Local hunting season harvests down from recent years

Submitted by Montana FWP

Montana’s general big game hunting season ended Nov. 25.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ five regional check stations tallied a combined total of 950 white-tailed deer, including 676 bucks, this season. That is down from recent years. There were 100 mule deer checked this season, which is nearly twice as many as last season. The number of checked elk – 58 – was 20 fewer than a year ago. The total number of hunters checked – 14,615 – was also down from recent years.

Several factors worked to hunters’ disadvantage this season, including unseasonably warm weather and poor tracking conditions throughout the past month and the season ending before the peak of the deer rut. Wildlife biologists also attribute back-to-back harsh winters that appeared to have had an impact on local herds in parts of the region. Harvest numbers this season are similar to the aftermath of the 1996-97 winter.

The overall percentage of hunters with game that drove through a check station was 7.6 percent compared to 8.6 percent a year ago. Overall hunter success is higher and is not estimated until spring. The counts at the hunter check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.

FWP will gain more complete game harvest information with its annual telephone surveys with hunters this winter and spring. Telephone interviewers call mid-week evenings and weekends to speak to hunters one-on-one to get the most accurate information possible. Results from the statewide survey are used by wildlife managers to evaluate past hunting seasons and to help set permit quotas, season dates, and other regulations for future years.

The general hunting season for wolves continues through March 15, 2019. The wolf trapping season runs Dec. 15-Feb. 28.

Anyone who sets traps for wolves is required to take a free one-time certification and education course in Montana. FWP is holding a wolf trapper certification course on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018 at its Region 1 headquarters in Kalispell. In addition to specifics on equipment and techniques, participants will learn about the history, ethics, management, regulations, and requirements of wolves and wolf trapping. The class will be taught in a rotating-station format and will include outdoor stations. To register, visit fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter and click the tab labeled, “Wolf Trapper Education & Certification.”

This year there are new regulations and carcass transport restrictions surrounding the threat of chronic wasting disease (CWD). FWP has established CWD positive areas and transport restriction zones (TRZ) in parts of the state where the disease was found. To prevent the spread of CWD, no brain or spinal column material from animals taken in positive areas are allowed outside the transport restriction zones. For information about positive areas and TRZs, visit fwp.mt.gov.

Properly dispose of carcasses. Once an animal with CWD dies, any part of the carcass can transmit the disease for at least two years. Safely dispose of all animal parts in solid waste landfills to help keep our local herds clean of CWD.