Montana’s general big game hunting season ended Sunday afternoon. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 2, the season started off with unusually early winter conditions, contributing to stronger than normal deer and elk harvests in the first few weeks, but wrapped up with average to below-average totals in some spots. FWP Information and Education Program Manager Vivaca Crowser explains.

“At our long-standing check stations, there are three of them, one near Darby, one near Bonner, and one near Anaconda, we saw 10,225 hunter trips through with 837 harvested game animals,” Crowser said. “The region’s three hunter check stations saw 245 elk, 99 mule deer, 483 white-tailed deer, four black bears, one moose, three bighorn sheep and two wolves.”

The season may have ended, but Crowser says hunters still have some work to do.

“Make sure you get your gear cleaned,” Crowser said. “You want to take care of those rifles, get them cleaned out and don’t leave them sitting there wet. Make sure you process any of the game that you haven’t processed yet. Do that sooner rather than later. If you need tips or local resources, there are plenty of those out there on how to finish up that processing so that your meat doesn’t go to waste.”

Crowser also encouraged folks to review where they hunted this season.

“Now is the time of year where the telephone surveys begin,” Crowser said. “The check stations give us a window into trends and wildlife health, but we also call a lot of different hunters across the state from now until the middle of March. We will ask questions about where you hunted, how many days, and if you harvested anything or not. Make sure you have that info handy because it is really important in terms of tracking trends and setting hunting season regulations moving forward.”

This week, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider tentative proposals for hunting regulations for the next two seasons. In January, they will host public meetings and give people an opportunity to comment online.