Hunting Season Ends with Slightly More Whitetail Deer, Fewer Elk Harvested

By Beacon Staff

The big game hunting season concluded across the state last weekend with slightly more hunters afield and a better whitetail deer harvest reported in Northwest Montana.

A total of 18,262 hunters stopped at the six check stations in Region One, nearly 630 more than last season, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. There were 1,112 whitetail deer checked, including 985 bucks. Last fall, FWP reported 941 total and 830 bucks. FWP staff checked a total of 134 mule deer, three more than last season and 31 more than 2011.

Elk numbers in this corner of the state continued to slightly decline again this season. Hunters reported 56 elk, seven fewer than last season, 65 fewer than 2011 and 102 fewer than 2010.

In Region Two, in west-central Montana, elk harvest was up by 40. A total of 431 elk were checked at three stations in Anaconda, Bonner and Darby.

The whitetail harvest in Region Two was nearly identical to last year, with 534 whitetail deer checked and 151 mule deer.

The counts at check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken. Details of total harvest for each hunting district will be known after telephone hunter surveys are completed this spring.

In Region One, the area around state Highway 2 saw the most hunters, with 6,832, and the best deer harvest, with 407 whitetail and 53 mule deer checked, according to FWP. The Swan Valley ranked second with 3,445 hunters and third in whitetail deer harvested, with 214. Olney drew the third most hunters, 2,685, and saw the second best whitetail harvest, with 265 checked. The Thompson Falls area produced the best elk harvest, with 24 tagged. Highway 2 was second with 20.

The state’s wolf hunt continues until March 15. As of Dec. 1, hunters in Northwest Montana tagged 32 wolves. Statewide, hunters have taken 93 wolves, which is slightly more than last year at this time.

Hunters can still purchase a wolf hunting license, but there is a 24-hour waiting period before it is valid.

Wolf trapping begins Dec. 15. Trappers must purchase a furbearer trapping license and have completed the wolf trapping certification course to trap wolves. The bag limit is five wolves per hunter/trapper in any combination of hunting or trapping.

FWP will present its recommendations for next hunting season to the Fish and Wildlife Commission on Dec. 12 and the Commission will adopt tentative proposals for public comment, likely to open in January.

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