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Hunting Opener "Very Slow" In Northwest Montana

October 28, 2008.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Hunters took to the field October 26th across northwest Montana for the opener of the general deer and elk season. At the six northwest Montana check stations, a total of 2,873 hunters checked 80 white-tailed deer, 19 mule deer, and 15 elk for a 4.0 percent rate of hunters with game. This compares to an 8.0 percent rate of hunters with game last year. Hunters checked fewer numbers of whitetails, mule deer, and elk as compared to last year’s opening day. Of the whitetails checked, 23 were bucks and 57 were antlerless.

The check station at Highway 2 west of Kalispell had the largest number of hunters and largest number of deer and elk taken. The Thompson Falls check station had the highest percentage of hunters with game (6.5%). Biologists at the check stations reported some of the lowest numbers of animals checked in the past decade. In Libby, biologist Jerry Brown checked only two deer all day.

A few hunters had great luck. Madison Zirker, a young hunter from Kalispell, bagged her first buck, a nice three point mule deer, which she checked through the Highway 2 West check station. Suzette Taylor, hunting with her teen-aged son and daughter, bagged a 3-point whitetail buck, filling her A-tag, and a young doe, filling her B-tag. Her teenagers did the work of dragging her deer to the truck. The family proudly brought the deer through the Swan check station. John Vore, the biologist who runs the station, noted that people seemed to be enjoying the sunshine and nice weather even though hunting conditions were not good.

FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams noted that biologists detected a drop in over-winter fawn survival as measured in spring deer surveys across northwest Montana. This may be showing up in the form of low numbers of yearlings brought through the check stations on opening day. "It’s early, but we’ll have to see if this trend continues through the rest of the season," Williams said.

Hunters are reminded that either-sex whitetails are legal game through Sunday, November 9. After that, the regulation is buck-only for whitetails until the last four days of the season (November 27-30) when either-sex whitetails are legal again. Mule deer hunting is buck-only all season long; elk is brow-tined bull only. These regulations apply in most Region One hunting districts. Young hunters age 12-15 may take antlerless white-tailed deer and antlerless elk season long in most Region One hunting districts. Check the Montana hunting regulations for the district you plan to hunt.

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