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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

RMEF Auctions, Where There are No Losers

Going once, going twice...

And the winner is…elk! And conservation! And all those who opened their pocketbooks and wallets to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage! That’s how it goes at a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation auction. And at Elk Camp, the donations are even bigger, as are the benefits.

Team Elk trailer & signature of recording artist Zac Brown inside
Elk Camp 2013 features a wide array of products that, in the end, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for conservation over the stretch of four different gatherings—the Ladies Auction, Hunters Bonanza Auction, Friday Auction and Saturday Auction. RMEF President and CEO David Allen said it best when he said “The hunt auctions are always a highlight of Elk Camp. From elk in Montana, to plains game in Africa, to tahr in New Zealand, buying a hunt at an RMEF auction is a great way to support conservation because these hunts were donated to our organization by devoted outfitters.”

The donations are as amazing as they are varied and cover an incredibly wide array of tastes, interests, and even dreams. There are more than five dozen featured hunts and trips. There are almost two dozen special hunting permits up for auction on behalf of state agencies and tribes, with the vast majority of proceeds returning to those agencies to fund conservation programs. And don’t forget the firearms and bows—dozens of them. There are sharp things, shiny things, big things, small things, sparkly things, and things (a black lab puppy & a mule) that require feed, care and even loving.

The list of auction items that elk-loving folks will return home with is lengthy. When the sun ultimately sets on another Elk Camp, proceeds from the auction payments will linger much longer than the winnings in the form of more funding for elk, elk country and conservation.

And that makes everyone a winner.

Going once...going twice...Sold!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Elk Camp 2013 Begins in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Convention Center
And they’re off…

The Las Vegas Convention Center doors swung open on Thursday morning, the last day of February, and the people started to pour in for the largest Elk Camp exposition yet. Yes indeed after months of waiting, the fun is finally underway at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's 29th annual national convention.

In reality, it got off to a jump-start on Wednesday night at the Elk Camp Reception. Hundreds of cowboys, cowgirls, men and women, young adults and others—all elk lovers from all across the country—gathered to renew friendships, share hunting tales and just plain enjoy life. Country music recording artist Daryle Singletary and his rich, deep tones entertained the RMEF family by playing an acoustic set of favorites leading to plenty of toe-tapping from those lucky enough to have a table up front to the standing room only crowd in the back. (And here’s a “heads up” for you. Daryle is also part of a new Elk Camp tradition. He and his musically talented friends recently spent time in the studio to record a special version of America the Beautiful. And he did it just for RMEF! Look for it at a big game banquet near you.)

Daryle Singletary (right) entertains at the Mirage
More than 12,000 people are expected to walk the expo floor over the next four days. And that’s just to check out the more than 600 booths—a daunting task especially when there is so much to soak in. Remember, there are also auctions, loads of RMEF garb, the 25th anniversary of the World Elk Calling Championships, and so many others sights and events to enjoy.

Yes, it’s going to be a great run!

Elk Camp 2013: The "Calm" Before the Storm

Las Vegas Convention Center
Outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, it's a beautiful day.  The sun is shining, the winds are calm and temperatures are in the mid-50s.

Inside, it's a completely different story where all of the "meteorological" terms seem to apply:  stormy, blustery and turbulent. In truth, it is a real whirlwind of activity but it's a controlled frenzy where the smiles of renewed friendships abound. You see, staffers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are busily setting up booths, unpacking crates and boxes, hanging banners, and unrolling the red carpet for thousands of RMEF members and volunteers descending on Vegas from all over the country for Elk Camp, RMEF's annual 29th convention.  
And they're not alone either. Exhibitors from 350 companies and organizations setting up more than 600 booths covering 200,000 square feet are hard at it too--climbing ladders, hanging elk and deer mounts, displaying apparel and wares, and doing whatever they need to do to get ready. And then there are the convention center workers buzzing around the facility on forklifts, scooters, three-wheeled, and various four-wheeled vehicles moving supplies and merchandise to and fro.

What's the bottom line? Come Thursday morning, rain or shine outside, everything and everyone will be in their proper places as the doors swing open on the International Sportsmen's Exposition. Plenty to do. Plenty to see. With nightly activities scheduled at the Mirage, the spotlight of Elk Camp will shine brightly on elk, conservation, hunting, the outdoors and those who love them.

Friday, February 22, 2013

RMEF Makes Memories for First-Time Teenage Elk Hunter

I recently had the privilege of taking 15-year-old Dylan Lytle from Afton, Wyoming, on his first elk hunt as part of a program sponsored by the RMEF’s Jackson Hole Chapter and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. Dylan did not disappoint. He gave us both some of the fondest memories one could ask for. He killed his first elk—a five point bull—with his grandfather’s Remington 760 Gamemaster .308. The icing on the cake was that Dylan did it all just hours after his father Jim Lytle, an RMEF member, arrived home from military training in Alabama.

Dylan and his first elk
Dylan took hunter’s safety while his dad was in Kuwait with the 115th Fires Brigade as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Dylan and Jim hunted the last two years together, killing a couple two-point mule deer bucks and making some great memories. Jim was surprised and grateful when he heard Dylan was going to have a chance to hunt this year, despite Jim himself being out of state.

However, our first weekend campout in Wyoming’s Gros Ventre Wilderness near Jackson Hole produced nothing—not even a glimpse of an elk. That did not deter Dylan’s resolve. He was more than willing to put up with horses, mules, camping and me for yet another weekend in the woods.

The following Friday afternoon, I set up camp while Dylan struck out on an evening hunt. He saw two elk, both of which were on the move and did not offer a shot. Saturday morning we saw no elk, or even fresh tracks, in the 7 inches of snow in the drainage bottom.

That evening we decided to hunt a ridgeline between two drainages. We spotted a lone bull and started our stalk. All of a sudden we saw two bulls running beside us. Dylan set up, while I cow called. The bulls stopped momentarily, but then moved off. A spike appeared following their tracks, and a cow call stopped him at 250 yards away. Dylan shot, but missed.

Bright and early the next morning, we headed up a little drainage where we saw two spikes and a couple of cows. They sensed us and moved uphill into dense tree cover. We proceeded a few yards ahead, and there on the hill above us, we spotted an elk’s butt sticking out from behind a tree at no more than 250 yards. We crawled a bit to our right to see more of its body and confirmed it was a bull.

Dylan set up using the shooting stick we’d picked up on the trail earlier, aimed, then deliberately and methodically squeezed the trigger. The gunshot echoed through the canyon as the bull bolted through the trees and out of sight. We climbed the steep hillside and found an obvious bloodtrail in the snow. Five hundred yards away—deep inside a twisted downfall—the bull lay dead from a shot to the lungs. We field dressed the elk, cut it in half, and began the multiple-hour pull/slide down the hill to the meadow below. Maneuvering through the downfall was tough, and the steep slope and wet, slippery snow had us on the ground as much as we were on foot. Then we hiked to camp and brought the horse and mules back to the meadow. Camp robbers entertained us while we boned out the elk. One even landed on Dylan’s arm.

Since Dylan’s riding mule was laden with elk meat, he had to hike back to the trailhead. But he didn’t complain. He knew that was just part of the deal.

Along the way I asked Dylan what he enjoyed most during our five-day hunt. “Dragging the elk halves off the mountain,” he replied. In other words, he cherished the hunting, not just the killing. And that’s the way it should be.

By Steve Kilpatrick, Jackson Hole Chapter

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

RMEF Statement Regarding Randy Newberg

Randy Newberg


RMEF is an organization comprised of hunters and non-hunters who all have a deep passion for wildlife conservation. Recently an issue has arisen regarding the election one of our new Board members. The following will state our position on this issue.

RMEF is a diverse enough organization to allow for opinions/beliefs of all hunters and those non-hunters who support hunting as part of our conservation toolbox in this country. We support and work with private landowners, outfitters and do-it-yourself hunters alike; RMEF’s history speaks for itself on this issue. We intend to continue with these relationships.

Relative to the recent issue of Randy Newberg being selected for a RMEF Board seat, the leadership of the RMEF Board has notified Mr. Newberg that we welcome him to the Board beginning March 3.

RMEF strongly believes that hunter vs. hunter confrontation is non-productive for the future of hunting and wildlife conservation.


John Caid                                                             M David Allen
Chairman, RMEF Board                                  President & CEO

Friday, February 8, 2013

RMEF = Big Bulls, But Check Out This Record-Setter!

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is no stranger to big bulls!  In fact, we are surrounded by them.

Elk Country Visitor Center in Missoula, Montana
Let's start with the Elk Country Visitor Center. Nearly 40,000 children and adults made their way to the VC, as we call it, last year.  It includes a variety of fun, interactive, hands-on exhibits including a diorama with all sorts of other critters you will find throughout elk country.  You can hear an elk bugle, test your wildlife knowledge, identify animal tracks, feel the weight of an antler and enjoy wildlife conservation films and Team Elk episodes in our mini theater.  What you absolutely cannot miss are the dueling bulls as you walk in or the impressive  display of elk mounts near the gift shop.  Oh yeah, there's also an interactive trail outside that winds through the 22-acre RMEF property.        

Great Elk Tour at PBR Finals in Las Vegas
If you've never made it to RMEF headquarters in Missoula, maybe you were nearby when we brought a part of RMEF to you in the form of the Great Elk Tour.  This traveling display of the biggest bulls in the world is our premiere traveling conservation exhibit.  The display not only shows off some eye-bulging elk but offers a better understanding of the habitat needed to support them and how RMEF works to conserve elk country and ensure our hunting heritage.  The six bulls hail from five different states.  Each is unique in its own majestic kind of way. The biggest of the bunch is from Arizona and goes  by "Trucker," the "Reindeer Bull," and the "Pig."  He grossed 435 6/8 and netted 420 2/8 Boone & Crockett.  By just the halfway point of 2013, that big fella and the rest of the tour will stop in ten different states and cover thousands of miles from Tennessee to Minnesota to Arizona to California.

Great Elk Tour at Devil's Tower, Wyoming
RMEF is also known for bulls of a completely different type.  Thanks to our association with the Professional Bull Riders, fans of the bucking bulls refer to RMEF for a different reason.  One of the more well-known bulls is RMEF-Gun Powder and Lead, owned by Jeff Robinson.  This hard bucking, saliva snorting beast is simply one of the best animals on the PBR Tour.  He placed third at 2011 World Finals, was the 2011 high money bull, and had the highest marked ride of 2011 at 93.5.  That's a whole lot of bull with lot of attitude!
RMEF - Gun Powder and Lead
Back to elk and during hunting season we hear from RMEF members around the country who are skillful and even, at times, lucky enough to fill the beds of their pickups, and eventually their freezers, with bulls harvested anywhere from the Pacific Northwest to the Desert Southwest to Wyoming, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Speaking of Pennsylvania, that brings us to what some call what may be the eighth largest nontypical bull elk ever.  Bill Zee shot it in the backwoods of north-central part of the state.  It scored 442 6/8 and has quite the story to go along with it.  You can read all about it in Outdoor Life.

Bill Zee (on the right/photo courtesy Outdoor Life) 

Congrats Bill and, by the way, thanks for giving some props to RMEF.  We appreciate it and sure hope you have a room large enough to show off that bull of a lifetime!

Taxidermist AJ Lynch (Outdoor Life)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Looking Back and Charging Forward

David Allen
Last year will go down as one of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s best yet. We capped it off by setting a new record for membership. As of the final day of December, 196,079 people belonged to the RMEF, almost 12,000 higher than at the end of 2011. This marks RMEF’s fourth consecutive year of record growth. Our TV show, Team Elk, won fan favorite for best new series at the Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose Awards. This past fall and winter, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Minnesota held their first modern wolf hunts, and Montana and Idaho built on their recent success of managing wolves through hunting and trapping. Our Hunting is Conservation campaign gained tremendous traction in 2012. That’s no surprise, because it’s a statement straight from the heart of this organization.

Plain and simple, RMEF is an outfit made up of elk hunters and those who embrace hunting and conservation as a way of life. Together, RMEF members have conserved well over 6 million acres of prime habitat spread out all across our great nation wherever wapiti roam. We aim to keep charging forward in 2013, but I want to pause and celebrate all that you helped accomplish for our mission last year. I asked our Vice President of Lands and Conservation, Blake Henning, to provide his perspective. 

Black Mountain, Nevada
It’s an honor to help put RMEF member dollars directly to work for wildlife, and 2012 was a year filled with a number of great firsts. We recorded our first conservation easement in Nevada—647 acres of key elk habitat on Black Mountain northeast of Wells. That was one of 21 permanent land protection projects we completed this past year, forever protecting 49,878 acres of America’s finest elk country across eight states.

Volunteers also chalked up more on-the-ground projects than ever before, spending their precious free time busting their backsides to improve the lives of elk by pulling miles of old fences from key travel corridors, installing dozens of new water sources in parched lands, and a host of other important habitat work.

Sam Dean/The Roanoke Times
But for me, it’s hard to beat the “first” of having wild elk make tracks into a place where they’ve been absent for more than a century. In 2012, Virginia finally welcomed elk home. This is a cause RMEF—and its Virginia volunteers in particular—advocated for tirelessly across the better part of two decades, despite being told again and again it would never happen. As you can read on page 60, our crazy dreams appear to be coming true. Just across Virginia’s western border, the RMEF helped reintroduce elk to Kentucky 16 years ago. Since then, the herd—now 10,000 strong—has paid huge economic, ecologic and social dividends, including a wildly popular elk hunt. Restoring elk to Virginia should have the same positive impact.  

That’s not to say it was a banner year in every respect. Since RMEF had a dollar to its name, it has worked tirelessly to multiply those dollars and put them to work improving elk habitat. Yet 2012 was a challenging year for one of our sharpest tools in this effort. Through its history, RMEF has helped fund prescribed burns across more than 1 million acres of key elk habitat. Fire rejuvenates forage for wildlife on a landscape-scale like few other things can. But fire is a double-edged sword that can only be wielded safely under the right conditions. Those conditions were in short supply in 2012. Take Colorado, home to a quarter of the world’s elk. It suffered one of its worst droughts in modern history, shutting down any hope of prescribed burning on all state and federal lands. The same was true across much of the West. Despite this, RMEF succeeded in enhancing more than 81,000 acres of habitat by battling noxious weeds, enhancing aspen, thinning overgrown timber and many other methods to complete 211 projects in 21 states. Yes, that’s short of the 100,000 acres we aim to enhance every year, but still an incredible number no matter how you slice it.

RMEF also closed two more phases of the multi-year effort to forever protect 8,200 acres of vital habitat along Montana’s Tenderfoot Creek. All told once this project is completed it will open new public access on almost 20,000 acres. And this tenderloin of elk habitat will remain a treasure for generations to come. This is only the tip of the iceberg for what we aim to accomplish for creating new public access. All I can say is buckle your seat belts.

Tenderfoot Creek, Montana
Acres are just one measure of mission success. Getting young people, women, wounded veterans and others involved in hunting and conservation has always been one of RMEF’s primary endeavors. In 2012, we helped fund projects in 43 states, reaching more than 350,000 children and adults.

As I hinted at earlier, we’ve got some incredibly exciting things brewing for 2013 and beyond. The RMEF is as committed as ever to the future of elk and other wildlife—and the future of elk hunting. I believe we are more capable of ensuring that future than ever before. We appreciate all you do to support our mission. Generations to come will thank you for it.

--M David Allen, RMEF President and CEO

Monday, February 4, 2013

Helping Elk, One Spray at a Time

Spray crew approaches a hillside of feeding elk
In 2012, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided 312 grants in 43 states for hunting heritage and conservation outreach. The overall total included 21 land protection projects that protected 49,878 acres in eight states and 211 habitat and wildlife stewardship projects that enhanced 82,932 more acres in 22 states.
Spraying in the burn

Grant funds from both 2011 and 2012 combined for these two Idaho projects.  One project prevented the expansion of noxious weeds within two areas of the Caribou National Forest; the 2010 Giraffe Creek wildfire area on the Montpelier Ranger District which burned 300 acres of crucial big game winter range and scattered infestations throughout backcountry summer ranges on the Soda Springs Ranger District.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII: 49ers, Ravens and Elk?

Okay, so what do elk and Sunday’s unofficial American sports holiday have in common? At first glance not much, unless you perhaps have plans to throw some backstraps on the barbecue. But then again, it all depends on who you talk to. 

A recent Sports Illustrated report fingered Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis as using a performance enhancer in the form of deer antler velvet spray, which contains a prohibited substance called IFG-1, to speed up his recovery from a torn triceps earlier in the season.

So what’s the deal with IFG-1 and what is its link to elk? The National Geographic Daily News reports the disputed substance is made from male deer antlers during the stage when the antlers are covered in soft fuzz. Antler velvet is basically an insulin-like growth hormone. Growth hormones are naturally produced by the brain and liver, and regulate how our bodies grow. IFG-1 supposedly helps heal cartilage and tendon injuries more quickly and also boosts strength and endurance. New Zealand is home to more than 2,800 farms that contain approximately 1.1 million deer. And remember that “deer” in New Zealand really means red deer or a red deer-elk hybrid.

Red Deer
While Lewis denies using the spray, Vijay Singh, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, does not. In fact, he just admitted using it and dropped out of a tournament claiming he didn’t know it was banned by the PGA Tour. The SI report also linked the deer spray supplement to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and even to members of the NCAA college football champion Alabama Crimson Tide.

So whether elk play a part in Sunday’s Super Bowl, who really knows? If you don’t see it on the field, check the barbecue.