While big game hunting season started off in a rut, it was the rut that benefited hunters in the final weeks of general hunting season.
The final weekend brought an increase in harvested deer at several check stations in Region One. The overall percentage of hunters with game ended the season at 8.6 percent, up from 7.5 percent through the previous weekend.
The six game check stations across Northwest Montana reported a total of 16,269 hunters between Oct. 21 and Nov. 26. Overall, the white-tailed deer harvest was slightly down from last year’s high mark but ahead of 2015 and other previous years. The white-tailed buck harvest was down from the previous two years but near the eight-year average.
“The percentage of hunters with white-tailed deer varied greatly depending on where you were hunting,” said Neil Anderson, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region One Wildlife Manager.
Elk harvest was up slightly over last year.
“Overall, hunters seemed to be enjoying themselves despite some challenging conditions,” Anderson said. “Most of the hunters I spoke to, including those who did not harvest an animal, stated they were having a good and enjoyable season.”
Harvest in the Swan was up compared to previous years.
“The percentage of hunters with game (10.4 percent) was the highest since 2010 in the Swan,” said Jessica Coltrane, FWP Kalispell area biologist.
Bruce Sterling, FWP biologist in the Thompson Falls area, said the white-tailed buck harvest was down 39 percent from last year and down 28 percent compared to the 10-year average at the Thompson Falls check station.