With just a week left in Montana’s 2021 general big-game season, hunters in south central Montana started filling their general tags and antlerless deer B tags over the weekend. But they were hampered in some places by high winds and warm temperatures, which made finding game less comfortable and more difficult.
Overall, hunter participation remains lower than in 2019, the last time Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks ran check station in this region, and lower than the long-term average. But those who went to the field were more successful than in 2019 and close to the long-term average.
Here is information from the fifth general-season weekend of FWP check stations in south central Montana:
Fewer hunters stopped at FWP’s Billings Heights check station over the weekend than during the same weekend in 2019. But a higher percentage of them came home with an animal.
FWP wildlife biologists Megan O’Reilly checked 151 hunters, down from 205 during the fifth weekend of the 2019 general big-game season. Of those who stopped, 43 percent had harvested game, up from 39 percent two years ago. Of the 65 animals checked, 47 – or 72 percent – were mule deer. In 2019, 67 – or 84 percent – were mule deer. Hunters also checked 12 white-tailed deer, up from 10 in 2019, and six elk, double the 2019 count.
The 111 hunters who stopped at FWP’s Columbus check station over the weekend was up substantially from the same weekend in 2019, but still the second lowest on record for the weekend and 47 percent below the long-term average.
FWP wildlife biologist Shawn Stewart checked 18 mule deer, the same as two years ago, and 20 white-tailed deer, up from nine in 2019. Five elk came through the check station, up from two in 2019. Of those who stopped, 41 percent had harvested game, up from 39 percent on the same weekend two years ago.
The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Big Timber check station over the weekend was the lowest on record. But those who stopped were more successful than two years ago and ahead of the long-term average.
FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh checked 86 hunters, down from 138 during the same weekend in 2019. Of those who stopped, 65 percent had harvested a game animal, up from 47 percent in 2019 and 59 percent over the long-term.
Hunters checked 23 white-tailed deer, the same as two years ago, and 30 mule deer, down from 36 in 2019. They had three elk, half of the number checked two years ago.
FWP’s Lavina check station saw more hunters and more deer than during the same weekend two years ago. But the elk harvest and percentage of people with game was down from 2019.
FWP wildlife biologist Ashley Taylor checked 228 hunters, up from 203 in 2019. Those hunters had 18 white-tailed deer, up from 16 two years ago, and 42 mule deer, up from 34 in 2019. They checked seven elk, down from 15 two years ago. Of those who stopped, 29 percent had harvested an animal, down from 32 percent in 2019.
The general deer and elk seasons runs through Nov. 28 and check stations will operate weekends at most locations until then. Hunters are reminded that they must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, whether or not they have harvested game. Check stations primarily are intended for biologists to gather statistical information about animals and hunters.