BILLINGS – Those that hunted in south-central over the fourth weekend of the season were met with colder temperatures and fresh snow fall. A total of 602 big game hunters visited check stations in Big Timber, Columbus, Lavina and Billings over the fourth weekend of the general season.
Saturday morning in Columbus dawned clear, calm and a bit chilly with temps in the mid-teens and 4-6 inches of fresh snow. Even with these ideal hunting conditions, the Columbus check station had the second lowest number of hunters ever recorded for week 4, at 116. Big Timber, on the other hand, saw hunter numbers that were nearly double that of last year and 10 percent above the long-term average. Billings was the busiest check station in the region over the weekend, with 172 hunters.
Elk harvest is the second highest ever for the region and 39 percent above average.
“Unfortunately, nearly all the elk harvest is made up of bulls,” said FWP wildlife biologist Shawn Stewart in Columbus. “Good for hunters, but the low cow harvest is not addressing the over population of elk. Overall hunter success is only slightly below the long-term average.”
So far this season, more than 3,100 hunters have appeared at Region 5 game check stations with mixed results. The table below summarizes the results from the fourth weekend of the season at four check stations in south-central Montana.
Check stations will only be open on Sundays in Big Timber, Lavina and Billings until the final weekend of the general season, when the stations will operate on both Saturday and Sunday. The Columbus check station will be open Saturday and Sunday every weekend of the general season. The final day of the general season is Nov. 27. Hunters must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, regardless of their success in harvesting game. Check stations provide valuable information for FWP biologists.
FWP will also be available at each check station to sample harvested deer and elk for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Animals can also be tested at the regional office in Billings, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Testing for CWD is voluntary and free for the public. More information on CWD in Montana is available here: https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/chronic-wasting-disease.
Hunting regulations for deer, elk and antelope are available at Region 5 headquarters in Billings, or online at https://fwp.mt.gov/binaries/content/assets/fwp/hunt/regulations/2022/2022-dea-regulations-final-for-web.pdf
The table below summarizes data from Region 5 check stations over week 4 (2017—2022)
No Region 5 check stations operated in 2020 due to pandemic.