KALISPELL — The general hunting season concluded Sunday in Northwest Montana with check station results showing a slight decrease in hunters compared to 2019.
Despite the decrease in hunters, big game harvest numbers remain high compared to recent years in Northwest Montana with a higher percentage of hunters bringing in game to check stations this season.
“We had lots of nice bucks coming through these check stations, a lot of 2–3-year old’s which really back up what we thought we would see this season with milder winters these last couple years, that helps recruitment with our deer population,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) spokesman Dillon Tabish told MTN News.
FWP officials are calling this year’s general hunting season a success in Northwest Montana despite fewer hunters coming through four different check stations open only on weekends.
Tabish noted a number of different factors may have contributed to the decrease in hunters including flexible weekday work schedules and high gas prices.
“You know the average hunter will go out six to seven times a season maybe this year they only went out three to four times it’s hard to say, but despite there being a fewer number of hunters at our check stations, we actually saw a higher percentage of hunters with game,” said Tabish.
Those higher percentages include an increase in mule and white-tailed deer in the region and a strong elk harvest.
“Which is a good sign, you know these harvest statistics help us track the populations as well, so to see more deer coming through the check stations shows that our deer population is doing good,” added Tabish.
Tabish said FWP has only detected six positive cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) — a progressive fatal neurological disease that infects deer, elk, and moose — in deer in Northwest Montana this season. All six cases were found in the Libby area.
“And six positives is actually a good number because that’s a lot fewer than past years and so we think that increased hunting opportunity around the Libby-area is helping reduce the prevalence of CWD in that area, which is what we want to see,” added Tabish.
Tabish also said a record number of hunters had their animals sampled for CWD this season.
“This last weekend we had over 400 samples collected from across Region 1, so that’s really positive to have that many animals getting sampled because that helps us look across the region and make sure that we don’t have CWD anywhere else and that’s really helpful for us moving forward to try to make sure that CWD is not spreading in Montana,” said Tabish.