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Antelope Harvest Down in Montana's Region 5

October 23, 2008.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks logged just 34 antelope and 90 hunters Sunday at its Broadview check station.

Deep, heavy snow throughout FWP’s Region 5 kept many hunters out of the field and limited success on opening day, Oct. 12, so the Broadview check station did not open. Billings and Big Timber check stations reported light opening-day numbers of both hunters and harvested antelope compared with past years.

Jay Newell, FWP’s wildlife biologist in Roundup, decided to operate the Broadview check station on Sunday, Oct. 19, the second weekend of the antelope rifle season, to gather information about the 2008 hunt. Scientific information gathered at check stations is an important factor in management of the state’s wildlife.

Of the 34 checked antelope, 26 (76.5 percent) were adult bucks, which is a very high percentage, Newell said. He also checked seven adult females (20.6 percent) and one fawn (2.9 percent). Because he does not traditionally open the check station on the second weekend of the season, Newell said the department does not have historical numbers for comparison. B ut the amount of traffic was lower than he expected .

Many hunters who stopped at the check station noted a lack of antelope, Newell said. “In this case perception is reality to a certain extent. Bluetongue has had a significant effect on the population in some areas.”

Bluetongue is a viral disease spread by biting gnats among ruminants, including antelope and deer. It does not spread to humans. The disease was documented in antelope in hunting districts north of Billings earlier this year. “ In addition to losing a large number of adults last summer,” Newell said, “the bluetongue affected reproduction, resulting in low fawn production this year.”

As a result, FWP reduced the number of either-sex antelope tags by 20 percent or more and eliminated all extra doe/fawn tags for the 2008 season in areas affected by bluetongue.

Check stations at Columbus, Big Timber, Laurel and Lavina will open Sunday, Oct. 26, for the general deer and elk rifle season. In Montana, all hunters and anglers are required to stop at designated check stations both on their way to and from the field, even if they have no game or fish to report.

 

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