Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kids Flock to RMEF for Youth Wildlife Conservation Field Day

More than 110 boys and girls age 2-16 recently spent a morning at the headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for Youth Wildlife Conservation Day. The free gathering offered an opportunity to learn about RMEF's conservation and hunting heritage mission, North America's wildlife and the value of spending time outdoors through a variety of hands-on activities. 

The archery manager from the local Sportsmen’s Warehouse taught basic skills and participants had the opportunity to take aim at targets. Just across the way, staffers from the local Cabela’s provided firearm handling and safety instruction as kids honed in on the bullseye inside an inflatable BB gun range. 

As part of the National Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Stewardship Campaign, Girl Scouts and the Be Bear Aware staff demonstrated the importance of appropriate safety techniques for hiking, camping and hunting in bear country, and for viewing and living with wildlife safely and responsibly. Youth even got to practice discharging bear spray by using test cans containing a benign spray formula. 

RMEF staff sponsored a paintball target game where youth practiced target shooting with paintballs and a slingshot. There was also a 45-foot climbing wall, a conservation activity corner, balloon entertainment and other activities. 

When the time came to go home, nobody did so empty handed. Everyone received a free copy of Bugle magazine, a RMEF hat and a calendar. Alps Outdoorz also offered a backpack through a drawing. On top of that, the first 50 youth that registered for the event received a free RMEF youth membership.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wisconsin RMEF Chapter Remembers, Honors One of Its Own

They gathered in the town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, like they do every year. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members, volunteers and friends alike came together for the annual Rock Prairie Chapter Big Game Banquet.

One man was noticeably absent. Long-time RMEF supporter, avid hunter and family man Peter Holte did not attend. At the age of 45, he passed away in 2014 from complications of a spinal cord injury from many years earlier.

To honor their fallen father, son, and brother, the family purchased a special rifle, a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle. It featured an RMEF plaque on one side and another under the lever labeled PETEHOLTE001. They donated it in a live auction dedicated to Peter.

Ken Holte took to the stage to talk about his brother.

Ken Holte
“Pete had a love of the outdoors and a determination to continue with our hunting trips long after his physical abilities had left him. Even after he lost the ability to walk, we would literally carry him with us. Pete had a fondness for verbally joisting and ribbing others, and he never lost that. Those are the things that most every hunting/fishing group has, so it is always hard to lose that spirited individual,” said Ken.

After Ken’s remarks the auction opened and the bidding began. What the average banquet attendee did not know is he or she had no prayer to win that rifle. Peter’s father, Alan, assured RMEF organizers beforehand that the Golden Boy would go home with one person and one person only—him! Alan lived up to his word.

As the bids rose in price, Alan remained an active participant. And when the bidding closed, Alan’s bid of $2,900 topped the pack. He happily accepted the rifle and placed it the hands of Peter’s daughter Kendra, his granddaughter.

Kendra Holte (left) and Alan Holte
In dedication to Peter and his life, the family plans to make the rifle available to be auctioned off every year.

The Rock Prairie Chapter asked Ken to write up a story about Pete (see below).

Peter Holte
It all started in 1984 with a simple tingling of the arms and a little dizziness. Perhaps nothing too alarming for a scrappy junior-high kid. But, symptoms persisted, and it turned out to be more severe than expected. A small bone which tied several vertebrae to the base of Peter’s skull had been broken. Likely an injury from his days on the wrestling team. Left undiagnosed it could be fatal.

The following two years involved a series of surgeries for Peter and a considerable amount of time in a halo brace with limited ability to move about. But, over time Peter began to regain his strength and he became more active again, and his admiration for the outdoors began to grow, including our family tradition of an annual hunting trip to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming.

The Wyoming trips brought out the best in Pete. He established many friendships with the locals, and enjoyed accessing new hunting areas. He also hunted regularly in southern Wisconsin. He even dabbled with bow season for several years, but the gun season was his preference. Over the years, he collected a few “trophies,” but more importantly he built a library of stories and lasting friendships with all those who shared his desire to be outdoors.

In his mid-30s, something “broke loose” in Peter’s neck. The tingling and numbness returned, and he experienced some paralysis on his right side. He returned to the operating table – this time for an experimental procedure to stabilize his neck. He was in traction for a week to realign the vertebrae, followed again by months in a halo brace, and although some limited paralysis still remained and he had lost considerable muscle mass, the surgery was considered a success, and Peter did his best to resume his active lifestyle.

Peter continued his hunting escapades. Annual trips to Wyoming and the Wisconsin deer hunts were never far from his thoughts. However, the paralysis continued to expand and erode his physical abilities. Eventually he stopped hunting in Wisconsin as his limbs could no longer carry him, but the annual Wyoming trips were too important to give up. With the help of family and friends, Peter continued to go to Wyoming every October. Long after he gave up carrying a gun, he served as guide and companion to his young nephews, shepherding them into adulthood and the hunting tradition. A time came that the nephews had to lift their uncle in and out of the truck, but he still watched over them. He lived for the pleasure of sitting quietly, watching for the site of a mule deer during the day and the gentle banter around a meal (or dice game) at night.

Eventually paralysis overtook Peter’s body, and in August of 2014 Peter Holte breathed his last breath.

Antlers adorned the flowers placed upon his casket and family gathered once again to tell stories, mainly centered on annual hunting trips with Pete.

Hunting for Pete was more than sport; hunting was his connection with the outdoors and a thread woven deep into his family. In June 2015, family and friends gathered in the Big Horns to fulfill Pete’s final wish and release his ashes in the place he loved. His spirit will live on in the love of the hunt that he fostered and passed on to his nephews and his daughter.

The Holte Family sincerely appreciates the honor the RMEF has bestowed upon Peter with this Memorial Fundraiser. We wish all of you many safe and successful hunting seasons to come.

Ken Holte

New Mexico Elk Habitat, Research Get Boost from RMEF Grants

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2015 grants for the state of New Mexico. Find more information here.

Catron County—Continue mechanical thinning and follow-up burning on 100 acres in the Slaughter Mesa area on the Gila National Forest to restore grasslands and increase forage production on yearlong elk habitat that also benefits mule deer, pronghorn, wild turkey, Mexican spotted owl and other wildlife; and convert an existing but unused 20,000-gallon steel rim tank and associated drinker into a multiple use wildlife-livestock trick tank system by building a water collection skirt to fill the storage tank and repairing the existing guzzler system that transports water to two drinkers downslope into Squirrel Springs Canyon on the Gila National Forest. 

De Baca County—Provide funding to the De Baca County 4-H program for youth ages 9-19 to learn about the safe handling of firearms, take part in competitive shooting and learn other skills in a supervised and healthy setting. 

Grant County—Remove juniper from five units ranging in size from two to 43 acres totaling 66 acres in the Gattons Park area of the Wilderness Ranger District on the Gila National Forest by using a combination of mechanical and hand thinning to benefit yearlong elk habitat. 

Lincoln County—Provide funding for the Lincoln County 4-H Shooting Sports Program which offers youth ages 9-19 the opportunity to learn responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline, and other qualities through participation in firearm safety training and shooting sports activities.

Los Alamos County—Provide funding for the Northern New Mexico Youth Clay Challenge, hosted by Los Alamos Young Guns, which gives youth statewide an opportunity to compete in multiple shooting events at no cost and learning through trained instructors.

Rio Arriba County—Apply prescribed fire treatment to 2,600 acres on the Santa Fe National Forest to enhance crucial winter range and yearlong habitat for elk and mule deer (also benefits Sandoval County); and mechanically treat 450 acres of decadent sagebrush on the Jicarilla Ranger District of the Carson National Forest to stimulate sprouting, followed by seeding with native grasses and forbs.

Sandoval County—Provide funding for a continuing study in the Valles Caldera National Preserve to assess the responses of elk to large-scale forest restoration treatments in an effort to help guide future vegetation treatments designed to enhance forage conditions for elk (also benefits Rio Arriba County).

San Juan County—Provide funding for the San Juan Wildlife Federation, based in Farmington, which hosts a Youth Sports Fest to introduce youth to the shooting sports and the principles of wildlife conservation.

Socorro County—Thin pinyon-juniper and small diameter ponderosa pine from 372 acres within the Upper Point of Rocks and Kellog South units on Bureau of Land Management land to enhance habitat within the North San Mateo Landscape area. The treatment also functions as pre-treatment preparation for future prescribed burning.

Statewide—Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding for 1,805 hunter orange safety vests for graduates of the New Mexico Game and Fish Hunter Education program.

Partners for the New Mexico projects include the Carson, Gila and Santa Fe National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as well as various sportsmen and other local organizations.

RMEF uses TFE funding solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 205,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.6 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Tales from the Field: North Dakota

On Monday evening I was bowhunting for whitetail in central North Dakota in an area that looked great (rubs and trails everywhere). I noticed a tree that was rubbed over six feet high and so I decided that is where I wanted to stay for the evening to see if I could see what produced that, figuring it was either a moose or an elk. 

Just as the sun started going down, I noticed two mature bull elk sparring about 100 yards away in the brush. After a while of waiting, I decided to make an imitation bugle with my mouth and to my surprise the bulls both came screaming in within seconds to 15 yards. I had the best evening ever by being blessed enough to come across some of the rare central North Dakota elk.

Matt Doyle

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cold and Wet Should Describe More than Your Dog’s Nose

'Tis the season when hunters head afield in search of meat to fill the family freezer. It is also the time of year when temperatures are chilly or down-right cold and those who are in the backcountry often build warming fires to begin or cap off the day’s hunt.

Those fires, when not properly extinguished, can smolder and eventually come back to life. Fire prevention specialists urge hunters and all others who build fires in the wild to use water and dirt before going on your way. It is vital to make sure your fire is dead out so you can have peace of mind. Cold and wet should describe more than you dog’s nose.

Below is a message from the Bridger-Teton National Forest but it applies to all who hunt on public or private lands across the nation.

Unfortunately, when the hunt season starts in early September, we see more and more warming fires left behind from hunting activity. Most often, 90 percent of the time, the fires are in very remote areas off or near a trail and a small amount of trash might be left behind.

These fires become visible after the sun warms the fire and winds start up. They then become visible to others in the area or from passing aircraft overhead. To help determine fire cause, we look at lightning maps and other fire source indicators to eliminate the potential causes and narrow it down to actual source for the fire. 

Within two weeks on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, we have had 13 fires. All have been determined to be warming fires from hunters spotting for big game. 

We are very grateful for the hunters who do take the time to try and put out these same fires and also for taking the steps to call in the locations of these unwanted fires enabling firefighters can get to the incident before the fires get too big and costly.

Lesley Williams Gomez 
North Zone Fire Prevention, Education and Information
Forest Service
Bridger-Teton National Forest, Jackson and Blackrock Ranger Districts

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

California Rendezvous: Sprucing Up Elk Country

What do you get when you have more than 30 members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation from eight different chapters gather in one meadow? After a few hours of sweat and flexed muscle, you get better habitat for elk and other wildlife.

The volunteers came together near Pondosa in northern California, some 30 miles southeast of Mount Shasta. The area is prime California elk country. 

With that in mind, the participants of all ages focused their pruning shears, saws, tools and other efforts on removing conifers that were choking out native grasses and other forbs that provide feed for elk. Volunteers hacked down small trees and removed other vegetation to better open the way for sunshine.

As they worked shoulder-to-shoulder, they also renewed old friendships and formed new ones.

When the day’s work was done, the dedicated volunteers not only firmed up this little portion of elk habitat but also firmed up relationships between chapters, learned more about RMEF accomplishments and celebrated those accomplishments…together!

RMEF’s Biggest Little Volunteer

Ahnie Ivie
Still in elementary school, she’s a legacy partner wild about conservation

Even amongst the most dedicated Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members, few can say they were movers and shakers for conservation in elementary school, much less an RMEF legacy partner, for that matter. Ahnya Ivie—partial to her nickname Ahnie—is that 9-year-old, headed solidly into a lifestyle built around giving back for wildlife.

No stranger to the RMEF mission, Ahnie hit legacy partner status this year with a $900 donation to RMEF. How’d she do it? Selling candy bars for conservation.

She’s always cooking up ideas, says her mom, Katie Moody, co-chair of the Buffalo Chapter in Wyoming. This year, Ahnie told her mom she wanted to sell something to raise money for the Elk Foundation. After some thought, Ahnie proceeded to use her own hard-earned money to buy 90 candy bars. She works for her money by picking up extra chores; mucking stalls and cleaning her mom’s pickup truck.

“I’ve never seen it cleaner,” Katie says. “I was just saying I need another raffle so that my truck can get cleaned again.”

With her supplies in hand, Ahnie was on a mission, chatting with everyone and selling candy bars until they were all gone. “She’s a heck of a sales lady,” Katie says.

The bars sold for $10 apiece, racking up the $900 donation, one of the largest in the chapter. It also officially made Ahnie an RMEF legacy partner. But this isn’t Ahnie’s first venture at raising money for elk country.

Last year, she turned heads when she raised money at her RMEF-themed birthday party. Katie said when they talked about her party, “she very promptly replied that instead of birthday presents for her maybe people could give the RMEF a present to make money for the elk.” Mom helped her plan how to make it happen and Ahnie raised $200 at her party. Instead of simply donating it to RMEF, Ahnie used the money to purchase a .22 revolver that was later raffled off at the chapter’s annual big game banquet for $3,100.

Ahnie has a simple take on things—she just wants to have fun and donate. With hopes to one day become a veterinarian helping animals, especially horses, Ahnie spends her time cooking up ideas to help wildlife. She is a frequent attendee at chapter events, showing up at the Thermopolis Chapter's “Women for Wildlife” ladies' event this year and also volunteering at the Powder River Chapter's annual big game banquet, helping sell raffle tickets.

Getting involved clearly runs in the family, and Ahnie’s desire to raise money stems from watching others. “The Wyoming chapter is like a big family unit,” Katie says. “She went and saw other people getting involved and realized she could too.”

Kathryn Brandos
Bugle Intern