Hunting Season One of Slowest in 10 Years

By Beacon Staff

According to figures released by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, this hunting season was one of the slowest for big game in Northwest Montana in a decade. For whitetail deer, it was clearly the slowest, with harvest numbers down 22 percent from last year. The whitetail buck count was the lowest since 1997.

Mule deer numbers were down 25 percent from last year while elk figures were about the same. The total number of hunters in the region was higher than last season. The general rifle season for elk and deer is now over.

“Based on our check station results, it appears as though the whitetail deer population is declining,” said FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams.

Williams cited several factors for the decline, such as last year’s harsh winter that resulted in poor fawn survival. There were significantly fewer yearlings brought to Northwest Montana check stations this fall. Also, Williams said mountain lions and wolves impacted deer population numbers.

Perhaps the largest reason for the low numbers was this year’s slow winter. Little or no snow in some areas created poor hunting conditions, as deer weren’t forced out of the mountains into more accessible terrain for hunters.

Here are some figures from FWP’s final 2008 report. Figures are based off of check station counts and represent only a sample of the total number of animals harvested:

Whitetail Deer:
2007 – 1,961
2008 – 1,532
10-year average – 1,633

Whitetail Bucks:
2007 – 1,064
2008 – 876
10-year average – 1,038

Mule Deer:
2007 – 287
2008 – 219
10-year average – 276

2007 – 153
2008 – 147
10-year average – 138

Black Bears:
2007 – 8
2008 – 29