Hunters have highest success rate since 2007 as big game season comes to an end

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Hunters reported the highest harvest in four years, which included 607 white-tailed deer and 300 elk in the west-central region, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. (File photo)

Sunday marked the close of the 2017 general big game hunting season with west-central Montana check stations reporting the highest harvest in four years and the highest hunter success rate since 2007 according to a report by Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The 607 white-tailed deer inspected through the Anaconda, Bonner and Darby hunter check stations is three percent higher than last year’s total, and the highest since 2008. With 507 whitetails checked, the Bonner Check Station accounted for 84 percent of the harvest, which was the highest at Bonner since the check station began operating on weekends-only in 2009.

“We’ve seen a steady climb in whitetail harvest since 2014, which correlates with our sense of a growing population,” said Mike Thompson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “This information is a good check on our thoughts of restoring some antlerless harvest opportunities for the 2018 hunting season.”

The 95 elk checked at Bonner this season is 64 percent higher than last season and higher at Bonner than any season since 2011. The Darby check station traditionally accounts for the most elk harvest of the three check stations in west-central Montana, and the harvest of 159 elk at Darby is 14 percent higher than last year, lower than 2015 and higher than 2014. The 46 elk checked at Anaconda also is 59 percent higher than last year, lower than 2015 and higher than 2014.

Mule deer harvest through the Anaconda, Bonner and Darby check stations totaled 77, which is 35 percent lower than last season and the lowest in the last four years when the check stations were operated for a consistent number of days. A special permit is required to hunt mule deer across much of FWP Region 2, which limits the numbers of hunters coming through the check stations who are licensed to hunt mule deer.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks tallied 11,115 hunter trips at the three stations in west-central Montana’s Region 2, which was down 8 percent from last year. The lower hunter effort contrasted with a higher harvest of 999 animals checked at the three stations—up six percent from last season and the highest in the past four years.

All told, the Anaconda, Bonner and Darby check stations reported a season total of 300 elk, 77 mule deer, 607 white-tailed deer, nine black bears, one moose, three bighorn sheep and two wolves. Mineral county check station information was not available.

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