Bull Elk Silhouettes

Four bull elk are silhouetted at dusk on a hillside ridge west of Gallatin Gateway recently.

Hunting season ends this weekend, and so far hunters in southwestern Montana have been having a tough year as weather conditions allow the state’s marquee big game animals to stay in the high country for longer.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks released the latest round of hunter harvest numbers last week, which showed that hunter success for the second to last weekend fell below average throughout the region. The release said that though temperatures dropped recently, the lack of significant snow or rain has allowed elk and deer to stay at higher elevations and put off moving to their winter range.

Last weekend, FWP ran four check stations and saw a little more than 1,000 hunters, but they only saw 79 harvested deer and elk.

The highest number of hunters and animals were seen at the Cameron check station, which is south of Ennis. FWP counted 463 hunters. Those hunters harvested four white-tailed deer, 11 mule deer and 20 elk.

The highest rate of success was documented at Alder, where 140 hunters were checked. FWP calculated the success rate to be 10 percent, as they counted 14 harvested animals.

Low hunter success numbers were reported earlier in the season, too, especially after early November’s temperatures rose above 60 degrees. FWP’s check stations on the third week saw just more than 1,000 hunters. Again during that week the station near Alder saw the highest percentage of successful hunters, with roughly 20 percent of the hunters passing through having harvested a deer or elk.

FWP requires all hunters that travel past a check station to stop, no matter whether they are successful or not.

Also this week, wolf hunting closed in wolf management unit 313, outside Yellowstone National Park. The annual quota for wolf hunting there had been met.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

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