Busy opening weekend in West Central Montana

MISSOULA – The big game hunting season in west-central Montana got off to a good start this weekend with constant hunter traffic through the area’s four hunter checkpoints and a harvest on track with the opening last year.

Hunter traffic through checkpoints was 35% higher than the first weekend of 2020. Biologists at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) have counted 2,340 hunters through Anaconda checkpoints, Bonner, Darby and Fish Creek combined. The hunters checked 54 elk, 23 mule deer, 59 white-tailed deer and two black bears.

The harvest of 31 elk at the Darby control station was 39% lower than the opening weekend of 2020, in part due to the rainy weather and lack of snow at the high elevations.

“In my experience, most elk hunters don’t do well in this weather,” said FWP Bitterroot biologist Rebecca Mowry. “Elk have no reason to roam and hunters have a hard time finding them and don’t spend as much time hiking in pursuit of elk in wet weather like this.”

While the elk harvest was low overall, checkpoint workers saw an increase in the deer harvest, with a total of 23 mule deer and 59 white-tailed deer in western Montana.

Overall, hunter monitoring stations sample a small part of the effort and harvest in the region, but they record important trends and biological information. “Monitoring stations are the key way for us to see how harvesting is going against historical averages, and they are really important for collecting information on wildlife age, health and other observations on the site. field, ”said Mike Thompson, FWP Region Missoula- based wildlife manager.

Hunters must stop at all checkpoints they pass, even if they have not collected any animals. The general big game season ends on Sunday, November 28.

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