MISSOULA — State wildlife officials report that hunter numbers through the west-central Montana wildlife check stations were down through the first two weekends of the big game hunting season
Overall, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) biologists checked 3,131 hunters with 118 elk, 24 mule deer, 87 white-tailed deer, two black bear, one sheep, one goat and one wolf in the first two weekends at the three longest-running check stations in the region.
Last season, 4,029 hunters, 146 elk, 22 mule deer and 114 whitetails passed through the same stations during the first two weekends.
Although hunter numbers were down, hunter success rates around the region remained slightly above the five-year average overall, according to FWP.
A record-setting cold and snowy start to the season prompted animals to move more, which helped hunter success in some places but seemed to keep more hunters home.
The warmer weather at the close of the first week of the season meant more tolerable weather conditions for hunters, but it came with crunchy snow, making quiet travel difficult in some places.
“This is a really hard year to compare with any other year, for obvious reasons,” said Mike Thompson, FWP Missoula-based Wildlife Manager. “On top of the slightly reduced hours of operation at the check stations and the changes in people’s lives that affect their hunting patterns, the weather has helped and hurt, all at one time.”
FWP biologist, Liz Bradley, reported that the check station that runs some weekends at Fish Creek in Mineral County was comparatively busy in the second weekend of the season, with 233 hunters checked and a harvest of 10 white-tailed deer and 1 mule deer.