Hunters across Northwest Montana generally had a pretty good year, with numbers overall being down slightly from the previous year.
“The percentage of hunters with white-tailed deer varied greatly depending on where you were hunting,” said Neil Anderson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region One Wildlife Manager.
Elk harvest was up slightly over last year.
“Overall, hunters seemed to be enjoying themselves despite some challenging conditions,” Anderson said. “Most of the hunters I spoke to, including those who did not harvest an animal, stated they were having a good and enjoyable season.”
The season started out with snow, but then it got warm and the snow became crunchy, making it tougher to quietly walk through the woods.
Harvest in the Swan was up compared to previous years.
“The percentage of hunters with game — 10.4 percent — was the highest since 2010 in the Swan,” said Jessica Coltrane, FWP Kalispell area biologist.
But harvest was down in the Thompson Falls area.
Bruce Sterling, FWP biologist in the Thompson Falls area, said the white tailed buck harvest was down 39 percent from last year and down 28 percent compared to the 10-year average at the Thompson Falls check station.
The biggest decline was observed in the number of mule deer bucks checked at the regional stations. A total of 51 mule deer bucks were inspected in Region One this year, the lowest number since records were first kept in 1985.
“We don’t know why the numbers were so low,” Anderson said. “Fortunately, we are initiating a mule deer study in the Fisher River and Whitefish Range this winter. We hope to get valuable information on habitat use, nutrition, and some data on mortality rates.”
Regionwide, 16,269 hunters checked in 1,275 whitetail deer, of which 925 were bucks. Last year, 16,453 hunters checked in 1,449 whitetail deer, of which 1,035 were bucks.
FWP did not have a check station in the North Fork this year due to budget constraints and the lack of volunteers. On the Rocky Mountain Front, the elk take was slightly below average.
Elk hunters this year brought in 315 animals (180 bulls, 109 cows and 26 calves) compared to the 10-year average of 331 elk.
Mule deer numbered 236 bucks, 16 does and one fawn for a total of 253. The 10-year average is 297.
With whitetails, the count in Augusta was 341 (221 bucks, 98 does and 22 fawns); while the 10-year average is 292.
FWP only runs a check station in Augusta on the vast front and notes that the numbers only reflect that area.