Numbers, satisfaction strong at season's last check stations
December 8, 2017
Hunters visiting FWP Region 7 wrapped up their 2017 big game season on November 26, with all check stations reporting good weather, respectable harvest rates and ample opportunities to harvest game.
With minor variations in weather over the weeks, the theme of the 2017 season has been plentiful deer, plenty of chances to bag something, and hunters generally pleased with their time afield.
Ashland check station
Closing day was much quieter at the Ashland check station compared to previous check stations this season. Hunters again enjoyed nice, warm weather with light winds.
According to FWP Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Ryan DeVore, a total of 79 parties came through the Ashland station, with a total of 153 hunters. Forty-four percent of hunters were successful, while 76 percent had an opportunity to harvest the species they were chasing.
“All hunters primarily pursued big game,” DeVore said. “Most hunters had a quality experience, with 90 percent of them being satisfied with their time afield.”
The Ashland FWP crew checked 53 mule deer (40 bucks, 10 does, 3 fawns) and 17 white-tailed deer (16 bucks, 1 fawn).
“All in all, hunters coming through the Ashland check station in 2017 had good success, observed robust game numbers and thoroughly enjoyed their experiences,” DeVore said.
DeVore was assisted at the check station by Region 7 Wildlife Manager John Ensign, Region 7 Warden Captain Jack Austin, and two of Austin's sons, Christopher and Cooper.
Custer check station
“I don’t think the weather hurt,” said Wildlife Biologist Steve Atwood of the warmer conditions on closing weekend. “My personal opinion, people get out and enjoy the weather. It may not be the most optimal for hunting, but people get out there. People wish for cold, but when it gets there, they stay home.”
The Custer crew saw 151 hunters come through in 82 parties, which is up from the five-year average of 66 parties and 132 hunters. Sixty-four percent of those hunters harvested game, close to average.
The station had 58 mule deer come through – 44 bucks and 14 does, which is just up from average numbers, and the 34 white-tailed deer checked – 26 bucks and 8 does - were about average. Two bull elk and three cows also made it through the check station, right on average.
“By party, almost every group was successful,” Atwood said. “Some could have harvested animals, but a lot were secondary hunters more or less along for the ride.”
“Almost everyone had critters, and others had opportunities but chose not to. Across the board, it was just a lot of happy hunters,” he said.
According to Atwood, it was a positive year in terms of hunters coming through check stations.
“Most accounts were for seeing a lot of deer, strong numbers,” he said.
All reports point to strong mule deer numbers, and white-tailed deer numbers were up throughout the season.
The general big game season may be over, but it’s shaping up to be a good waterfowl season. The check station crew counted 66 geese on the day.
“Duck and goose hunting is starting to get really good because we’re starting to see large pushes of migrating geese, accompanied by fairly good groups of puddle ducks,” said Region 7 Upland Game Bird Biologist Justin Hughes.
Hughes and Atwood were joined at Ashland by Region 7 Supervisor Brad Schmitz, Wildlife Biologist Jesse Kolar and Non-game Biologist Brandi Skone.
Glendive check station
Things were steady at the Glendive check station for closing weekend, according to Region 7 Wildlife Biologist Melissa Foster.
“Many folks had already notched most of their tags and were either joining friends and family who hadn’t yet found ‘the one’ or were looking to fill the freezer with some last-minute game meat,” she said. “Some were out primarily looking to fill extra antlerless licenses, and most of those were finding success.”
“We talked to several hunters who had been out hunting with family over the Thanksgiving weekend, which is what it’s all about,” Foster said. “Mild weather meant that some folks were coming through in shorts and T-shirts, a very abnormal thing for the general season closer.”
Deer hunters were happy, but upland game bird hunters weren’t finding as much luck after drought impacted recruitment.
“As we’ve seen throughout the season, hunters were reporting poor bird numbers throughout the area,” she said.
Foster was joined at the Glendive station by Region 7 Warden Ryan Karren.