Bow hunters taking to the woods last weekend for the opening of big game archery season, found tough conditions as temperatures continued to be hot and conditions dry.
“I can say it was slow,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden Ryan Gosse. “People were seeing animals. There was some harvest in the southern Gravellys, but the animals were high or in dark, hard to reach places.”
Typically early archery season can be warm, but this summer has been exceptionally dry, said Gina Loss, from the National Weather Service in Great Falls.
In August, the average precipitation from weather stations around the state was .6 inches – the driest August since 2001.
“There was less than 50 percent of normal precipitation in most place,” Loss said. “August was incredibly dry.”
Despite the conditions, there were some scattered thunderstorms over the weekend that helped some, Gosse said.
“The rain, though it didn’t do much for the fires, it did soften the ground,” he said. “It was a lot quieter out there.”
When it’s this warm, elk tend to gravitate toward cooler areas either in dark north facing canyons or at higher elevations, Gosse said.
This is also the time of year when elk begin to rut and are much more vocal. He did get some reports of bugling elk over the weekend, but the rut doesn’t seem to have moved into full swing.
Archery season is also a time of year when grizzly bear encounters become more likely as hunters are sneaking quietly through the woods at a time when bears are thinking about putting on weight for the winter.
Officials at FWP advise archery hunters to always hunt in pairs and carry bear spray. Other tips are to always be on the look out for bear sign, get harvested game out of the woods quickly; if you have to return to retrieve game, leave it in an area you can see from a distance. If you find a bear on your animal carcass, or it is covered with debris and is unsalvageable, contact FWP.
People have recently reported grizzly bear sign in the Indian Creek drainage and along the Johnny Ridge Road in the Gravelly Mountains, Gosse said.
But people can expect to encounter grizzlies anywhere and should always be prepared, he said.
Some hunters who frequent grizzly bear country are trying to do more stand and stationary hunting, rather than stalking through the woods, Gosse said. But archery hunters should remember that elk calls can sometimes pique the curiosity of predators as well.
And though nights are beginning to cool as summer fades toward fall, temperatures should remain warm and dry for the next week, Loss said.
However, this time of year change can come quickly.
“You can see the beginning of some change, it’s just not gained full footing yet,” she said.