High-country snow slows south central Montana hunting, deer harvest

Widespread snow that accumulated to two feet in the high country kept many hunters at home over the weekend, leading a near-record low turnout at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations in south central Montana.
The number of checked animals – particularly deer – reflected the fact that fewer hunters took to the field during the third weekend of the 2017 general big game season.
Here are some specifics from the five FWP check stations operated over the weekend in south central Montana:
COLUMBUS
The number of hunters who stopped at FWP’s Columbus check station Saturday and Sunday was the second lowest on record for the third weekend of the general big-game season and 21 percent below last year. The number of checked white-tailed deer and elk were above last year while the mule deer count was down just one, making the percentage of hunter with game up sharply from 2016.
FWP wildlife biologist Shawn Stewart said two feet of fresh snow along the Beartooth Front made hunter access difficult and kept many home for the weekend.
Stewart checked 139 hunters over the weekend, down from 175 on the same weekend in 2016 and below the long-term average of 195. Those hunters checked 16 white-tailed deer – up from 10 a year ago but below the long-term average of 23 – and 29 mule deer, down just one from a year ago but still well under the long-term average of 47. The elk harvest continues to be a bright spot with eight animals checked, up from six during the same weekend in 2016 the long-term average of three.
Forty percent of hunters who stopped at Columbus had harvested animals, well above last year’s 27 percent and one point above the long-term average of 39 percent.
BIG TIMBER
Deep, new snow in the high country kept many hunters home and limited the deer harvest measured at FWP’s Big Timber check station during the past weekend.
FWP wildlife biologist Justin Paugh checked 103 hunters Saturday and Sunday – the third weekend of the 2017 general big-game season. That was 10 fewer than the same weekend in 2016 and well below the long-term average of 142.
Hunters checked seven white-tailed deer – down from 13 a year ago and a long-term average of 20. They also brought in 20 mule deer – down from 27 in 2016 and a long-term average of 29. Elk remained a bright spot at the Big Timber check station with 12 checked over the weekend – up from four a year ago and a long-term average of 6 for the third weekend of the season.
Of those who stopped at Big Timber, 46 percent had harvested game – the same as last year and down five percentage points from the long-term average. 

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