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Cold weather doesn't deter SE Montana hunters

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Check station

FWP Region 7 wildlife manager Brett Dorak ages a mule deer buck while a hunter looks on at the Ashland check station on Nov. 13.

MILES CITY – Despite the wintry conditions that marked the closing weekend of pronghorn season, a lot of hunters still came through southeastern Montana check stations on Sunday.

Hysham

Sixty-five hunting parties and 130 hunters passed through, bringing six antelope (two bucks, four does/fawns), 38 mule deer (36 bucks, two does) and 34 white-tailed deer (20 bucks, 14 does) and one elk.

“The number of total mule deer checked was below average, but that is to be expected with the purposeful reduction in Region 7 antlerless mule deer licenses,” said FWP biologist Steve Atwood. “Mule deer buck harvest was typical for the third weekend of the general season, and several quality bucks for the area were checked.”

The white-tailed deer harvest was above average for this point in the hunting season. Overall harvest rates were average, with 60% of hunters bringing something home. In general, hunters reported seeing fewer deer than last year, but most had a chance to harvest a deer and were satisfied with their hunting opportunity.

Ashland

Hunter traffic at the Ashland check station was slightly less busy than typical for the closing weekend of pronghorn season, with a total of 62 parties (average of 78), or 149 hunters (average of 165). Hunter success rate was 31%, which is near the five-year average for this weekend of the season.

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Harvest included 28 mule deer (24 bucks, four does), 10 white-tailed deer (six bucks, four does), five elk (three cows, two spike bulls) and five female pronghorn.

“Overall, hunter perceptions on deer numbers were a mixed bag,” said wildlife biologist Ryan DeVore. “Some groups saw quite a few deer, others observed moderate numbers, and several parties saw very few compared to normal.”

According to DeVore, “Mule deer numbers have declined in the southern portion of Region 7 due to the severe, extended drought in 2020 and 2021. Additionally, white-tailed deer numbers have been impacted by hemorrhagic disease (EHD and/or bluetongue virus) that hit in some spots in 2021 and 2022.”

Mosby

The Mosby check station operated for the second time for the pronghorn closer.

“It was cold and snowy, with lows in the negative 20s over the weekend, which likely kept a lot of hunters at home,” said wildlife biologist Emily Mitchell. “We saw 79 hunters, with 31 of those being successful – slightly fewer than last year.”

That translates to a 39% harvest success rate.

Four antelope (three bucks, one doe), one cow elk, 23 mule deer (19 bucks, four does), and seven white-tailed deer (four bucks, three does) were checked.

“Many hunters did report seeing fewer deer,” Mitchell said, “but most hunters also said with a little extra work they got the job done and were happy with the animal they were taking home.”

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