Heavy snowfall and cold temperatures have made for good hunting conditions in north-central Montana during the 2022 general rifle hunting season. But despite the favorable weather, the overall harvest as well as the number of hunters checked continues to remain well below average at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s Region 4 check station in Augusta.
Through Sunday, Nov. 20, more than 1,700 hunters have been checked through the station, which is about one-third below recent average. Although hunter numbers are down substantially, hunter success remains at or above recent average, demonstrating that hunting and harvest opportunity exists for those hunters who are willing to put in the effort in and around the Augusta area.
The overall harvest of big game animals also remains at about 30% below recent average but is still an improvement over this time last year. A total of 446 big game animals have been checked so far this season, 95% of which are deer and elk.
Mule and white-tailed deer continue to be the dominant animals in the harvest tally, amounting to just over 60% of the total big game checked. However, mule and white-tail harvest remain at 33% and 23%, below recent average respectively. As is normally the case, buck harvest comprises a large proportion of the total deer harvest, especially for mule deer, and hunters report heavy rutting activity has helped them find some nice bucks during the past week.
Elk harvest is currently lagging the farthest behind normal at approximately 37% below average, with harvest totals evenly split between bull and antlerless elk. Given heavy early snow and cold temperatures, much of the Sun River elk herd has already migrated from their backcountry summer areas onto their winter range on the Sun River WMA. Both the 442 and 424 elk quotas have been met, so brow-tined bull hunting remains valid within these areas until the end of the general rifle hunting season.
Entering the last week of the general rifle season, hunters can expect to encounter a wide range of conditions both while hunting and driving to their hunting areas and should be properly prepared. Despite the recent wintery weather, there have also been reports of grizzly bear activity, so hunters are urged to remain bear aware at all times.
The check station operated by FWP along Main Street in Augusta is the only biological check station in Region 4 and operates seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. Hunters are reminded that they must stop at any check station they pass while hunting, whether or not they have harvested game. Biological check stations are intended primarily for biologists to gather trends and statistical information about animals and hunters.
The general deer and elk seasons runs through Nov. 27.