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General Season Opens With Mild Weather, Average Hunter Success In Southwestern Montana

Montana’s general hunting season kicked off on Saturday with below-average hunter participation and near-average hunter success in many areas of southwestern Montana, despite seasonably mild weather.

Wildlife biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks use check stations to collect data on hunter participation and success, as well as the species, sex and age class of the animals harvested. This supplements data collected through hunter harvest phone surveys each year.

Over opening weekend, biologists operated six check game check stations in the region and met with 1,979 hunters. Those hunters collectively harvested 106 elk, 26 mule deer and 16 white-tailed deer, among other species. Weather over the weekend was sunny and warm in many areas of the region.

Most check stations saw lower-than-average hunter numbers for opening weekend, including the Alder, Ennis, Gallatin, Mill Creek and Townsend check stations. Hunter success was at or above average for opening weekend at the Ennis, Gallatin, Mill Creek and Townsend check stations. The Divide check station saw average hunter numbers, and both the Divide and Alder check stations saw lower-than-average hunter success.

These figures do not account for different hunting season regulations over the years, which have varied from liberal to restrictive for elk and mule deer, depending on population status.

To download a check station summary table from opening weekend in Region 3, click here.

Be bear aware

FWP reminds hunters that bears will remain active throughout the general season, and hunters should be prepared for bear encounters. Montana is bear country. Grizzly bear populations continue to become denser and more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year.

People who hunt in places that have or may have grizzly bears—which includes areas of Montana west of Billings—should take special precautions:

  • Carry bear spray and practice to be prepared to use it immediately.

  • Look for bear sign and be cautious around creeks and areas with limited visibility.

  • Hunt with a group of people. Making localized noise can help alert bears to your presence.

  • Be aware that elk calls and cover scents can attract bears.

  • Bring the equipment and people needed to help field dress game and remove the meat from the kill site as soon as possible.

  • If you need to leave part of the meat in the field during retrieval, hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 150 yards from the gut pile. Leave it where it can be observed from a distance of at least 200 yards.

  • Upon your return, observe the meat with binoculars. If it has been disturbed or if a bear is in the area, leave and call FWP.

For more information and resources on bear safety, visit

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