What Hunters can do to Help Save our Herds

2020 MWFCelebration Facebook

Chronic Wasting Disease is an always-fatal neurological disease found in members of the deer family. It has been in North America for several decades but was first detected in Montana in November 2017. Montana wildlife biologists have a goal of keeping the disease below 5 percent prevalence, and this year are implementing new carcass disposal rules to work to prevent further human-caused spread. Join Quentin Kujala, Chief of Staff, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Emily Almberg, FWP Wildlife Biologist along with Nick Gevock, Conservation Director for Montana Wildlife Federation to talk about how hunters can do our part in this fight. Registration is required.

Learn more about the panelists: 

Quentin Kujala is chief of staff for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He has previously served as a senior biologist within the Wildlife Division of FWP and as a field biologist working along the Rocky Mountain Front. He has a master’s degree in fish and wildlife science from Montana State University. 

Emily Almberg is a wildlife research biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Emily is helping run Montana FWP’s Chronic Wasting Disease program, working to limit the spread of this always-fatal disease and maintain our big game herds. She works from Bozeman and staffs the citizen’s CWD advisory group that meets to review Montana’s statewide CWD management plan. 

Nick Gevock serves as the conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. Before that he worked as newspaper reporter in Bozeman and Butte, covering numerous natural resource, wildlife and public lands issues throughout southwestern Montana. He is an avid hunter, angler and outdoor recreationist. He travels throughout Montana with his dog Willow in pursuit of birds, hunts big game and likes to flyfish. Gevock works on key wildlife, habitat and access issues at the local, state and federal level. 

The auction and Membership meeting is open to conservationists in Montana, across the country and around the world. Share this invitation widely with your networks! Register today, invite your team, and get ready for some exciting updates in your inbox soon!

Misguided Rule is an Affront to Hunters and Anglers

The Trump administration has released its plan to make it easier for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. Forest Service lands.

The proposed rule would cut the public out of the process that decides whether and which lands will be opened to oil and gas drilling. It would also give excessive leeway to companies that don’t follow US Forest Service (USFS) laws and weaken that agency’s ability to protect public land from development and degradation.

“This misguided rule is an affront to hunters and anglers, as well as the world-class outdoor recreation values we share in Montana,” said Frank Szollosi, executive director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “While we should be working to improve our National Forests for fish and wildlife, the Trump Administration continues to prioritize special interests, wants to reduce public participation in the leasing process, and open more precious public land to oil and gas development.”

The proposed rule contains several provisions that would affect public participation including removing the requirement that a Forest Service gives public notice of the decision to approve a Surface Use Plan of Operations, the specific plan for development. It would also allow the Forest Service to skip important and necessary environmental reviews for leasing decisions.

Additionally, the rule would remove environmental considerations as criteria for decisions to approve plans and limit the Forest Service to only protect specific, named natural re-sources, and ignore opportunities to address climate change or protect vital wild places.

“Montanans understand the value of our public lands and the economic benefits they bring our local economy through outdoor recreation,” said Tom Puchlerz, president of the MWF. “Reducing the public’s opportunity to weigh in on decisions affecting our National Forests will reduce transparency and lead to further degradation of our highly valued landscapes.”

Contact: Frank Szollosi— Executive Director, Montana Wildlife Federation 406-417-9909, frank@mtwf.org.

Another Access Into the Crazy Mountains Added

Access in the Crazy Mountains of south-central Montana has been a problem for many decades, but this week Montana hunters, anglers, and recreational users gained another access point into a key area. 

The state Land Board gave final approval to an easement agreement with the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the McFarland-White Ranch along Big Elk Creek in the northeast corner of the Crazies. The agreement establishes an easement across the private lands on the ranch that is open to horse and foot traffic, as well as administrative use for management by the Forest Service. 

The ranch, owned by Mac White, will gain access to its lands that are mixed with the Forest Service parcels in a checkerboarded pattern. The issue of access to the area has been disputed for well over a decade. 

The three-mile easement will cross one section of state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation land and two miles of the McFarland-White Ranch. It gains about 400 feet of elevation over that distance. 

Once on the National Forest, the area offers excellent hunting opportunities for elk, mule deer, and black bears, as well as mountain grouse. It also has a fishery on Big Elk Creek. The agreement calls for the state DNRC to build a parking area in the northeast corner of its section, which sits along a county road. 

This access will require some sweat equity to get to the public land. But it also opens up some incredible opportunity in an area that was previously inaccessible. 

The Montana Wildlife Federation testified in support of the agreement this week before the Board. We thank the Board, the Lewis and Clark National Forest, state DNRC and the McFarland-White Ranch for working to create this new access point into the north Crazies. It’s just another step in our efforts to improve public access into the Crazies and expand public hunting, fishing, and recreation in this incredible area.

Major Conservation Easements are big Wins for Wildlife and Access

Hunters and anglers across Montana can now celebrate the acquisition of more than 21,400 acres in conservation easements by the Dept of Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP). This week, the Fish and Wildlife Commission endorsed the Lone Tree, Ash Coulee, and W-Bar easements thereby protecting critical wildlife habitat in perpetuity.

Collectively these conservation easements permanently protect critical habitat for mule deer, antelope, and upland game birds in addition to numerous non-game species. These projects – located in Blaine, Valley, and Wilbaux counties – each have their individual characteristics, however, they are all immeasurably valuable for wildlife and public access in eastern Montana.

In Blaine County, the Lone Tree easement consists of shrub and prairie grasslands intermixed with forested breaks on 11,285 acres leading to the Missouri River. Iconic game species such as bighorn sheep and elk frequent this diverse landscape and provide excellent hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.

The Ash Coulee easement located in Valley County, while similar to Lone Tree, is smaller at 3,400 acres yet it protects critical prairies and breaks along the Milk River. The Milk River Valley is a quintessential eastern Montana landscape and this easement will protect the amazing wildlife viewing, hunting, and recreation opportunities found there.

Finally, the W-Bat easement in Wilbaux County totals out at 6,751 acres of native grasslands, shrublands, riparian areas, and hardwood draws. Situated firmly along the state line with North Dakota, this area supports deer, antelope, upland game birds, and even the occasional elk. Habitat for 24 non-game Species of Greatest Conservation Concern is found here as well as a high-quality warm-water fishery.

These projects are all made possible due to the essential funding from Habitat Montana as well as the strong partnership between hunters and landowners. While these lands will remain in private ownership as working agricultural sites, they will also provide public access to a region of Montana with far fewer public lands. It’s a win-win that shows how important conservation easements, Habitat Montana funding, and hunter/landowner relationships are to Montana’s outdoor way of life.

 

Hierarchy of Gear

I am a passionate bowhunter and love talking gear. While discussing gear is fun, I also recognize that budgets are tight, and articles like this can be overwhelming.  My approach to acquiring equipment is a gradual process that has taken years to execute. I shop sales and look for deals. My favorite gift is gift cards (hint, hint). I borrow items I’m missing from friends and use that time to determine whether I need that item. No matter what your budget, the most important thing is that you can have incredible experiences in the field. Make that your priority, and let the acquisition of gear follow.

The Hierarchy of Gear

Everyone has a “hierarchy of gear.” This hierarchy is the list of things that you need when you go hunting in order of necessity. Everyone’s list looks a little different, but we all have one. Knowing your hierarchy of gear will help you decide what equipment you need to add to your system and when to add it. My top five items that I need, in order of importance, are:

  1. Weapon
  2. Boots
  3. Pack
  4. Optics
  5. Clothes

Boots

In my hierarchy of essential gear, boots are second only to my weapon. My boots of choice are the Crispi Idaho II GTX. They are reliable, do it all boot that performs whether you’re chasing elk through the mountains or hiking to a tree stand along a river bottom. If your feet are wet, blistered, and hurting, you will have a hard time enjoying your hunt. If you’re tight on funds, I recommend looking for an uninsulated boot that you can wear during the archery season and add an extra sock to during the rifle season. You should also be aware that you don’t need to buy “hunting” boots. Most hiking and mountaineering boots will work equally well for a hunt and can then be multi-purposed for your other adventures.

Back Pack

The third item in my gear hierarchy is my pack. For me, the ideal pack is one that can be used as a daypack or as a multi-day pack. Whatever backpack you choose, make sure that it can handle the weight of a pack out. I look for packs with an internal frame and an external load shelf to handle packing out harvested meat. I use the Sky 5900 from Stone Glacier, an expedition pack that can convert down into a daypack. Stone Glacier is a Montana company who’s products are made in the USA. They also give back to conservation and have supported MWF. If you’re looking for a less expensive option, check out ALPS Outdoorz or the King’s Camo Mountain Top 2200. You can also use a regular backpacking pack, but bring something to line the inside or be prepared to wash it should you need to pack out meat.

Optics

If you can’t find game, it’s hard to hunt. Optics give the hunter an advantage when it comes to spotting wildlife. I spend a TON of time glassing, but I still like to keep my optics simple. Because of the light, run, and gun style of hunting that I practice, I don’t use a spotting scope. I also don’t care about seeing the animal in great detail. I just need to know is it an elk and is it a cow or bull. For me, 10×42 binoculars do everything I need in the field. I use the Maven Optics 10×42 due to their combination of sleek design and superior glass.

Clothes

My first season hunting, I had roofing boots, double knee Carhartts, and cotton shirts. My clothing options have come a long way since those days. Whether one believes that camouflage is needed or not, having comfortable clothes while hunting makes a big difference. I use synthetics that are breathable and durable. I have been adding in some merino wool products in strategic situations. 

I’ve tried most major hunting lines, and there are pros and cons to each. If you have the funds, I would recommend Sitka Gear. They are a Montana company that gives back to conservation and makes fantastic products. If your budget is tighter, you can pick up some very usable Realtree, synthetic camo from your local Walmart or sporting goods store. Between those two options, there is a spectrum of options that will also work. DON’T let your clothes hold you back. There are many options out there that won’t break the bank, and most outdoor clothing is good enough with which to start hunting. My one rule is to avoid cotton due to its tendency to absorb moisture and cause chafing.

You can download my full gear list HERE. I use an excel form that Brady Miller from goHunt.com developed. This sheet is a good starting point and checklist for you to use as you plan your next adventure. Download the file and adjust it to fit your needs. If you have any questions about hunting gear, contact MWF Program and Partnership Director Marcus Strange at mstrange@mtwf.org

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