Western Montana hunters doing well
By Hookemharry

Posted: October 31, 2007

Hunters in Western Montana have been doing well despite the near-perfect weather conditions. That is perfect weather conditions as in for watching a high school football game or a YMCA fall soccer game just as I did last Sunday.

You couldn’t ask for nicer fall weather then we have had the last week.

In fact, it wasn’t for the weather front that blew into the area on opening weekend, the hunters’ harvest would have certainly been down even more than it is compared to a year ago.

In 2006 in Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Region 2, hunter check stations for the first week recorded over 8,000 hunters which passed through. They had a total of 953 animals.

This year, the hunter numbers are down slightly with 7,634 reporting in and those hunters bagged 742 total animals.

Mule and whitetail deer numbers are down the most with elk only 3 animals behind last year’s count. The deer numbers will probably pick up with harsher, colder weather and the annual deer rut that comes with the month of November.

Region 1 in Northwest Montana saw a little different trend from its hunter check stations. According to FWP, the number of hunters hitting the backcountry was over 1,000 more than 2006. Those same hunters saw a slight increase in their success rate.

In 2006, 501 total animals were check in while this year the number of animals was 512. Elk also saw an increase in the number taken over last year in Region 1.

If you have not been successful or have not even gone hunting for deer or elk yet, there is still plenty of time. Counting today, you have 25 days left to fill your freezer.

I looked at the weekend weather forecast for Western Montana earlier this week and Sunday calls for some more moisture and maybe even snow by Monday. But don’t wait for the weather to turn cold and wet to go hunting. The population of deer and elk has never been better in Montana.

While hunters are hoping for some harsher weather, fishermen are still going strong and loving the sunny, warm days.

The nice weather has made for some ideal fishing conditions. This is evidenced by the 10,483 lake trout that have been entered so far in the Fall Mack Days.

“We are right on line for harvesting the number of lake trout that we intended for this year,” said Cindy Bras-Benson from the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribe, the agency sponsoring the event. Fall Mack Days runs through Sunday November 11.

Jigging is working, but the trout are starting to move into shallower water for spawning so boat trollers are doing well with a hammered spoon in 30 to 60 feet of water. “Troll fast at about 2.5 to 3 miles per hour,” recommends Matt from Mo Fisch Charters.

Steelhead fishing has also picked up on the Clearwater River near Orofino, Idaho. The run was hampered by low water a couple of weeks ago but the river is running a little better now and so are the numbers of steelhead.

Fly fisherman are doing very well on area rivers. No matter what river you choose, you’ll find good conditions, particularly for brown trout which are in the midst of their spawn.

Consult a local fly shop or sporting good store to find out what is working on the river you plan on trying. Don’t be surprised if they tell you to fish big streamers and strip them through the holes. Brown trout love them at this time of year.

Georgetown Lake is producing kokanee salmon and some nice trout. Either fish from shore or boat. You can catch them either way.