The big game harvest in northwest Montana remains high through two weekends of the general hunting season, according to check station data.
A total of 219 white-tailed deer, including 121 bucks, have been reported at check stations across the region. A total of 36 mule deer and 32 elk have also been reported. The overall percentage of hunters with game at the stations has been 13.6 percent, compared to 5.9 percent through the same period in 2019. FWP did not operate game check stations on weekends during the 2020 season. The counts at the stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
Check stations are open on weekends during hunting season from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The regional game check stations are located at U.S. Highway 2 West of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney. Hunters must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals.
A table below summarizes the results through the first two weekends of the season at four check stations. Past summaries included results from five check stations, but the Canoe Gulch station in Libby has been replaced with a voluntary chronic wasting disease sampling station on Highway 2 south of Libby.
The general deer and elk season runs through Nov. 28, 2021.
Northwest Montana (Region 1) Reminders
• Hunters should review the regulations for each hunting district they plan to hunt.
• Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only in Region 1 (northwest Montana). Spike elk are not legal game in this region.
• Hunters who purchased the 199-20 either-sex white-tailed deer B license can only use that license within the Libby CWD Management Zone.
• Mule deer buck hunting in the North Fisher portion of Hunting District 103 near Libby is permit-only.
• Many private lands that were historically owned by corporate timber companies have changed ownership, and hunters should review the Block Management Program for Region 1 to view available public access opportunities and restrictions on private lands.
• Hunters should “Be Bear Aware” and properly store food and carcasses. Hunters should avoid hanging carcasses near houses or garages. Carcasses should be suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from any upright support. Hunters are encouraged to carry bear spray and know how to use it. More food storage and safety information are available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov.
• The four rules of firearm safety: Always be sure of your target and beyond; Always point the muzzle of your gun in a safe direction; Always treat every gun as if it were loaded; Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
Chronic Wasting Disease
This year, FWP will continue surveillance for chronic wasting disease in specific areas known as Priority Surveillance Areas. In northwestern Montana, those areas include Hunting Districts 100, 103, 104, 120, 121, 122 and 170. In those specific areas, hunters are asked to voluntarily submit a sample from their animal. For instructions on how or where to submit a sample, visit fwp.mt.gov/cwd.
Testing for CWD is voluntary throughout the state. FWP will assist hunters with sample collection and submission. In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at game check stations when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory. FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.
A CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1.5 hours past sunset at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town. Hunters are not required to stop at the Libby CWD sampling station.
Hunters who want their animal sampled should leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.
To help prevent the spread of CWD, all carcasses, including the head and spinal column, must be disposed of in a class II landfill after butchering and processing. Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. This requirement applies to all deer, elk, and moose carcasses harvested by hunters or as vehicle-killed salvage.
Contact a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office for more information. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.