CAMERON – As general rifle hunting opened across the state last weekend volunteers, staff and biologists with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks were out collecting harvest data from hunters across southwest Montana to keep up to date statistics on big game hunting in the region.
MSU students Christine de Caussin and Amber Knutson (left) survey hunters travelling north on Highway 287 near Cameron on Sunday. Photo by Ben Coulter.
According to a news release for FWP Region 3 issued on Monday, 2,149 hunters passed through five different check stations spread out throughout the area over the weekend. Hunters were asked to participate in a questionnaire about their hunt at stations in Cameron, Divide, Mill Creek, Silver City and the Gallatin Canyon.
On Sunday, three work-study students from Montana State University in Bozeman were busy talking with hunters at the Cameron Check Station about where they went, how they did and what they saw.
“We’re looking at what hunting district they were in, what drainage, the number of hunters, the number of day’s they’ve been out consecutively,” said Brent Cascaddan of Bozeman. “If they’ve seen any bear, wolf, mountain lion scat, tracks, that sort of thing.”
Overall, 7.3 percent of hunters in Region 3 were successful on opening weekend, up from 6.5 percent at the same check stations in 2011. A total of 129 elk, 18 mule deer and 10 whitetail deer were reported this year, compared to 105 elk and 34 deer last year.
Cascaddan and the two other students apparently had their hands full, as a summary of the data issued in Monday’s news release gave Cameron the highest success rate of the five check stations in Region 3. From the 374 hunters who passed through over the weekend, 15.8 percent had harvest game between two whitetail bucks, five mule deer bucks, 11 antelope and 39 elk. Last year the opening weekend success rate in Cameron was 8.2 percent.
The station that saw the most traffic was Silver City with 908 total hunters between Saturday and Sunday. A total of six whitetail, seven mule deer, 47 elk were reported, adding up to a 6.6 percent success rate. Of the 47 elk harvested in the Silver City area 17 were bulls, 22 were cows and 8 were juvenile.
The Gallatin Canyon check station the number of hunters decrease from 317 to 242 and their success rate drop from 6.6 percent to 4.5 percent. A total of 11 elk were reported harvested there this weekend.
Mill Creek hunter traffic increased from 300 last year to 331, and 11 elk were harvested there also with a hunter success rate of 3.3 percent. The check station in Divide saw a 9.9 percent success rate among 294 hunters who harvested two whitetail, six mule deer and 21 elk.
All hunters are required to stop at check stations regardless if they have harvested game. According to the news release the data collected from hunters by the FWP volunteers, staff and biologists helps to compile statistics, determine future hunting seasons and augment species population information.