MISSOULA – It was a slow opening weekend for Montana’s 2018 big game hunting season in west-central Montana.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) check stations near Bonner and Darby recorded the lowest combined totals of harvested elk and deer for an opening weekend since 1999.
“The warm weather certainly played a role in the lack of hunter success, and we’ll expect that to change as the season moves along,” said Scott Eggeman who is a FWP wildlife biologist in the Blackfoot area.
The harvest of 25 elk at the Bonner check station was above its five-year average of 20 for opening weekend, but the harvest of 50 elk at the Bitterroot Valley’s check station near Darby was lower than its five-year average of 62.
The Bonner check station reported 39 white-tailed deer, down from its five-year average of 63 for opening weekend, while the white-tailed deer harvest of seven at Darby was the same as last year, but down from its five-year average of 14.
Mule deer harvests of 10 checked at Bonner and five at Darby were on par for average opening harvests.
“Check stations are an important part of monitoring harvest trends and recording information on wildlife age, health and other observations from the field,” said FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson.
The Anaconda station is not open this year. Instead, two chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance stations are in place in the nearby Flint Creek Valley.
Hunters must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals. The general rifle season for deer and elk runs through Sunday, November 25.