want to store the meat until then. There is no known transmission of CWD to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against eating the meat of an animal that is known to be infected.
In order to submit a sample for CWD testing, the animal’s head and throat area are required to extract the retropharyngeal lymph nodes, and samples do degrade if they are not preserved.
If left unmanaged, CWD could lead to population decline in infected herds, as it has in other states. Sampling is part of FWP’s efforts to determine the presence and distribution of the disease.
With the general hunting season now closed, FWP will review management strategies, testing results and other collected information to make plans for the next necessary steps in managing the disease.