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Hunter numbers and success well below average for second weekend of general hunting season

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GREAT FALLS—Although the weather in north-central Montana improved from the opening weekend of the general rifle season, 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% 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% for hunters, which is better than last year at this time, but still 12% below recent average.  

Elk harvest is better than last year at this point of the season, but still 33% 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 brow-tined bull season remains open through Thanksgiving weekend. 

Mule and white-tailed deer harvest are 40% and 30% below normal, respectively. Deer harvest has been generally well distributed throughout the greater Augusta area. In addition to the recorded deer and elk harvest, 2 antelope, 1 wolf, 1 black bear, 1 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. Forecasted cooler and possibly wetter weather for the 2nd week of the general rifle season may also be beneficial to improving harvest success for hunters. 

The general deer and elk seasons run through Nov. 27. The check station operated by FWP along Main Street in Augusta is the only biological check station in Region 4 and operates seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. Hunters are reminded that they must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, whether or not they have harvested game. Biological check stations are intended primarily for biologists to gather trends and statistical information about animals and hunters. 

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