Fewer hunters than usual took to western Montana’s unseasonably snowy mountains during general rifle season this fall.
Those who did found greater success than last year — especially with elk. Totals of mule deer and white-tail deer killed this season were more varied. The general rifle season for big game closed Sunday. Deer and elk season, which began in late October, was marked by unseasonably cold and snowy fall weather from the start, leaving hunters who braved wintry conditions to contend with snow, ice and mud.
Across the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 2, which covers the central western Montana counties of Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli, Granite and Powell, along with far-northern portions of Deer Lodge and Silver Bow counties, overall hunter turnout was its lowest in five years. As of Sunday, 8,623 hunters passed through the region’s three primary stations during the Oct. 22 through Nov. 27 season. That was down from 8,979 last year, 9,304 in 2020 and 10,225 in 2019.
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Individually, hunter counts were down at each of the region’s primary check stations in Darby, Anaconda and Bonner, as well as