R4: Whitetail numbers up on Front; elk, mule deer numbers below average
By angelamontana

Posted: November 16, 2020

GREAT FALLS – Weather and regional antlerless white-tailed deer B licenses are driving the numbers of hunters afield and hunter harvested big game on the Rocky Mountain Front.

For a variety of reasons, mule deer and elk harvest are 28 percent and 11 percent below the 10-year average, respectively, said Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife biologist Brent Lonner.

“Two blizzard events, 60-plus degree temperatures between the blizzards and very windy days do not bode well for good hunting conditions,” Lonner said, adding the number of hunters out is almost 20 percent below average.

The white-tailed deer harvest, however, is 38 percent above the long-term average, probably from hunters using FWP Region 4 antlerless B licenses, Lonner said.

The numbers were collected at FWP’s Augusta check station – the department’s sole Region 4 biological check station – and apply only to a handful of hunting districts on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Elk hunters so far have brought in 151 animals (64 bulls, 68 cows and 19 calves) compared to the 10-year average of 170 elk.

Besides weather, Lonner said, a primary factor for the lower elk harvest is the closure of hunting districts –  442 and 424 –  to antlerless elk. Now those districts are open to brow-tined bull hunting only.

Mule deer at the check station have numbered 89 animals (77 bucks and 12 does). The 10-year average is 123 animals.

Mule deer numbers are down primarily because fewer buck deer have been taken by hunters, Lonner said.

White-tailed deer totals stand at 187 (73 bucks, 97 does and 17 fawns), while the 10-year average is 136.

Montana’s general big game season ends Nov. 29.

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