Montana's general hunting season ended quietly Sunday evening, December 1 and the final days did little to help boost hunter returns. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region Two spokeswoman Vivica Crowser, a combination of poor hunting conditions and tight hunting regulations led to another low harvest for western Montana hunters.

"We had a season very similar to 2012, and really 2011, in many ways," Crowser said. "The number of deer and elk checked through the three hunter check stations this year totaled 1,116 which was just 19 more than 2012, so it was really close."

Just five years ago, hunters were bringing in hundreds more of both elk and deer.

"For example, if you look at the trends in elk harvest, we were at 431 in the region this year," Crowser said. "If you look back five years ago we were close to 600. When you look at mule deer numbers we are about 200 less than where we were five to ten years ago, which is pretty significant; that's almost a 50 percent reduction in the long term mule deer harvest."

The stricter hunting regulations have been in place for three years now, but Montana FWP is still investigating whether or not they have helped boost population numbers.

There has been some good news, Crowser said that the number of young bucks that came through the check stations this year means that next year may be a little easier for hunters. Despite that prospect, hunting restrictions are unlikely to change much until 2016.