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Antler spread

One piece of data collected is general antler spread.

Hunter numbers and most big-game harvest increased from last year at the Havre check station this season, with mule deer numbers the highest in several years.

Hunter numbers (1,808) were up 1 percent from 2016, and 10 percent above the recent average.

“Hunter numbers were lower during the first couple weeks of the season, which was likely due in part to early snows and muddy roads limiting hunter access at the start of antelope and pheasant seasons,” said Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer, who manages the station. “After the opening of the general season hunter numbers rebounded quickly.”

Despite the milder conditions later in the general season, which can sometimes lead to difficult hunting, hunter success was very good, especially for mule deer.

“The most noteworthy statistic this year was the high mule deer numbers checked,” Hemmer said.

The mule deer harvest of 659 for the year was up 30 percent from last year, and 38 percent above the long-term average. The total mule deer harvest numbers were the highest since 2010, and the mule deer buck harvest was the highest since at least 1985. Understandably, Hemmer said most hunters reported seeing considerably more deer than in recent years, and with increased B-tags available for does, more harvest occurred.

For the year, 119 whitetails were brought by the check station, which is 18 percent higher than 2016, but still 26 percent below the long-term average.

“Hunters reported seeing increasing white-tailed deer numbers this year, and enjoyed the opportunity to harvest a white-tailed doe with the available single-region B tags.”

Antelope, whose general season ended on Nov. 12, were 13 percent below 2016 and 71 percent below the long-term average. Eighty-five antelope were brought by the check station this year.

For the year, 47 elk were checked, which is 12 elk above last year’s number, and slightly above the long-term average.

Upland bird harvest was down. For the eight weeks that the check station was open, the pheasant harvest of 508 birds is below last year (-31 percent) and the long-term average (-40 percent). Sharp-tailed grouse (84 birds) harvest was one less than last year, and down from the long-term average. Hungarian partridge harvest (48 birds) is well below last year’s numbers, and slightly below the long-term average.

“The lower upland bird numbers is likely due to the impact drought conditions this year had on brood survival,” Hemmer said. “Bird hunters in the better habitats were still getting into good numbers of birds, but most bird hunters reported having to hunt harder than in past years.

“Overall, it appeared to be a good season for hunters this year,” Hemmer said. “We sure appreciate and enjoy visiting with the hunters that come by the check station, and it’s great to see the smile on their face after a successful hunt.”