So far this season, more than 7,300 hunters have appeared at game check stations in northwest Montana. The overall number of hunters with harvested elk is up compared to a year ago while the number of hunters with deer is down. A table below summarizes the results at four check stations so far this season.
Check stations are open on weekends during general deer and elk hunting season from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The regional 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 counts at the stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
While the general hunting season ends after this week, hunters will still have opportunities into winter. Certain areas have continued elk hunting opportunities, and there is also Montana’s muzzleloader heritage hunting season for deer and elk, Dec. 10-18, 2022.
Muzzleloader Heritage Hunting Season
- 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.
- Any unused license-permit valid on the last day of the general season (i.e., Nov. 27, 2022) is valid during the muzzleloader heritage 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 pre-prepared 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.
- Many of Montana’s Wildlife Management Areas have seasonal closures from Dec. 2 through May 14. Before heading to the field, hunters need to check the hunting regulations to make sure they are compliant. A list of WMAs and their seasonal closure dates is also available online.
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) except in Hunting District 170, unless a hunter has an antlerless elk permit or a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV). A brow-tined bull is defined as, “any elk having an antler or antlers with a visible point on the lower half of either main beam that is greater than or equal to four inches long.”
- Hunters could harvest an either-sex white-tailed deer on their general deer license from Oct. 22-Oct. 28 in most Region 1 hunting districts. Youth ages 10-15 and hunters with a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV) can still harvest either-sex whitetails throughout most of the region for the remainder of the season (check regulations for specifics). An “either-sex” deer is defined as, “a male or female animal of any age.”
- Hunting at the new Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area near Columbia Falls is open only to youth through a limited drawing. Starting Dec. 2, Bad Rock Canyon WMA will be closed to all public access through May 15 at noon to protect big game winter range.
- Hunters can only harvest antlered mule deer bucks on their general deer license from Oct. 22-Nov. 13 in Hunting District 101. Antlered mule deer hunting is limited to 101-50 permit holders in the final two weeks of the season in this district.
- Hunters who purchased the limited 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 with the 103-50 permit.
- 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.
- The toll-free hotline for reporting wildlife poaching, property damage, and violations of Montana fish and game laws is in operation 24 hours a day. If you witness a fish and game violation, or property vandalism, you can report the crime by calling 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668); or report a violation online at fwp.mt.gov. Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) is voluntary throughout the state. FWP can assist hunters with sample collection and submission, or hunters can submit samples themselves.
For assistance 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 weekend 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.