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This Week in Fish and Wildlife: Montana FWP weighs in on forecast for this year's hunting season

FWP says a tough winter like the last one is good news or bad news for the upcoming hunting season, depending on what species you hunt.
Bull Elk in Montana
Posted at 4:52 PM, Aug 28, 2023

Forecasting what this upcoming hunting season will be like requires Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to look back at not only hunting success last year, but the impact of weather on the various wildlife. An interesting note: a tough winter like last winter was good news, bad news depending on what species you hunt. For elk, tough winter led to better harvest in parts of southwest Montana.

“Some elk populations remain above objective. We actually saw elk populations come above population objective down to within population objective in one hunting district, hunting district 360. And populations remain below objective in hunting district 310, which is the area kind of south of Big Sky,” said Morgan Jaconbsen with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Same tough winter, same area, different species. Wildlife reduced the numbers of pronghorn antelope, and that meant the young ones.

“What looks like about a 30% reduction in the pronghorn herd in the Madison Valley because of winter conditions. Mostly predation that occurred during heavy snowfall,” Jacobsen said.

No one would question the impact of weather. Annual migration happens because of it, so as hunters are gearing up for the 2023 season, Jacobsen says look to the skies and be prepared.

“For hunters, the message we give is wildlife populations are doing fairly well, especially elk and deer and there are plentiful opportunities to harvest these animals," he said. "You know, that harvest may, or that opportunity may change, either in good or bad ways depending on weather, so keep that in mind as you go into hunting season, that weather plays a huge role.”

Archery season begins Saturday; the general hunting season, Oct. 21.