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Warm Weather Slows Deer Hunt in Montana

November 12, 2009.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

The past weekend was mild, windy, and warm in south-central Montana, making for pleasant days afield, but not necessarily the best for successful hunting.

Data from four check stations combined showed overall hunter success dropping from 40% on the same weekend in 2008 to 35% this year. Hunter numbers were down slightly from 2008 levels, and harvest of all animals except mule deer were similar to last year. Mule deer harvest was down 19% from 2008.

Check stations at Laurel, Columbus, and Big Timber showed results similar to 2008, but at Lavina all indicators were lower than last year.

For the entire hunting season so far, overall hunter numbers, animals harvested, hunter success in the region are below last year’s levels.

At the Laurel Check Station, FWP wildlife research specialist Jay Watson said that hunter success rates were on the low side at 30%. Mule deer bucks comprised 62% of the mule deer harvest with 83% of these being 2 years old or older. Seventy-four percent of the whitetail harvest was does or fawns. White-tail buck harvest is picking up and should continue to improve as the rut begins.

At Columbus, FWP biologist Shawn Stewart checked 177 hunters over the weekend ( down 6% from the same weekend last year). Only 43 mule deer were checked in, which was down 25% from last year. 65% of the mule deer were bucks with nearly 80% of the bucks being 2 years old or older. Thirty white-tails came through the check station – up 43% from the same week last year. Sixty Percent of the white-tails were antlerless deer. Also checked in were 4 elk, 2 antelope, and 1 bighorn.

At the Lavina check station, the number of hunters checked to date is 49 lower than last year, and 10.6% below the long-term average. Harvest of mule deer, white-tailed deer, antelope and elk are 41.0%, 29.1%, 65.0% and 41.8% below the long-term average, respectively. Since 1993, an average of 314.3 big game animals checked through the Lavina check station in the first three weeks of the season while this year we have checked only 183 animals. Does and fawns have made up 36.6 % of the mule deer harvest and 59.9% of the whitetail harvest through the first 3 weekends.

At Big Timber, many hunters mentioned the high winds were keeping deer down in the coulees and brushy draws where they were tough to spot. One hundred seventy-two big game hunters checked in – the highest for that date since 2004 when 188 hunters came through. Fifty-four percent of hunters were successful, the lowest success rate since 2005. Thirty-four whitetails checked through – the highest number since 2004 when we also checked 34 whitetails along with only 32 mule deer compared to 51 on the same date last year. Twenty-two percent of harvested mule deer, 56% of whitetails, 33% of antelope were does, and finally, 50% of harvested elk were cows. Antelope and elk harvest were both well above last year for week 3.

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