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Hunting season ends strongly

| November 29, 2005 11:00 PM

The 2005 big game season ended on a strong note with the highest number of hunters on record, the highest mule deer and elk harvests on record and the highest white-tail deer harvest since 1996, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks statistics from six checkpoints in the Region One area.

At Canoe Gulch, northeast of Libby on Montana Highway 37, hunters brought in 10 more elk than in 2004 but the take on mule deer and white-tail deer was down from the previous hunting season. Hunters came through the checkpoint with 125 white-taildeer compared to 143 a year ago and they had 100 mule deer compared to 113. There were 33 elk reported at the Canoe Gulch check station.

Hunter numbers for the entire region — basically northwest Montana — were 24,843, the highest on record for the region, hunters checked 1,932 whitetail deer, 372 mule deer and 224 elk. These totals all exceed last year's totals.

The harvest for whitetails was the highest since 1996; mule deer and elk harvest was the highest on record.

According to Bruce Sterling in Thompson Falls, elk hunters had a fabulous season despite the relatively dry conditions. The check station at Thompson Falls reported 97 hunters with elk, significantly higher than the 56 reported in 2004.

The whitetail deer harvest came on strong on the last weekend, said FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams.

Williams said the most accurate measure of deer population trends is the harvest of bucks because of the consistency of the season type over the years.

This year 1,107 whitetail bucks were checked, the second highest number since the six permanent northwest Montana check stations were established in 1996. About 70 percent of the whitetail bucks were four-points or better including a brow point.