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Hunting season opens with lower numbers

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| October 29, 2009 12:00 AM

Big-game hunting season opened on Sunday with 110 fewer hunters going through the Canoe Gulch.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported that 238 hunters stopped at the check station on Highway 37 near Libby compared to 348 last year.

Throughout all of Region I – which includes six check stations – numbers were down from 2,873 to 2,566. That represents the lowest number since 1999.

The success rate on a regionwide basis was better at 4.4 percent compared to 4.0 percent in 2008. Canoe Gulch had the lowest success rate with only 1 percent of hunters bringing in game. Last year, that number on opening day was 0.6 percent.

Montana’s five-week general season for deer and elk began Sunday a half-hour before dawn. The season ends a half-hour after sunset on Nov. 29.

Breaking down the numbers, Canoe Gulch checked two white-tailed deer, five mule deer and one elk. Last year’s opening day included just two white-tailed deer and no mule deer or elk.

The Swan Valley check station south of Bigfork had the largest number of deer taken, while the Highway 2 check station near Kalispell had the largest number of elk taken. Montana FWP reported “several nice 6-point bull elk were taken” at Swan Valley.

Meanwhile, a hunter at the Olney check station northwest of Kalispell reported the first general season wolf kill in Region 1. Jay Madsen of Kalispell shot the gray wolf in the Lazy Creek vicinity north of Whitefish.

Montana FWP reminds hunters that either-sex whitetails are legal game through Nov. 8. After that, the regulation is buck-only for whitetails for the rest of the season. Mule deer hunting is buck-only all season long; elk is brow-tined bull only. The regulations apply in most Region 1 hunting districts. Hunters ages 12-15 may take antlerless white-tailed deer and antlerless elk in most Region 1 hunting districts.