The general hunting season in Montana ended on November 27th under a blanket of fresh snow. Hunters in the state’s northwestern region returned from the field and reported a slight decrease in the total amount of big game harvested that year by Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), according to preliminary results from the inspection station.
According to preliminary results, the four Northwest Montana control stations recorded 9,239 hunters who took 765 white-tailed deer — including 558 bucks — as well as 69 mule deer and 61 elk. The proportion of hunters with game at the four control posts was 9.7% compared to 11.2% in 2021 and 8.5% in 2019. Due to the coronavirus, the agency did not staff the control posts in 2020.
Last year, the control station’s records show that hunters killed 940 white-tailed deer – including 711 bucks – as well as 90 mule deer and 44 elk.
However, wildlife biologists emphasize that the harvest dates are preliminary and do not provide definitive evidence of declining ungulate populations or hunting success rates. Instead, it’s a tool to help biologists track surveillance trends and gather information on age, health and other observations of wildlife from the field. Telephone surveys conducted with hunters over the coming winter months will collect final harvest data and attendance information.
A number of other factors may have gone into this year’s decline in game prey.
For example, during the general hunting season, control stations were only open on weekends from 10 a.m. to about an hour and a half after sunset and therefore sampled a small fraction of the total hunting participation and harvests in the region. Regional stations are located on US Highway 2 west of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney.
According to FWP officials, hunting license sales have continued to increase or remain constant in recent years among both resident and non-resident hunters. For example, year-to-date figures recorded between March 1 and October 18 show a jump in hunting license sales by non-residents from 52,356 in 2019 to 79,281 over the same period in 2021. Total hunting license sales also increased to residents from Montana, from 121,982 in 2019 to 136,285 in 2021.
These annual figures capture license sales up to the week before the start of the hunting season. FWP officials stressed that license sales are skyrocketing in the run-up to the season as well as in the early weeks of the general rifle season, so the final number of hunters is higher.
While the general hunting season is now over, hunters still have options well into the winter. Certain areas continue to have moose hunting opportunities, and there is also Montana’s muzzle-loading deer and moose hunting season, which runs from December 10th through December 18th. Any unused licenses or permits that are in effect on the last day of the general season remain valid during the Muzzleloader Heritage season, which has special regulations.
Hunters may use plain lead bullets and a muzzle-loading rifle loaded with loose black powder, loose Pyrodex, or an equivalent loose black powder substitute, and fired by a flintlock, wheellock, matchlock, or a percussion or musket cap percussion mechanism.
The muzzle-loading rifle must be at least .45 caliber and have no more than two barrels.
During the Muzzleloading Heritage Season, hunters may not use a muzzleloading rifle that requires the insertion of a cap or primer into the open breech (inline) of the barrel. can be loaded from the breech; or mounted with an optical enlarger.
The use of prepackaged paper or metal cartridges, sabots, gas controls, or other similar power and range-enhancing manufactured charges that enclose the projectile from the rifling or barrel of the firearm is also prohibited.
Many of Montana’s Wildlife Management Areas have seasonal closures from December 2nd through May 14th. Before hunters take to the field, they must review hunting regulations to ensure they are compliant. A list of WMAs and their seasonal closure dates is also available online.
Finally, hunters who have caught deer, elk or elk this season have until 17:00 on December 3 to bring the head of the animal to the FWP office in Kalispell to obtain samples from the chronic wasting disease (CWD). to obtain. Testing for CWD is voluntary statewide. However, FWP will assist hunters with sample collection and drop-off at the Region 1 office in Kalispell, Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm. FWP covers the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.
Contact a regional FWP office for more information. In Northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.