Mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk taken by hunters was lower than long-term averages at Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Augusta check station this hunting season.
“The mule deer harvest was 31% below the 10-year average and 15% below last year,” said Brent Lonner, FWP wildlife biologist. “Elk harvest was 32% below the 10-year average and 4% below last year.”
The numbers apply only to a handful of hunting districts on the Rocky Mountain Front.
Whitetails taken by hunters were consistently above average all season but dropped the last week of the season. Overall harvest was 8% below the 10-year average and 12% below last year’s total harvest, Lonner said.
Hunter numbers were down, too: 2,850 hunters stopped at FWP’s Augusta check station this year. That’s a drop of 25% from the 10-year average, and the lowest number since 2002.
For elk hunters, Lonner said, weather was probably a factor: “Elk harvest success this year was best during the first half of the season, which was associated with somewhat better hunting conditions and a stronger hunting effort.”
For mule deer and whitetails more than half the total harvest occurred the last two weeks of the season, about the same time as the peak of the deer breeding season.
Most of the mule deer harvest came from Hunting Districts 422, 425 and 442. Nearly half the whitetails came from HD 444.
Elk hunters this year brought in 213 animals (78 bulls, 122 cows and 13 calves) compared to the 10-year average of 332 elk.
Mule deer numbered 166 bucks, 16 does and one fawn for a total of 183. The 10-year average is 266.
With whitetails, the count in Augusta was 283 (140 bucks, 104 does and 39 fawns); while the 10-year average is 307.
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Looking at individual hunting districts, HD 442, which had a quota of 100 brow-tined or antlerless elk, finished at 86 elk harvested (44 bulls, 39 cows, three calves), compared to 93 last year and 142 the year before.
Hunting district 424 had a quota of 10 elk and finished at eight (seven bulls and one cow).
Total elk harvest from HDs 424, 425 and 442, which are known as the Sun River elk herd, amounted to 160 animals (57 bulls, 95 cows, and eight calves).
In HD 425, which includes the Sun River Wildlife Management Area, 60 antlerless elk were taken by hunters who held one of the 90 B licenses specific to that hunting district.
All five of the HD 425 either-sex elk licenses were successful.
By the Dec. 1 end of the season it was estimated there was roughly 700 to 800 elk on the Sun River WMA.
In HD 422 the elk harvest was 40% below the 10-year average harvest with a total of 52 elk checked (22 bulls, 26 cows, four calves).
The Rocky Mountain Front is also popular with bighorn sheep hunters, and all the 11 either-sex sheep hunters in sheep hunting districts 421, 422, 423 and 424 took rams. Average age (horn growth rings) of the 11 rams taken was 8.9 years old, the same as last year.
“This year’s data collection went smoothly at the Augusta check station,” Lonner said, “because of check station technicians: Houston Thompson, Dan Lowe, Laurie Stone and Kerry Bouchard as well as area game warden Brady Murphy.
“The Augusta check station’s value always proves its importance each fall,” Lonner said, “and is in no small part due to our workers’ efforts, attention to detail and communication skills.”