The Rut Kicks in as Hunting Season Reaches Final Weeks

By DILLON TABISH for the Flathead Beacon

With the rut in full swing, the annual big game hunting season is counting down in Montana.

The last day to hunt deer and elk is Nov. 30.

The action noticeably picked up in the last week, likely due to the arrival of the rut, when deer begin mating and become less cautious in the outdoors, giving hunters a better chance at harvesting a nice buck.

In the past week, hunters in Northwest Montana harvested 169 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer and 10 elk, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks check stations.

So far, the deer and elk harvest are about the same as last year, according to check station results from around Region One.

Deer. Photo via shutterstock

At the six check stations, a total of 11,233 hunters have checked 597 white-tailed deer — including 511 bucks — and 108 mule deer and 38 elk as of Nov. 17.

That equals a 6.6 percent rate of hunters with game, compared to this time last year when 6.2 percent of hunters reported success.

Hunter numbers continue to be down slightly, with roughly 600 fewer so far this year, according to FWP.

The counts at the check stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.

Hunters have taken 19 wolves in this corner of the state. Statewide, hunters have taken 68 wolves. The wolf take is behind last year at this same point in the season.

The wolf management unit near Glacier National Park, which is regulated with a quota of two wolves, has not seen any reported kills yet.

The general rifle season for wolves is open through March 15. The trapping season opens Dec. 15 and closes Feb. 28.

Deer and elk hunters have had the best luck in the Olney area, where 9.9 percent of people have reported harvesting big game. The U.S. Highway 2 area is the second most productive spot locally, with 7.5 percent of hunters reporting game. The vast majority have been white-tailed deer — 264 have been harvested in the area, the most in Northwest Montana.

Hunters up the North Fork continue to struggle, and only 2.5 percent of people have reported harvesting an animal. The Swan region has seen the second lowest success rate – 4.6 percent.

“The cold and the rut should give an advantage to hunters over the next two weeks,” FWP Region One Supervisor Jim Williams said.

Hunters are reminded that it is buck-only for whitetails in Northwest Montana. Antlerless whitetails remain legal game for youth 12-15 years of age, and some qualifying 11 year olds. Mule deer are buck-only for the entire season. Elk are brow-tine bull only. Spike bull elk are not legal game for any hunter in Region One.

Hunters should refer to the hunting regulations for the hunting district they plan to hunt.

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