Overall, hunter numbers were about average this year, mule deer harvest was well above average, and other big game and bird harvests were below average at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Havre check station for the 2019 hunting season.
The check station was open for eight weekends; from Oct. 12 (the open of general antelope) through Dec. 1 (the end of the deer/elk general season).
Hunter numbers (1,739) were down 10% from 2018, and 3% above the long-term average. Havre-area biologist Scott Hemmer, who manages the station, said “Weather conditions this year were not a major obstacle to hunter participation or success, but there were some stretches of time where muddy roads affected hunter access.”
Deer hunter reports on their hunting experience and success were good this year. “The most noteworthy statistic this year was the high number of mule deer checked,” Hemmer said.
Mule deer brought through the check station totaled 680 for the year, which was down 5% from last year, but 37% above the long-term average. “There were additional mule deer B tags issued this year, which may have helped contribute to the high mule deer numbers,” Hemmer said.
For the year, 109 whitetails were brought by the station, which was 23% lower than 2018, and still 21% below the long-term average.
“Hunters reported seeing increasing white-tailed deer numbers over the last few years, even if this was not reflected in the harvest,” Hemmer noted.
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Antelope, whose general season ended on Nov. 10, were 27% above 2018 but still 70% below the long-term average. Eighty antelope were brought by the check station this year.
“Antelope populations and license quotas in many districts are still below the long-term average due in part to the effect from the severe winter weather of 2017-2018, and other winters before that,” Hemmer said. “In addition, antelope hunter reports were highly variable depending on location, and this may have been due to antelope moving and concentrating earlier this year due to early fall snowstorms.”
For the year, 22 elk were brought by the check station, which is about half of last year’s number and 44% below the long-term average. “Reports from elk hunters this year were less favorable,” noted Hemmer. “Muddy roads limited hunter access in some areas and other hunters reported difficulty in finding elk on publicly accessible property.”
Upland bird harvest this year was still down, although it did appear to have improved slightly from last year. For the eight weeks that the check station was open the pheasant harvest of 501 birds is above last year (18%), but still below the long-term average (-37%). Sharp-tailed grouse harvest (63 birds) was above last year’s total, but about half of the long-term average. Hungarian partridge harvest (19 birds) was the same as last year and well below the long-term average.
“The continued 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. “However, pheasant production seemed better this year with 81% of the harvest consisting of juvenile birds.”
“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. FWP appreciates all hunters’ cooperation in this effort. Note that the harvest data described includes only animals that were brought through the Havre check station and is only a partial representation of the region-wide harvest.