Mother Nature sure knows how to dish out the cold weather. Much of Montana as you know have seen cold arctic temperatures since the beginning of last week. The colder temperatures and snow in some areas has resulted in better harvest rates for some parts of Montana, even though much of the state’s harvest number are still lagging behind last year’s numbers.
On the Rocky Mountain front the weather really benefitted hunters in that region, “Over half of this season’s harvest has come in the last week,” says Brent Lonner, Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife biologist. “The major factors have been the significant cold and snowy weather we had last week along with the deer rut picking up and hunters starting to focus more on deer.” 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 181 animals (86 bulls, 78 cows and 17 calves) compared to the 10-year average of 169 elk. “Sun River elk finally made their first push into the Sun River Wildlife Management Area,” Lonner says, “but a high percentage of this herd is still in the backcountry. “Mule deer at the check station have numbered 109 bucks. The 10-year average is 171 animals. White-tailed deer numbers stand at 138 (88 bucks, 43 does and seven fawns), while the 10-year average is 124.
Further east in the South Central part of the state the hunter numbers and the percentage of hunters who harvested game remained strong over last weekend. The numbers at all three hunting check stations were impressive despite the fact that much of the South Central part of the state had winds up to 40 miles per hour, which added to the already frigid temperatures. The Big Timber check station was a bright spot as all statistics were higher than the same weekend in 2013. FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh checked 104 hunters – up from 95 last year, but well below the long-term average of 142. Sportsmen checked 17 white-tailed deer – up from 10 last year – and 30 mule deer – up from 17 in 2013. Both deer statistics were well below the long-term average for the Big Timber check station. Elk remain a bright spot with nine checked over the weekend – compared to last year’s count and the long term average of six. The percentage of hunters with game was 54 percent – up three points from the long-term average and well above last year’s 35 percent rate. Western Montana is still seeing steady hunter and harvest. Elk harvest numbers in Western Montana continue to be slow. In Northwest Montana, deer numbers are about the same as last year at this point in the season.
Waterfowl hunters that I have spoken with have had mixed success. “I have been hunting in Western Montana but have not really seen the number of birds that I expected to see”, reported John Perry from Clinton. Chad Houk of Missoula took advantage of a snowy day and bagged a few green head mallards. You may view a picture of Houk and his dog (click here for photo) along with other successful big game and waterfowl hunters on montanaoutdoor.com.
(Written by the Captain)