Montana Outdoors

Nov 13, 2012 3:52 PM by KPAX/KAJ Media Center

Western Montana hunt numbers show mixed bag

MISSOULA - A change in weather led to more hunter success over the third week of hunting season in west-central Montana, but not enough to bring elk totals in line with the 2011 season's midway point.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say mid-season figures compiled at hunter check stations show an elk harvest 20% behind last year while deer totals continue to be up.

So far this season, hunters reported 287 elk at the region's three check stations, compared to 353 in 2011. Mule deer harvest is up 12 percent from last season and the white-tailed deer tally is 27% ahead.

"This week's fresh snow and cold temperatures boosted hunters' success over the weekend in the Blackfoot," Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologist, Jay Kolbe says. At the Bonner hunter check station, Kolbe checked more elk and white-tailed deer over the weekend than he did during the same weekend of the 2011 season.

Weekend cold temperatures, spliced with gusty winds, may have deterred some hunters, which is what Ray Vinkey, FWP biologist in the Upper Clark Fork found.

Hunter trips through the Anaconda hunter check station lag 13% below last year at this time. Mule deer harvest in the Upper Clark Fork is on par with last year and nearly 30% higher than the five-year average and white-tailed deer harvest is on track.

Elk harvest reported through the Anaconda station, like the rest of the region, has been slower than last season.

Meanwhile, in the southern Bitterroot, the effects of restrictive regulations for elk harvest in Hunting Districts 250 and 270 is reflected in the check station report. Elk harvest through Darby is 17% below last year at this time and 30% below the five-year average.

"If we can reduce the harvest of bull elk in HD 270 this year and next, we will hope to take the bulls off permits in 2014," says FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager, Mike Thompson. "We'll see what the data show us and ease up on the regulations if we can."

One wolf was checked at the Darby Check Station last week, and wolf harvest from west-central Montana stood at 21 on Tuesday morning.

Just over 7% of hunters that travelled through one of the region's three hunter check stations during the first two weeks of the season harvested game. Check stations tallied 9,149 hunter trips and a harvest of 287 elk, 117 mule deer, 266 white-tailed deer, five black bears, one moose, two bighorn sheep and one wolf. The check station counts represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.

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