Hunting opener slightly below average, FWP notes

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A bull moose has lost half its rack as it pauses in the brush.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reported nearly 2,700 hunters and 240 harvested animals at its five check stations across Northwest Montana’s Region 1.

The overall number of hunters and harvested deer are slightly below average compared to opening weekends in recent years. The number of harvested elk was slightly above last year’s total. Check stations in Olney, Libby (Canoe Gulch) and Thompson Falls saw more hunters and more harvested white-tailed deer than last year.

“Region-wide, elk harvest was slightly better than last year for opening weekend. Our overall white-tailed deer harvest was lower than it has been for the last few years. After three years of moderate-to-low white-tailed deer recruitment, this wasn’t surprising, but we expect the harvest to improve as the season progresses,” Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson said.

The U.S. 2 check station, just east of Kalispell, had 1,171 hunters report, down from 1,294 for the 2018 opening weekend. Hunters bagged 53 white-tailed deer, including 25 bucks. A year ago, hunters reported 73 whitetails, including 23 bucks. Nine elk and four mule deer were reported.

At the Olney station, north of Whitefish on U.S. 93, 487 hunters reported 50 white-tailed deer, including 19 bucks. Two elk and two mule deer were also reported there.

Hunters must stop at all check stations they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals. The general big game season runs through Sunday, Dec. 1.

There is a change in the antlerless hunts in hunting districts 122 and 130 this year. General hunters can no longer harvest antlerless white-tailed deer the first week or the last week of the season in those hunting districts, regardless of land ownership. Youths 12 to 15 years old and those with a permit to hunt from the vehicle are still allowed to harvest an antlerless whitetail in those hunting districts.

Only B license holders can harvest antlerless deer in those districts.

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Hunting opener slightly below average, FWP notes

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