Opening weekend proved bountiful for a large number of hunters in Northwest Montana, according to results at check stations across the region.
At the six regional check stations operated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a total of 3,361 hunters checked 350 white-tailed deer — including 159 bucks — as well as 27 mule deer and 31 elk. That represents a 12.1 percent success rate, which is double the rate from last year’s opening weekend.
The number of hunters at local check stations was the highest since 2010. There were 151 more hunters counted on opening weekend this year compared to last year.
Elk and mule deer harvest was also up compared to the last two years, FWP officials said.
“Overall it was a great opening weekend,” FWP Region One Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson said. “We had a lot of hunters in the field and a high percentage of them were filling tags. White-tail numbers are up across the region and hunters are taking advantage of the option to harvest an antlerless deer.”
The check station at U.S. Highway 2 reported the most hunters with 1,437 and the most white-tailed deer harvested with 145. The Olney station had 82 white-tailed reported and 145 hunters. The Swan station had 343 hunters and 56 white-tailed deer.
The counts at the six check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken. Hunters are reminded that they are required to stop at check stations regardless of whether they successfully harvested an animal.
For the first eight days of the season, hunters with a general deer license can harvest an antlerless white-tailed deer, which led to an increase in success this year. Roughly half of the hunters who harvested game last weekend reported an antlerless deer, and of those harvesting an antlerless deer most used their general license, according to FWP. White-tailed buck harvest was also up this year and the highest since 2010 for an opening weekend.
Starting Saturday, Oct. 29, only antlered white-tailed deer may be harvested on a general license in most hunting districts. Youth hunters 15 years of age and younger, and people with disabilities permitted to hunt from a vehicle, can take antlerless white-tailed deer through the end of the season.
Hunters are reminded that elk hunting is brow-tined bull only and spike elk are not legal game. These regulations apply in most Region One hunting districts. Hunters are encouraged to check the Montana hunting regulations for the district they plan to hunt before heading out to the field.
Hunters are also reminded to be bear-aware and properly store food and manage carcasses properly both in the field and at home.
The general big game hunting season began Oct. 22 and concludes Nov. 27.
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