Hunter success rates at or above average across west-central and southwest Montana

BOZEMAN- The general hunt season in Montana started Oct. 24, 2020, seeing a decrease in hunter participation numbers compared to the same weekend in previous years, but hunter success was at or above average at most hunter check stations.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s (FWP) three check stations in southwest Montana on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 observed a total of 709 hunters which was an increase from opening weekend but a lower-than-average turnout from the same weekend in 2019.

Hunter numbers through the west-central Montana wildlife check stations were down through the first two weekends of the big game hunting season checking 3,131 hunters compared to 4,029 in 2019.

Southwest Montana:

  • The Cameron check station tallied an 11.8% increase in hunter success which was within the long-term average for the same weekend in previous years.
  • The Divide check station saw a hunter success rate of 9.2% being 6% greater than the long-term average.
  • The Mill Creek check station was at 7.4% which is about 80% greater than the long-term average.
  • FWP wildlife biologists checked 43 elk, 10 mule deer and 12 white-tailed deer.

West-Central Montana:

  • Hunter success holding above average through the Anaconda and Darby stations, while falling below average through Bonner.
  • FWP wildlife biologists checked 118 elk, 24 mule deer, 87 white-tailed deer, 2 black bear, one sheep, one goat and one wolf in the first two weekends at the three longest running check stations in the region. 

The record cold and snowy start to the season caused animals to move more helping hunter’s success, but it also kept more hunters at home is what FWP Spokesperson Greg Lemon guessed.

“In some places around the state opening weekend the conditions were just flat-out miserable so I think that sort-of tips the scale to where that kind of weather does decrease hunter success numbers and what I think we saw around the state is it also impacted the number of hunters getting out,” Lemon explained.

Lemon also considered other factors as to why hunters did not go out as much on Halloween weekend.

“This pass Saturday in Montana was kind of an epic Saturday from a weather standpoint, it could be that people were just like, ‘Gosh this is the last opportunity I have to get out and do some other things other than hunting,’ maybe they were fishing or maybe they were hiking or maybe they were camping, what we do know is that we’ve sold more hunting licenses this year then we did last year,” Lemon said.

As of Oct. 12, non-resident hunting licenses have already sold out this year with the cap of 26,125 based off state statutes.

This year they have sold an estimated 108,000 general deer hunting licenses to in-state residents which is an 8,000 increase from last year’s numbers through Oct. 12, 2019.

For general elk hunting licenses for in-state residents they have sold around 105,700 through Oct. 12, 2020, compared to an estimated 99,500 through Oct. 12, 2019.

A few local hunters in southwest Montana also mentioned that elk are in full rut, but deer are not. Rutting refers to the mating season for certain animals when hunters typically have better success rates.

More information from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks can be found here.

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