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South-Central Montana: Warm Weather Limits Hunters, But Not Success

November 7, 2008.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

The second weekend of Montana’s 2008 general big game season was just too nice for hunting. Warm temperatures and sunny skies kept many hunters home, but in some areas, those who went to the field were relatively successful.

The number of hunters who stopped at Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations in south central Montana was 7.3 percent lower than in 2007. But 42.2 percent of those who stopped brought home game. That is the best region-wide second-weekend success rate in seven years.

At the Lavina check station, hunter numbers were slightly above 2007, but still 15.4 percent below the 15-year average for this time of year.   Success was only 27.7 percent – well below the historic average. White tailed deer and antelope numbers were particularly low at the Lavina station. While the number of elk and elk hunters that appeared at the Lavina check station was down from recent years, hunter reported seeing more game and game sign than on opening weekend.

At Big Timber, hunter numbers were the lowest in six years and 28 percent below 2007. Mule deer numbers were down slightly from last year. White tailed deer, elk and antelope numbers were down dramatically. The white tailed deer harvest reported at Big Timber was down 45 percent from last year. The overall 56 percent success rate reported at Big Timber was well below the 61 percent five-year average for the second weekend of the general season.

The check stations at Laurel and Columbus were a different story.

At the Columbus check station, 48.4 percent of hunters had tagged game – that is higher than any of the past eight years. That statistic was shaped by a white tailed deer harvest that was 24 percent higher than last year – bringing the Columbus season total to 79 percent more than were checked in 2007.

At Laurel, hunter numbers were slightly below last year, but second-weekend success rates for mule deer, white tailed deer and antelope exceeded last year. About 48 percent of hunters who stopped at the Laurel check station had tagged big game.

Here are some additional interesting trends:

  • About 86 percent of the mule deer checked at Columbus were adult bucks while the white tailed deer harvest was only about 33 percent bucks.
  • The antelope harvest reported at the Lavina check station remained 41.6 percent below average, reflecting fewer antelope and licenses in some districts and deep, wet snow on opening weekend of antelope rifle season.
  • At Laurel, 74 percent of mule deer checked were at least two-year-old bucks. Antler development observed at the Laurel check station appears to be better than in the past several years, possibly due to favorable summer weather.

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