Mid-season figures compiled from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 6 game check station outside Havre show a strong elk harvest this season but greatly reduced numbers of hunters and harvested deer and pronghorn antelope.
The first four weekends of the Havre check station have seen a decrease in hunters and in harvest,” said FWP Havre-area Wildlife Biologist Scott Hemmer. “Hunter numbers so far are down 31 percent from last year.”
Hemmer said the decline in the number of hunters checked is likely the result of decreases in the numbers of licenses issued this year and reduced game numbers caused by last year’s extremely harsh winter and a summer outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, commonly known as EHD.
Hemmer said the check station’s largest observed decline was in antelope harvest, which so far has been down 71 percent from last year and 79 percent from the long-term average.
“Hunter reports have been consistent that antelope numbers are far below normal,” Hemmer said.
While reports of sightings from upland bird hunter have been mixed, upland bird harvest has also been lower than last year, as well as lower than the long-term average. Generally, pheasant hunters have reported seeing fewer birds overall, but sightings have been more frequent in the northeast corner of the Region.
Hemmer said reports of sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge have been spotty. Some hunters reported seeing increased numbers of birds, while others reported fewer. The increased vegetative cover present in many areas this year also may be impeding harvest.
Check station information gathered so far shows mule deer harvest is down 46 percent from the long-term average, while the white-tailed deer harvest is down 38 percent.
“Hunters have reported seeing fewer deer for both species,” Hemmer said. “The warmer, windy weather has also impacted hunter participation and success for deer hunters. White-tailed deer hunters have reported observing and harvesting a large number of fawns without does, which is likely a consequence of the EHD outbreak. There has also been a large number of mule deer harvested this year with their antlers still in velvet.”
Hemmer said the Region 6 elk harvest has been the main bright spot this season. Elk harvest is up 127 percent from last year and 67 percent above the long-term average.
“Hunters have reported observing good numbers of elk, and they’ve noted that elk have been located in areas where they are more accessible than in past years,” Hemmer said.
Duck harvest has also been up this year, even though warmer weather this fall has kept some hunters home. All reports have indicated near-record numbers of waterfowl in Canada this year, so there will be a potential for excellent waterfowl hunting with the onset of winter weather.