Nov. 10—Montana's general hunting season is hitting the midway point and the overall harvest is expected to increase with the onset of the deer breeding season.
The general deer and elk hunting season concludes Nov. 26.
The deer breeding season, known as the "rut," typically begins in early-to-mid November.
So far this season, nearly 4,600 hunters have appeared at regional game check stations. Harvest results at the regional check stations are slower than a year ago while the number of hunters reported is slightly higher.
Check stations are open on weekends during general deer and elk hunting season from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The regional stations are located at U.S. Highway 2 West of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney.
Hunters must stop at any check station they encounter whether they harvested an animal or not. The counts at the stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.
In 2022, the percentage of hunters with game at check stations was 9%. This year, it's 7.1.
So far in 2023, hunters have reported 268 white-tailed deer, including 150 bucks. Thirty-four mule deer have been reported along with 24 elk.
For an estimate of big game harvests from years' past, visit https://myfwp.mt.gov/fwpPub/harvestReports.
Region 1 reminders — Hunters should plan ahead and review the regulations for each hunting district they plan to hunt. — Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only in Region 1 (northwest Montana) except in Hunting District 170, unless a hunter has an antlerless elk permit. Certain hunting districts also allow hunters who posses a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV) to harvest an antlerless elk (check regulations for specifics). A brow-tined bull is defined as, "any elk having an antler or antlers with a visible point on the lower half of either main beam that is greater than or equal to four inches long." — Hunters who purchased the limited 199-20 either-sex white-tailed deer B license can only use that license within the Libby CWD Management Zone. For more info, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/cwd. — Many private lands that were historically owned by corporate timber companies have changed ownership, and hunters should review the Block Management Program for Region 1 to view available public access opportunities and restrictions on private lands. Visit https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/landownerprograms/block-management. — The toll-free hotline for reporting wildlife poaching, property damage, and violations of Montana fish and game laws is in operation 24 hours a day. If you witness a fish and game violation, or property vandalism, you can report the crime by calling 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668); or report a violation online at fwp.mt.gov. Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) is voluntary throughout the state. FWP can assist hunters with sample collection and submission, or hunters can submit samples themselves.
CWD is a fatal disease that infects members of the deer family, including elk, moose, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Hunters play a key role in minimizing the spread of CWD and providing data.
In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their harvested animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at weekend game check stations across the region when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory.
A CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1.5 hours past sunset at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town. Hunters are not required to stop at the Libby CWD sampling station.
FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.
Hunters who want their animal sampled should leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.
To help prevent the spread of CWD, all carcasses, including the head and spinal column, must be disposed of in a class II landfill after butchering and processing. Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. This requirement applies to all deer, elk, and moose carcasses harvested by hunters or as vehicle-killed salvage.
For a list of proper landfills for disposal, instructional videos, and more info on CWD in Montana, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/cwd.