The number of hunters in the field in the Bitterroot Valley on the first week of big game rifle season was higher than last year.

The Darby Check Station of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported 935 hunters, compared with 841 last year. The harvest was below the 5-year average, though.

Region Two, which includes check stations at Darby, Anaconda, Fish Creek and Bonner, had a seven percent success rate for hunters. At Darby, the success rate was 8.8 percent, compared to 12.2 percent last year.

There were 59 elk, nine mule deer and 14 white-tailed deer through the station, all below last year's levels.

Region 2 Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson said, "I heard a lot of folks looking forward to snow in the forecast and making plans to hunt hard in the coming week and weekend."

General hunting season for deer and elk runs through December 1 in Montana. Hunters must stop at the check stations, whether they were successful or not.