Warm weather brings slow start to hunting season

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FWP wildlife biologist, Liz Bradley, visits with a hunter at the Fish Creek hunter check station west of Missoula. (FWP photo)

Hunters took to the field Saturday and Sunday across Northwest Montana for the opening weekend of the general deer and elk season. Amid unseasonably warm temperatures, harvest rates were down at four of the five check stations in Region 1.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff checked 2,632 hunters, 150 white-tailed deer, 10 mule deer and 19 elk for a harvest rate of 6.8 percent.

According to FWP Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson, warm weather made for challenging hunting conditions.

“We didn’t expect success rates to be high this weekend with temps reaching the mid to upper 60s. The number of hunters visiting check stations was also down this weekend,” Anderson said. “I am surprised that the overall whitetail harvest was this low, but there is plenty of season remaining. We expect these numbers to go up as the season progresses and moisture and colder temperatures move into the area.”

The Olney check station saw the highest harvest rate, with 13.6 percent of the hunters harvesting deer. Mule deer buck harvest was up from last year across the region and elk harvest was slightly down.

The Highway 2 check station tallied 1,294 hunters, the most in the region.

The counts at the hunter check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.

Hunters are required to stop at game check stations they encounter, even if they have not harvested an animal. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, Nov. 25.

Hunters are reminded that the ability to harvest antlerless whitetail on a general license ends this Friday, Oct. 26, except for hunters under the age of 15 and for people who have a permit to hunt from a vehicle. Hunters are also reminded that mule deer buck hunting in the North Fisher portion of Hunting District 103 near Libby is permit-only.

Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only in Region 1. Spike elk are not legal game.

Hunters are encouraged to check the Montana hunting regulations for the district you plan to hunt before hitting the field.

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