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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fishing, Kids, Fun and the RMEF

“It was slimy and had little red spots on it.” That’s what four-year-old Baylor Creswell said after he pulled his trout from the Oconaluftee River. Baylor and about 1,500 other kids descended on Cherokee, North Carolina, for the annual Talking Trees Trout Derby.

The two-day, free family event is for children age 3-11. Activities also include fly-tying exhibitions, fish-cleaning stations, wildlife and fisheries exhibits, food, music and prizes. And that’s exactly why the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation returns year after year to help out.

In fact, this past August marked the tenth year members of the RMEF Great Smoky Mountains Chapter stepped up to volunteer as a sponsor of the event. In addition to providing $2,000 in funding so each child went home with a fishing pole, 19 RMEF volunteers also blew up balloons gave out temporary elk tattoos, helped kids fish in the river and provided elk booklets for children and Bugle magazines for adults.

Elk do have a history in this part of the country. Elk historically roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains centuries ago but were eliminated due to overhunting and the loss of habitat. However, with support of both RMEF and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, elk were reintroduced into the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001. Elk are frequently seen along the Oconaluftee River and in the Cherokee area. The current elk population in western North Carolina is believed to be about 140 animals, counting elk both inside and outside of park boundaries.
Back on the river Baylor looked to land more fish. He’s such a determined young angler that he said he’d return to catch 190 fish next year. (Psst Baylor, the limit is only five.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Unusual and Not So Unusual Gifts for the Hunter

We all know the old saying “Tis better to give than to receive,” but give what? Well, let’s run down some holiday gift suggestions.

First, we toe the company line. If you want to give the gift of conservation, elk, and elk hunting, there’s no better way to do so than to give someone a membership to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Ninety percent of all membership fees go toward furthering the RMEF mission to enhance the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. The membership level is up to you:

$35 Annual Supporting Membership
$75 Annual Family Membership
$100 Annual Sustaining Membership
$300 Annual Sponsor Membership
$1,500 Life Membership

Whichever membership you choose, the recipient will get a minimum of six bi-monthly issues of the popular Bugle magazine. And if you join right now and use the promo code FHATCH12, the recipient also receives a Browning hatchet and knife set (aka excellent stocking stuffers).

If you want to take a step beyond that, check out the Elk Country Trading Post for more traditional gifts like shirts, hats, books or other gifts such as the 2013 RMEF elk calendar. You could also surprise a loved one with a winter getaway to Las Vegas for Elk Camp 2013.
A Google search quickly pulls up a wide variety of possibilities for the sportsman, the sportswoman, and even the sportskid. For the religiously inclined, there’s what’s called the Holy Shed, a unique replica of a non-typical buck said to have headgear that looked like a cross. It’s 13 inches tall by 17 inches wide and will “add a divine touch to your home's d├ęcor.”

If you’re into giving camo, the sky is the limit. It seems just about everything out there has a camo option to it—from bathing towels to men’s swim trunks to a complete green camo baby gift set to what you need to outfit an entire hunter orange and camo and wedding party.

What about holiday decorations for that military friend or family member? There’s a selection of tactical stockings complete with carabiners and pockets or slots for other military-related gizmos.

If you want to go with smaller, more intimate gifts, what about double deer love earrings, a simple elk calf key chain, or maybe a white-tailed buck bobblehead?

However, if money is no object, you could dig deep into that bank account and pony up $75,000 for a Neiman Marcus luxury yurt.

Measuring 18-feet in diameter and featuring a lavish interior, it’s (sort of) like camping in your rich uncle’s house. Luxurious accessories include pillows, a sofa, flower vases, candles and a crystal chandelier designed with glamour colors to accentuate colors of the season. (At least, that’s what the description states.)

Whatever your taste and whatever your budget, your friends at RMEF wish to thank you for your continuing support and wish you the best as you celebrate the joy of the Christmas season with family and loved ones.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wounded Warriors Treated to Stress-Free Alaska Hunt

When you’re in a combat zone, you must be fully prepared, fully outfitted and at full attention to survive the realities of war and successfully carry out your mission. Staff Sergeant Patrick Zeigler knows that all too well. He survived two tours in Iraq where many of his close friends didn’t. But imagine having “war” break out on your home base. That’s exactly what happened when Major Malik Nadal went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. When it was over, 13 soldiers were dead and more than two dozen more were wounded, including Zeigler.  

Three years later and eight brain surgeries later, the seven-year military vet found himself thousands of miles from home. Zeigler joined many fellow combat wounded and weary veterans for the second annual hunt for Alaska’s Healing Hearts. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, along with other sponsors, stepped up to assist by providing outdoor gear, tree stands, tree harnesses, bear baiting supplies and other items needed for the hunt. The goal for the soldiers was to try to harvest bear on the rugged Alaska landscape near the small towns of Sutton and Willow.

“It’s great. We set up real nice on a ridge overlooking a whole basin area,” Zeigler told the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. “The scenery is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in America.”

The outing was not just a “boys’ night out” hunt either. It was also for their families. Additional activities included ATV riding, games, canoeing and horseback riding--all designed to take place in a stress-free environment. Celebrities like Aaron Tippin, Chub Eastman and Jim Zumbo attended camp to provide cooking, cleaning, and fellowship.

Jim Zumbo (left), Jessica & Patrick Zeigler (right)

As Zeigler looks to the future, he is not alone. His wife Jessica remains at his side. While engaged, she rushed to his Fort Hood hospital bed and never left. A year and a half later, they married.

Patrick & Jessica (Frontiersman)

“I think she’s the most incredible person I’ve ever met in my life,” he told the Frontiersman. “To drop everything and be by my side like that. I can never pay her back. All I can do is love her.”

And that love will only grow because the Zeiglers are now new parents to a bouncing baby boy.

Here’s to you Staff Sgt. Zeigler, and to Jessica too! Thanks for your continuing service and sacrifice for our country.

Patrick, Jim Zumbo and others with Patrick's bear recently taken in North Carolina

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nevada ROTC Students “On Target” Thanks to RMEF Grant

Hug High ROTC Rifle Team
“This is excellent. This will be a good source of money for our team. It will definitely come in handy, because right now we’re using old equipment. This will help us replace some of the old stuff.”

That’s what Major Michael J. Blackburn told the Daily Sparks Tribune after the Hug High School ROTC rifle team of Reno, Nevada, received a $10,000 endowment grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the MidwayUSA Foundation. The bottom line is the endowment will generate $500 a year in perpetuity. That means from here on out, the team can use the money to purchase the ammunition and other supplies it needs for its shooting program.

RMEF staff and volunteers nominate high school, college and university shooting teams to receive the endowments, which are generated from RMEF chapter fundraisers and through a donation from the MidwayUSA Foundation. Recipients are determined four times a year.

Twenty students are expected to try out this year for the Hug High ROTC rifle squad, twelve of which will make the final cut. They will represent the group at competitions with other area ROTC and scholastic shooting programs.

“We’re a growing team,” Blackburn said. “With this help from Midway USA and RMEF, we might have a real shot this year.”

Good luck shooters. Keep your eye on the prize. And a special thanks to our partners at MidwayUSA for outfitting our youth for the future.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Oregon Elk Get the “All Clear” Thanks to RMEF Volunteers

One of Oregon’s finest elk herds will be able to better navigate the mountains in the northeast part of the state thanks to 16 volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Fourteen adults and two children braved 100 degree temperatures this past summer to help improve 1,350 acres of private land winter range in the Starkey Wildlife Management Unit near the Grande Ronde River.

Members of the RMEF La Grande and Pendleton Chapters helped remove and rebuild half a mile of fencing on the Wapiti Ranch, a working cattle ranch about 12 miles west of LaGrande. Workers replaced the woven wire fence with 3-strand wildlife-friendly fencing to reduce wildlife entanglement and improve wildlife migration and passage. The ranch is critical winter range habitat for approximately 500 elk and other species but it’s also a key calving ground.

The landowner worked closely with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Forestry, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the RMEF over the years to implement forest health and wildlife habitat improvement projects.

"The continued success of the Elk Foundation can be attributed to our relentless pursuit of partnership, and this project is no exception,” said Chad Klinkenborg, RMEF north Oregon regional director. “By working together with a private landowner and a state agency we were able to get the right thing done for wildlife."

Monday, December 3, 2012

David Allen Issues Letter on Yellowstone Park Wolves

David Allen

Robert Ream, Chairman
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission
Helena, MT

Dear Mr. Ream,

We understand that Defenders of Wildlife and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) are currently running a campaign against Montana FWP for allowing hunting and trapping of wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park (YNP). As you know, these hunts are legal, necessary and scientifically sustainable. There is absolutely no science or rationale to support these groups belief that a special "no hunt" zone should be created outside of YNP. Further, we are not aware of any science or rationale to support the attempts of Defenders, GYC and other groups to create a distinction between "Yellowstone wolves" and wolves that exist within the tri-state region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

The attempt to establish a “buffer zone” for YNP wolves is in direct contrast to the original goal for the wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM). Never at any time was it planned that "Yellowstone wolves" would be granted amnesty from management once outside of YNP. This is a time when Defenders, GYC and others should be celebrating a successful recovery of the wolf population. However, it seems that there is no such satisfaction. Will there ever be? A substantial number of wolves throughout the three states have come from YNP. Are they to be given special protection status as well? Additionally, hundreds of animals including elk, deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain lions and others are fitted with radio collars for scientific purposes and roam the wilds in and around YNP, but they are not excluded from hunting seasons outside the park. When harvested, the collars are returned to the management agency and the data is utilized. We urge all hunters to return collars to wildlife agencies.

During the recent lawsuits over delisting wolves in the NRM, Defenders, GYC and others strongly proclaimed that borders between states did not matter when considering wolf populations and wolf management. They claimed this so they could keep Montana, Idaho and Wyoming all tied together in the lawsuit. We were all told "an imaginary or arbitrary border or line had no distinction when considering wolf populations.” Now, all of sudden, the YNP border is relevant and any wolf close to it but outside of the park should be protected. It is obvious that Defenders, GYC and others simply wish to continue to protest state-based management of wolves, thus keeping a "wolf controversy alive" for the express purpose of soliciting for more donations.

The reality is Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are each required to manage wolves within a specific set of mandates. If those mandates are not adhered to, then the states run the risk of losing management control and having their wolf population placed back on the Endangered Species List. As it stands today, wolf numbers continue to be well above objective and in need of reduction. Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are not close to risking the greater wolf population of the NRM being relisted under the ESA, and that should be the common goal for all of us.

Those who protest the harvesting of the Yellowstone area wolves seem to gloss over the fact that the primary reason wolves are leaving Yellowstone is for prey. The substantial reduction of the northern Yellowstone elk herd requires these wolves to travel farther for prey. We sincerely wish that those who claim to "defend wildlife" felt some empathy for the thousands of elk that have been lost from the northern Yellowstone elk herd, not to mention the related economic losses. We continue to hear the cry for different science from these special interest groups. We submit that the real science is at work now through state-based management and these groups need to get on board and support it. We have wasted enough taxpayer time and money chasing special interest ideology.

We urge you not to alter or reduce the ability to continue the legal and ethical management, including hunting and trapping, of wolves surrounding the Yellowstone National Park border. Further, we urge our members to communicate their position on this important issue with you.

Thank you for your consideration.


David Allen