Hunting Season Arrives with Excitement, Abundant Whitetail Population

Opening day for general hunting season is Oct. 22

By Dillon Tabish
Shutterstock photo

Heightened excitement is surrounding this year’s hunting season now that the whitetail deer population has rebounded to a healthy level, increasing the opportunities in this corner of the state.

For the first time in several years, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is allowing hunters in most hunting districts to harvest an antlerless whitetail deer during a portion of the general hunting season.

Opening day for big game hunting season is Oct. 22. Archery season is already underway, kicking off another fall chase.

Hunters who purchase a general deer license can harvest an antlerless deer for the first eight days on either public or private land, from Oct. 22-28 throughout most of Region One. Hunters can also harvest antlerless whitetail on private land excluding Weyerhaeuser, Stoltze and Stimson lands, from Nov. 21-27.

The state is also once again holding the two-day youth-only deer hunting season from Oct. 20-21, giving families an opportunity to carry on Montana’s strong hunting tradition.

“It’s going to be a great year for beginning hunters and kids because we have such a strong number of whitetails this year,” FWP Region One Spokesperson John Fraley said. “People should see a lot of deer when they’re out hunting this year.”

Winter survival rates have been favorable in recent years, helping the whitetail population increase after severe winter mortality in 2007 and 2008.

Mule deer populations remain low in this region, but hunters who are willing to put in the time and effort could still harvest a mature “trophy class” buck in some remote areas, according to FWP.

For hunters pursuing whitetail deer, there should be a sizeable population of bucks 3 years and older, as populations continue to rebound. Fawn recruitment is good for the sixth straight year.

The recent mild winters have continued to help elk calf survival and recruitment. Elk populations in many areas in northwestern Montana are stable or increasing, according to FWP. Elk numbers in backcountry hunting districts 150 and 151 appear to be holding steady. Elk numbers in the lower Clark Fork area, the region’s best elk producer, continue recent favorable trends with good calf numbers recorded during spring surveys, FWP says. Adult bull numbers observed in surveys appear to be stable in many areas and should provide good hunting opportunities for the 2016 season.

In Region One, Weyerhaeuser has taken ownership of former Plum Creek lands and have agreed to continue Plum Creek’s block management agreement, allowing hunters to access the land for free. However, hunters are encouraged to read the regulations for hunting on Weyerhaeuser lands. Information can be picked up at FWP’s Kalispell office.

The age-old tradition of hunting remains firmly intact and is inextricably tied to Montana’s identity. Last year FWP sold 433,538 licenses to resident hunters, and 57,887 licenses to non-residents for all big game hunting. In Region One, hunters harvested 11,956 deer.

“People get so excited about hunting season. It really is a part of our values in Montana to get out in the woods and enjoy ourselves,” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said. “It’s something that is important for us as Montanans. These are family traditions. We also want to make sure that our kids are getting out in the woods and enjoying what that is and really understand the ethics of hunting, too.”

Bullock also noted the importance of hunting to Montana’s economy, which is part of a larger $6 billion outdoor recreation industry.

2016 Big Game Seasons


900 series      Aug. 5-Nov. 13

Archery          Sept. 3-Oct. 7

General           Oct. 8-Nov. 13

Bighorn Sheep

Archery          Sept. 3-Sept. 14

General           Sept. 15-Nov. 27

Black Bear

Spring      May 31-June 15

Fall archery    Sept. 3-Sept. 14

Fall      Sept. 15-Nov. 27

Deer & Elk

Archery          Sept. 3-Oct. 16

Youth, deer-only       Oct. 20-Oct. 21

General           Oct. 22-Nov. 27


General     Sept. 15-Nov. 27

Mountain Lion

Archery          Sept. 3-Oct. 16

Fall      Oct. 22-Nov. 27

Winter            Dec. 1-April 14


Archery          Sept. 3-Sept. 14

General           Sept. 15-March 15

Trappling       Dec. 15-Feb. 28

Upland Birds

Mountain grouse       Sept. 1-Jan. 1

Partridge        Sept. 1-Jan. 1

Pheasant        Oct. 8-Jan. 1

Sage Grouse   Sept. 1-Sept. 30

Sharp-tailed Grouse  Sept. 1-Jan. 1

Turkey            Sept. 1-Jan. 1

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