BILLINGS – Those that hunted in south-central Montana over the third weekend of the season were met with high winds and temperatures averaging in the 30s. A total of 516 big game hunters visited check stations in Big Timber, Columbus, Lavina and Billings over the third weekend of the general season.
On Saturday, winds in the Columbus area exceeded 50 miles per hour, and hunter numbers reflected these poor conditions. The Columbus check station had the second lowest number of hunters ever recorded for week three. Big Timber and Billings, on the other hand, saw numbers that were equal to or just above the yearly average. Lavina was the busiest check station in the region over the weekend, with a record 178 hunters.
With hunter numbers down in some areas, success rates were higher than long-term averages across the region.
“Despite complaints of low mule deer numbers, we checked some of the largest mule deer bucks I’ve seen in several years and the rut is just getting started. It will be interesting to see what buck size we see during the peak of the rut,” said FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh in Big Timber.
Total harvested whitetail and mule deer were below long-term averages across the region, but elk harvest was up at Big Timber, Lavina and Billings check stations. New regulations and hunting district boundaries impacted elk hunting opportunities in districts 575, 580 and new district 515. These districts now allow the taking of either-sex elk.
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, 2022. Hunters must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, regardless of their success in harvesting game. Check stations provide valuable information on animals and hunters 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 through 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 3 ( 2017—2022 )
No Region 5 check stations operated in 2020 due to pandemic.