Hunting season off to a strong start

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Fish, Wildlife and Parks employees Ray Washtak, left, and Lindsey Stutzman inspect a 5-by-6 bull elk in the back of Jeff Sipe's pickup truck Sunday afternoon at the game check station on U.S 2. west of Kalispell.  

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is reporting a solid opening weekend for hunters in Northwest Montana.

Hunting conditions could improve substantially with winter weather descending on the region today.

At the six Northwest Montana check stations, 2,879 hunters checked 129 whitetail deer (including 105 bucks), 11 mule deer and 18 elk for a 5.5 percent rate of hunters with game.

This compares with last year’s numbers for opening weekend: 3,174 hunters with 114 whitetail (including 83 bucks), 14 mule deer and 22 elk for a 4.7 percent rate of hunters with game.

Regional Wildlife Manager Jim Williams said young bucks were well represented in the harvest. 

“Biologist surveys this past spring showed good numbers of young whitetails in the population,” he said. “This opening-day harvest at the check stations reflects an increasing number of young bucks.”

He added that more whitetails were checked even though the number of hunters was down. Adult hunters were limited to harvesting only whitetail and mule deer bucks in all but one hunting district.

As usual, the U.S. 2 check station west of Kalispell was the busiest, with 1,096 hunters stopping with 44 whitetail, five mule deer and 10 elk. More than 180 hunters — none of them with game — stopped at the North Fork check station.

Hunting conditions could improve considerably with a snowstorm that moved into the area Monday night.

That will improve tracking conditions and move game animals around more.

At elevations above 4,000 feet in Northwest Montana, from 5 to 12 inches of snow could accumulate, according to the Weather Service.

Most Western Montana mountain passes are expected to get heavy snow, creating hazardous driving conditions.

Reporter Jim Mann may be reached at 758-4407 or by email at



Ray Washtak updates the harvest totals Sunday afternoon at the game check station west of Kalispell. 

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