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Montana Deer Forecast

October 6, 2009.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Deer hunters in Montana will find some good hunting opportunities across the state when the general deer season opens Oct. 25.

"Conditions have generally been favorable the past several years and deer have responded with good winter survival and good fawn production in many areas. That said, there are other areas that have suffered from low production this past year" said Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife management section chief.

"In areas with strong mule deer or white-tailed deer numbers, we are hoping to see cold weather this fall and some good snow to move deer into the more accessible, lower elevations. That’s is what we need for a good harvest," Kujala said.

The general rifle season for deer closes Nov. 29.   Please check the 2009 deer, elk and antelope hunting regulations for details.

Here is a regional look at Montana’s deer populations:  

Region 1—Northwestern Montana

Near Kalispell and the surrounding area, white-tailed deer herds are currently declining. Fawn recruitment has been poor for two consecutive years due to severe winters the past two years. Hunting access is good region wide but involves stalking game in heavy coniferous habitats.

Mule deer populations are stable with average fawn production. Hot spots for mule deer include the Cabinet and West Cabinet mountains, the high country of the lower Clark Fork, the Whitefish Range and the subalpine areas of the Mission and Swan mountain ranges. Mule deer hunters typically are more successful at higher altitudes.

Region 2—Western Montana

Near Missoula and the surrounding area, mule deer numbers are steady, while white-tailed deer numbers are below objective on the more accessible public lands. Licenses for antlerless whitetails will not be available to purchase over the counter this year, but if the weather cooperates, the buck harvest has the potential to be very good.

Region 3—Southwestern Montana

Mule deer recruitment across the Bozeman area in general was moderate. Numbers are healthy, but remain below historic highs.

Region 4—Central Montana

Hunters in the Great Falls area will find ample white-tailed and mule deer hunting opportunities, particularly to the north.   Mule deer populations are down from peak populations three and four years ago, but close to the long-term objectives. White-tailed deer populations remain very good. White-tailed deer and mule deer are present on both private and public lands.

Region 5—South-central Montana

Mule deer numbers in areas near Billings are at or below what they were last year. In areas closest to the mountains, deer experienced   a harsh winter. March and April snows and a late greenup this spring resulted in poor fawn survival, though buck/doe ratios remain good.

White-tailed deer populations are at or above average throughout most of the region. South of the Yellowstone River, deer numbers and harvest opportunities continue to grow. North of the Yellowstone River, fewer white-tailed deer are being reported in upland prairie habitats, while those in major river bottoms are as much as 10 percent above the long-term average.

Region 6—Northeastern Montana

Despite a severe winter and a good deer harvest in 2008, mule deer and white-tailed deer numbers remain high in the Glasgow area, especially in the Milk and Missouri river corridors. Although the impact of harsh winter weather is apparent in the northeastern corner of the region, mule deer populations recovered from what they were earlier in the decade and are exceeding population objectives in some hunting districts.

While winterkill reduced whitetail numbers by about 35 percent in the far northeastern portion of the state, the population there is still above the 10-year average, calling for a good deer harvest this season.

Region 7—Southeastern Montana

In Miles City and the surrounding area, both species of deer wintered well and benefitted from abundant spring forage. White-tail deer populations along the Yellowstone River, between Glendive and Sidney, are 70-75 percent above the long-term average. The ratio of white-tailed deer bucks to does is 30-40 bucks per 100 does. Mule deer populations are about 18 percent above the long-term average, with a good percentage of mature adults. Hunters should find ample opportunity to harvest mule deer.

For more information about mule deer hunting in Montana, visit the 2009 Deer, Elk & Antelope Hunting Guide , the Interactive Hunt Planner and the mule deer section of FWP’s Animal Field Guide.

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