MILES CITY – The final weekend of the 2021 big game season was warm and windy, and check station traffic on Nov. 28 was a bit slower than is typical.
Hysham check station
Hysham saw 116 hunters in 59 parties come through that Sunday. That’s just shy of the 10-year average of 134 hunters and 66 parties.
“Overall, hunter success was below average at 52 percent,” said wildlife biologist Steve Atwood.
The 10-year average is an 84 percent success rate, but Atwood attributes some of that to a drop in bird hunters in the area.
“Typically, upland game bird hunters and waterfowl hunters have a high success rate, and we had very few come through the check station,” he said. “I suspect the lack of bird hunters contributed to the lower overall hunter success rate, as the deer hunter success rate was average.”
FWP crews checked 44 mule deer, with 36 bucks and eight does, coming in near the 10-year average. The 19 white-tailed deer checked (16 bucks, three does) were below the 10-year average of 29.
No elk came through the station at the rest area along I-94.
Glendive check station
Traffic at the Glendive check station was fairly slow, according to wildlife biologist Melissa Foster. She and biologist Emily Mitchell saw 35 hunters in 19 parties, with 16 successfully harvesting something.
They checked three white-tailed bucks, two white-tailed does, nine mule deer bucks and two successful bird hunters.
Sharing some observations from the season, wildlife biologist Melissa Foster said, “In general, this season the warm weather made for tough hunting conditions. My area didn’t receive a single snow event during the deer and elk general season other than maybe a dusting. Deer were bedding down earlier and not as active in general this year compared to normal years.
“The severe drought this summer resulted in a lot of animals shifting their distribution; hunters reported not seeing deer in many of the usual spots,” she said.
Nutrition is a huge component of antler growth, and Foster heard from many hunters that bucks had smaller antlers this year.
“We finally received some moisture in October and a subsequent flush of green,” she said. “This much needed moisture and vegetation response served to distribute deer on the landscape, making them difficult to find and pattern.”
“Overall, it was a more challenging than normal season, but the mild weather also made for pleasant hunting conditions, and hunters generally reported enjoying their time afield this fall,” Foster concluded.
Ashland check station
Ashland traffic was a bit less busy than typical for closing weekend, according to wildlife biologist Ryan DeVore.
A total of 59 parties, or 101 hunters, came through. Hunters had a slightly lower than normal success rate of 41 percent. Thirty-one mule deer (20 bucks, 11 does), 10 white-tailed deer (five bucks, five does), four cow elk and four turkeys were harvested.
“Overall, many folks were able to locate elk, white-tailed deer and turkeys this season,” DeVore said. “However, mule deer hunting was much tougher in the southern portion of Region 7 due to a sharp decline in numbers resulting primarily from the severe, extended drought since spring of 2020.”
Photo caption: FWP Region 7 non-game biologist Brandi Skone collects a chronic wasting disease sample from a mule deer buck at the Ashland check station.