Montana’s general hunting season for deer and elk began Saturday, with lower-than-average hunter participation and success in most areas of southwest Montana due to challenging weather and travel conditions.

Wildlife biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks operated seven check stations in Region 3 over the weekend, checking 2,657 hunters. All stations saw slightly fewer hunters than the running five-year average for opening weekend, except for Cameron, which checked close to 600 hunters.

Overall, hunter success was below average, ranging from 5.3 percent at the Mill Creek check station to 9 percent at the Townsend check station.

In total, biologists checked 15 white-tailed deer, 35 mule deer and 130 elk in the region. Elk harvest was below average at each station, except for Mill Creek. Mule deer harvest was below average at each station except for stations at Townsend and Canyon Ferry. White-tailed deer harvest was above average at the Cameron check station, average at the Canyon Ferry check station and below average elsewhere.

“Typically, hunter harvest success is improved by additional snow and winter-like conditions during the hunting season,” said Howard Burt, FWP’s Region 3 wildlife manager in Bozeman. “This could bode well for hunter opportunity and success if these conditions continue.”