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2008 Montana Antelope Forecast

September 18, 2008

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Antelope hunters in Montana can expect a range of antelope hunting opportunities this fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say.

While numbers remain robust in much of northeastern and eastern Montana—FWP Regions 6 and 7—fawn production appears to have suffered this past winter in portions of central Montana.   Additionally, last summer’s blue-tongue/EHD event—viral disease and an insect borne ailment that killed a number of antelope last fall—is suspected to have been more significant than earlier estimates.   Consequently, antelope numbers statewide are largely at or below those seen over past few years.

"Antelope hunting will be something less than what we’ve been used to," said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife management bureau chief. "Numbers are still strong in much of eastern Montana and have in fact increased in specific areas of southwest Montana, but hunters will likely see decreased numbers in a large portion of central Montana—Region 5 and parts of Region 4.

The Region 4 numbers tend to reflect a return to average population size in contrast to very high levels of the last few years – still very good hunting opportunities, just not the exceptional circumstances recently experienced.  

Kujala said many archery antelope hunters are already afield with a 900 series license to archery hunt antelope in any hunting district starting with a 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The 900-series season runs until Nov. 9

Montana’s antelope archery season is Sept. 6—Oct. 11 and the general rifle season for antelope is Oct. 12—Nov. 9.

Antelope hunters must apply in advance for licenses.  

Here’s a rundown on what hunters can expect to see out there this season:

Region 6 & 7—Eastern Montana near Glasgow, Glendive and Miles City

Antelope hunting will be fair in the western third of FWP Region 6, though hunters will see relatively few fawns. The bright spot in the region is hunting district 620 in southern Phillips County, where overall populations and the ratio of antelope bucks to does are at 10-year highs. In McCone, Richland, and Valley counties, expect fair to slightly below-average antelope numbers.

In FWP Region 7, overall the antelope population is about 22 percent above the long-term average with good winter survival. Surveys indicate 58 bucks for every 100 does. Hunters should find good numbers of antelope scattered across the region. Hunters may find reduced antelope numbers along the Musselshell River and from Forsyth to the Roundup area where last fall’s outbreak of blue tongue disease influenced some local populations.

Region 5—South Central Montana near Billings

Antelope hunting is expected to be less than   last season with decreased fawn production and lower overall numbers. Summer surveys indicate buck to doe ratios are near average to slightly below average in most areas. Hunters may notice redued antelope numbers in hunting districts 513, 530, 550 and 560 and adjacent areas due to the 2007 outbreak of a viral infection, blue tongue disease, along the Musselshell River. Hunters are reminded to seek public hunting access on Block Management areas or to act early in requesting access to private lands.

Region 4—North Central Montana near Great Falls  

Antelope hunting is expected to be good, with healthy populations and good public hunting access. A lingering winter and untimely spring storms hampered antelope survival and production in some areas. Reduced fawn production and survival sets the stage for diminished hunting opportunities for the next couple of years.   Hunters should inquire about surplus antelope doe/fawn licenses at the FWP Region 4 office in Great Falls.

Regions 2 & 3—Western and Southwestern Montana near Missoula, Butte, Bozeman

FWP Region 2’s lone antelope population, generally located in the Deer Lodge Valley, is increasing in size and distribution, with more than 200 head of antelope and a new hunting district this year (HD 291). While once concentrated on the east side of the Deer Lodge Valley, antelope are expanding north of Highway 12 between Drummond and Avon. Antelope productivity is good across FWP Region 3 and hunting should be good especially in the Centennial, Upper Big Hole, Shields and Madison valleys.

For details on these and other hunting opportunities, contact the nearest FWP region office or visit FWP’s Interactive Hunt Planner and the Deer, Elk, & Antelope Hunting Guide.

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