Montana’s general big game hunting season ended Nov. 25 with hunters harvesting fewer deer and elk than in previous years.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ five regional check stations tallied a combined total of 950 white-tailed deer, including 676 bucks, a figure that is down from recent years.
However, there were 100 mule deer checked this season, which is nearly twice as many as last season. The number of checked elk, 58, was 20 fewer than a year ago. The total number of hunters checked, 14,615, was also down from recent years.
According to FWP officials, several factors worked to hunters’ disadvantage this season, including unseasonably warm weather and poor tracking conditions throughout the past month and the season ending before the peak of the deer rut.
Wildlife biologists also attribute back-to-back harsh winters that appeared to have had an impact on local herds in parts of the region. Harvest numbers this season are similar to the aftermath of the 1996-97 winter.
The overall percentage of hunters with game that drove through a check station was 7.6 percent compared to 8.6 percent a year ago. The counts at the hunter check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken. Overall hunter success is expected to be higher and is not estimated until spring.
FWP will gain more complete game harvest information with its annual telephone surveys with hunters this winter and spring. Telephone interviewers call mid-week evenings and weekends to speak to hunters one-on-one to gain the most accurate information possible. Results from the statewide survey will be used by wildlife managers to evaluate past hunting seasons, as well as to help establish permit quotas, season dates and other regulations for future years.
The general hunting season for wolves continues through March 15, 2019. The wolf-trapping season runs Dec. 15 through Feb. 28.