The general big game hunting season ended with lower-than-average numbers Nov. 25, with the exception of mule deer, where numbers were more than double what hunters took a year ago.
All told, hunters checked in 950 whitetail deer, 100 mule deer and 58 elk.
Game managers blamed a variety of factors, including two tough winters in a row that impacted game herds in some regions; warmer than average weather this fall and the closing of the season before the rut was in full swing.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said the numbers were similar to the take after the 1996-97 winter.
The past week or so has also seen crunchy snow in the woods — making it nearly impossible for hunters to move around with making noise.
All that being said, the number of hunters was down sharply over the previous years. In fact, it was the lowest numbers in the past eight years, with 14,615 going through check stations.
Last year, by contrast, the number of hunters was 16,269, a drop of about 10 percent and the lowest since 2014.
The overall percentage of hunters with game that drove through a check station was 7.6 percent compared to 8.6 percent a year ago. Overall hunter success is typically higher and is not estimated until spring. The counts at the hunter check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
FWP gets more complete game harvest information with its annual telephone surveys with hunters this winter and spring. Telephone interviewers call mid-week evenings and weekends to speak to hunters one-on-one to get the most accurate information possible. Results from the statewide survey are used by wildlife managers to evaluate past hunting seasons and to help set permit quotas, season dates, and other regulations for future years.
Wolf hunting continues for several more months.
The general hunting season for wolves continues through March 15, 2019. The wolf trapping season runs Dec. 15-Feb. 28.