This weekend marks the beginning of the big game hunting season across Montana. Young hunters are allowed to go afield first, Oct. 19-20, for a deer hunt. The two-day youth hunt is open to legally licensed 12-15 year olds who have completed hunter education and are accompanied by a non-hunting adult at least 18 years old, or a legally licensed apprentice hunter 10-15 years old who is accompanied by a non-hunting adult “mentor” at least 21 years old.
The general rifle season for deer and elk opens to all adult hunters Oct. 21 and runs through Nov. 26.
Last year, Northwest Montana enjoyed a relatively solid season despite mild conditions. At the six regional check stations, a total of 17,656 hunters checked 1,494 whitetail deer, including 1,069 bucks, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. There were also 146 mule deer and 72 elk for a total success rate of 9.7 percent. That was slightly higher than the 8.2 percent of hunters with game the previous year. The number of hunters reported at local check stations was down 4 percent.
Once again, the U.S. Highway 2 check station reported checking the most whitetail deer with 591. The Olney station ranked second with 347, followed by the Swan station with 219. The North Fork station had 16 fewer whitetail deer with 45, compared to 61 the previous year.
Northwest Montana is known as whitetail deer country. Fawn recruitment was impacted by the harsh winter a year ago, but state biologists say the adult survival rate was relatively good. Whitetail deer numbers were most impacted in the North Fork Flathead River area.
Hunters are reminded to stop at all check stations they come across in the region.
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