Antelope Rifle Opener Marked With Success
Sunny, warm weather marked the opening weekend of antelope rifle season this year. Overall, hunters had more success compared to 2021. In south central Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ wildlife staff ran check stations in Billings, Broadview and Big Timber on Saturday and Sunday.
At the Broadview check station, FWP wildlife biologist Ashley Taylor checked 200 hunters and 69 harvested antelope over the weekend. These numbers are higher than 2021 data, but slightly below the 10-year average of 205 hunters and 74 antelope. The majority of antelope harvested were bucks.
Younger age classes of antelope were lacking in the harvest, a trend also observed in 2021. Taylor said this is likely the result of poor fawn survival in recent years. In older bucks, good horn growth was observed unlike the poor growth observed in 2021. Hunter success over opening weekend was up from 27 percent in 2021 to 35 percent this year.
FWP wildlife biologists Justin Paugh and Shawn Stewart checked 209 hunters and 118 harvested antelope over opening weekend at the Big Timber check station. Both hunter and antelope numbers at this check station were up from opening weekend in 2021, but below the 10-year average of 304 hunters and 168 antelope. Hunter success was at 56 percent, very similar to the 58 percent success rate in 2021. Again, the majority of antelope harvested were male.
At the Billings Heights check station, FWP wildlife biologist Megan O’Reilly and wildlife technician Mark Szczypinski checked 94 hunters and 62 harvested antelope over opening weekend. Similar numbers were recorded over opening weekend in 2021. Compared to the 10year average, this is a lower number of antelope hunters but a higher number of harvested antelope. The Billings check station saw the highest hunter success rate in the region at 66 percent, up slightly from the 60 percent success rate in 2021.
Bird hunters also visited each check station over the weekend, with 14 in Broadview, 38 in Big Timber, and 24 in Billings. Harvested pheasants, grouse, and waterfowl were recorded.
Check stations will be open in Columbus, Lavina, Big Timber and Billings on Saturday and Sunday for the opening weekend of deer and elk rifle season on Oct. 22 and 23. Hunters must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, regardless of their success in harvesting game. Check stations provide valuable information on animals and hunters for FWP biologists.
Hunting regulations for deer, elk and antelope are available online at: fwp. mt.gov/binaries/content/ assets/fwp/ hunt/regulations/ 2022/2022-dea-regulations- final-for-web.pdf