Motorists are always aware of deer on the roadways of the Bitterroot Valley, but elk cross US 93 any time of the year, and cause traffic to stop when their herd is on the pavement. Of course, hunting season causes lots of animal movement in the valley. The mild fall weather has lowered the success rate in the second week of general hunting season. For instance, the Snowtel National Weather Service sites in the Bitterroot Mountains reported about 9 inches of snow last year at this time. This year, the number is zero.

The Darby check station of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks noted 70 elk through the station south of Darby as of Sunday evening. That's down about 23 animals from last year at this time. The mule deer count was 13, five higher than last year and the white-tailed deer number was 8, down five from last year. Fewer hunters were out in the field, too - 1,495 this year, down about 150 from last year. A reminder that hunters, whether they are successful or not, must stop at FWP Check Stations that they encounter. Another note - mountain lion hunting is closing on districts 204, 206, 261 and 262 because quotas have been reached. The winter season on mountain lions opens December 1.