Deer and elk harvest and hunter participation started off slightly ahead of last season in west-central Montana and have stayed that way through the first three weeks of hunting season, according to data from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) hunter check stations. Two weeks remain in the general hunting season, which closes on Sunday, Dec. 1.
The region’s three FWP wildlife check stations saw 194 elk, 68 mule deer, and 309 white-tailed deer compared to 184 elk, 54 mule deer and 232 whitetails at this point in the 2018 season.
Although the region-wide totals are up slightly from last year, harvest and hunter participation are in line with five-year average for the region.
Elk harvest started off quite a bit stronger than usual, due largely to early season snow and cold, but now totals are much closer to typical in Bitterroot and still lagging behind last season and the five-year average in the Blackfoot.
White-tailed deer harvest totals are up from last year at all three hunter check stations, while mule deer totals are up slightly at the Darby station and down slightly at the Bonner station.
Check stations only sample a small portion of hunter participation and harvests across the region, but they are an important part of monitoring 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.