Game Check Stations Track Low Hunting Harvests in Northwest Montana

Just over 1,640 hunters appeared at four northwest Montana game check stations on opening weekend, compared to 1,754 hunters who turned out for the opening weekend of general rifle season last year

By Beacon Staff
White-tailed deer wander through the trees near Marion on March 7, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Big game check station results indicate a slower than average start to hunting season in northwest Montana, where Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials report low harvests. Just over 1,640 hunters appeared at four northwest Montana game check stations on Oct. 21-22, compared to 1,754 hunters who turned out for the opening weekend of general rifle season last year.

“It was a slow start to the season across the region based on check station results,” according to FWP. “The overall number of hunters with harvested white-tailed deer and mule deer was down while the number of elk was about the same compared to last year.”

Hunters have reported a total of 103 white-tailed deer, including 44 bucks, compared to 203 white-tailed deer last year, a figure that included 101 bucks. Hunters also reported five mule deer and 10 elk, compared to 16 and 12 last year, respectively. The overall hunter success rate is 7.2% percent to date, compared to 13.2% percent after last year’s opening weekend.

Northwest Montana (Region 1) check station results from the first weekend of the 2023 hunting season

 Hwy 2 8008434377223124456.110.2
 Swan 209274113422300016.212.8
 Olney 41738339711639271310.121.1
Courtesy Montana FWP

Montana’s general deer and elk hunting season runs from Oct. 21-Nov. 26. Other general hunting seasons underway include black bear (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), bighorn sheep (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), moose (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), mountain lion (fall season without dogs, Oct. 22-Nov. 27), mountain goat (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), turkey (Sept. 1-Jan. 1), and wolf (Sept. 15-March 15).

Check stations are open on weekends during general deer and elk hunting season from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The regional stations are located on U.S. Highway 2 west of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney.

Hunters must stop at any check station they encounter whether they harvested an animal or not. The counts at the stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.

For a better estimate of big game harvests from years’ past, visit https://myfwp.mt.gov/fwpPub/harvestReports.

Officials are also reminding hunters about the voluntary testing opportunities for chronic wasting disease. FWP can assist hunters with sample collection and submission, or hunters can submit samples themselves. The contagious neurological disease infects deer, elk and moose. It is always fatal and there is no known cure. CWD is not known to infect humans, but it is strongly recommended that humans not eat meat from infected animals.

In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their harvested animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at weekend game check stations across the region when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory. 

A CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1.5 hours past sunset at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town. Hunters are not required to stop at the Libby CWD sampling station.

FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.

For a list of proper landfills for disposal, instructional videos, and more info on CWD in Montana, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/cwd

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