2015 Deer Hunting Outlook
Hunters who witnessed a drop in mule deer numbers in many areas of Montana a few years ago will see improving populations this year as favorable weather and habitat conditions kicked in in 2014 and 2015.
Additionally, in many areas of the state, fawn recruitment has been excellent and populations are doing well. Even if you didn’t draw a special permit this year, remember Montana offers numerous opportunities to hunt for deer with just a general hunting license.
Montana’s archery season for deer will close Oct. 18. The general deer season opens Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 29.
FWP wildlife biologists and game wardens will be operating hunter check-stations throughout the state to collect biological information and ensure regulations are followed. All hunters are required to stop at check stations. For more information on Montana’s five-week long general deer hunting season, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, click “Hunting” then click Plan Your Hunt.
Here’s a regional rundown on what deer hunters can expect this season.
Region 6—Northeastern Montana
Mule deer numbers are at or above long term averages in the eastern half of the region and at or below long term averages in the western half. In general, mule deer hunters can expect to see more mule deer as compared to recent years.
White-tailed deer numbers have continued to lag behind mule deer due to EHD outbreaks in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Nonetheless, very good fawn numbers for both white-tailed deer and mule deer have been observed across the region this summer.
Region 7—Southeastern Montana
Spring trend surveys show that mule deer populations are up a healthy 20 percent from last year and are currently 16 percent above the long-term-average. Overwinter survival last year was good, and fawn recruitment this spring was excellent—65 yearlings per 100 adults. Buck ratios are high at 37 bucks per 100 does but there are a lot of young bucks in the population. That’s characteristic of a population undergoing rapid population growth. The mule deer population here is comprised of primarily young, reproductively fit animals. While deer numbers have generally increased region wide, numbers remain below long-term averages in hunting districts 701 and 702.
Last year white-tailed deer caught a break from EHD, with all outbreaks localized in scale and small in magnitude. Whitetail numbers can rebound rapidly from declines, and populations in most parts of the region are recovering well from past EHD outbreaks. Populations continue to be variable throughout the region, however, with numbers ranging from below-average to very high at the local scale. Hunters who do their homework by scouting and visiting with private landowners should have success locating good areas to hunt whitetails.