Free Prairie Stream Restoration Workshop and Field Day offered May 6 in Winifred

By North-Central/Eastern Montana Field Coordinator Morgan Marks.

Learn about prairie stream restoration and how it can improve drought-resilience, forage, and wildlife habitats on rangelands during a free workshop on Saturday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Winifred Town Hall and Museum, 210 Main Street, in Fergus County, Montana.

The Montana Wildlife Federation; Bureau of Land Management, Montana-Dakotas; and the National Wildlife Federation, Northern Rockies and Prairies; will host the one-day workshop, which includes lunch and a field trip to see a nearby recently completed restoration project.

“Landowners, farmers, ranchers and even the general public who want to learn more about stream restoration are welcome to attend,” said Morgan Marks, north-central field representative for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Keeping water on the land for longer can support range health and increase forage availability over time thus helping to mitigate impacts of drought. Low-technology practices use materials already on the landscape to restore riparian areas and can be a cost-effective method to achieve lasting results.”

The workshop will feature several organizations, landowners, and agencies presenting project stories, resources, and other information that can support the implementation of prairie stream restoration projects.

Participating organizations include Winnett ACES, Montana Freshwater Partners, Northern Great Plains Joint Venture, National Resources Conservation Service, World Wildlife Fund, Pheasants Forever, Montana Conservation Corps, One Montana, and Montana Audubon.

To register, or if you have questions, please email Morgan Marks at, or call her at 406-403-4464. Please, register to attend by Monday, May 1, so event planners can make sure there will be enough lunch for all attendees.


You’re invited to attend our day-long public wildlife conference

By Montana Wildlife Federation President and Board Chair, Dr. Chris Servheen.

It seems like it’s been a long winter, but spring is in the air. The sun feels warmer every day. Did you know there is a special word to describe the warmth of the winter sun especially as spring approaches? That word is apricity, which means the warmth of the sun in winter. The birds around my house are singing in the snow and the local marsh is frozen and snowy but the red-winged blackbirds are back, and they act like it is 70 degrees as they sing perched over the ice every morning. 

MWF has been busy with the legislature and working hard to build bipartisan support for conservation programs on habitat, elk management and predator legislation. It is the halfway mark of the legislature as I write this. We have seen some successes and some problems. Habitat Montana funding is still under threat even though the voters overwhelmingly supported taxing marijuana sales to fund this very beneficial program. We will keep pushing and hope for the best by the end of the session. 

MWF is planning a day-long public conference on April 15 in Helena at the Best Western Premier Hotel with presentations on key wildlife issues in Montana. We will have presentations on lessons from Yellowstone for wolf management In Montana, an update on avian flu in Montana, the importance of instream flow to maintain our cold-water fisheries, beaver conservation and management in Montana, and the path forward for grizzly bears. We will also host a one-hour panel discussion by legislators on the 2023 legislative session with discussions on important bills passed by the legislature that impact elk hunting, habitat conservation, Habitat Montana, predator management, and access issues. This legislator panel discussion will include an opportunity for questions from the audience. 

This conference on Saturday starts at 9 a.m. and is open and free to the public so please plan to attend. The day will conclude at 4 p.m. with the 2023 MWF awards. There will be awards presented to the MWF affiliate of the year, the 2023 outstanding conservation leader, a special achievement award for landowner/sportsman relations, two agency employee conservation awards, the Les Pengelly Award for conservation excellence, and the unsung hero award. We really encourage everyone to attend to recognize these Montana conservation leaders.

Hopefully, spring will arrive soon, and we can start putting away our skis, getting our boats ready for the season, and dusting off our backpacking and fly-fishing gear as the weather warms. I hope to see you at the MWF wildlife conference on April 15 in Helena. Watch the livestream HERE.


From Field to Freezer: A Deer Processing Workshop

By MWF North-Central Field Representative Morgan Marks.

Hosted and instructed by Katie Vivian, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 4 Fisheries Biologist and her husband, with instructional support from Ashley Hammans, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Giant Springs Hatchery Culturist.

Katie Vivian works with two women as they practice how to skin a deer. Photo by Cameron Evans.

On a beautiful Sunday in late November, 10 women gathered together outside Great Falls to build their skills and learn about butchering and processing deer. Through scheming and conversations shared between Katie Vivian, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 4 Fisheries Biologist, and Morgan Marks, Field Representative with Montana Wildlife Federation, the idea for an all-women’s butchering workshop took shape over the summer and early fall and came to fruition as the general rifle hunting season neared completion.

Morgan Marks, MWF Field Representative, learns how to skin a deer in a field scenario with the deer on the ground. Photo by Cameron Evans.

Women who attended were avid hunters and others had not hunted before nor harvested game, but shared that they attended out of curiosity and a desire to learn more about butchering wild game. One participant was 12 years old, and organizers were ecstatic about reaching youth with these important and traditional skill sets. Women traveled from across Montana to participate and grow their skills, including from Helena, Missoula, Great Falls, and Bozeman.

Cameron Evans places the front quarter of a deer into a game bag. Photo by Hannah Schultz.
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Pictured is Katie Vivian teaching a participant how to skin and cut through the joint on a front quarter. Photo taken by Cameron Evans.
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Cameron Evans learns how to remove the hide from a deer.

Katie led the workshop and shared skills she learned independently through experiences hunting and harvesting wild game. She is self taught and hell-bent on teaching others, especially women, because she believes that every person can butcher wild game. “While the practice of butchering takes time, it’s rewarding to break down an animal you harvested,” she said, “and learn from it. For example, you can see how accurate your shot was and better understand how to make adjustments in the future.”

Left and Right Picture: Women learn how to skin a hanging deer. Photos taken by Cameron Evans.

In the days leading up to the workshop, two whitetail doe were generously harvested by Katie and her husband, and donated to the workshop for women to learn from. Topics included the following: 

  • Experiential learning
  • Safety around butchering wild game, especially with sharp knives and mindfulness about butchering with more than one person
  • Field dressing and the Gutless Method
  • Skinning animals taken out whole and skinning in the field
  • Quartering and deboning
  • Meat care and preparation in regard to temperature, place, freezing, labeling and materials needed for every step of the butchering process
  • Anatomy of deer and what parts of a deer are best for what cuts of meat
  • Awareness of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and guidance around CWD positive wild game
  • Trimming and packaging meat into freezer ready products 


Left and Right Picture: Katie Vivian supports a young woman as she learns how to skin a deer that’s hanging. Pictures taken by Cameron Evans.

Stay tuned for more workshops in 2023 pertaining to skill building, leadership development, and advocacy! If there’s a specific topic you’re interested in, have questions about, and want to learn about, please contact MWF North-Central Field Representative Morgan Marks at

The goals of these women-focused events are three-fold: to increase women’s access and participation in outdoor recreation; give women the tools, skills and confidence to continue to build upon skills learned in a safe and welcoming space; and increase women’s involvement and representation in conservation. Studies have shown that creating a space for women in hunting and fishing not only helps them access the sport, but also keeps them involved in the sport over time. That’s the goal of women focused events, to continue creating spaces where women can learn, gather, network, have fun, and grow. 

Lastly, our community is an inclusive one. We welcome all womxn and gender non-conforming folks to this event and other women-focused events. If you identify yourself as a woman, no matter the complexity, we welcome you.

The clinic aimed to not only teach women how to butcher their harvests, but also to foster community and friendships among women. With similar goals, MWF and Artemis Sportswomen hosted the 2nd Annual Women’s Ice Fishing Clinic in February. Read all about that event HERE.

Thank you to North 40 Outfitters for donating two sets of knives that we were able to send home with two women who drew them from a raffle.

Many thanks to North40 for their generosity in donating two sets of knives! Two women were able to go home with a new knife set to put their skills to work this hunting season and they were thrilled. We have much gratitude for North40 continuing to support women-led and women-focused skill development events such as this.

The below photos were taken by Cameron Evans and show the indoor portion of the workshop. Deer meat was trimmed from bones and placed into containers for grinding, stew, steak, and disposal. Fat was saved to be made later into tallow soap. Processed meat was packaged with freezer paper and vacuum sealed bags. If you’re familiar with cuts of meat and butchering wild game, you’ll be able to identify specific cuts of meat, such as the beautiful and prized backstrap depicted in a few photos.


2nd Annual Montana Women’s Ice Fishing Clinic

By MWF Communications Coordinator Cameron Evans and North-Central Field Representative Morgan Marks. 

The sunrise marked the start of the second annual Women’s Ice Fishing Clinic hosted by the Montana Wildlife Federation and Artemis Sportswomen. Photo by Cameron Evans

The sky over Canyon Ferry Reservoir cast cotton candy clouds onto a thick layer of ice as dawn broke on Saturday, Feb. 25. The pink skies welcomed a group of women who gathered near a boat launch for the second annual women’s ice fishing clinic hosted by Montana Wildlife Federation and Artemis Sportswomen.

More than 30 women of all ages and experience levels bundled up and gathered before dawn in 10-degree weather for the clinic.

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Participants gather near the boat launch at Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Photo by Ilona Wilde

The women circled up, coffee mugs in hand, for introductions and a lesson on ice safety and staying warm before taking to the ice. Some women were avid ice anglers, some had been out a time or two with friends, and others were completely new to fishing.

With help from volunteer instructors Stephanie Adams-Clemen (Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks State Trails Coordinator), Kimberly (Berly) McCoy (an avid ice fisher and science podcast producer NPR’s daily science show, Short Wave), Katie Vivian (Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Region 4 Fisheries Biologist), and Jessi Gudgel (Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Aquatic Invasive Species Monitoring Specialist), the women rigged up ice fishing rods and shimmied like penguins across the ice to holes that the instructors had drilled by the light of headlamps earlier that morning.

Stephanie Adams-Clemen sets up an automatic hookset tip-up. Photo by Cameron Evans

Each instructor came from a different background.

The event would not have been possible without its hosts: MWF and Artemis, the volunteer instructors, MWF staff who helped organize the event (Field Representatives Morgan Marks and Ilona Wilde, and Communications Coordinator Cameron Evans) and, of course, the event’s sponsors.

The sponsors for this event included Blackfoot River Brewery in Helena, North 40 Outfitters (which has locations in Great Falls and Havre, as well as other locations outside Montana), and Helena Tourism Alliance in Helena. We’re incredibly grateful for their support and community ethics.

As women began to fish, instructors went around offering lessons and advice and pausing for demonstrations. Instructors showed participants how to drill holes using an auger, how to add powerbait to a hook, how to tie basic knots, how to jig, and how to handle fish.

Katie Vivian, a volunteer instructor and fisheries biologist in Choteau, demonstrates how to use a tip-up. Photo by Cameron Evans

It wasn’t long before rods started to bend, with nearly a dozen healthy 2-3 pound rainbow trout caught by the group that day. Some women caught fish jigging, while others ran over to automatic hooksetters that the instructors had set up.

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Katie Vivian holds a rainbow trout up for a quick kiss from a participant. Vivian has a tradition of inviting people to kiss the first fish they catch. Photo by Ilona Wilde.

After a long, productive morning on the ice, the women reeled their line up, packed gear into sleds, and made their way to Silos Junction restaurant where they traded stories about the fish that were caught that day and the memories that were made along the way.

During lunch, MWF staff discussed the importance of women’s events and invited women to get involved however they would like going forward. Staff also shared multiple ways that women can become involved with ongoing conservation efforts through volunteering and field events, and have their voices heard on bills going through the 2023 Montana legislative session.

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Women gathered after fishing at Silos Junction Bar and Grill to eat, talk and learn about how to become involved in conservation efforts. Photo by Cameron Evans

The clinic aimed to not only teach women how to ice fish but also to foster community and friendships among women. With similar goals, MWF and Artemis Sportswomen worked with Katie Vivian, to host a deer butchering workshop earlier this fall. Read all about that event HERE.

The goals of these women-focused events are three-fold: to increase women’s access and participation in outdoor recreation; give women the tools, skills, and confidence to continue to build upon skills learned in a safe and welcoming space; and increase women’s involvement and representation in conservation. Lastly, our community is an inclusive one. We welcome all womxn and gender non-conforming folks to this event and other women-focused events. If you identify yourself as a woman, no matter the complexity, we welcome you.

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Participants gather around to assist and learn how to pull a fish through the hole. Photo by Ilona Wilde.

Studies have shown that creating a space for women in hunting and fishing not only helps them access the sport but also keeps them involved in the sport over time. That’s the goal of women-focused events, to continue creating spaces where women can learn, gather, network, have fun, and grow. We’re already looking forward to next year so stay tuned for announcements later this year about the third annual women’s ice fishing clinic!

Elk Management Legislative Package Advances Past Transmittal

Montana hunters, outfitters, and policymakers are celebrating a package of five bipartisan elk management and hunting-themed bills that have advanced through the Montana legislature’s general transmittal deadline.

The package of legislation was rolled out by the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and Montana Outfitters and Guides Association during the “Elk Camp at the Capitol’ event in early January. The package has been described as the first legislative agreement to bring the outfitting and hunting communities together since the 2007 legislature.

Representatives from the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and Montana Outfitters and Guides Association say their package will collectively improve wildlife management, reduce non-resident hunter pressure, improve incentives for landowners to enroll in state-sponsored access programs to help resolve problematic concentrations of wildlife, and create more trust between landowners, outfitters, and hunters.

The bills that advanced through the general transmittal deadline are sponsored by a group of bipartisan lawmakers and have the support of the Governor’s office.

During a press conference last week, Governor Gianforte recognized the collaborative efforts of the groups involved, stating, “Diverse groups are coming together like never before around this common mission. I want to particularly note the work that the Montana Outfitters and Guides is doing in conjunction with the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition. Together, they put forward a package of bills for sportsmen, outfitters and landowners…I say this often, but we have far more in common as Montanans than divides us. Common ground is always there if we are willing to look for it and work to achieve it.”

“These bills represent small but important steps forward to rebuild trust between hunters, outfitters, and landowners, and just as importantly, to broaden the management toolbox for elk and other species of wildlife,” said Kathy Hadley of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition. “Not every organization gets everything they want with this kind of work, but that’s the nature of collaboration, and we think it sets us up to find more common ground in the future.”

“We really want to thank the Governor’s office and the legislators who encouraged us early on to identify areas of consensus they could realistically advance to improve the future of elk management,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association. “These policy agreements are now advancing through the legislature with minimal conflict thanks to the work our respective organizations put in and thanks to lawmakers in both parties who are championing the results. This is a tremendous example of what can happen when diverse interests agree to sit down and find areas of common ground.”

A summary of individual bills is found below:
Improve enrollment in Block Management. SB 58, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hinebauch (R-Wibaux), will increase the annual Block Management payment cap for enrollees to $50,000. Prior to the legislative session there was broad agreement for this concept, which was ultimately endorsed by the Private Land/Public Wildlife council.

Limit non-resident deer licenses to reduce hunter pressure. SB 281, sponsored by Sen. Pat Flowers (D-Belgrade), would reduce the sale of nonresident deer B tags to alleviate crowding on accessible lands. The bill would instruct FWP to sell no more than two B8 antlerless deer licenses to non-residents who draw a big game combination license or nonresident deer combination license, and only allow one antlerless license to be held by other NR hunters.

Improve access to GIS data for hunters. HB2, the state’s primary budget bill, sponsored by Rep. Llew Jones (R-Conrad) sets aside funding for a new FWP employee to improve the acquisition and distribution of public access data for use by the state and GPS-based mapping companies. The position will ensure all landowner access agreements, the status of open/closed roads, navigable streams, and other pertinent access information is updated and available as cadastral information. The position will improve the FWP Hunt Planner tool and collaborate with GPS companies.

Improve hunter education. HB 243, sponsored by Rep. Marylin Marler (D-Missoula), would make an in-person field day with firearm safety training a requirement of FWP’s online hunter safety and education course. This legislation was amended in committee to provide FWP additional time to comply with this requirement.

Establish non-resident preference pool: HB 635, sponsored by Josh Kassmier (R-Fort Benton), would establish a non-resident landowner preference pool to encourage landowners to hunt their own deeded lands, incentivize them to enroll in state sponsored public access programs, and reduce hunting pressure on other publicly accessible lands. The bill would set aside up to 15% of B-10 combo licenses for non-resident landowners and family members to hunt deeded lands if they own 2,500 acres or more. The bill incentivizes public access in limited-entry districts where landowners must still apply for and receive a permit. Interested landowners will be able to purchase an additional bonus point for permit applications if they are enrolled in a state-sponsored access program.

Reform 454 access program: HB 596, sponsored by Denley Loge (R-St. Regis), would modify the 454 program to make it a more effective and equitable tool for managing problematic concentrations of elk on private lands. The bill would create a new prescription for a “like” opportunity between the first tag holder and the first hunter selected for the 454 agreements. This bill would also give the commission more authority to negotiate and prioritize applications that offer additional public elk hunting, above the minimum 3:1 ratio.


Contact MWF Communications Coordinator Cameron Evans

M: (630) 917-3893 | E:

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Jeff Lukas – MWF Elk Campaign Manager

Jeff Lukas

Elk Campaign Manager

Jeff Lukas is a passionate conservationist who has been fishing and hunting his entire life. Whether it’s floating a small stream chasing trout, pursuing elk in the high country, or waiting in a blind for ducks to set their wings, Jeff is always trying to bring more people afield to show them what we are trying to protect. He loves being in the arena, and he will never shy away from conversations about the beautiful and unique corners of Big Sky country.