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Hunter Numbers, Success Below Average

Although the weather in north-central Montana improved from the opening weekend of the general rifle season, the both the number of hunters and game animals passing through FWP’s check station in Augusta remained well below average for the second weekend of the season.

Total number of hunters, both successful and unsuccessful, is the lowest count in nearly 30 years and 25 percent below recent average. As of Sunday evening Oct. 30, a total of 97 elk and deer had been checked through the check station, giving a harvest success rate of about 18 percent for hunters, which is better than last year at this time, but still 12 percent below recent average.

Elk harvest is better than last year at this point of the season, but still 33 percent below recent average. Little harvest is occurring on ‘Sun River’ elk given the mild weather and lack of movement of these elk towards winter range. Both the HD 424 and 442 elk quotas remain open to antlerless elk harvest. When these quotas are met, antlerless elk harvest closes but the browtined bull season remains open through Thanksgiving weekend.

Mule and white-tailed deer harvest are 40 percent and 30 percent below normal, respectively. Deer harvest has been generally well distributed throughout the greater Augusta area. In addition to the recorded deer and elk harvest, two antelope, one wolf, one black bear, one mountain lion and a variety of game birds (upland and waterfowl) have been checked though the station.

The slow harvest to date is largely driven by fewer hunters and mild weather conditions making hunting more difficult and big game animals less likely to be up and moving. Deer harvest normally tends to increase in November as the rut begins, and many hunters over the weekend said that they were waiting for the rut before getting too serious about trying to fill their deer tags.

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