Nearly 400 hunters came through three check stations set up around FWP Region 7 on Saturday during the opening weekend of the big game season. Overall, traffic and harvest numbers were down from 2018, but many still managed to harvest something on a very cold, blustery day punctuated by snow. The weather was a stark contrast to last year’s mild opener, and to shirt-sleeve temps just a few days ago.
“Most of the deer hunters admitted to not venturing too far from their pickups,” said Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Melissa Foster, who manned the Glendive station. “There were a couple of nice bucks from folks who were willing to brave it and hunt hard. The nasty weather kept most of the bird hunters indoors. Those who did come through reported tough hunting conditions, but some came through with a bird or two.”
Hunters brought 146 deer, elk, and antelope through the three stations, for an almost 35 percent success rate. Hunters were generally satisfied with their experience but did admit to challenging conditions with the cold. All told, they took 85 mule deer – 53 of them bucks, 11 whitetails (four bucks), 34 antelope (22 bucks) and 16 elk.
The Ashland station saw the most traffic, with 202 hunters in 105 parties, and 68 animals. That’s down from last year’s total of 333 hunters and 160 animals on the Saturday opener, but 2018 was the busiest reported in a long time by Ashland staff. This year, Ashland checked 36 mule deer, four whitetails, 18 antelope and 13 elk.
Hysham had 128 hunters in 66 parties. Hunters there enjoyed the highest success rate of all three stations at 42 percent. Thirty-four mule deer came through, along with five whitetails, 16 antelope and three elk. Hysham’s hunter traffic was down from 2018 when 206 hunters came through, and they brought 96 big game animals for a 58 percent success rate.
The Glendive station was slow and cold, checking 15 mule deer (seven bucks and eight does) and a buck and doe whitetail. Sixty hunters came through in 31 parties. Typically, traffic is slower at Glendive than at the other two stations, but the weather definitely had an impact on hunters getting into the field this weekend.