BILLINGS – The fourth weekend of the general big game hunting season brought warm, sunny weather and more hunters than last year to south-central Montana. A total of 669 hunters visited check stations in Billings, Lavina, Big Timber and Columbus with a total of 268 harvested animals. Last year over the same weekend, 605 hunters visited check stations with 233 harvested animals. Hunters reported signs of bucks entering the rut over the weekend.
Check stations in Billings, Lavina, and Big Timber operated on Sunday only. These check stations will operate only on Sundays until the closing weekend of the general season, when they will all operate on both Saturday, Nov. 25, and Sunday, Nov. 26. The Columbus check station operated on both Saturday and Sunday and will maintain this schedule for the entire season. All hunters are required to stop at game check station as directed, regardless of success.
Success rate was again highest at the Big Timber check station over this weekend, with 57% of all hunters harvesting game. The Lavina check station saw the lowest hunter success rate—though still relatively high with 29% success—and the most hunters at 225.
The Columbus check station had hunter and harvest numbers for each species below the long-term averages for the same weekend, while the Big Timber check station was above long-term averages for hunter numbers and harvest for all species.
Cumulative elk harvest throughout the region so far this season has been above average, while cumulative antelope harvest has been below average. Mule deer harvest has been variable throughout the region.
As the general hunting season progresses and more animals are harvested, hunters are reminded of the new “Thank a Landowner” portal to express gratitude for private land hunting opportunities. To submit a note or photo, visit: surveymonkey.com/r/thank-a-landowner.
A cooperative program between private landowners and FWP, Block Management helps landowners manage hunting activities and provides the public with free hunting access to private land, and sometimes to adjacent or isolated public lands. In Region 5, there over 100 Block Management Areas that provide hunters access to nearly 500,000 acres of land.
For more information on Block Management, visit: fwp.mt.gov/hunt/access/blockmanagement.
Master Hunter Program
The Montana Master Hunter Program (MHP) is accepting applications for the 2024 program. Deadline is Nov. 30. Led by One Montana, the MHP is for hunters who want to continue to improve and hone their skills, build relationships with landowners to aid their wildlife management goals, and be an advocate for conservation and wildlife. Classes will be held in Bozeman (March), Missoula (April) and Kalispell (May). To apply or learn more, visit: mtmasterhunter.com/how-to-apply.
Proposed hunting regulations for 2024/2025
The deadline to comment on proposed hunting regulations for 2024/2025 hunting seasons is Nov. 21. Every other year, broad 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 hunting regulations for the 2024/2025 hunting seasons during its Dec. 14 meeting, which will include the opportunity for the public to comment.
To view proposed regulations and to comment, go to: fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/commission/december-2023-meeting.