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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

David Allen: Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Dear RMEF Family,

A year ago at this time, I expressed my gratitude for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and all the dedicated volunteers, members and RMEF staffers who carry out our shared mission to ensure the future of elk and elk country. Now that 2014 is about to close, I remain sincerely thankful for those same things.

We have done great things together this past year. RMEF permanently protected and opened or secured public access to tens of thousands of acres of prime elk habitat. We took part in scores of on-the-ground habitat enhancement projects to improve elk country for elk and other critters. We are reaching out to more youth to pass on our hunting heritage way of life. The list of accomplishments goes on and on.

Santa is about to make his annual rounds and we all look forward to that. May I suggest that the best presents we can give this holiday season are the gifts of thankfulness, gratitude and a dedication to standing up for who we are as hunter-conservationists? We owe that to ourselves and the generations that follow. I am thankful for this great and growing conservation organization that is doing so much good on so many fronts from one coast of our great country to the other.

Personally, I cherish my wife and my boys and the life that we share. I am also grateful for my RMEF family. Thank you for all that you do!

I want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Enjoy your time with your loved ones. Express your gratitude to them and to our Maker for the many good things we all enjoy in the outdoors, including the abundant wildlife and habitat resources.

2014 was great but 2015 can be even greater. Let’s make it happen together!


M. David Allen
RMEF President/CEO

Monday, December 22, 2014

The IRA Charitable Rollover Is Back

The IRA Charitable Rollover Is Back 

There are Still Donor Opportunities for 2014!

Make a tax-free distribution from your IRA accounts (up to $100,000) to charitable organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The IRA Charitable Rollover was enacted to encourage older Americans to give out of their IRA accounts. Congress has provided a one year extension of tax provisions through December 31, 2014, retroactive to January 1, 2014.

This is a popular avenue to make a meaningful outright gift to RMEF.
  • People age 70½ and older can take advantage of this opportunity to give up to $100,000 tax-free to charity. 
  • These charitable rollovers qualify for the yearly required minimum distributions (RMD). 
  • While the IRA owner cannot take an income tax deduction for this transfer, they won’t have to report the transfer as taxable income. 
  • Transfer the money directly from their IRA accounts to charitable organizations. 
The charitable rollover can be advantageous to donors from a tax standpoint if:
  • They do not itemize deductions. 
  • They pay state income tax but cannot take charitable deductions on their state return. 
  • They would not be able to deduct all of their charitable contributions because of deduction limitations, or 
  • An increase in taxable income would negatively affect their ability to use other deductions. 

Please consult your financial advisors to confirm this concept works for you. 

For more information, please contact us at legacy@rmef.org or 1-800-225-5355 and ask for the Development Department.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

RMEF Grant Opens Access to 189,000 acres of Wyoming Elk Country

Below is a 4/7/2014 news release from Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Donates to Game and Fish AccessYes Program

CASPER - The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) recently donated $45,000 to the Wyoming Game and Fish AccessYes program to secure access for hunting and fishing across Wyoming, through the Private Lands Public Wildlife (PLPW) Access Program. This is the largest single donation to AccessYes.

“RMEF is an outstanding partner and supports a variety of wildlife related projects in Wyoming. A dollar does not go very far these days, but it will open more than 4 acres of land to hunting and fishing access. Sportsmen will see many acres become available to them with this amazing RMEF donation,” says Scott Talbott, director of Game and Fish.

In Wyoming, RMEF Chapters raised $1,524,844 in 2013 alone, landing them number one in the nation for raisingfunds. The organization is dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and the hunting heritage. “RMEF has worked with Game and Fish on numerous projects involving everything from conservation easements to brucellosis and wolf management,” says Talbott.

“We are grateful for RMEF support and thank them for this generous donation,” says Matt Withroder, regional access coordinator.

Funding for AccessYes comes from several sources, primarily conservation stamp sales, donations and restitutionpayments. Hunters and anglers also have the option of donating to the program when they purchase or apply for a license. Sportsmen donations can only be used for purchasing easements for Hunter Management Areas and Walk-in Areas.

AccessYes donations go directly to the access program and every $1 donated provides access to 4.2 acres of land.

In 2013, the PLPW Access Program provided more than 2.8 million acres of access for hunters and anglers. Thisincludes 1,090,708 acres on Hunter Management Areas, 687,517 acres in Walk-In Hunting areas.

For more information, visit the Game and Fish web page at wgfd.wyo.gov under the PLPW Access Program or contact the Casper Game and Fish office at (307) 473-3400.

Matt Smith: Running for the Bulls

Matt Smith raised $3,000 for an RMEF
Habitat Partnership at his first marathon
Everyone’s heard of running with the bulls, but what about running for the bulls (and cows and calves, too)?

And—if training for a marathon isn’t challenging enough, how about trying to raise $2,500 at the same time to support your efforts? 

That’s exactly what Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Wisconsin state chair Matt Smith did this past May when he decided to tackle the Wisconsin Marathon. A runner for years, 47-year-old Smith had already completed a handful of half-marathons in his lifetime, each time walking away from the experience proclaiming: “People who run full marathons are crazy!” 

But last Christmas when the application for the Wisconsin marathon/half-marathon event appeared in his mailbox, for reasons he still can’t explain, Smith checked the marathon box. “People compare me to a Clydesdale,” he says of his 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound frame. “I’m not built to run marathons.” 

Yet he found a four-month marathon training program and began pounding out the miles. About a month into it, Smith had an idea. 

“I thought, if I’m going to do all this work, I’d sure like to round up some awareness and proceeds for the Elk Foundation. In Wisconsin we’re always looking for unique ways to raise funds other than big game banquets. Why not try to raise $2,500 to put toward a habitat partnership?” 

Smith created a space on a fundraising website called www.crowdrise.com, put together a short video narrated by his 11-year-old daughter Shae, and began advertising his goal to RMEF staff, members and volunteers, as well as family, friends and colleagues. In the video, Shae speaks to her dad’s love of nature photography, camping, fishing and bowhunting—pastimes Smith says help him find what Celts refer to as the “thin place,” where one feels just inches away from God. 

Smith’s love of wild places and his desire to protect them is what attracted him to the RMEF 12 years ago. He rolled up his sleeves and volunteered at the first big game banquet he ever attended, and never looked back. Today Smith is a Life Member, Habitat Partner, and serving his fifth and final year as state chair.

On race day, Smith arrived conditioned and ready to go, and cruised comfortably along the shore of Lake Michigan until rounded the 20 mile mark. Then he hit the wall.

“The last 6 miles were straight into a 30-mile-per-hour headwind,” Smith recalls. “Right around mile 22 my legs were spent, and it was all I could do to cross that finish line.” 

But he got a little help. At mile 26, Shae met her dad on the course, took his hand, and ran the final .2 miles by his side. “For a dad, it was a pretty cool moment,” Smith says.

And the habitat partnership he was working toward? Smith ended up raising $3,000—and something more. 

“Probably 80 percent of the people who contributed were family, friends and colleagues who had never given to the Elk Foundation before,” he says. “The effort raised awareness of the Elk Foundation and its mission to a whole new audience.”

For this Clydesdale, that was icing on the cake.

Elk Hunters Care: Five Short Stories that Prove It

The following is a reprint of an article submitted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that appeared in the January issue of SuperLooper, the official publication of the United States Team Roping Championships.

Sometimes, hunting gets a bad rap. Some people point an accusatory finger at hunters claiming they have no respect for the game they seek and only hunt to kill. The truth is hunting offers an opportunity to men, women and children to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of critters, their habitat and how all of nature is tied together. And the bottom line is hunters really do care.

Below are five examples of elk hunters who cast aside their rifles, bows, or hunting and scouting quests in order to save the wildlife they both love and love to pursue.

Calf Rescue in Idaho

Young elk calf gets help to go free
Two bowhunters from Idaho in their mid-20s searching for elk in the west-central part of the state came across an elk calf stuck in a sludge-like wallow. Elk, especially bulls, are drawn to wallows where they coat themselves with a stench-like perfume to attract cows and intimidate other bulls.

“When we got really close, the mom came charging into the meadow and was barking at us from 45 to 50 yards away,” said Jeff McConnell. “We both ran away from the calf because we were like ‘Oh crap something may happen here!’ because they can be mean when you’re close to their babies.”

The cow backed off so McConnell and friend Brant Hoover threw a few larger logs in the wallow to improve their traction, got ahold of the calf by the hind legs and pulled her out.

“She stood up kind of slow. You could tell she was tired. She walked a little bit, looked back at us, and kind of trotted away. Then we both looked at each other like ‘That was the coolest thing that will probably ever happen to us in the middle of the woods!’ We both said we wouldn’t leave until we got her out of there. Hiking out of the woods, we couldn’t stop talking about it. It felt pretty good to know we did the right thing by rescuing that animal. It was pretty cool. We couldn’t sleep. We talked about it all night,” Jeff added.

Oregon Brothers Team Up to Free Tangled Calf

Brothers work together to free elk
Jordan and Jerin Say were looking for elk as they headed into the forest of northeast Oregon. Little did they know they would purposely let their prey walk away. While searching the landscape with his binoculars, Jordan saw an elk’s belly. As they hiked closer, they saw why. It was all tangled up in barbed wire fencing. They used some tools to pry the clips off the fence posts.

“When we got her out of the fence she laid there for a good five minutes confused and not knowing what to do. We finally poked her with a stick just trying to get her going to see if she could stand. She got up kind of looked at us and ran off with no problems,” said Jordan. “It was the neatest thing I've ever seen! I'm all about fair chase but when you see a helpless animal, you have to put the hunt aside. All I could think about is helping that calf and making sure she had a chance to live.”

Three Elk Freed from New Mexico Wallow

This cow was up to its neck in muck
Several ranch hands found a deep wallow on their land in extreme north-central New Mexico. On three different occasions they found three different elk buried in the muck either up to their shoulders or right under their jaw. One of them, a cow, had apparently been there several days because birds had “tried to peck her eyes out.”

“Being a hunter is not always about killing game. Sometimes, you have to help out,” said Donald Carrillo, who is also a hunter.

Not only did they free each of the animals but they returned and built an eight-foot high fence around the wallow to make sure it would not happen again.

Father and Son to the Rescue

Trent watches elk calf go free
Matt Woodward took his son Trent to do some scouting for the family outfitting business in west-central New Mexico. His heart skipped a beat when they came across a small elk calf with one of its hoofs stuck in the lower rungs of a barbed wire fence.

“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. The calf was a little beat up. She rubbed herself a little raw on the fence but I think she’ll be just fine,” said Woodward. “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.”

Calf Freed in Montana

Jim Loomis assists elk
Two Montana hunters came upon an elk calf with its front right and left rear legs stuck in a four-strand barbed wire fence. It was so zapped of any energy that it could not move.

“It wasn't a good sight upon initially walking up to her,” said Seth Wheeler.

Thirty to 45 minutes later, the calf was finally free.

“It seemed like she knew we were there to help her. We are hunters, but above all we are conservationists and wanted nothing more than to save this majestic animal!” added Wheeler.

Further proof of that fact is easy to come by. Just look to the quarter-century of fence work by thousands of RMEF volunteers scattered all across the country.

Since 1988 RMEF has helped provide both funding and volunteer manpower to pull more than 360 miles of fence in 16 states. Places like Arkansas’ Buffalo National River, Arizona’s legendary Unit 9, Washington’s Asotin Creek and Colorado’s Browns Park. How many elk and other animals have been saved by these efforts is impossible to tell, but it’s safe to say the work has made for healthier herds, helped fill many a freezer, and built goodwill with ranchers.

For those interested in upgrading fences, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has created a terrific 56-page manual, A Landowner’s Guide to Wildlife Friendly Fence, which shows the best options, guidelines and special considerations. It’s available on FWP’s website.

Idaho's Public Access Program Honored at Elk Camp

Below is a news release issued by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The award was presented at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's recent Elk Camp national convention in Las Vegas.

Access Yes! Receives 'Open Country' Award

Every year, Outdoor Life Magazine acknowledges individuals, non-profits, corporations and state/government agencies with their "Open Country" awards. This year the award for a state/government agency was given to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for the Access Yes! Program.

According to Outdoor Life, "Hunters and anglers across the nation consistently list one challenge as their primary obstacle to spending more time in the field: access." 

In giving the award to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the magazine praised Access Yes! as "one of the finest access programs…"

Access Yes! provides payment to private landowners willing to open their ground to public hunting and fishing access. In 2013, Access Yes! provided access to nearly 320,000 acres of private land and an additional 485,000 acres of public land.

For more information about Access Yes! in Idaho, go to go http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/huntplanner/accessyesguide.aspx

Outdoor Life Editor-in-Chief Andrew McKean (left) presents award to Idaho Fish & Game
Commissioner Lane Clezie

Monday, December 15, 2014

RMEF Honors Kentucky for its Elk Restoration Efforts

RMEF Team Elk Host Brandon Bates, RMEF Vice President of  Lands
& Conservation Blake Henning, KDFWR Commissioner Greg Johnson.
Commission member Frank Williams, RMEF Chief Operating
Officer Rod Triepke (left to right)
Plain and simple, it was a big award presented on the biggest of stages. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation honored the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission as co-recipients of the 2014 RMEF Conservationist of the Year Award. The presentation took place before more than 1,000 RMEF members at RMEF’s recent Elk Camp national convention in Las Vegas.

“Kentucky has been and remains a prominent example of a state dedicated to ensuring the future of elk and elk country,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice-president of Lands and Conservation. “Not only did KDFWR and the Commission show great passion and dedication in restoring elk to the native Kentucky landscape, but they successfully worked to implement recent restoration efforts in other states as well.”

KDFWR, the Commission and RMEF worked cooperatively to help release 1,547 elk into Kentucky from 1997-2002. Now with more than 10,000 elk within its borders, Kentucky boasts the largest herd in the East. It also established an annual elk hunt beginning in 2001. 

As impressive and successful as that was and is, the award is actually focused more on Kentucky's recent commitment to eastern elk restoration. The Department and Commission pledged their support to successful elk restoration efforts in Missouri (2011) and Virginia (2012), plus they just signed an agreement to assist with elk restoration efforts in Wisconsin. In addition, Kentucky’s wild elk also crossed the state border into West Virginia—a state that is in the midst of determining whether it will launch its own elk restoration efforts.

Our thanks go out to the KDFWR and the Commission for leading the way by example!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kids Flock to Youth Wildlife Conservation Field Day

More than 100 boys and girls and their parents converged on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation headquarters in Missoula, Montana, last October for a free Youth Wildlife Conservation Field Day to learn about RMEF’s conservation and hunting heritage mission, North America’s wildlife and the value of spending time outdoors.

Created by RMEF through the generosity and vision of Larry and Brenda Potterfield of MidwayUSA, this event had previously been a part of Elk Camp in Las Vegas. 

“We hoped these kids would leave the event with a curiosity about the outdoors, and a healthy respect for the importance of wildlife conservation,” says Ralph Cinfio III, RMEF vice president of fundraising services. 

The local Cabela’s store staff gave kids an opportunity to shoot BB Guns in their inflatable BB gun range and held a fly-fishing seminar. In addition, the local Sportsman’s Warehouse hunting manager taught basic archery skills and kids got a chance to practice shooting at targets set up outside in the parking lot. Volunteer big game measurers from the Boone & Crockett Club hosted a beginner’s scoring session, where youths learned how to score elk antlers. The Montana Trapper’s Association president, vice president and district director also were on hand to teach about the value of trapping and show how it can be an efficient and effective management method.

As part of the National Be Bear Aware & Wildlife Stewardship Campaign, local Girl Scouts and the Be Bear Aware staff demonstrated the importance of appropriate safety techniques for hiking, camping and hunting in bear country, and for viewing and living with wildlife safely and responsibly. The youths were asked to test their knowledge about bears, mountain lions and other wildlife. They even got to practice the proper technique for discharging bear spray, using test cans containing a benign spray formula, as taught by the Be Bear Aware staff. 

After a free on-site lunch, the event wrapped up with drawings for both young people and adults for Daisy Red Ryder BB Guns, Browning Yukon Backpacks, a Tikka rifle and RMEF Team Elk Packs. No one went home empty-handed though, as everyone received a free grab bag with a copy of Bugle, a Team Elk Season 3 DVD, a RMEF bandana or hat, decals, a RMEF calendar, an elk call and a free RMEF youth membership for all youth participants. 

“The future looks bright for conservation and our hunting heritage, thanks to the generosity and vision of the Potterfields and MidwayUSA,” says Cinfio.

“This event was a great way for young people and their families to learn about the importance of conservation and what RMEF is all about,” says Crystal Parrish, RMEF chapter services coordinator, who volunteered to help out with the weekend event. “I enjoyed watching the kids have fun learning about activities they can do outdoors, and I really hope it encourages both the kids and their families to get out and enjoy elk country.”

Lauren Hummel
RMEF Field Program Manager

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Outdoor Life Donates to Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

NEW YORK - Outdoor Life on Saturday donated its historic Conservation Fund to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), inviting the Montana non-profit to continue Outdoor Life's longtime commitment to wildlife habitat conservation and sportsmen's access.

Outdoor Life Editor-in-Chief Andrew McKean made the donation at RMEF's annual Elk Camp convention in Las Vegas.

"Outdoor Life started the Conservation Fund back in 1923, at a time when there were precious few funding sources for conservation," McKean told RMEF members. "The magazine's founder J.A. McGuire established the fund to protect wild animals and improve and safeguard their habitats. Since the Fund's inception, Outdoor Life has provided millions of dollars to the individuals and groups who, in McGuire's words, 'accomplish the greatest good for the sportsman's cause in the United States.'"

"Outdoor Life tells the stories of North America's sportsmen, and helps hunters, anglers, and shooters be more successful at the things we love to do," McKean says. "The Elk Foundation's commitment to wildlife, sportsman's access, and hunting heritage aligns perfectly with Outdoor Life's priorities and values. It is the right move for us to help them accomplish their goals."

Accepting the check and mission on Saturday was RMEF Vice President for Lands and Conservation Blake Henning, who said, "We are honored to receive Outdoor Life's Conservation Fund. The magazine has a rich history of wildlife and habitat conservation. This donation will enable us to continue to focus and enhance our hunter access work while ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage."

RMEF Vice President of Lands & Conservation Blake Henning (left) receives check from
Outdoor Life Editor-in-Chief Andrew McKean

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Volunteer Fun Night Closes Out Elk Camp with a Bang

The confetti floated to the floor as the crowd rose to its feet—again and again and again. On a night specifically devoted to celebrate 30 years of volunteers for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, there was plenty to get excited about. RMEF recognized and honored its individual volunteers, chapters and states for their dedicated and passionate efforts in raising funds to ensure the future of elk, elk country and our hunting heritage.

Wyoming’s always boisterous volunteers whooped, hollered and rang cowbells to celebrate their accomplishments, but they also cheered on their RMEF brothers and sisters from Arizona who yelled for Colorado’s volunteers who applauded for Montana’s. And so it continued throughout the evening—Kentucky, California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and on and on. 

While only a sliver of RMEF’s volunteer base of 11,000 strong was on hand for the event, there was plenty of praise for those unable to attend. Volunteerism is the lifeblood of this three-decade-old organization. Volunteers were vital in helping the vision of Bob Munson, Charlie Decker and the other founders survive in the early lean years. Volunteers from more than 500 chapters are the fuel that fires RMEF’s 203,000-member engine. 

Speaking of being fired up—that’s exactly how the evening ended for the scores on hand. Country music artist Easton Corbin, a friend to RMEF and a pretty good elk hunter in his own right, took to the stage with his band. His energy got folks out of their seats and soon had the dance floor filled to capacity. And when Corbin left the stage, a DJ helped partiers dance deep into the night.

Easton Corbin
Earlier in the day, RMEF held its fourth and final auction. The wide array of offerings included hunts, home d├ęcor, art, guns and many more options. Among the more high-profile items, and one of the most popular again this year, was an adorable charcoal Labrador puppy. Bidders stepped up, with the winner doling out an all-time puppy auction record of $12,000. The money raised from the little fur ball, as well as the funds from all other items, goes toward RMEF’s conservation mission.

The sounds of elk filled the air at the 26th annual World Elk Calling Championships. Competitors from across the country gathered to present their best mews, barks, chirps and bugles. Fresh off winning last year’s Champion of the Champions competition, which involved invitations to each of the winners from the first 25 years of the competition, Corey Jacobsen racked up another title. He is now an eight-time world champion. 

Corey Jacobsen
World Elk Calling Championships
Winner                    Division 
Corey Jacobsen       Professional
Dirk Durham            Men
Misty Jacobsen        Women
William Card            Voice
Sutton Callaway      Pee Wee
Brayden Langley     Youth

Another full day of seminars at the Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela’s, brought in six more presenters. Topics ranged from packing a mule to finding elk on public land, hunting the herd bull, the A to Z’s of bowhunting elk and additional strategies and tactics. One of the "Cook with Cabela’s" cooks had the line of the day while on stage: “It’s cooking with power tools, a cast-iron skillet and ribs!” David Draper and Mark Millis actually used a sawzall to cut up a rack of ribs before eventually cooking them up and passing out samples. 

Power tool + ribs = lunch!

A series of rodeo legends, hunting personalities and country music artists also signed autographs and chatted with fans.

While Elk Camp ended late Saturday night (or early Sunday morning for some), the Expo continued through Sunday. Even as that show ended, the popular Cowboy Christmas Gift Show and FanFest continued through December 13 where RMEF had a popular booth manned mostly by who else but our dedicated volunteers.

Thank you volunteers!

RMEF volunteers doing what they do best

Friday, December 5, 2014

Day Two: Roasted & Rockin’ at Elk Camp

"Something's starting to smell here."
It all began innocently enough. David Allen, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, joined hundreds of other RMEF members and volunteers as they filed in for the Friends of the Foundation Breakfast. He made the rounds, ate breakfast with his family, checked in with event organizers and then took his place on stage with emcee Brandon Bates. But then things did not go exactly as planned. Check that—things didn’t go exactly as he planned.

Brandon started to go off script. You see, David had received a totally different agenda for the gathering—a bogus agenda. Less than a dozen people were in on it. The fix was on. Or maybe we should say the roast was on.

Brandon started waxing nostalgic about the past—David’s past.

“Whoa, something’s starting to smell here,” said Allen.

A video presentation showed a series of photos from David’s childhood, teenage years and during his early professional life. 

“Something definitely smells,” Allen correctly concluded.

Actually, the show was just getting started. Bates said he had some “old friends” of David’s to welcome to the stage. Out of the shadows entered rodeo legend and long-time friend and associate Ty Murray, NASCAR owner Richard Childress and legendary rodeo announcer Bob Tallman. All three are also RMEF members. They reveled in the occasion.

For the next 30 minutes or so it was no-holds-barred. Murray, Childress and Tallman shared tale after tale from Allen’s past. 

“Ty Murray has never told a true story in his life,” quipped Allen.

But Murray passed along something David himself posted on Facebook. Just this past October, Allen received the Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR) Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award for significant contributions to the sport by a non-rider. As you can see below Allen posted “Special thanks to my partner for 19 years Ty Murray.” Yeah, that’s David’s wife Toni who is also in the photo along with his two boys and Murray. 

When that Facebook post popped up on the big screen, Murray admitted that Allen’s reference to Murray as his "partner” has “ruined my reputation!” (Murray and his wife recently announced intentions to divorce.) 

And so the barbs and the tales continued to fly. But so did the heartfelt compliments.

As a key cog in the formation of the PBR, Murray talked about Allen’s commitment, drive, passion and trustworthiness that helped the organization get off the ground. He said their long professional relationship was never based on a contract—only a handshake.

“David believed in us and believed in our idea,” said Murray.

Murray, a nine-time world champion rodeo cowboy, presented Allen with a pair of chaps he wore during an appearance in the National Finals rodeo.

“You will be a legend for all you’ve done for elk and elk country,” Childress chimed in. “Thanks for that buddy.”

“David Allen is a magnet to bring people together,” said Tallman. “He was never attracted to big business but big business was attracted to him. This man is a giver, not a taker.”

“I love all 3 of these guys in huge ways,” said Allen. “I probably should’ve been in jail with three of these guys for one reason or another. Ty has been the best business partner I’ve ever had.

“Mr. Tallman and I probably go back the farthest. He’s become the ultimate in the rodeo announcer and he is the best at what he does.

“Richard I spent at least 26 or 27 years together. He was as broke and as out of the loop as I was when he started. I got to go through the golden years of NASCAR, the Earnhardt-Childress years with him. What Dale and Richard, and especially Richard did for me, I’ll never be able to repay. Richard is the primary reason I got hooked up with RMEF. He put his Montana place in an easement and put me in contact with some of the folks to do some marketing work. I love them all.”

Ty Murray, David Allen, Richard Childress, Bob Tallman
(left to right)

A second round of seminars was among the highlighted activities at the Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela’s. First up was a packing clinic hosted by Cottonwood Ranch Hunter Services in Nevada. Blain Jackson and his crew invited attendees to tie ropes, lash on antlers and learn by getting their hands dirty. 

Lee & Tiffany Lakosky
Ralph Ramos, a native of New Mexico with 28 years of experience in the archery and hunting industry, offered suggestions about hunting on private land. He talked about calling styles, locating strategies, decoying tactics, excessive cow talk, rattling in big bulls and utilizing aggressive bugling techniques.

Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, popular hosts of the television show Crush with Lee and Tiffany, hosted a Q & A session with their throngs of followers and fans. They talked about their love of whitetail deer and whitetail hunting but Lee admitted that his favorite species to hunt is elk. 

Corey Jacobsen 
Just in time for the lunch hour, the Cook with Cabela’s crew returned to the stage with a hands-on presentation about preparing tough cuts of meat. They handed out samples in small cups and even provided lunch for at least a dozen or so people after their seminar.

Kristy Titus
Seven-time RMEF World Elk Calling Champion Corey Jacobsen presented tactics and strategies for calling in and hunting the herd bull. His presentation utilized a series of calls needed for different scenarios.

Kristy Titus, a featured member of RMEF Team Elk, hosted the sixth and final seminar of the day. She related what she learned from her elk hunts in her home state of Oregon and other hunts across elk country. 

Dan Mortensen
There was also a second day of auctions, another round of celebrity autograph sessions and, of course, nearly 300 vendors manning their booths for the growing crowds.

The highlight of Elk Camp’s Friday Night Banquet was the presentation of the Wallace Pate Award, RMEF’s highest conservation honor, to Tom Baker. The long-time RMEF volunteer, member and former chairman of the board was the driving force in restoring elk to Kentucky. Thanks to his passion and dedication, the Bluegrass State now has the largest elk population east of the Mississippi at 10,000-strong. Three of his five children accepted the award. Baker did not attend because of poor health.

The children of Tom Baker accept the Wallace Pate Award

The entertainment was casual, entertaining and a bit unique. Country music artists Tracy Lawrence (left), Chuck Wicks and Mark Wills, along with two other guitarists, teamed up for a guitar pull. The three of them alternated singing songs that left Elk Camp attendees tapping their toes and singing along. They also joined together to sing two songs.

It was a rockin’ way to set the table for a live feed from the NFR for the second night in a row that closed out day two of Elk Camp.

Special thanks to Buck Knives for sponsoring the Friday evening banquet

Elk Camp/Hunter Christmas Expo: Day One

A foggy, drizzly kind of day didn’t dampen any spirits at the first day of Elk Camp, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s annual national convention. It was a family reunion of sorts as an overflow crowd spilled into The Mirage Thursday morning for the second of twice-a-year meetings for the Habitat Council.

Shortly thereafter, the doors opened at straight-up 10 a.m. and the crowd poured into the Las Vegas Convention Center for the inaugural Hunter Christmas Exposition, presented by Cabela’s. Given the December timing, the expo is the first of a series of nationwide hunting and outdoor shows that will stretch into the coming year. It offers the approximately 300 vendors and outfitters a chance to show their wares as a barometer of what lies ahead for them in 2015.

Among the many sights to see is the new-look Great Elk Tour. Overhauled with a longer, larger trailer and six new bull elk mounts, its interior gives off the feel that you’re inside a hunting cabin complete with log siding, a bear rug and fire burning in a fireplace.

Immediately next to the Great Elk Tour is the Elk Country Theater. Six seminars, each of which is presented by Cabela’s, highlighted the first day of instruction, learning and even some laughs. Presenters offered insight and information for those venturing into the backcountry to hunt. 

We learned from the Yellowstone Country Bear Hunters Association about the perils of encounters with grizzly bears. We also learned that a bear can lose up to 40 percent of its body weight during hibernation and that it internally recycles, for lack of a better term, its urine and excrement during that time. That’s right, there’s no pooping in the den.

Cook with Cabela's making some on-stage magic
David Draper and Mark Millis (aka Uncle Millie) of Cook with Cabela’s took center stage, along with their four-camera set-up, to tape an episode of their popular web-based cooking show. They showed on-lookers the finer skills of preparing venison sausage—from cutting up the meat, to grinding it, to cooking it up and eventually offering free samples afterwards. It was a tasty treat for all who attended.

The hosts of Driven with Pat & Nicole shared tales of their many hunting adventures. Pat and Nicole Reeve showed videos of some of their favorite and most memorable hunts and walked us through the challenges and emotions they faced along the way. They also shared a bit of news that they’re looking forward to…well, that they’re expecting to...Hmmm, let’s just say that Nicole used the words “baby bump” as she smiled toward her husband on stage—something she says she hasn’t shared with anybody else.

Popular author, hunter and photographer Mark Kayser –fresh off one hunt and heading to Wisconsin for another—talked about how to adapt and overcome for public land bulls. He passed along ideas on planning an elk hunt to the type of gear needed and tactics used to find and be successful in the pursuit of elk. 

Montanan Rich Birdsell, a long-time outfitter from Montana who also outfits in Colorado and New Mexico, talked about how to choose the right outfitter. He answered questions and explained how if you do your homework then you can make your dream hunt a reality.

Wayne Carlton passing on his passion to the next generation

Last to take the Elk Country Theater stage was Wayne Carlton, the man who pioneered the first diaphragm elk call. He prepared for his appearance by transferring old photos into digital photos. Carlton had folks rolling as he told decades-old tales of coon hunting, “skeeters,” and chasing bulls. In fact, 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of his first elk kill. The RMEF life member told story after story about bulls he killed and what he learned from each of them. 

World class auctions also kept attendees busy. The always popular Ladies Luncheon and Auction (that’s right no boys allowed) included a fashion show and a high energy, spirited afternoon of fundraising for the RMEF. The larger auction hall held the first of its three different auctions scheduled to take place daily through Saturday.

The RMEF Membership Booth was also a busy place throughout the day. That was the location of a series of Hunter Christmas Exposition celebrity autograph session. Participants included hunting personalities, rodeo legends and country music personalities.

Surprise, surprise Patrick!
Festivities shifted back to The Mirage in the late afternoon for the Friday Banquet. RMEF Team Elk Host Brandon Bates served as emcee. The highlight of the evening was a surprise recognition of Fort Hood shooting victim Patrick Zeigler. Attending with his wife and young son, Zeigler had no idea his first ever elk hunt would be shown to more than a thousand people on hand. A video presentation showed the many challenges that Patrick dealt with and continues to deal with on a daily basis as he rehabs from his injuries. The crowd roared as the video showed Zeigler dropping a dandy of an bull elk on the UU Bar Ranch. RMEF President and CEO David Allen also announced that RMEF would further support its "adopted son" by funding a college scholarship for the Zeigler's young son.

Country music artist and a good friend of RMEF Daryle Singletary closed out the banquet with an acoustic performance. He played several of his favorite songs and both talked about and performed work from his new CD as he serenaded the throngs.

The evening closed with a live feed from the National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas and Mack Center across town.

NFR live feed on four really BIG screens

Or we thought it did. After the opening night of the NFR came to a close the party kept going as Singletary returned to the stage for two more hours of country music--and he did it just for fun!

All in all, it was a great first day!