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Montana Antelope Forecast

September 22, 2009.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

While numbers remain robust in much of northeastern and eastern Montana—FWP Regions 6 and 7— the hard winter of 2008-09 clearly took a toll on animals in some areas.   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 in some areas," said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife management section supervisor. "Numbers are still strong in much of eastern Montana and have in fact increased in specific portions of southwest Montana, but hunters will likely see decreased numbers in a large portion of central Montana—portions of FWP’s Region 4 and 5.

In FWP Region 5 in the Billings area, no new instances of viral blue tongue infection have been found as they were in 2007, but in hunting districts 513, 530, 540 and 550, fawn recruitment and total numbers have yet to rebound. In other areas of FWP Region 5 antelope numbers have increased and the hunting outlook is good.

In FWP Region 4 hunters can expect very good hunting opportunities to the north, but region wide not the exceptional circumstances in recent years. Antelope numbers are returning to average in contrast to the very high numbers seen in recent years.  

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. 5—Oct. 10 and the general rifle season for antelope is Oct. 11—Nov. 8.

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

In the northern portions of Valley, Phillips, Blaine and Hill counties, numbers are down by more than 20 percent, but appear to be stable in the southern portions of these counties.

In Richland and McCone counties, in the southeast portion of FWP Region 6 near Glasgow, pronghorn numbers may have increased as much as 50 percent over last year’s estimates. One of the brightest spots in the region is hunting district 650, where it should be relatively easy to find animals.  

In southeastern Montana, antelope numbers are slightly below the long-term average due to a difficult winter. Hunters should find antelope scattered across the region.

Region 5-South Central Montana near Billings

Overall, antelope populations in portions of south central Montana have increased since last year, especially in the western portion of the region. Biologists are seeing some nice bucks and good horn growth.

In the eastern portion of FWP Region 5, the effects of the 2007 viral blue tongue infection are still evident and in hunting districts 513, 530, 540 and 550, fawn recruitment and total numbers have yet to rebound. Hunters in FWP Region 5 should seek public hunting access on Block Management areas or act early in requesting access to private lands.

Region 4-North Central Montana near Great Falls  

With the exception of the northern part of Region 4, antelope numbers are down this year. Up north, in the Conrad area, antelope numbers are good. Elsewhere, antelope numbers are closer to long-term objectives, but down compared to the last three or four 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, and Bozeman

Antelope productivity is good across FWP Region 3 and hunters should expect a good season in southwest Montana.

FWP Region 2’s lone antelope population, located in the Deer Lodge Valley, is increasing in size and distribution, with more than 200 head of antelope and the newest hunting district—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.

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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