Hunter Numbers Down
Krista Nichols / For The Courier
Cordelia Nickels of Nashua bagged a nice muley buck during the two-day youth hunt last week. Other current or upcoming hunting seasons include General Antelope, Oct. 12-Nov. 10; Pheasant, Oct. 12–Jan. 1; General Deer & Elk, Oct. 26-Dec. 1; and Mountain Lion-Fall, Oct. 26-Dec. 1.
Figures compiled from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 6 game check station outside Havre for the weekends of Oct. 12-13 and Oct. 19-20 show reduced hunter numbers overall, but increased harvest of some upland birds and waterfowl.
“Over the first two weekends of the season, harvest for most species has been down,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Havre-area Wildlife Biologist Scott Hemmer. “Antelope numbers and licenses have remained low since the winter of 2010-11, and this fact is reflected in the check station harvest being down 92 percent from the long-term average. Most antelope hunters reported having to hunt harder to find animals, but most have reported good horn growth in the bucks they did find and harvest this year.”
Montana’s special, two-day youth deer hunt was a week earlier this year, and that resulted in additional mule deer and white-tailed deer being harvested during this reporting period. In previous years, only archery deer hunting was open during this time of the year, Hemmer said.
But, he added, white-tailed deer numbers are still down overall this year in FWP Region 6. That’s due to a long recovery period from a series of especially hard winters and significant outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, also known as EHD, in 2011 and again this year.
Elk harvest reported at the check station thus far may have been limited by the temporary closure of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, but Hemmer said not enough elk have been harvested yet for a meaningful comparison to past years’ harvest.
So far, he said, pheasant harvest has been down slightly from last year, and hunters have reported pheasant hunting as spotty. Sharp-tailed grouse harvest is down from last year, but Hungarian partridge harvest is up. Duck harvest has remained strong again this year.
Overall, however, hunter numbers continue to be low so far this year, Hemmer said. Total hunter numbers are down 6 percent from last year and are still well below those seen prior to the winter of 2010-11.