By angelamontana

Posted: November 16, 2023

KALISPELL — Signs of the “rut” have emerged in northwest Montana as the general hunting season winds down with less than two weeks remaining.

The general deer and elk hunting season concludes Nov. 26, 2023.

The deer breeding season, known as the “rut,” typically begins in early-to-mid November. The rut presents hunters with heightened deer activity and increased chances of encounters in the field.

So far this season, more than 6,300 hunters have appeared at regional game check stations. Harvest results at the regional check stations are slightly down compared to a year ago while the number of hunters reported is slightly higher.

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. For an estimate of big game harvests from years’ past, visit https://myfwp.mt.gov/fwpPub/harvestReports.

Other general hunting seasons underway include black bear (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), bighorn sheep (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), moose (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), mountain lion (fall season without dogs, Oct. 22-Nov. 27), mountain goat (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), turkey (Sept. 1-Jan. 1), and wolf (Sept. 15-March 15, 2024).

A table linked below summarizes the results from the first four weekends of the season at four regional check stations.

Deadline is Nov. 21 to comment on proposed hunting regulations for 2024/2025 hunting seasons

The deadline to comment on Montana’s 2024-25 hunting regulations is Nov. 21.

On Nov. 14, FWP hosted a public information meeting about the proposed changes in Region 1. You can watch a recording of the meeting on the FWP Region 1 Facebook page.

Every other year, changes to hunting regulations are considered through a public process that includes public scoping and comment on regulation changes proposed by FWP. Ultimately, the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopts most hunting seasons for two-year intervals. This season-setting process looks at all aspects of hunting regulations, including season structure, regulations and hunting district boundaries.

The commission will vote on the hunting regulations during its Dec. 14 meeting, which will include the opportunity for the public to comment.

Learn more at https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/december-2023-meeting.

Northwest Montana (Region 1) Reminders

  • Hunters should plan ahead and 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. Certain hunting districts also allow hunters who posses a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV) to harvest an antlerless elk (check regulations for specifics). 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 who purchased the limited 199-20 either-sex white-tailed deer B license can only use that license within the Libby CWD Management Zone. For more info, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/cwd.
  • Hunting at 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.
  • Mule deer buck hunting in the North Fisher portion of Hunting District 103 near Libby is permit-only with the 103-50 permit.
  • Many private lands that were historically owned by corporate timber companies have changed ownership, and hunters should review the Block Management Program for Region 1 to view available public access opportunities and restrictions on private lands. Visit https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/landownerprograms/block-management.
  • 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 at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/be-bear-aware.
  • 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.

CWD is a fatal disease that infects members of the deer family, including elk, moose, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Hunters play a key role in minimizing the spread of CWD and providing data.

In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their harvested 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 across the region when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory.

A CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 9:30 a.m. to 2 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.

FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.

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.

For a list of proper landfills for disposal, instructional videos, and more info on CWD in Montana, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/cwd.

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