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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Remembering Those Who Sacrificed for Us

Dear RMEF Family,

Memorial Day weekend is finally here! It marks the unofficial beginning of summer and is a time for family and friends to hit the outdoors together or gather on the back deck to enjoy each other’s company.

Memorial Day traces its roots back to the Civil War. It was designed to honor those on both sides of the conflict who died while in defense of their country.

Officially established by Congress in 1971, Memorial Day takes place the last Monday of May as a holiday to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. To them and their families, we owe our never-ending gratitude. They gave the ultimate sacrifice so we may enjoy our many freedoms today.

As an RMEF family, we have many veterans among us—both past and present. Thank you for your selfless service! Your individual and family sacrifices allow us the opportunity to live our lives the way we do today. In the case of the RMEF, it allows us continue our work together to ensure the future of elk, elk country and out hunting heritage.

Enjoy your holiday weekend and please some time to remember what it’s all about.


M. David Allen
President and CEO 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Dear RMEF Family,

This is a special weekend for many of us. It’s an opportunity to say “thank you” to our mothers.

The idea of Mother’s Day dates back to the early 20th century. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914 creating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our mothers. They helped teach, guide and transform us into the type of men and women that we are today. 

We have many mothers dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage throughout the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. In this day and age where more women are getting out in the field, we recognize that current and future mothers are the fastest growing segment of hunters in North America. We salute them for their enthusiasm, passion and dedication.

So if you have plans to hit your favorite fishing hole, grill up some elk tenderloin on the barbecue or just spend time with mom and the rest of the family, we say thank you mothers for all you do.


David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Monday, May 11, 2015

Help on the Way for Elk Habitat, Research in Washington

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

Asotin County—As a part of Asotin County’s proactive weed control, treat 225 acres of invasive weed populations across public and private land before they become established; and apply noxious weed treatment to 1,550 acres within the Blue Mountains Wildlife Area Complex to improve yearlong elk range conditions to meet elk herd management objectives (also affects Garfield and Columbia Counties). 

Chelan County—Restore 104 acres by planting trees in a clear cut area to improve cover and habitat quality for the Colockum elk herd while reducing soil erosion and improving water quality within the 4,000+ acre Stemilt Partnership acquisition, which RMEF provided financial, administrative and other professional assistance to acquire and convey into public ownership.

Columbia County—Reinforce existing two decade-old road closures in the Chase Mountain area on the Umatilla National Forest by placing boulders to provide security on 1,800 acres of elk habitat and calving areas while also paying for seed and biochar for the road bed. 

Cowlitz County—Apply lime and fertilizer to 150 acres of existing forage management areas and seed 40 acres where desirable plant cover is low to maintain quality winter range for 600-800 elk on the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area. RMEF volunteers will plant trees and shrubs on an additional 10 acres to aid in erosion control on the Toutle River floodplain; and apply herbicide treatments to 150 acres on a combination of U.S. Forest Service and state lands with a goal of containing and/or eradicating isolated populations of mouse-ear hawkweed.

Garfield County—Burn 2,685 acres within the broader Asotin Creek Prescribed Fire Project area to restore native grasslands and improve wildlife forage. To ensure the establishment of native grasses, 435 acres will be aerially seeded after the burn on a landscape that is a summer, winter and calving area for elk as well as range for bighorn sheep. 

Okanogan County—Burn 804 acres of the Okanogan Highlands on the Chesaw Wildlife Area that was previously thinned to increase forage for an expanding elk herd.

Pend Oreille County—Burn 200 acres of shrubfield and Douglas fir parkland along with 17 acres at an old homestead meadow site on the Colville National Forest to improve forage and woody browse species for big game. Herbicide will be spot-applied over two years within the meadow to control noxious weeds; and install a series of high, earthen berms and create a visual screen and barrier with native plantings to block illegal OHV use on road closures that were specifically intended to improve habitat security for elk on winter range on the Newport-Sullivan Ranger District including the Bead Lake, Yocum Lake, Small Creek and Graham Creek drainages on the Colville National Forest.

Skamania County—Provide funding for continuing research to address the interaction of forage availability and nutritional quality on the elk population within the Mt. St. Helens eruption blast zone on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest compared to state and federal land outside the zone. The results provide a foundation for evaluating forest management, predicting future habitat condition trends and a basis for elk population management in the area; and continue herbicide treatments on 125 acres of meadows providing important summer forage for the Mount St. Helens elk herd (also affects Klickitat County).

Stevens County—Burn approximately 1,130 acres in a mix of areas on the Colville National Forest that are naturally opened and areas that have been recently thinned to improve forage on year-round elk habitat.

Yakima County—Seed 820 acres with grasses, forbs and sagebrush to restore habitat for elk and other wildlife within the Cottonwood 2 Wildfire area that burned nearly 9,000 acres of winter range in 2014 (also affects Kittitas County); and improve crucial winter range forage on the Oak Creek Wildlife Area by applying herbicides to 300 acres on the Sanford Pasture where more than 500 elk winter.

Partners for the Washington projects include the Colville, Gifford Pinchot and Umatilla National Forests, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, private landowners and various sportsmen, wildlife, civic, and government organizations.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Honoring Our Mothers

Dear RMEF Family,

This is a special weekend for many of us. It’s an opportunity to say “thank you” to our mothers.

The idea of Mother’s Day dates back to the early 20th century. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914 creating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our mothers. They helped teach, guide and transform us into the type of men and women that we are today. 

We have many mothers dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage throughout the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. In this day and age where more women are getting out in the field, we recognize that current and future mothers are the fastest growing segment of hunters in North America. We salute them for their enthusiasm, passion and dedication.

So if you have plans to hit your favorite fishing hole, grill up some elk tenderloin on the barbecue or just spend time with mom and the rest of the family, we say thank you mothers for all you do.


David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Monday, May 4, 2015

Here’s to Mom

Pink RMEF swoosh decal
May 10, 2015, marks the 101st anniversary of Mother’s Day. It was 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honor our mothers. (Watch a video about the history of Mother’s Day here.)

Mother’s Day celebrates the role that mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, foster mothers and all other mother figures play in our lives. 

Do you have anything special in mind for mom on Mother’s Day? Perhaps a heartfelt, handwritten letter? Maybe a picnic in the park, a card, some flowers or a family hike in the hills? Whatever the recognition or activity, mothers deserve the best. 

Here are some suggestions to honor mom this Mother’s Day thanks to your friends at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (and they're not all pink either).

Under Armour women's Ayton fleece jacket 
Under Armour women's performance camo pant

Buck Bantham BHW

Sterling silver medium elk antler earrings
      Ladies Grapevine tee                            Ladies camo & turquoise cap                   CamelBak chute 0.75L water bottle    

Go here to shop RMEF's Elk Country Trading Post.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Cade Bulls

The scene where Eric first saw the two bulls
(Courtesy Eric Shepherd)
April 11, 2015 started out as any other day hunting shed antlers. I had decided that we would go into an area where most people wouldn't venture and that a four-wheeler couldn't make it. Since the second week in February, I had been out 18 times and put in close to 300 miles hiking and had very little to show for it. I am not one to hunt via a four-wheeler but still a firm believer that hiking is the best medicine. My thought was I might have better luck if I followed the road less traveled. 

So far the year of shed hunting had been pretty slow for me. A few of the larger bulls had dropped the first week of February which is early for our area. The word got out pretty quick that a few had dropped and the bulls started getting pushed causing an extremely hard shed hunt. Most people have their normal spots they like to go to that produce but not this year. The normal spots you would expect to find sheds had none and where they were being found was not typical. (We also had a below normal snow pack which caused a lot of elk to remain in the high country). Like most people, I started out earlier than normal hoping to get a jump but with no luck. All the bulls I came across were still holding and after returning a few days later, the elk were nowhere to be found. 

Cade Webb
2014 and 2015 had been hard years for our family. We suffered the loss of our daughter's boyfriend, Cade Webb, who I thought of as the son I never had. Even though Cade was only 15, he was already an avid outdoorsman and spent many hours hunting sheds and he was quite accomplished at it. Since the start of the season I would often find myself looking up and asking Cade for some help, "Come on Cade give me a little help here.” Well thus far it had not helped too much other than a couple finds, but each trip I found myself doing the same thing. I was actually starting to get really discouraged thinking to myself, “I'm putting in the time and miles but no luck.” The elk were there but they were not producing any sheds for me. It seemed as though every time I would get 8-10 miles into an area, I would discover the dreaded four-wheeler tracks and just had to shake my head. 

On that Saturday I headed out from the pickup with my trusty companion "Whiskey,” a blue heeler I have worked with shed hunting for two years that was probably a hunting dog in a previous life. I figured we had 4-5 hours of light left. We headed up a canyon that had a small stream running in the bottom from the winter snow pack. It looked real promising but produced nothing. As we reached the end of the canyon my plan was to head out, cross a ridge and go back down another deeper canyon. The canyon we were heading to was much easier access from the bottom end so I didn't have high hopes of finding anything other than four-wheeler tracks. 

The larger bull
As we crossed the ridge and started down into the canyon it was apparent this was not going to be real easy. It was a north slope, very steep and had tons of downed trees to maneuver up, over and around. Unlike me Whiskey took off into the canyon like it was nothing. In the distance I saw him reach the bottom and then saw his nose turn to the air. As he often does he will start working from left to right head held high and low until he has the scent locked in and then off he goes. As I made my way slowly down into the canyon Whiskey continued to work back toward me in a left-to-right pattern. I stopped about halfway down to watch him. As Whiskey was about a quarter of the way back to me, he stopped and at the exact time that he made the find, I also saw it. Laid up against a downed tree I could see antlers but something wasn't right. I pulled up my binoculars and adjusted them. As they came into focus I had to do a double-take. Looking with the naked eye and then again through the binoculars, I thought to myself there is no way I am seeing what I am seeing. I just stood there in shock for what seemed like forever. As I started to work my way closer, the realization of what I had just found came over me. Once I came up to it I was in shock, my mouth open and eyes glazed. I just stood there, looking around almost in hopes of being able to share the excitement with someone. Once I collected myself the first thing I did was looked up and said "Thank You Cade."

What lay before me were two large bulls—both dead and horns still locked from the battle that took place. I thought to myself “Okay, you have to document the heck out of this. No one is going to believe you.” I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures and video of both the elk and surroundings, and started trying to put together what took place. It appeared as though the smaller of the two bulls died first as its stomach contents were located about 20 feet up the hill from where the second bull finally died. 

The second bull, the larger of the two, looked as though he ended up lodged under the tree where I found them. I can only image that in one last ditch effort to get free, he lost his footing and slid down under the tree where he eventually met his demise, still locked with the smaller bull that was now on top of him. 

After about an hour I needed to formulate a plan to get them out of there legally. Arizona Game & Fish has specific rules on dead animal finds and a protocol to follow. The first thing is to notify them so a game warden can come to the field and verify the cause of death. If it is determined the animal died from a natural cause, such as predation, disease, fights, falls, drowning, lightning, etc., the wildlife part may be possessed by the individual. It was very evident given the cause of death and since this was such a rare find, I knew I had to contact them. The bad part was it was late Saturday and I knew I would not be able to get a hold of anyone until Monday. 

Antler base

So first thing Monday morning I drove out to verify someone had not stumbled onto them and to make the call to the Game & Fish. The elk were still there so I drove out to a location where I had cell service and made the call to the district office. I gave the lady all the information and asked how long before she could have a warden out to the scene. She advised me it could be Wednesday as most officers were in Phoenix and only one was in the district and he was hours away. So I explained to her in detail that this was not just another dead elk find but two bulls, horns locked. That changed things. She said give her 30 minutes so she could make some calls and either she or the officer would call me back. About 15 minutes later I got a call from the Unit 1 game manager. I explained to him the find and location. He asked a few questions and then asked if I had pictures I could send to him of the scene and the bulls so he could authorize the removal. I sent him six or seven pictures documenting the bulls and the area so he could review them. About 10 minutes later he sent to me the authorization to take possession of both bulls and said they were mine. I thanked him and immediately headed back to retrieve the bulls. 

The closest road was about five or six so it was not going to be an easy chore. For those who have packed a head out, you know they can get heavy pretty quick, so now I was going to have two at the same time. Once I got back to the site I took a few more pictures and one last video. The bulls had only been dead about six or seven months and five of those were under snow pack so getting the skulls from the body was a challenge but I managed to do it and still keep the heads together. That was always my plan to not separate the horns from one another. Once I had the skulls freed, I was able to rotate the top bull back around, horns still locked. I hauled them down to a flat area to prepare them for my pack. I was able to put the skull of the smaller bull on the shelf in my pack and got that attached with the larger bull on top being rotated upside down. This allowed me to stand the pack up on the horns of the larger bull and just slip right into my pack. 

I have packed some heavy weight before but this was on a different level. It was not easy to do but I knew I would get it done one way or another. As I was making the final hike out I realized just how beautiful this county really was. I was next to a small stream in a deep canyon. I could hear far off in the distance some turkey gobbling. Whiskey keep running up and down the stream jumping from side to side as though he knew his work for the day was done. 

As I put one foot in front of the other I started to reflect on just how good life really is. Even if I had not made a once in a lifetime find it still would have been a good day. I was in the mountains doing what I loved. I thought a lot about Cade and how he really did bless our lives. I thought to myself I sure wish I could have shared this year hunting sheds with him and had him by my side. That’s when it dawned on me that this was not my find but rather it's Cade's. I know deep down in my heart that this was his passion and even though he may be gone, he actually shared with me one of his last finds. When I would look up to him and ask for help I now know I did get to spend this year shed hunting with him. He was with me every step of the way! 

After the necks were broken off

So friends, the next time you’re sitting high atop a mountain with a spotting scope or hiking down a deep canyon or across a beautiful meadow just remember that sometimes it's not always about the hunt. It's about the memory. So get outside and do what you’re passionate about, for over the next hill or around the next bend you to might just discover your "Cade Bulls!" 

Eric Shepherd 
Flagstaff, Arizona

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Leave No Trace for Hunters

Cloud Peaks (Courtesy William Matthews)
The fog was beginning to clear, revealing a meadow surrounded by snow-covered peaks. A light breeze stirred a nearby patch of aspen in full autumn color. Last night’s freeze had left delicate patterns on the grass and the needles on the pine and spruce trees. Occasionally, the frozen stillness was interrupted by birdsong. 

As the sun appeared over the mountains, the valley was suddenly brilliant with light. The sun climbed higher, warming my cold fingers and toes. I could hear the sound of rippling water.

I was waiting for the bull to lead his harem into the open. But where were they? 

My eyes were drawn to the stream. What I saw wasn’t an elk. It was an abandoned campsite. A fire ring full of melted aluminum cans, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, and partially-burned logs smoldered only inches from the crystal clear waters of the stream. More cans, food scraps, and other trash were scattered over the heavily-trampled wildflowers. The smell of human waste hung in the air. I realized no elk would come here today.

Courtesy William Matthews
Who would do this? Could people really be this careless?

The truth is any one of us could be the culprit. Even the best intentioned of us can unknowingly cause damage. Often, this damage leads to restrictions or closures on public lands. Fortunately, there is a solution that can both protect natural areas and allow people to enjoy their favorite outdoor places. By practicing the outdoor ethic known as Leave No Trace, outdoor enthusiasts can help ensure the places they love will still be there in the future. Leave No Trace consists of seven principles that help people make good decisions and reduce their impacts, making outdoor experiences a lot more enjoyable.

Seven Principles of Leave No Trace:

Plan Ahead and Prepare
Get information about your hunt area and route from the land manager.
Prepare for bad weather and unsafe road conditions with extra food, clothing, first aid kit and signal mirror.

Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces
Appropriate vehicle use protects wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Prevent erosion and trail widening by using the existing tread surface.
Place vehicles, camp kitchen, tents and stock on areas where obvious signs of prior use exist.
Camp at least 200’ from watering holes, lakes and streams.

Pack It In, Pack It Out
Pack out everything you brought in with you--spent brass, shotgun shells, cigarette butts, etc.
Keep the wild in wildlife, don’t bury food or leave it behind.

Courtesy Pat Bower
Properly Dispose of Human Waste
Bury human waste in catholes 4-8” deep at least 200’ from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole. Do not leave toilet paper on the ground.
Clean water means better fishing; carry your wash or dish water to your camp.

Leave What You Find
Leave historical or cultural artifacts as you find them.
Use dead and downed trees for poles and hangs; dismantle when finished.
Signs are expensive; please don’t use them to sight-in firearms.

Minimize Use and Impact of Fires
Stoves are often the best option. Campfires, fire rings and wood collection can scar the backcountry.
Collect only dead and downed wood or bring your own.

If you are interested in learning more about Leave No Trace or becoming a trainer, go to https://lnt.org/about and contact the Center or your State Advocate. 

 Enjoy the hunt!

Sara Evans Kirol 
Trails/Special Uses
Forest Service
Bighorn National Forest