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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Young Virginia Shooters Get a Shot in the Arm from RMEF

Lake Braddock Secondary School
The parents of today’s teenagers at Lake Braddock Secondary School (LBBS) in Virginia were teenagers themselves when rocker Pat Benatar belted out the well-known lyrics “Hit me with your best shot, fire away!” to packed arenas across the nation in the 1980s. But now their LBBS kids have the financial backing needed to put their crosshairs on the target to “fire away” for years to come.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and partner MidwayUSA recently awarded a $10,000 endowment to the LBBS rifle team in Fairfax that will generate about $500 a year in perpetuity. The squad of 21 students can use the funds for ammunition, targets or any equipment needed for their shooting sports program. LBBS competes in 10 meter, three position and precision air rifle matches organized by the nine-team Potomac High School Rifle League in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

The teens were pumped as they gathered with school sponsors and team coaches for the special check presentation. RMEF State Chair of Virginia Tinker Frazier, whose son and daughter graduated from Lake Braddock, presented the endowment. “The afternoon’s celebration was great,” said Frazier. “The school is thrilled and the students are excited about the upcoming school year.”

“This means so much to the kids. They work very hard to learn the technique, consistency, and focus to bring their scores up,” said Coach Matt Shuster. “With this endowment we will be able to provide the kids with the equipment they need to excel. When a young shooter shows me a target and tells me they just beat their personal best, the smile and sense of accomplishment is priceless. Thank you RMEF and MidwayUSA!”

“Conservation depends on strong participation in hunting and shooting sports, which together generate most of the revenue for wildlife habitat, management, law enforcement and research in America,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “We’re proud to support this heritage through endowments to encourage and support students with a budding interest in sporting lifestyles.” Allen also thanked Larry and Brenda Potterfield of MidwayUSA for their continued support of RMEF and scholastic shooting programs nationwide.

So rock on Bruins, keep your eye on the target and good luck this season!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Here's to RMEF's "Rock Stars," Our Volunteers!

Stephanie with sons Steven (left) and Erich (middle)
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation means a lot of things to a lot of people. It means conservation. It means restoration. It means hunting heritage. It means habitat. It means public access. It means camaraderie. It means elk!

But the RMEF would not thrive if it were not for thousands of hard-working, energetic, dedicated volunteers across the nation. Those volunteers are the driving force behind on-the-ground projects, membership drives and banquets that raise money to help the RMEF to carry out its mission to “ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.” As RMEF President and CEO David Allen would say, “They are our rock stars!” And this is just one example of one such dedicated RMEF family full of them.

Steven, Erich & Bruce 

The view from on high
Stephanie Weimann is the RMEF state chair for Florida.  Bruce is the co-chair of the Indian River chapter.  Their son Steven may be just 14 years of age but he's the chapter's merchandise chair.  Little brother Erich, age 8, is also involved.  The Weimanns live some 700 hundred miles from the nearest elk --about the furthest point in the continental United States from any wapiti-- but they proudly carry the RMEF banner in word and in action. Take this past July, for example, when the PBR’s RMEF Big Bull Tour rolled into Estero (140 miles south of Tampa) along Florida's lower Gulf Coast. For the Weimanns, it was an exhausting yet exhilirating and highly successful two-day family affair.

Erich & his lasso

They set up shop in a corner of Germain Arena and called it home for the weekend.  As Stephanie, Bruce and the boys spread the "good word" of RMEF, word spread that there were fashionably trendy RMEF antlers to be had--for free!  Floridians flocked to get them, including the Florida Everbabes, entertainment team for the 2012 East Coast Hockey League champion Florida Everblades.  Stephanie said the antlers were so popular that one man tried to sell his antlers to someone else for $50!  In all, the Weimanns gave away about 500 sets of antlers, but they did much more than just distribute headwear.  Thanks to a total team effort, they sold $700 worth of tickets for a Teddy Roosevelt gun raffle with proceeds going toward furthering the RMEF mission.
Florida Everbabes (center)
Rock on Weimanns!  Our thanks go out to you and all of our dedicated RMEF volunteers!

Tuckered out after a long, but very successful weekend

Monday, September 24, 2012

RMEF Receives Conservation Award at Historic Banquet

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently made history in Richmond, Kentucky. The setting was the first-ever Big Game Banquet held by the Eastern Kentucky University Student Chapter of the RMEF, the only such student chapter in the nation.

During the banquet, Wildlife Society students at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) presented the RMEF with the 2012 Pete Thompson Wildlife Conservation Award for efforts to restore elk in Kentucky. RMEF pledged more than $1.4 million toward the project in 1996. From the original seven elk released in eastern Kentucky in December of 1997 to an estimated herd size today of 12,000 strong–the largest elk herd east of the Mississippi River—the RMEF donated millions of dollars and countless hours of volunteer manpower to foster the success of Kentucky’s restoration program.

“It was an honor to receive this award on behalf of RMEF, but it is particularly gratifying to see these students’ hard work come to fruition with this banquet,” said Bill Carman, RMEF regional director. “I am really proud of them.”

The EKU student chapter, organized in 2011, is made up primarily of wildlife students who took a field trip last fall to the Hatfield Knob viewing tower in northeastern Tennessee.

“Many of these students had never seen a wild elk, and they were really excited to see a bull chasing cows, to hear a chorus of bugles, and to see a big mountaintop opening full of feeding elk,” said volunteer Sean Taylor. “They were really pumped! “

The chapter is already planning its next Big Game Banquet for June 15, 2013. Until then, members plan to help the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources with biological data collection during Kentucky’s elk hunt.

Hatfield Knob, Tennessee
 Dr. Pete Thompson taught at EKU for 30 years and is the faculty member instrumental in getting the Wildlife Society Student Chapter started. In recognition of his contributions, students in the chapter developed an annual award to honor his lifetime commitment to wildlife conservation in Kentucky. The Wildlife Society, founded in 1937, is an international, non-profit scientific and educational organization serving and representing wildlife professionals in all areas of wildlife conservation and resource management. Its goal is to promote excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education.

The EKU Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society was founded in 1975 and has been involved in wildlife and conservation issues in the Commonwealth since its inception.

“It is hoped the presentation of this award to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will show how much the students in Eastern Kentucky University’s Wildlife Society appreciate the Foundation’s efforts to ensure that hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in Kentucky will have the opportunity to experience the thrill of seeing and hearing elk today and in the future,” as stated in the award presentation.

Friday, September 21, 2012

National Hunting & Fishing Day; There's a Lot to Celebrate

There’s nothing like the anticipation of Christmas morning…or is there? Ask a hunter or angler what it feels like waking up to opening day of a new season and there you have it. September 27, 2014 marks the 42nd anniversary of National Hunting and Fishing Day. Okay, it’s not Christmas morning or Opening Day, but there’s still plenty to celebrate and there’s some history worth learning too.

A gun shop owner in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania was first to suggest an official designation. In 1970, Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer agreed and created “Outdoor Sportsman’s Day.” The following summer, Senator Thomas McIntyre of New Hampshire introduced a resolution authorizing the fourth Saturday of every September as National Hunting and Fishing Day. Representative Bob Sikes of Florida followed suit in the House. Congress unanimously passed both bills in 1972 and President Richard Nixon signed it into law on May 2, 1972. By later that same summer, all 50 governors proclaimed state versions of National Hunting and Fishing Day. Going back even further in time reveals when the real conservation effort began.
Teddy Roosevelt (center)
It was more than 100 years ago that hunters and anglers raised their voices to support conservation and wildlife. Led by President Theodore Roosevelt, a sportsman himself, early conservationists recognized that wildlife belonged to all people but needed to be managed. Those ideals later became known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They also called for laws to restrict the commercial slaughter of wildlife and lobbied for self-imposed taxes on sporting equipment to provide funding for state wildlife conservation agencies.

Struggling populations of elk, deer, turkeys, ducks and other species—some near extinction—rebounded. Funds started to pour in for wildlife management and land conservation. And the rest, as they say, is history.

So hit the nearest stream or lake, head to the prairies or mountains or take a walk, hike or canoe in the great outdoors. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains that there is plenty to celebrate, but not just on National Hunting and Fishing Day. As hunters and anglers, ours should be a year-long celebration of a wildlife conservation movement our ancestors created and we continue to enhance.
To find out what’s going on to celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day near you, go here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Biggest Bulls You'll Probably Never See in Person

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a photo (seen on the left) of a pond jammed full of elk, mostly BIG bull elk. I posted it on the RMEF Facebook page with the only caption that came to my mind: “Yowza!” The “likes” and comments immediately poured in by the dozens and dozens, but I wanted to know more. A little research, a Facebook message and subsequent emails from an RMEF follower, and a phone call to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist revealed some enlightening information.
Hanford Reach National Monument

The elk are located on a 194,000 acre chunk of land north of Richland in south-central Washington called the Hanford Reach National Monument. Created by presidential decree in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, it came mostly from the former security buffer surrounding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, home to a decommissioned nuclear power plant that supplied plutonium for the World War II atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. 

Hanford Nuclear
Today, the former nuclear site is nothing more than a superfund clean-up site, but its surroundings are much more than that. An area untouched by development or agriculture since 1943, the monument is bordered by the Columbia River to the north and east and the Yakima River and Highway 240 to the south. It’s home to sweeping vistas, towering bluffs, wildflowers, mule deer, coyotes, bald eagles, blue herons, pelicans and, of course, elk.

The elk arrived in the 1970s from the Cascade Mountains during an especially severe winter, and remained there since. The population hit a peak of 800 in 1999. WDFW surveys in January 2012 indicated a herd estimate of 719 elk with 46 bulls and 41 calves per 100 cows.

Courtesy Samantha Davey

Courtesy Brad Collins
The downside is most of us will never see the elk in person because the clean-up site, under the direction of the Department of Energy, is off-limits. Access to the monument is also restricted for research and ecology purposes. Even though WDFW pushed for more hunting opportunities, most available hunts are designed to address crop damage on surrounding wheat farms, vineyards and orchards. The best way to get hunter access is to apply for a special landowner permit. If selected, a one day guided hunt is guaranteed, however most permits are limited to antlerless opportunity for youth. The elk do sometimes leave the monument and clean-up area to swim across the river to what’s known as White Bluffs to breed, but they mostly remain on central Hanford.
Courtesy Samantha Davey
If you’re curious, past toxicology testing on meat taken from elk on the former nuclear site found nothing unsafe or out of the ordinary.

Courtesy Brian K. Moore

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thanking our Troops (and Feeding Them Too!)

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has a profound and deep respect for our military men and women.  It also has fun with them, too.

Back in 2010, RMEF auctioned off outfitter-donated mule deer doe hunts for Purple Heart recipients at its Colorado banquets.  One of Colorado’s RMEF state chairs at the time, Brian Soliday, later helped guide the hunts and met CSM Dale L. Veneklasen.  The two struck up a friendship and a strong relationship started to form between RMEF and the 1st Squadron, 10th Calvary Regiment, a group historically known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” 

The 10th Calvary Regiment got its “Buffalo Soldiers” moniker after the Civil War when the United States began its expansion westward into Indian Territory.  To protect settlers, the Regular Army Cavalry was increased by four regiments. One of those was the 10th Cavalry.  Originally made up of Negro volunteers, freed slaves from the South and some Civil War vets, the regiment successfully dealt with hostilities on the open plains from Oklahoma to Texas to Arizona.  The Buffalo Soldiers helped subdue Pancho Villa in Mexico, went ashore in Cuba in the Spanish-American War where members charged San Juan Hill alongside the "Rough Riders" of Teddy Roosevelt, and later joined American soldiers in World War II where the unit was inactivated.  Several year later, it was reorganized to fight in the Vietnam War and spent modern times carrying out several assignments in the Middle East.  Now, the 10th Calvary Regiment calls Fort Carson, Colorado, home.
From San Juan Hill to Iraq, the 10th Calvalry Regiment continues to serve our nation
Back to the present.  RMEF members in Colorado decided to honor the troops by holding a wild game barbeque as a sendoff for troops leaving for a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  They also agreed to do a welcome home barbeque.  On Tuesday July 17, 2012, committee members from the Canon City, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs and Denver chapters cooked for 1,000 people, including the entire 1st Squadron and their family members.  There was also a Safe Challenge event for 200 youth of the military families.  The gathering included an awards ceremony for commendations for the recent tour in Afghanistan.  Forty-four soldiers signed up for RMEF military memberships and one decided to become an RMEF volunteer.

RMEF members flip burgers for our troops at Fort Carson
Our thanks go out to the 1st Squadron and all of our military men and women, and their families, for their sacrifices in defending our great nation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Celebrating the Starkey Project, the Epicenter of Elk Research

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently played host to a two-day gathering to celebrate 25 years of research and partnerships with the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range.  The research area covers 40 square miles of an ungulate-proof fence enclosing in northeastern Oregon, offering unique opportunities for the science-based study of elk.

The activities began with RMEF’s "Professional Day," which was open to agency professionals including biologists, foresters, range specialists, and land managers from public agencies and private entities.  About 170 people were in attendance, 120 of them professionals. 

“Founders’ Field Day” followed with about 120 attendees, including 70 Habitat Partners, volunteers and presenters.  A tour showcased the landscape, methods and people involved with wildlife research.  Those who attended also had the chance to meet and interact with “tractable” or tame elk, the true research stars of the Starkey Project. 

The tour was fully interactive with presentations from the leading  researchers in the field, examples of different research applications including habitat manipulation, travel management, nutrition, and resource partitioning.  It also featured the development of the new Elk Habitat Selection Models for West side and East side forests.  Attendees donated more than $8,000 to assist elk and elk country.  RMEF founders Bob Munson and Charlie Decker also attended.
RMEF Founders Bob Munson & Charlie Decker

The Starkey Ungulate Ecology Project began in 1987 and continues today.  The motivation for the original research was based on a variety of national controversies about how best to manage elk, mule deer, and cattle in relation to a wide variety of public land uses, and the lack of cause-effect knowledge on these topics. 

The most notable of these controversies initially focused on the effects of timber harvest, roads, motorized access and hunting on elk and mule deer, and the potential for cattle competition with elk and mule deer.  Since the original studies wrapped up in the early 1990s, researchers completed more than 60 additional studies that encompass a diverse set of topics related to ungulates and their roles in forest ecosystems. 
RMEF believes the research results changed paradigms that guide habitat management, leading to informed decisions and improved habitat conditions for wildlife.  RMEF is dedicated to addressing and enhancing habitat for elk and other wildlife. One way we do this is by partnering in ungulate ecology research. The Starkey Project produces research that applies to landscapes throughout elk country resulting in improved wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities!

RMEF is pleased to be a partner on the Starkey Project and its research.  Go here to learn more about it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Montana Volunteers Roll Up Their Sleeves for Elk

Working hard, making memories, and making a difference for elk.  That was recently the theme of the day for the Southwest Montana Chapter-Butte of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

Sixteen chapter members, including two kids under the age of 12 and five dogs, coordinated with the Bureau of Land Management to put in an estimated 112 volunteer hours to enhance wildlife habitat on public land by pulling nearly 1.5 miles of four-strand barbed fencing in the Sawmill Creek Drainage of Montana’s beautiful Big Hole Valley south of Butte.

The group used fencing pliers, side cutters and game carts as they toiled to roll up wire, pull posts and restore unrestricted passageway for elk, deer, moose, bear and other critters across Sawmill Creek.  The area plays a large role in providing both winter range and calving grounds for numerous elk in the area. 
Mountain lion, bobcat, coyote and wolf also take advantage of Sawmill Creek as a reliable source of water.

The day also included sounds of laughter, camaraderie, friendship and good food.  Thanks to our Butte-area members for furthering the mission of RMEF:  ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hunter vs. Vegan: An Educational Lesson in Civility

Finger-pointing.  Outspoken emotion.  Polarization.  A lack of respect.  A lack of civility.  In this day and age, we seem to see and hear it everywhere.  Turn on the TV and you see accusatory, negative political attacks.  Log on to Facebook or other social media sites and such attitudes run rampant on a variety of topics. 

That’s why it was refreshing to see what happened September 5 in Brooklyn, New York.  Author Steven Rinella attended a promotional event for his new book, Meat Eater:  Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter.  He took a question/comment from an audience member, a vegan, accusing him, as a hunter, of “murdering innocent creatures.”  Rinella’s response was, in the least, educational and informational.  At the most, it was an inspirational lesson for hunters and non-hunters alike on how to address the issue, or any issue for that matter, with honesty, clarity and respect.

Well-spoken Steven.  Thanks!