R5: Elk harvest up, deer harvest variable in much of south-central Montana for fifth weekend
By angelamontana

Posted: November 21, 2023
Region 5 check station results from 2023, 2022, 2021 and the long-term average for the fifth weekend of the general season.BILLINGS – The general big game hunting season is nearing the end for 2023. A total of 621 hunters visited check stations in south-central Montana over the fifth weekend of the general big game hunting season with 247 harvested animals. This is down slightly from the 646 hunters and 279 harvested animals observed at check stations over the same weekend last year.

Check stations in Billings, Lavina, and Big Timber operated on Sunday only over the fifth weekend. The Columbus check station operated on both Saturday and Sunday. Over the closing weekend of the season, all four check stations will operate on both Saturday, Nov. 25, and Sunday, Nov. 26. All hunters are required to stop at game check stations as directed, regardless of success.

For the first time this season, the highest hunter success rate was observed at the Billings check station at 54% success. This was followed by the Columbus check station at 45% success, Big Timber with 43% success and Lavina at 31% success. The Lavina check station has been the busiest in the region throughout the entire season, and this follows the long-term trend for hunter numbers.

Mule deer were the most abundantly harvested species over the fifth weekend. FWP staff reported more hunters used general tags for doe harvests this weekend as the end of the season draws near.

The Big Timber check station had a busy weekend, with hunter numbers above the long-term average for the same weekend. White-tailed deer harvest was near the long-term average, mule deer harvest was slightly above average, and elk harvest was twice the average for the same weekend. Hunter success, however, was below the long-term average at this check station. FWP staff reported the largest mule deer bucks of the season over the weekend in Big Timber.

In Billings, hunter numbers and deer harvest were below long-term averages, while elk harvest was slightly up from the long-term average for the weekend. The Lavina check station had hunter and harvested animal numbers all below long-term averages for the same weekend. The Columbus check station saw the busiest weekend of the season so far, but hunter numbers were still below long-term average for the fifth weekend. Elk harvest was above average.

Hunters are reminded that chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling is free and provides critical data on the prevalence of this fatal disease. There are multiple sampling stations across the state where hunters can get their deer, elk, or moose sampled by FWP staff. Hunters can also submit their own collected samples. For more information on CWD sampling, visit: fwp.mt.gov/conservation/chronic-wasting-disease/get-your-animal-sampled

In south-central Montana, the following locations provide CWD sampling:

Billings FWP office (2300 Lake Elmo Dr.):

  • Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Operating until Dec. 29

Billings Sampling Station (All American Pharmaceutical parking lot, 2376 Main St.):

  • Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to dark
  • Operating until Nov. 26

Columbus Sampling Station (corner or E. 1st Ave. S. and S. Diamond St.):

  • Mondays and Fridays, 1 p.m. to dark
  • Saturdays and Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Operating until Nov. 27

The region’s unseasonably warm autumn weather is forecasted to shift to snow and colder temperatures for the remainder of the season.

As the general hunting season nears the end 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.



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