Buck Deer File

A buck grazes in a field October 11, 2018, in Bozeman.

General hunting season is off to a slow start.

Most of southwest Montana saw lower-than-average hunter participation and success rates during the opening of rifle season, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The agency attributes the low rates to adverse weather and poor travel conditions.

However, out of the seven check stations operated by FWP in Region 3, the Cameron station south of Ennis checked nearly 600 hunters between Saturday and Sunday, which was about 40 hunters above average.

Success rates among the check stations varied from 5.3% at Mill Creek to 9.1% at the Townsend station. Overall, success rates were below average.

FWP biologists at the stations collect data on harvest rates and on the animals harvested — species, sex and age class. Hunters are required by law to stop at check stations regardless of whether they’re successful.

In Region 3 (Beaverhead, Broadwater, Gallatin, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Madison, Park, Silver Bow, and part of Deer Lodge counties), biologists checked 2,657 hunters. In total, hunters harvested 15 white-tailed deer, 35 mule deer and 130 elk in the region. The Cameron station saw an above average number of white-tailed deer harvests.

Even though snow made travel difficult during opening weekend, winter conditions are generally favorable for hunting. It gets animals moving and makes them easier to track.

In a news release, Howard Burt, FWP’s Region 3 wildlife manager in Bozeman, said snow and winter weather can improve success rates.

“This could bode well for hunter opportunity and success if these conditions continue,” Burt said.

Montana’s general deer and elk hunting season ends Dec. 1.