Region 5 Check Station Week 3 Report

Elk harvest picks up on third weekend in south central Montana.

BILLINGS

Hunter numbers are lower coming out of the third weekend of the general season but harvest numbers, especially elk, are up.
FWP operated four check stations in south central Montana and checked 775 hunters during the third weekend of the state’s general rifle hunting season. They checked 71 white-tailed deer and 111 mule deer, the elk harvest heated up with 60 animals checked – up from 28 animals a year ago.

Here are some details from the check stations:

BIG TIMBER
The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Big Timber check station Sunday was less than the same day last year, mule deer numbers were also down. Of the hunters who stopped, 39 percent had harvested game, up from 36 percent on the same date in 2014 and a bit behind on the long-term average of 51.
FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh checked eight white-tailed deer, up just one from 2014 and well off of the average of 22. Hunters checked 12 mule deer, down sharply from 26 last year and short the long-term average of 31. The elk harvest gained even more strength for the third weekend of the general big game season with 27 animals checked – up from nine last year, and over five times the long-term average of 5. For the last weekend of antelope season, the Big Timber check station had hunters check in only 5 on Sunday – down from 14 during the same weekend in 2014, and below the long-term average of 18.
Year to date, 520 hunters have stopped at Big Timber, up a little from 513 last year and still above the long-term average of 491. Though the white-tailed deer harvest of 34 animals year-to-date was 11 better than 2014, it remained below the average of 60. So far this year hunters have checked 72 mule deer, which is the same exact number during the same day in 2014 but below the long-term average of 84. The elk harvest remains strong with 60 animals checked at Big Timber, up from 27 last year and nearly triple the long-term average of 21.

LAVINA
FWP’s Lavina check station saw 290 hunters who stopped, 24 percent had harvested game – up from 16 percent a year ago. The elk harvest gained strength with twenty-two animals checked, compared with fifteen last year. 9 white-tailed deer were checked in, up by three from last year and 35 mule deer were taken, also up by 6 from last season.
FWP wildlife biologist Ashley Taylor said that, over the first three weekends of the 2015 general hunting season, 1023 hunters have stopped at Lavina, down just a little from 1036 a year ago and well above the long-term average of 960. So far, hunters have checked just 22 white-tailed deer this year – well below the long-term average of 71 for the first three weekends of the year.
The mule deer harvest has fared somewhat better so far this year with 99 animals checked compared with just 54 during the first three weekends of 2014, but below the long-term average of 119.
The elk harvest measured at Lavina is above average with 49 animals, down from 61 in 2014 but still above long term average of 35.

COLUMBUS
The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Columbus check station over the weekend was up from the same weekend last year.
FWP wildlife biologist Shawn Stewart checked 199 hunters on Saturday and Sunday. That is up from 175 during the same weekend in 2014. Of those who stopped, 37 percent had harvested game compared to only 29 percent last year. Hunters checked 33 white-tailed deer, a sharp increase from 12 last year, and 32 mule deer, down just three from the same weekend in 2014. The elk harvest saw an increase with 7 animals checked compared with 3 a year ago.
Year to date, 568 hunters have checked in at the Columbus station, down from 600 in 2014 and almost even with long-term average of 576. Hunters have checked 56 white-tailed deer –– up from 45 in 2014 but still below the long-term average of 68. Stewart checked 86 mule deer – up by two from last year but well below the long-term average of 136.
The year-to-date elk harvest measured at Columbus remains strong this year with 34 animals checked four more than last year and over double the long-term average of 15.

LAUREL
At FWP’s Laurel check station wildlife research specialist Jay Watson checked 152 hunters during the third weekend of Montana’s general big game season. That compares to 182 during the same time in 2014. The hunters checked 21 white-tailed deer – up from 7 a year ago – and 32 mule deer – up from 28 in 2014. Four elk came through the check station compared to one last year. Of those who stopped, 38 percent of hunters had game compared to 20 percent in 2014.
For the first three weekends of the 2015 season, 369 hunters stopped at Laurel – 30 less than the same three weekends last year. Those hunters checked 31 white-tailed deer – almost double more than 2014 with 17 this time last year, but still below the long-term average of 54. They checked 55 mule deer – a bit more than the 51 checked in 2014, but well below the average of 124. The elk harvest remained good with ten animals checked – three more than last year and the most seen in the first three weekends at Laurel since 2005. The station averages five elk for the first three weekends of each year.

Hunters are reminded that they must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, whether or not they have harvested game. Check stations primarily are intended for biologists to gather statistical information about animals and hunters.