KALISPELL — Montana’s general hunting season is winding down and concludes Nov. 28, 2021.
Hunters still have time to harvest deer and elk across Montana, and additional opportunities are new this year as well. The new muzzleloader heritage hunting season runs Dec. 11-19, 2021. Any unused license or permit that is valid on the last day of the general season remains valid during the muzzleloader heritage season, which has specific regulations (outlined below). The nine-day season was established when House Bill 242 was passed in the 2021 Legislative Session.
So far this season, northwest Montana hunter check stations are reporting a slightly more successful harvest overall compared to recent years, according to preliminary data. Overall, hunters have checked nearly 700 white-tailed deer, including 524 bucks, as well as 82 mule deer and 37 elk at the four regional Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks check stations that are open on weekends.
While the total number of hunters checked at the stations is noticeably down this year, the percentage of hunters with game is noticeably up compared to two years ago, 10.6 percent versus 8.7 percent in 2019. After five weeks in 2019, a total of 10,050 hunters had reported 641 white-tailed deer bucks and 61 mule deer. So far this year, a total of 7,692 hunters has reported 524 white-tailed bucks and 82 mule deer. The elk harvest figures are nearly identical from both years: 38 in 2019 compared to 37 this year. FWP did not operate weekend check stations in northwest Montana last year.
The counts at the stations represent a preliminary sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
Check stations are open on weekends during hunting season 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 all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals.
A table below summarizes the results through five weekends of the season at four check stations.
Muzzleloader Heritage Season Reminders
- A person may take a deer or elk with a license or permit that is valid on the last day of the general hunting season.
- Hunters can use plain lead projectiles and a muzzleloading rifle that is charged with loose black powder, loose pyrodex or an equivalent loose black powder substitute and ignited by a flintlock, wheel lock, matchlock or percussion mechanism using a percussion or musket cap.
- The muzzleloading rifle must be a minimum of .45 caliber and may not have more than two barrels.
- During the muzzleloader heritage season, hunters may not use a muzzleloading rifle that requires insertion of a cap or primer into the open breech of the barrel (inline), is capable of being loaded from the breech, or is mounted with an optical magnification device.
- Use of preprepared paper or metallic cartridges, sabots, gas checks or other similar power and range-enhancing manufactured loads that enclose the projectile from the rifling or bore of the firearm is also prohibited.
Northwest Montana (Region 1) Reminders
- Hunters should review the regulations for each hunting district they plan to hunt.
- Legal hunting hours for deer and elk begin one-half hour before sunrise and end one-half hour after sunset each day of the hunting season.
- 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. To view the boundaries of this zone, download the map online, use the FWP Hunt Planner, or on OnX, select “Map Layers,” then layer settings under “MT Hunting Districts Portions” and change the sublayer to “White-tailed deer.”
- 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.
Chronic Wasting Disease
This year, FWP is continuing 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.