BOZEMAN – Hunter numbers were below average and hunter success was mixed in southwestern Montana over the opening weekend of the general deer and elk hunting season.
Wildlife biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in southwestern Montana operated six game check stations over the weekend and met with 1,732 hunters. Biologists use check stations to collect data on hunter participation and success, as well as the species, sex and age class of the animals harvested. This supplements data collected through hunter harvest phone surveys each year.
Steady rain, snow and fog limited visibility for hunters in many areas, likely contributing to reduced harvest compared to averages.
The Alder check station saw 335 hunters, which was 18 percent fewer than the long-term average for opening weekend. About 10 percent of hunters harvested an animal, which is below the long-term average of 12 percent. Elk harvest was 55 percent lower than average. Poor visibility and wet conditions likely contributed to reduced elk harvest here.
The number of hunters and harvested elk at the Cameron check station were also below average for opening weekend. The check station saw 414 hunters during opening weekend, compared to 579 last year and a long-term average of 495. Hunter success this year was about 10 percent.
FWP staff at the Gallatin check station met with 127 hunters, about 11 percent of whom were successful. The number of hunters here was below average, but the percentage of hunters who harvested deer or elk was above average.
The Divide check station saw 330 hunters, with a success rate of more than 10 percent. This was about 18 percent fewer hunters than last year, and 10 percent fewer than the long-term average. However, hunter success here was 13 percent higher than last year and 6 percent below the long-term average.
Biologists also operated check stations near Canyon Ferry and Gardiner. In total for the region, biologists checked 14 white-tailed deer, 53 mule deer and 83 elk.
These figures do not account for different hunting season regulations over the years, which have varied from liberal to restrictive for elk and mule deer, depending on population status.