Big game season ends with a flurry

The 2010 general big game season turned out to be one of the most successful in years for hunters around southwest Montana.

The winter weather that blanketed the region during the last two weekends of the season made for good hunting, said Kurt Alt, region wildlife manager with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Bozeman.

In the Madison Valley hunter success during the last two weekends of the season pushed harvest totals well above their annual average.

At FWP’s game check station in Cameron, 323 elk were checked this season, which is up from 198 elk last year. Nearly 15 percent of hunters through the check station had game during the 2010 season, which is the highest rate for all seven region 3 check stations.

“The last nine days were really a great end of the season this year, and not just in the Madison but pretty much throughout the region,” Alt said.

The Cameron check station was opened only on weekends through the hunting season. During the last 10 days of the season hunters shot a lot of elk in the Madison Valley, he said.

However, getting a good idea of how many elk were killed is going to take some time, Alt said. The agency will conduct counts later this winter and match up those numbers with data compiled by the end of the season survey of hunters who bought tags.

Last winter in the Madison Valley, there were about 4,200 countable elk, he said. This year’s general season harvest could cut into that number a bit more than last year’s harvest did.

However, elk are now on their winter range in the Madison Valley, which can present some conflicts with landowners, Alt said.

The agency is now shifting into a game damage and management mode to address specific conflicts between landowners and elk, he said.

“We will definitely be dealing with game damage as usual,” Alt said. “Using hunters to move animals away from point source problems.”

The agency has a game damage roster that hunters signed up for last summer. Hunters on the roster will be called up as necessary to help disperse elk away from problem areas, he said.

“The big thing is damage and management seasons get dictated by conditions on a daily and monthly basis,” Alt said.

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