State wildlife officials report that the 2020 general big game hunting season closed on Nov. 29 with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ (FWP) west-central Montana check stations reporting above-average hunter success in the Bitterroot and Upper Clark Fork, and lower success in the Blackfoot.
Hunter numbers at the FWP Darby, Anaconda and Bonner check stations were lower than average, partly a result of reduced staffing and hours of operation due to COVID-19 operating procedures. Those that stopped through the stations reported above-average success in some places.
Hunters checked at Darby enjoyed the highest success (7.8%) since 2013 and at Anaconda (9.8%) in more than 20 years. Hunter success at Bonner climbed in the last two weeks to 8.3%, down only slightly from last year.
“We didn’t know what to expect this year, with all the influences of the pandemic at play, alongside the usual curveballs that weather can throw at hunters,” said Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “All in all, we can say that nothing unusual stood out in this harvest sample, which tends to represent hunting effort on public lands.”
As far as total animals checked at the region’s three stations, harvest levels at Darby were on par with the past three years, totaling 169 elk, 29 mule deer and 72 white-tailed deer.
Harvest levels at Bonner were down from recent years for all three species (35 elk, 31 mule deer and 354 white-tailed deer), though whitetail harvest increased in the past two weeks to finish at 97% of last year’s tally.
At Anaconda, harvest levels for elk (35) were higher than last year’s, despite the fact that the check station was closed in the third weekend due to illness. The mule deer (16) and white-tailed deer (26) harvests at Anaconda were lower than last year, but within the normal range.
“Hunting regulations didn’t change much between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, and last year was a mild winter,” Thompson said. “Given that, we hoped to see a harvest that tracked with last season, and we did with a few localized exceptions that we’ll follow up on with other survey work.”
The general season closed on Nov. 29 but extended hunting opportunities continue for some hunters in west-central Montana that already hold some special licenses. Click here for more information.