Time is running out for hunters in Mineral County
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 2 wildlife biologist Liz Bradley has been checking deer at the Fish Creek station. (Monte Turner/Mineral Independent)
By MONTE TURNER
Mineral County is in the Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Region 2 headquartered out of Missoula.
Over 62% of the region is public land, but here in Mineral County, we have over 90% that is public and huntable. However, much of our backyard is near vertical. With thick timber. ‘Young Man’s Area’ is what many older hunters say usually from the voice of experience.
But nonetheless, miles and miles of land available to hunt by foot, vehicle, ATV, horse or mule makes us the envy of hunters everywhere in the nation.
With general big game hunting season having a little less than two weeks remaining to fill the freezer, success reports vary.
Weather has such a big impact on harvest rates. There is plenty of snow up high and then the ‘dumps’ we’ve been receiving in the valley bottoms have indicated that the critters are here by their tracks but remain invisible for many searching for them.
At the Fish Creek Game Check Station off Interstate 90, FWP biologist Liz Bradley said the whitetail rut is just beginning.
“We’re a way off from the peak which is usually the end of the season and that’s when we see more game come through. The mule deer rut is strong, however.”
Elk harvest numbers through Fish Creek remain at only one, but Bradley said that’s not an accurate picture.
“I’m only here on Saturday and Sunday so during the week we don’t have a count unless someone self-reports or tells friends. But elk are being taken up these drainages.”
Asked if the dumpsters for carcasses are working as they are new this year, she was positive.
“Yeah, one game warden said he is seeing usage and very little has been household garbage.”
Hunters who process their own game can drop the bones and scraps off in Haugan, St. Regis, Superior and Alberton. “We need better signage, but people seem to know what they are for so we’re glad this is working.”
One of the main reasons for the dumpsters is to be proactive on the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) issue that is causing havoc in many states and several regions of Montana.
“This is something new that we are doing and that is stressing the CWD problem and letting hunters know that if they harvest game animals in known areas that CWD exists and bring them home, that they must take the carcasses to a landfill for disposal after processing," Brooks said.
"Dumping them in the woods is illegal, and most everyone knows that, but if they do have CWD, then it will transmit into the soil and it can take hold here.”
The closest known CWD area is Libby but it has been discovered in Southwest Montana and has high numbers in eastern Montana.
Many hunters travel for antelope and elk to these regions and have a deer tag or two along with them. This is a precaution to attempt to hold the spread of this mystifying disease out of Region 2.
The disposal in the four dumpsters is free but it is only for big game animal remains.