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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ensuring Our Hunting Heritage in Texas

You don’t need a wild herd of elk nearby to feel the influence of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. RMEF’s mission may be to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage, but when it comes to states like Texas –states that do not have a managed, free-ranging elk population— RMEF and its members in those parts continue to reach out to youth to promote and pass on our hunting heritage.

For example, take the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP). Established to increase the number of youth participating in wildlife and hunting activities, TYHP is successful because gracious landowners provide places to hunt, dedicated men and women run the hunts, and various organizations –including RMEF— provide the necessary funding. 

RMEF first got involved with the TYHP in 2003. Since then, RMEF provided more than $91,000 in funding for 17 different TYHP events including several out-of-state cow elk hunts. 

During the 2011-2012 season, RMEF state grant funding provided insurance coverage for 49 youth hunts which allowed 343 boys and girls to experience hunting, wildlife and the outdoors. RMEF funds also provided insurance for eight volunteer training workshops that trained 92 volunteers as TYHP Huntmasters, who over the coming years will introduce scores of youth and their families to safe hunting and wildlife conservation. RMEF funding also allowed the program to recognize volunteers and landowners who spent at least the last decade serving in the program. Members of the RMEF Southeast Texas Chapter also stepped up with the planning, coordination and on-the-ground work to help carry out youth hunts. 

TYHP continues to grow as does its influence and recognition. Thank you TYHP for helping Texas kids get hooked on wildlife, conservation, hunting and a love of the outdoors. We are there with you!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Father & Son to the Rescue

Near Quemado, New Mexico
Matt Woodward knows how to find wild game. After all, that’s his job. Woodward and his family own an outfitting business, Borderland Adventures, that offers guided hunts for elk, antelope, Coues deer, whitetail, mule deer, turkey and pheasants on private land in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico and Sonora, Mexico.

Even though Matt sees a lot of animals, his heart skipped a beat on a recent scouting trip from central Arizona to east-central New Mexico. Accompanied by his eight-year-old son, Trent, he traveled to a ranch about 15 miles outside of Quemado. With a goal of checking out the land and hanging some trail cameras, they came upon a spotted elk calf struggling with one of its small hoofs stuck in the lower rungs of a barbed wire fence. 

“We probably messed with her about five minutes or so trying to get it off. It was a pretty tight deal but I ended up getting a couple of tire irons and tools out of the back of the truck to pry the wire apart and work her hoof out of there,” said Woodward. “The calf was a little beat up. She rubbed herself a little raw on the fence but I think she’ll be just fine.”

Matt gets to work...
...and sets the calf free.
Once free, their work was not done. The calf remained nearby and it was another hot day on the parched landscape.

“Range conditions are really tough out there right now. We’ve got wolves to the south of us and no rain in sight,” said Woodward. “We coaxed her over about 40 yards or so toward some trees because she was out in the open in the blazing sun. We could hear some cows talking about 200 to 300 yards up the hill from us. We figured they were still close. Two hours later, she was gone.”

The elk rescue is an experience Matt won’t soon forget. Same goes for his boy.

“It was very cool. My son had never seen an elk up that close. It was a really neat deal for him. He had a glow on his face about it.”

From the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and elk and wildlife lovers everywhere we say “Thanks Matt! Thanks Trent!” An elk rescue on a hot New Mexico day by a family of elk hunters in the hunting business—a hands-on example of how Hunting is Conservation.

Trent watches the freed calf

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Maryland Passes on Elk Reintroduction

Elk in Pennsylvania
A collaborative effort to return elk to their native range of Maryland is on hold due to a lack of local support. Stakeholders such as Garrett County Commissioners and the Maryland Farm Bureau opposed elk reintroduction citing the potential for vehicle collisions, crop damage and disease.

“We did our best to honestly paint all the facts in the clearest way possible during the last two years. However, it is evident that now is not the time to move forward,” said stated Bill Miles, vice-chair of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation (MLSL). “Perhaps tomorrow will be different but not today.” 

Elk in Tennessee
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, MLSL and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources teamed up in 2011 to launch a feasibility study looking into biological, social and economic factors surrounding a possible reintroduction. A statewide public opinion survey released in May 2012 found nearly three out of four Maryland residents (72%), including two-thirds of folks in western Maryland (68%) where habitat exists to support elk, favored the reintroduction of elk into the western part of the state. An accompanying economic assessment determined western Maryland could realize $4 million in projected visitor spending. RMEF picked up the bill for the studies during the entire public process.

“We thank the good people of Western Maryland for listening. If local opinions about elk are changed we at RMEF stand ready to be of assistance,” said Dave Ragantesi, RMEF senior regional director.

Elk in Kentucky
While the decision is an immediate defeat for sportsmen and wildlife lovers, they may try again in the near future. After all, they are surrounded by success stories. Pennsylvania is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its elk herd. Virginia is in the process of adding to its newly reintroduced herd and West Virginia is considering reintroduction. There are also thousands of thriving elk in Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Though extirpated from Maryland since the late 1700’s, the fate of returning elk to its native Maryland now rests in the hands of its citizens.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area: A Testimony to RMEF's Mission

Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area (Idaho)
“Doesn’t matter what you like. If it’s in the outdoors, you can find it at Tex Creek.”

Those words make up the opening line of a new video (see below) produced by Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG). Funded in part with a $700 grant from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the production highlights the 31,000 acre Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area (TCWMA) in southeastern Idaho. Located approximately 13 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, the TCWMA is home to more than 3,000 elk, mule deer, moose, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, other animals, birds and trout. It’s especially popular for big game, upland bird and small game hunting, as well as hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.

TCWMA is made up of a patchwork of lands owned by the IDFG, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Land Management. RMEF is proud of its past land acquisition and stewardship efforts to mold the area into what it is today. Here’s a brief breakdown:

  • 1997: RMEF teamed up with the Bonneville Power Administration and IDFG in a two-phase plan to first purchase 1,495 acres of the Quarter Circle O Ranch, permanently protect its significant wildlife habitat, and convey it to the IDFG for inclusion into the TCWMA. 
  • 1997: RMEF established baseline monitoring data to assess rangeland and vegetation trends on the entire TWCMA.
  • 1998: RMEF entered the second and final phase of the Circle O acquisition with the purchase of 640 additional acres along Willow Creek.
  • 2000: RMEF implemented a multi-year project to convert agricultural fields into diverse habitat to supply needs for wildlife.
  • 2001: RMEF funded plowing and drill-seeding to improve habitat.
  • 2003: RMEF helped convert former grain fields to wildlife-friendly forage.
  • 2005: RMEF added 726 acres to the TCWMA via a collaborative effort with partners.
  • 2009: RMEF funded a study investigating the effect of competition between elk and mule deer may have on mule deer body condition, reproduction and survival.
Total reported value of the entire RMEF collaborative acquisition: $1,191,178.
RMEF dollars applied toward TCWMA stewardship efforts: $46,578.

Created to highlight the wildlife and recreational importance of the TCWMA, the video is a testimony to the importance of RMEF’s work. Kudos to award-winning videographer Kris Millgate, owner of Tight Line Media in Idaho Falls, for the superb effort. 

It’s not necessarily a “happily ever after” scenario for the TCWMA. It is primarily funded with mitigation dollars provided by the Bureau of Reclamation, with funding renewed in 5-year increments. But that funding is now uncertain because of federal budget cuts and sequestration. The video will be used as part of an effort to secure a TCWMA perpetual mitigation trust fund. 

“Without it, wildlife and the hunting opportunity and the recreational opportunity that we enjoy in eastern Idaho just simply wouldn’t be the same.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Helping Elk One Stand of Aspens at a Time

What’s the big deal with elk and aspen? Aspen stands are arguably the best habitat for elk. Aspen provide a productive underlying layer of forage or vegetation. Oak brush habitat is often found near aspen stands and also provides thick vegetation and cover. 

One of the best ways to ensure the future of elk is to look after elk habitat. That was exactly the focus of a recent Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation habitat project in west-central Montana.

Before the project
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks originally recommended removing conifers from aspen stands in the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest in 2006. The Dillon Ranger District's fire and weed crews revved up their chainsaws to remove colonizing conifers in eight different units in a total of 150 acres in aspen stands. They looked out for the future by girdling and leaving trees between 18 and 20 inches in diameter for snag retention. They also left larger scattered, older trees 20 inches and above in diameter to contribute to provide structure for wildlife. 

After the project
On top of that, crews treated 80 acres of noxious weeds along roads and two track trails, known infestations, riparian areas and conifer treatment units in both 2011 and again in 2012. What’s the bottom line? Improved forage and improved habitat for elk, deer, and moose and other critters.

RMEF contributed $11,370 in funds to help pay for the project.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

RMEF Life Member Seeks Reality TV “Trophy”

Justin & his New Mexico bull
Justin Jackson knows all about tracking, stalking, spotting and taking big game. An avid elk hunter from Oklahoma and Life Member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (link), he’s now ready to tackle a different type of “big game.” Jackson is a contestant on USA Network’s new reality TV show Summer Camp.

Jackson’s USA bio states his “favorite sound is the call of elk in the morning. An outdoorsman from an early age, hunter extraordinaire Justin has bagged and tagged everything from wild turkeys to bears. This lifetime member of the NRA will take anyone to task for stepping on his right to bear arms or kill his own dinner. At 41, he may be the oldest in the competition, but Justin has his sights set on winning and he never misses his target.” (See his video bio here.)

Justin Jackson
The eight-episode series has been in the works for seven years and begins on Thursday, June 11. It is dubbed as a competition involving 16 campers –eight women and eight men—who camp in close proximity. They compete in challenges based on classic camping games. When asked about it, the host said “It’s not another Survivor. It’s not another Amazing Race. It’s not another Biggest Loser.” Filmed at Big Bear, Calif., the remaining campers will square off with the winning team splitting $250,000. Production wrapped up in early June.

So can an elk hunter, often seen sporting his Team Elk pack on Summer Camp, bag the big prize? We’ll see.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! We forget all too often the significance of July 4 in this country. It isn’t just another day off or a long weekend. This holiday calls us all to honor the freedoms and independence we enjoy in the United States. Our freedom should not be taken lightly or for granted. Much was sacrificed for us to enjoy the freedom we have. Let’s honor it and protect it for all who follow us.

As Lee Greenwood so famously crooned (see video below) in his 1984 patriotic hit, “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”

On behalf of the RMEF, please enjoy your freedoms and this special American holiday. Be safe. God bless the USA!

M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO