Cold and snow on the Rocky Mountain Front for the opening weekend of Montana’s 2020 general big game season led to the fewest hunters out and about in recent memory.
Those who did venture out brought home fewer deer and elk compared to the past 10 years.
“The overall number of hunters with game was about one-third below the 10-year average,” said Brent Lonner, Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist. “Conditions on the Rocky Mountain Front were blizzard-like most of Saturday. Tire chains and tow ropes were a required item in the hunter’s equipment arsenal. Sunday was better but snow depth made for difficult hiking.”
The numbers were tallied at FWP’s Augusta check station, which has been in operation for decades; however, starting in 2010 the opener for the general deer and elk season was moved from Sunday to Saturday.
FWP’s Augusta check station is Region 4’s sole biological check station, and the results apply only to a handful of hunting districts on the Rocky Mountain Front.
Elk hunters this year brought in 11 animals (seven cows and four calves) compared to the ten-year average of nine bulls and seven cows and one calf.
Mule deer numbers over the weekend at the check station came to nine (eight bucks and one doe); for the past ten years hunters averaged nine bucks, three does and one fawn.
With whitetails, this year’s opening weekend count in Augusta was 11 (seven bucks and four does) while the ten-year average was seven bucks, seven does and two fawns.
“The few elk checked over the weekend came primarily from hunting districts 424, 425 and 442,” Lonner said.
The general deer and elk seasons run through Nov. 29.