Hunter numbers and most big game harvest increased from last year — with mule deer numbers being the highest in more than 10 years — at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' Havre check station.
Hunter numbers (1,945) were up 8 percent from 2017, and 17 percent above the recent average. Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer, who manages the station, said “Hunter numbers and harvest were below average during the upland bird and antelope seasons, but they rebounded during the general big game season. Weather conditions this year were not a major obstacle to hunter participation or success.”
Hunter success for big game was good, especially for mule deer.
“The most noteworthy statistic this year was the high number of mule deer checked,” Hemmer said.
Mule deer brought through the check station totaled 713 for the year, which was up 8 percent from last year, and 46 percent above the long-term average. The total mule deer harvest numbers were the highest seen since 2007, and the second most in more than 20 years.
For the year, 142 whitetails were brought through the station, which is 19 percent higher than 2017, but still 10 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 both the 1,000 region-wide 699-00 licenses, in addition to the unlimited single-region B tags,” Hemmer said.
Antelope, whose general season ended on Nov. 11, were 26 percent below 2017 and 78 percent below the long-term average. Sixty-three antelope were brought by the check station this year.
“There were some minor reductions in antelope quotas this year that may have contributed to the lower antelope numbers, but hunter numbers were also down in districts where no quota changes occurred,” Hemmer said.
For the year, 48 elk were brought by the check station, which is one elk above last year’s number and 20 percent above the long-term average.
Upland bird harvest this year was down. For the eight weeks that the check station was open the pheasant harvest of 424 birds is below last year (-17 percent) and the long-term average (-49 percent). Sharp-tailed grouse (47 birds) harvest was about half of last year’s total, and well below the long-term average. Hungarian partridge harvest (19 birds) is also well below last year’s numbers and the long-term average.
“The lower upland bird numbers is likely due to the impact of drought conditions in the summer of 2017 along with the hard winter of 2017-18,” Hemmer said. “Bird hunters focusing on good habitats were still getting into some birds, but most bird hunters reported that this was a tough year for upland bird hunting.
“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.”
Biologists gather a lot of valuable information and biological data on game animals brought through check stations, in addition to sampling for chronic wasting disease this year.