BILLINGS – The general big game hunting season has hit the midway point. Over the third weekend of the season, 547 hunters visited check stations in south-central Montana, a slight increase from the 516 hunters that visited check stations over the same weekend in 2022 but below the long-term average. Since the general season opened this year on Oct. 21, just over 2,000 hunters have visited check stations in the region. The general season ends on Sunday, Nov. 26.
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.
Warmer temperatures led to melted snow and challenging travel conditions on muddy roads. Hunters are reminded to be considerate when driving on private roads.
Over the third weekend of the general season, the Big Timber check station saw the highest hunter success rate at 44%. This is consistent with the long-term average for this check station, but below the success rate of 56% observed last year over the same weekend. The Lavina check station again saw the highest number of hunters (212) and lowest success rate at 19%, trends also on par with long-term averages.
Mule deer harvest has been below average at the Lavina and Columbus check stations throughout the season. At the Big Timber check station, however, mule deer harvest was above the long-term average for the same weekend, with a number of large bucks coming through the station. Elk harvest at the Lavina and Columbus check stations was above the long-term average this weekend. White-tailed deer harvest was above the long-term average at the Billings check station, but below at the three others.
Bucks checked over the weekend did not yet show signs of the rut. Typically, deer harvest increases during the rut, or breeding season, as bucks especially become more active.
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.
Billings Sampling Station (All American Pharmaceutical parking lot, 2376 Main St.):
- Saturdays and Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to dark
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.