BILLINGS – Warm temperatures, light winds and plenty of sunshine made for comfortable outdoor activities over the weekend in south central Montana, but they did not do much for hunting success during the general big game opener.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists operated five check stations throughout the region Saturday and Sunday. All reported that hunters told them temperature in the 60s and 70s limited harvest opportunities.
Montana’s five-week general deer and elk season runs through Nov. 25.
At the Columbus check station, FWP wildlife biologist Shawn Stewart checked 192 hunters, more than the 167 checked during the same weekend in 2017, but still below the long-term average of 203. Thirty percent of those who stopped had game, down slightly from 33 percent in 2017 and a long-term average of 36 percent.
The mule deer harvest measured at Columbus was well below last year and the second lowest since 1980. Stewart checked 22 mule deer, down ten from opening weekend in 2017 and near half of the long-term average of 42. The 23 white-tailed deer checked was nearly double last year’s harvest of 12 and one better than the long-term average of 22. Five hunters checked elk, down from 11 last year and an average of six.
At Laurel, FWP wildlife research specialist Jay Watson checked 154 hunters, up from 128 in 2017 but still below the long-term average of 193. Twenty percent of checked hunters had harvested game, down from 26 percent a year ago and well below the long-tern average of 33 percent.
The deer harvest measured at Laurel was down from the same weekend in 2017 with 11 white-tailed deer checked – down four from a year ago and the long-term average of 19. The 15 mule deer