Strong Opening Weekend for Hunters in Region 2
By angelamontana

Posted: October 23, 2017

Montana’s general big game hunting season opened on Saturday, and in the west-central part of the state, hunter check stations reports show the highest number of big game animals harvested on opening weekend since 2010.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) reported 117 elk, 111 white-tailed deer, 15 mule deer and five black bears at its Darby, Anaconda and Bonner check stations combined, where the tradition of inspecting harvested animals goes back as far as the 1940s.

“The check stations only sample a relatively small portion of the hunting effort and harvests across the region, and they don’t tell the whole story by any means,” said Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “But, check stations do a good job of showing us trends over time, and the opening weekend numbers tell us that the hunting season is off to a stronger start than we’ve seen in a while.”

The number of white-tailed deer checked on opening weekend was the highest since 2006, while the number of elk checked was the highest since 2012. All three check stations saw upticks in opening weekend elk harvest compared with last year. White-tailed deer harvest checked at Bonner accounted for 85% of the whitetail harvest tallied in the region.

Check stations are an important part of monitoring harvest trends and recording information on wildlife age, health and other observations from the field. Hunters must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 26.


Partnerships Help Put Bear Spray in the Hands of More People

Several hundred hunters, hikers, and landowners will receive a can of free bear spray this fall, thanks to local partnerships aimed at reducing bear conflicts in the Blackfoot and Upper Clark Fork Valleys.

During hunting season, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and Blackfoot Challenge employees are distributing cans and offering on-the-spot training in areas known for frequent bear activity. Along with a can of spray, wardens, block management employees, wildlife biologists and others are also offering tips on hunting and camping safely in bear country.

The free bear spray is made possible by donations from the Montana Chapter of the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, along with discounted bear spray prices offered by Counter Assault and a grant from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

For the past seven years, hunters headed to the Blackfoot Valley’s Shanley and Dick Creek Block Management Areas (BMAs) received a free can of spray because of the same partnerships. This year’s approach expands the reach to more hunters, recreationists and residents.

“Over the years, thanks to these donations of bear spray and training, so many more people have and know how to use bear spray,” says FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel. “We’ve noticed that most of local Blackfoot Valley hunters are now routinely carrying bear spray.”

As part of the larger bear aware effort in the Blackfoot, hunters must also store food and all other potential bear attractants (such as garbage and pet and livestock food) in a bear resistant container on BMAs that allow overnight camping.

Jonkel points to the key role that Blackfoot landowners, hikers, hunters and others continue to play in sharing bear updates and safety messages.
“We’ve got local volunteers helping distribute bear spray and mentoring others in how to use it,” Jonkel says. “That, combined with sharing information on recent bear activity, is really helping to reduce the number of conflicts that we’re seeing out there.”

(report via FWP)

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