BILLINGS – Seasonal temperatures and generally dry skies drove up the number of hunters who took to the field in south central Montana over the weekend. And those who stopped at check stations run by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks mostly were able to harvest more deer than during the same weekend in 2018.
The general big-game season kicked off Oct. 26, but wet, windy weather kept many hunters home. The second weekend of the season was more comfortable, and the region’s hunters responded by heading to the countryside.
Here are some statistics from FWP’s five south central Montana check stations:
The number of hunters and the number of deer checked at FWP’s Big Timber check station Sunday were higher than in 2018 and above the long-term average for the second weekend of the general big-game season.
FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh checked 147 hunters Sunday, 47 percent of whom had harvested an animal. During the same weekend last year 143 hunters stopped, 36 percent of whom had a harvested animal. Historically an average of 138 hunters have stopped during the second weekend of the season and 49 percent have checked an animal.
This year, Paugh logged 22 white-tailed deer compared to 14 in 2018 and a long-term average of 17. Hunters checked 27 mule deer, up from 10 a year ago and a historic average of 25. Elk hunters checked 10 elk, down from 15 a year ago, but still above the average of
The numbers hunters and checked deer were up from last year at FWP’s Lavina check station, but they still fell short of the long-term averages.
FWP wildlife biologist Ashley Taylor checked 186 hunters at Lavina Sunday during the second weekend of the general big-game season. That was up from 153 a year ago, but still below the average of 227. Hunters brought in eight white-tailed deer – up from six in 2018 but below the average of 17. They checked 24 mule deer, well above the 10 during the same Sunday last year but below the average of 38. Ten elk came through the check station, down from 14 a year ago and near the long-term average of 11.
Of those hunters who stopped, 24 percent had harvested game – exactly the same as the long-term average and more than the 20 percent from 2018.
Taylor reported that several bucks she checked displayed evidence that the annual rut could be starting.
Hunter numbers and the percentage of hunters with game both were higher than in 2018 at FWP’s Laurel check station over the weekend.
FWP wildlife research specialist Jay Watson checked 114 hunters at Laurel during the second weekend of Montana’s general big-game season, up from 102 during the same time period last year. Of those who stopped, 31 percent has harvested an animal, up from 26 percent in 2018.
Hunters checked nine white-tailed deer, down from 11 a year ago. They had 24 mule deer, up from 14 in 2018. One hunter checked an elk – two checked elk last year.