At the conclusion of the general big game hunting season, the deer harvest finished slightly above last year while the number of hunters dropped in Northwest Montana, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks check station surveys.
Hunters checked 10 percent more whitetail bucks, 27 percent more mule deer and 36 percent fewer elk compared to last year, according to the season’s reports at six FWP check stations. The number of hunters in this region was down 5 percent.
Through the end of hunting season on Nov. 25, a total of 17,635 hunters checked 941 whitetail deer, including 830 bucks, 131 mule deer and 78 elk for a 6.5 percent rate of hunters with game. That is slightly higher than the 6.1 percent of hunters with game last year.
Deer populations are still down overall, but there are signs that whitetail numbers are beginning to increase, according to FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams.
Williams noted that a high number of yearling whitetail bucks were checked this season, which reflects good fawn survival last winter. For example, 48 percent of the whitetail bucks checked at Olney and 35 percent checked at Highway 2 were yearlings. Trophy bucks, meaning 5 years and older, were also well represented, making up 12 percent of the bucks at Highway 2 and the Swan.
“Based on the total number of whitetail bucks at our check stations, deer populations are up slightly as compared to last year in Northwest Montana,” Williams said in a statement.
“The number of yearling whitetail bucks in the harvest is what we expected to see based on our spring fawn survival counts, and it’s good news for hunters in the coming years.”
The check station reports represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
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