Modest Start to Hunting Season in West-Central Montana

Mild weather across west-central Montana in the first week of the general big game hunting season did little to move deer and elk, and harvests reported through the Anaconda, Bonner and Darby check stations were modest.

Across the three check stations combined, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) employees and volunteers in Region 2 checked 4,414 hunters in the first two weekends of the hunting season, down slightly from 4,516 checked during this same period last year. FWP checked 120 elk at the check stations in the first two weekends this season, down from 139 elk checked last year at this time. Mule deer (40) and white-tailed deer (152) harvests through the check stations were on par with last year’s numbers.

Trends in hunter traffic and harvests through the check stations varied by location. While hunters and harvests of elk and deer were up at the Bonner Check Station compared with the past two seasons, those trends were reversed across the southern portion of Region 2, as sampled at Anaconda and Darby.

“Weather patterns affect harvest so strongly,” said Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “Elk and mule deer have found their security areas where they’ll stay until a blast of snow and cold moves them. For deer, hunters have the rut to help bump harvest opportunity as we go into November.”

The Fish Creek check station, operated for the fourth season since 2012, tallied an increase in hunters and harvests of elk and deer in the first two weekends of this hunting season, compared with previous years.

Hunters are reminded that they must stop at all check stations that they pass on their way to or from hunting—even if they have not harvested any animals. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 27.