Remember the good ol' days (Saturday) when the bright sun was shining and the temperatures were in the 70s?

Wow, how things changed rapidly this week! But, if there were any complaints about the weather on the opening day of Montana's general big hunting season, they likely would be that it was just too nice for a lot of successful harvests.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tells us that the 2023 Montana big game general hunting season opener Saturday saw hunters in the west-central part of the state checking in a few less animals than in recent years. But it was hardly a complete shutout.


Using only 2022 as a comparison, the check stations near Anaconda, Bonner, Fish Creek, and Darby saw 2,132 hunters collectively for the 2023 opening weekend. Hunters checked in a total of 131 animals: 76 elk, 15 mule deer, 39 white-tailed deer, and one black bear.

In 2022, 2,016 hunter stops during the opening weekend tallied a total of 195 animals: 84 elk, 18 mule deer, 90 white-tailed deer and three black bears.


Anaconda: 4.7%

Bonner: 5.8%

Darby: 7.1%

Fish Creek: 3.9%


Anaconda: 6.2%

Bonner: 10.8%

Darby: 7.1%

Fish Creek: 6.0%


Montana FWP says that harvest was slower than last year in part due to the warm weather, especially on Saturday. Deer harvest has been light so far, and most of the elk that came through the Darby check station were out of the Big Hole Valley.

There is also the suggestion that many experienced hunters in Montana wait for the opening weekend hoopla to die down before they go into the field. With much cooler temperatures and snow in some locations, hunting conditions may change quickly, prompting more hunter success as animals begin to move around and into some lower elevation areas.

Hunter wildlife check stations sample a small portion of the effort and harvests across the regions, but they track important trends and biological information. Remember, hunters must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals.

Good luck, hunters, during the remainder of the big game season through November 26.

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