Yellowstone Young Elk

Yellowstone Young Elk

Fewer hunters turned out for the general hunting season this year, and the relatively mild weather made it challenging to find game in parts of southwest Montana, according to a Fish, Wildlife and Parks release this week.

Success rates for the season, which ended Dec. 1, were within long-term averages but varied across the region.

The Cameron check station, south of Ennis and the most trafficked in the area, saw 2,367 hunters this season — the lowest since 2013 when 2,212 passed through the station.

Data from the six weekends of the general season indicate Cameron had an average elk harvest with 168 recorded, an average white-tailed deer harvest with 22 recorded and a below average mule deer harvest with 37 recorded.

FWP also tracked whether the elk counted at the Cameron station were harvested on private or public land. The majority — 111 or 66% — were taken on public land.

The Gallatin Canyon check station didn’t see great success during the final two weekends of the season. FWP’s data showed a 7.4% success rate for hunters passing through that check station on weekend 5 and a 5.5% success rate on the final weekend of the season.

The 213 hunters that stopped at Mill Creek during the fifth and sixth weekends of the season brought in two mule deer and nine elk but no white-tailed deer.

The Divide checkpoint counted two white-tailed deer, 14 mule deer and 19 elk from the 409 hunters who passed through on the fifth and sixth weekends of the season.

Alder saw 163 hunters who brought in five white-tailed deer, six mule deer and 15 elk on the season’s sixth weekend.

That same weekend, 154 hunters stopped at the Silver City station with one white-tailed deer, three mule deer and five elk.

As always, weather played a critical role in the season. Strong winter storms deterred many hunters during opening weekend and freeze-thaw cycles over the remainder of the season made it difficult to find game in some spots, according to a FWP news release.

Now that the season has ended, FWP is beginning its biannual process of setting dates for the next two hunting seasons. The state agency will present and solicit feedback on proposals at meetings this winter, including one in Bozeman on Jan. 15.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2638.