KALISPELL - Montana’s general hunting season is hitting the midway point and the overall harvest is expected to increase with the onset of the deer breeding season in the coming weeks.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) reports that so far this season, more than 4,500 hunters have appeared at regional game check stations.
The overall number of hunters with harvested white-tailed deer is up so far compared to last year while the number of hunters with harvested mule deer and elk is slightly down.
Montana’s general deer and elk hunting season runs until Nov. 27.
The deer breeding season, known as the “rut,” typically begins in early-to-mid November.
FWP notes the arrival of winter weather can also bode well for hunters as snow cover improves the ability to track animals.
“Hunter harvest is expected to keep improving with the onset of mating activity among deer,” FWP Regional Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson said.
Harsh winter weather has arrived in northwest Montana with heavy snowfall and single-digit temperatures.
Hunters should be prepared for changing and challenging conditions.
Preparation and the right items are keys to avoiding a bad experience in the outdoors.
Mandatory 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 at U.S. Highway 2 West of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Montana 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, according to FWP.
Northwest Montana Reminders
- Hunters should review the regulations for each hunting district they plan to hunt.
- Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only in Region 1 (northwest Montana) except in Hunting District 170, unless a hunter has an antlerless elk permit or a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV). A brow-tined bull is defined as, “any elk having an antler or antlers with a visible point on the lower half of either main beam that is greater than or equal to four inches long."
- Hunters could harvest an either-sex white-tailed deer on their general deer license from Oct. 22-Oct. 28 in most Region 1 hunting districts. Youth ages 10-15 and hunters with a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV) can still harvest either-sex whitetails throughout most of the region for the remainder of the season (check regulations for specifics). An “either-sex” deer is defined as, “a male or female animal of any age.”
- Hunting at the new Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area near Columbia Falls is open only to youth through a limited drawing. Starting Dec. 2, Bad Rock Canyon WMA will be closed to all public access through May 15 at noon to protect big game winter range.
- In Hunting District 101, hunters can only harvest antlered mule deer bucks on their general deer license from Oct. 22-Nov. 13. Antlered mule deer hunting is limited to 101-50 permit holders in the final two weeks of the season in this district.
- Hunters who purchased the limited 199-20 either-sex white-tailed deer B license can only use that license within the Libby CWD Management Zone.
- Many private lands that were historically owned by corporate timber companies have changed ownership, and hunters should review the Block Management Program for Region 1 to view available public access opportunities and restrictions on private lands.
- Hunters should “Be Bear Aware” and properly store food and carcasses. Hunters should avoid hanging carcasses near houses or garages. Carcasses should be suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from any upright support. Hunters are encouraged to carry bear spray and know how to use it. More food storage and safety information are available on the FWP website.
- The toll-free hotline for reporting wildlife poaching, property damage, and violations of Montana fish and game laws is in operation 24 hours a day. If you witness a fish and game violation, or property vandalism, report the crime by calling 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668); or report a violation online at fwp.mt.gov [lnks.gd]. Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) is voluntary throughout the state. FWP can assist hunters with sample collection and submission, or hunters can submit samples themselves.
For assistance in northwest Montana, hunters can bring their animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at weekend game check stations when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory. FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.
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.
Hunters who want their animal sampled should leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.
To help prevent the spread of CWD, all carcasses, including the head and spinal column, must be disposed of in a class II landfill after butchering and processing.
Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. This requirement applies to all deer, elk, and moose carcasses harvested by hunters or as vehicle-killed salvage.
Contact a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office for more information. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.