MILES CITY – The Hysham check station was busy on an extremely gusty Sunday Nov. 14 following the third week of the general season.
“Overall, hunters seemed content with their hunts, and I was impressed with the quality of deer that were taken,” said FWP Region 7 wildlife biologist Steve Atwood.
Crews saw more hunters than usual, with 172 sportsmen and women coming through in 94 parties. The 10-year average is 139 hunters and 67 parties. Hunter success was average at 56 percent, Atwood said.
FWP staff checked 62 mule deer – 56 bucks and 16 does – compared to the 10-year average of 47 animals.
Twenty-nine whitetails came through, with 25 bucks and four does. The 10-year average is 19 deer.
On closing day of antelope season, crews checked one buck and four does. The 10-year average is eight antelope.
No elk were checked at the station.
“A handful of bird hunters were checked, but we usually see more,” Atwood said. “I suspect the lack of cover and below-average upland game bird numbers is the cause.”
Weather did play a role for hunters visiting the Ashland check station Sunday.
“The weather had some impact on hunting conditions, with high winds on Saturday and some precipitation Sunday morning,” said wildlife biologist Ryan DeVore. “A total of 74 parties, or 154 hunters, came through, which is about normal for this weekend. Hunter success was 31 percent.”
Harvest included 33 mule deer (29 bucks, four does), 13 white-tailed deer (five bucks, eight does), three pronghorn (one buck, two does), and one cow elk.
“Several nice deer were harvested,” DeVore said, “however, hunters continue to see much fewer deer than normal this year in the southern quarter of Region 7, primarily due to continued drought since spring of 2020.”
Biologists ran the Mosby check station for the first time in recent years during deer/elk general season on Sunday, with very positive results.
“Weather was quite variable over the weekend,” said wildlife biologist Emily Mitchell, “with wind gusts up to 65 mph on Saturday and rain/snow Sunday morning. Hunters were generally very happy and in good spirits leaving the field.”
Mitchell and fellow biologist Melissa Foster saw 89 hunters come through the check station, with 47 percent of those successful.
“We mostly saw deer and elk but had a couple last-day-of-the-season antelope as well,” Mitchell said. “Hunters were generally very happy, but they are seeing some effects of the drought on deer numbers and deer and elk distribution. Lots of those going home empty handed still had a great time, saw animals, and claimed they’d be back to try again over the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Chronic wasting disease sampling
This year, FWP will continue surveillance for chronic wasting disease in Priority Surveillance Areas. In southeast Montana’s Region 7, Hunting Districts 700 and 703 are within the PSA, but all hunters are encouraged to take advantage of sampling services where they are available. So far this season, there has been one suspect CWD-positive deer harvested in HD 700, one suspect in HD 704 near the forest, and one suspect in HD 705 in Baker.
Hunters can bring their animals in for sampling at the FWP regional headquarters in Miles City from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the general season. They are encouraged to call ahead (406-234-0900) and make an appointment. Only the head with some of the neck attached is needed for sampling.
The only designated CWD sampling station in the field this fall is at Hysham. Technicians will be running that station on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 10 a.m. to dark. FWP staff may assist hunters in collecting samples at other check stations and locations when time allows.
Sample submissions are voluntary, and if hunters visit a sampling location FWP will pay for testing. Hunters also may submit their own samples using instructions found at fwp.mt.gov, but there is a small fee for testing results.
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, or left at the kill site. 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.