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Northwest Montana hunters have successful opening weekend

by Daily Inter Lake
| October 26, 2021 1:00 PM

The start of the general deer and elk hunting season produced the highest number of harvested white-tailed deer at game check stations in Northwest Montana since 2017.

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks information, hunters in Region 1 reported harvesting 209 white-tailed deer, including 102 bucks, as well as 12 mule deer and 21 elk at four check stations.

“We predicted a slight increase in white-tailed deer population due to high fawn recruitment after two years of mild winter,” said Neil Anderson, FWP Regional Wildlife Manager.

Across Region 1, 13.5% of hunters checked in with game, well above the 6.7% reported in 2019.

The overall number of hunters reported at check stations was down, possibly due to hunters being confused about whether stopping was required. Last year, mandatory regional check stations were replaced with voluntary chronic wasting disease sample stations.

This year, FWP is back operating mandatory game check stations at specific locations on weekends from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The stations are located at U.S. 2 west of Kalispell, Montana 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls and U.S. 93 near Olney.

The check station on U.S. 2 West had the high totals of white-tails with 102. The Thompson Falls check station recorded eight elk, with six elk recorded at U.S. 2 West and five in the Swan Valley.

THIS YEAR, FWP will continue surveillance for chronic wasting disease in specific areas known as Priority Surveillance Areas. In Northwest Montana, those areas include Hunting Districts 100, 103, 104, 120, 121, 122 and 170. In those specific areas, hunters are asked to voluntarily submit a sample from their animal. For instructions on how or where to submit a sample, visit fwp.mt.gov/cwd.

Testing for CWD is voluntary throughout the state. FWP will assist hunters with sample collection and submission. In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at game check stations when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory. FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.

A CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1.5 hours past sunset at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town. Hunters are not required to stop at the Libby CWD sampling station.  

Hunters who want their animal sampled should leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.

To help prevent the spread of CWD, all carcasses, including the head and spinal column, must be disposed of in a class II landfill after butchering and processing. Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. This requirement applies to all deer, elk, and moose carcasses harvested by hunters or as vehicle-killed salvage.

Contact a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office for more information. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.