By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: October 26, 2021

Kalispell — The start of the general deer and elk hunting season produced the highest number of harvested white-tailed deer at game check stations in northwest Montana since 2017.

Overall, hunters in northwest Montana (Region 1) reported harvesting 209 white-tailed deer, including 102 bucks, as well as 12 mule deer and 21 elk at four check stations. The overall number of hunters reported at check stations was down, possibly due to hunters being confused about whether stopping was required. Last year, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks replaced the mandatory regional check stations with voluntary chronic wasting disease sample stations. This year, FWP is back operating mandatory game check stations at specific locations on weekends from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The regional game check stations are located at U.S. Highway 2 West of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney.

Hunters must stop at any check station they encounter whether they harvested an animal or not.

“The white-tailed deer harvest in the region was the highest to start the season since 2017,” said Neil Anderson, FWP Regional Wildlife Manager. “We predicted a slight increase in white-tailed deer population due to high fawn recruitment after two years of mild winter.”

The counts at the stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken. A table below summarizes the results from the first weekend of the season at four check stations. Past summaries included results from five check stations, but the Canoe Gulch station in Libby has been replaced with a voluntary chronic wasting disease sampling station on Highway 2 south of Libby.

The general deer and elk season runs through Nov. 28, 2021.

Northwest Montana (Region 1) Reminders

  • Hunters should review the regulations for each hunting district they plan to hunt.
  • Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only in Region 1 (northwest Montana). Spike elk are not legal game in this region.
  • Hunters who purchased the 199-20 either-sex white-tailed deer B license can only use that license within the Libby CWD Management Zone.
  • Mule deer buck hunting in the North Fisher portion of Hunting District 103 near Libby is permit-only.
  • Many private lands that were historically owned by corporate timber companies have changed ownership, and hunters should review the Block Management Program for Region 1 to view available public access opportunities and restrictions on private lands.
  • The first week of both archery and general deer and elk season are open to youth-only (ages 12-15) hunting on Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge. A non-hunting adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter in the field. Adults may not cross refuge property for the purpose of hunting non-refuge property during the youth-only hunting season.
  • Hunters should “Be Bear Aware” and properly store food and carcasses. Hunters should avoid hanging carcasses near houses or garages. Carcasses should be suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from any upright support. Hunters are encouraged to carry bear spray and know how to use it. More food storage and safety information are available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov.

This year, FWP will continue surveillance for chronic wasting disease in specific areas known as Priority Surveillance Areas. In northwestern Montana, those areas include Hunting Districts 100, 103, 104, 120, 121, 122 and 170. In those specific areas, hunters are asked to voluntarily submit a sample from their animal. For instructions on how or where to submit a sample, visit fwp.mt.gov/cwd.

Testing for CWD is voluntary throughout the state. FWP will assist hunters with sample collection and submission. In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at game check stations when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory. FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.

A CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1.5 hours past sunset at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town. Hunters are not required to stop at the Libby CWD sampling station.

Hunters who want their animal sampled should leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.

To help prevent the spread of CWD, all carcasses, including the head and spinal column, must be disposed of in a class II landfill after butchering and processing. Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. This requirement applies to all deer, elk, and moose carcasses harvested by hunters or as vehicle-killed salvage.

Contact a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office for more information. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.

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