Mule deer harvest has been high compared to previous years at the Havre hunter check station, while other big game species and upland birds have been slightly down so far this season.
Over the five weeks the check station has been open, overall hunter numbers are down 7 percent from last year and are 6 percent below the long-term average.
“Muddy, wet weather conditions the first weekend the check station opened may have contributed to the reduction in hunters, and adverse weather conditions last weekend likely led to less hunters being out in the field,” said Scott Hemmer, Havre-area biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Mule deer populations have rebounded in most areas, which has been reflected in the increased harvest, and hunters have consistently indicated they are seeing more deer.
Mule deer harvest to date is 37 percent higher than last year and 5 percent above the long-term average.
“Hunters have also reported seeing more white-tailed deer this year,” Hemmer said. “But this has not been reflected in the harvest, so far.”
For the year, 28 whitetails have been brought through the check station, which is 40 percent fewer than last year and 55 percent fewer than the long-term average.
Antelope harvest this year is down slightly, with 81 antelope being checked. This is a 9 percent decrease from 2016, but still 72 percent below the long-term average. Hemmer notes that part of the reason for the lower long-term antelope harvest has been the reduction of permits since the 2010-11 winter.
“Hunters have reported seeing an increase in antelope compared to the last few years, and that is further indication of populations increasing,” Hemmer said. “Across the region, in response to steadily climbing antelope, we have made more permits available in some hunting districts this year due to increasing populations.”
Elk harvest for the first five weeks is at 27 elk, which is slightly above the long-term average.
For upland birds, the pheasant harvest of 378 birds is below last year (-36 percent) and the long-term average (-49 percent). Sharp-tailed grouse harvest of 51 birds and Hungarian partridge harvest of 27 birds were both down from last year and below the long-term average. Eleven ducks have been brought through the check station.
“The extreme drought conditions this year appear to have affected upland bird brood survival, which can be seen in the lower percentage of juvenile birds in the harvest,” Hemmer said. “Some bird hunters have still reported seeing good bird numbers in areas with good habitat, but overall hunter success has been lower this year.”