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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Elk Antlers Galore, Records Set at Boy Scout Antler Auction

It was a sight that made even the most experienced outdoorsmen and women drool—and that’s an understatement! Racks and racks of elk shed antlers almost as far as the eye could see. And all laid out for sale on May 17, 2014, at the 47th Annual Boy Scout Antler Auction at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The 2014 antler harvest and sale was one for the record books. One hundred and twenty-seven bidders from 29 states bought 13,698 pounds of antlers representing the largest number of antlers ever sold. The final tally was $233,613, or an average of $16.65 per pound! Two factors contributed to the record total. The first has to do with the high number of bull elk that wintered on the Refuge and the timing of the elk migration off the Refuge to summer ranges. The second factor is the thousands of hours Scouts spent collecting and scoring the antlers for auction.

The majority of proceeds from the antler auction (75%) are donated to the National Elk Refuge, which manages approximately 25,000 acres as winter range for the Jackson Elk Herd. The funds are used for Refuge habitat enhancement work. The rest is donated to the Jackson District Boy Scouts. Scouts and leaders donated approximately 2,000 hours to prepare and execute the sale, comparable to one staff member working a 40–hour week for a full year.

“This is great news for both the National Elk Refuge and the Jackson District Boy Scouts,” said Refuge Manager Steve Kallin. “It couldn’t have been done without the outstanding partnership we have with the Jackson District Boy Scout organization.”

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Great Elk Tour was once again on hand for the festivities, but the traveling conservation exhibit was not there as an “outsider.” 

It displayed a set of antlers that came from the Refuge in 2012. With the help of pictures taken by Refuge staff from earlier that winter, Scout leaders and Refuge staff were able to pair up the two antlers, which scored 436 7/8 non–typical inches using the Boone and Crockett scoring system. It was decided the pair would not be sold in the 2013 auction, but rather be shared with the public by entering them in the 2014 Great Elk Tour. See the 2014 tour schedule here.

If you want to get in on the action, next year’s auction is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, 2015. However, single antlers are on sale throughout the year at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, located at 532 North Cache Street in Jackson.

Of course, you can always try to “score” your own antlers by taking a bull during this fall’s hunting season.

National Elk Refuge winter range

National Elk Refuge winter range

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why Hunters Need to Know What’s Going on in DC Right Now

(Editor's note: The House Ways & Means Committee passed the measure, advancing it forward.)

Hunting is Conservation! And here’s yet another reason why hunters and conservationists need to know what is happening in Washington D.C. right now! On Thursday, May 29, 2014, the House Ways & Means Committee meets to vote on a series of tax bills. Among them is H.R. 2807 or the Conservation Easement Incentive Act.

In a nutshell, the measure makes tax incentives permanent for those who decide to donate conservation easements. A conservation easement protects wildlife habitat on private property. It is a voluntary legal agreement with a landowner to protect their land in perpetuity from development and other uses that could diminish its wildlife habitat values but still allows for many traditional uses of the land. 

Conservation easements are a major tool used by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in our mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. So far over our 30 years of land protection efforts, RMEF held 199 conservation easements that protect 384,389 acres in 16 different states. 

Birch Creek conservation easement (Utah)
By way of specific example, RMEF’s most recent conservation easement took place in northeast Utah where a conservation-minded family worked with several partners to permanently protect more than 6,000 acres of prime elk habitat. However, elk are not the only benefactor. Deer, antelope, sage grouse, moose, other mammals and trout are also positively affected by the transaction. This donated conservation easement pays huge dividends for wildlife by protecting their habitat while also offering the rancher or farmer a financial incentive. The alternative is private landowners sell their land for development which wipes out habitat that will never be restored.

The bottom line is conservation easements are vital to the conservation effort not only in elk country but for deer, turkeys, ducks, fish and other species across the nation. 

Here is a list of lawmakers who serve on the House Ways & Means Committee. If one of your House representatives serves on the committee, urge them to support this worthy effort. If they are not on the committee, ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 2807 and encourage their peers to vote in favor.

HF Bar Ranch conservation easement (Wyoming)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

RMEF Backs Effort to Maintain Michigan Wolf Hunt

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is among a coalition of conservation and hunting groups known as the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM) that just submitted 374,130 petition signatures to stop an effort to ban Michigan’s wolf hunt. CPWM submitted the signatures to support the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act which reaffirms the ability of the Michigan Natural Resources Council to designate the wolf as a game species and establish a hunting season.

RMEF, which has more than 5,000 members in Michigan, donated $25,000 over the last two years to assist the effort supporting the science-based state management of wolves. There are an estimated 636 wolves in Michigan. Hunters killed 22 wolves during the 45-day hunt that began on November 15, 2013. 

“This initiative will not guarantee a wolf hunt; it will only guarantee that the decision about whether or not to have another wolf hunt, and other hunting and fishing decisions, are based on scientific data and the recommendations of professional biologists,” said Merle Shepard, CPWM chair.

Jeff Powell checks his wolf into the DNR station at Wakefield, Michigan,
in November of 2013.  (Cory Morse | MLive.com)
“The hunt offers managers another tool to resolve wolf-human conflicts, and it can be implemented in an ecologically and biologically safe and appropriate manner,” Adam Bump, bear and furbearer specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resource, told Mlive.com. “The use of new and innovative programs -- especially those that limit the overall impact to wolf populations -- represents the sound application of science and the best balance among the diverse views of Michigan residents.”

Opposing the hunt and the ballot effort is a group funded largely by the Humane Society of the United States, an out-of-state anti-hunting animal rights organization. 

“The out-of-state special interests who oppose our efforts fail to understand what most residents of the Upper Peninsula and 67 percent of Michigan residents overall do – that in some parts of the UP, wolves are killing pets and livestock and entering our communities, without fear, and that sound science should determine the bounds of conservation and protection against such species,” said Senator Tom Casperson. “Management of Michigan wildlife should not be dictated by anti-hunting organizations that care more about raising money than they do about Michigan residents who must live with the policies the radical organizations support.”

If the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certifies the signatures, the state legislature would have 40 days to approve the measure, come up with a different one or place the issue on the statewide November ballot. If voted into law, the measure would nullify any anti-hunting efforts by animal rights groups seeking to overturn it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 Reasons Hunting Should be a Woman's Sport of Choice

Claire Eckstrom
1. Coming face-to-face with a bull elk could add that necessary element of danger your day job is lacking - because avoiding Steve from accounting has become too easy.

2. It’s a much cheaper way to get organic meat than Whole Foods.

3. All of your friends think that you’re a real-life Katniss, which reminds them why it’s in their best interest to stay on your good side.

4. It opens a whole new realm of possible comebacks to “make me a sandwich.”

5. That sunrise pic from your deer stand doesn’t even need a filter #nofilter #camoselfie

6. Hunting boots are a nice break from those blister-inducing stilettos.

7. When asking for extra vacation days to go on your guided Alaskan grizzly hunt, there is freedom to interpret your boss’ shocked silence as a “yes.”

8. Puppies. Brand-new bundles of furry joy that will someday be your partner-in-crime in the duck blind.

9. There are few better ways to blow off steam than at the shooting range.

10. Last but not least, you did most of the work bringing the “groceries” home, so asking your significant other to do the cooking is completely valid.

Claire Eckstrom
Intern at Powderhook.com

Memorial Day: A Day of Remembrance and Honor

Dear RMEF Family,

The three-day weekend marks the unofficial kickoff of summer. It’s a great opportunity to fire up the grill, go camping or maybe spend some quality time with family and friends. 

I urge you to enjoy such precious times yet I also hope we can all set aside a little time to stop and consider what Memorial Day is all about. It was established to honor and remember those who are serving, have served and have served and died while representing all of us in the United States Armed Forces. We all have ties, whether direct or indirect, to our military. Their selfless service led to the many freedoms we all enjoy in this great nation today. 

As an RMEF family, we have many veterans among our ranks—both past and present. Our thoughts and gratitude go out to you and your families. The individual and family sacrifices allow each us the opportunity to live our lives the way we do today. In the case of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, it allows us continue our work together of ensuring our mission.

To all our vets, both present and those who since passed on, thank you for your service! 


M. David Allen
RMEF President and CEO

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Finding the "King of the Valley"

Imagine finding a shed set of bull elk antlers and then finding the dead bull that created the sheds. That's exactly what happened in Colorado several years ago. Below is an excerpt from the book Colorado's Biggest Bucks and Bulls by Susan Campbell Reneau, a life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Owners Harry J. Riemer II and Mike Skalisky
Location: Fremont County, Colorado
Year Found: 2011
Score: 407-7/8
Harry Riemer (left) and Mike Skalisky
Harry Riemer gazed at Pikes Peak in the spring of 2009, wondering if he would hunt and hike again. By July he was hiking again thanks to successful surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat, and improved hearing aids to help him hunt. He was joined by fellow bowhunter Mike Skalisky.

Harry found a set of elk sheds in and near a creek on private land so Harry and Mike set up motion cameras to capture the living elk on film. This elk, dubbed “The King,” was filmed on August 14, 2009. The sheds were measured and accepted into the North American Shed Hunters Club with a net score of 410-3/8 points and on tour with the 2010 Great Elk Tour hosted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

The two friends continued to search for “The King” and on August 11, 2011, they discovered the remains of him tucked under some trees in narrow part of a drainage in a green valley. His antlers were protected from the elements and in good condition. The men estimated “The King” had been dead at least 16 months. Wildlife biologists from the Colorado Division of Wildlife estimated the bull died from a cougar attack, or old age. The bull’s teeth were in poor shape, worn to the gums, broken and cracked. His sheds were not eligible for the B&C but the picked up skull and antlers were so Harry and Mike had them entered into the B&C with a gross score of 417-5/8 points and a final net score of 407-7/8.

“We were elated to find him but sad we had lost our chance to hunt him,” Mike said. The two men put their hunting skills to the test from the moment they found his sheds. "The King" toured with the 2012 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Great Elk Tour as a tribute to a regal animal.

Expanded for the 30th anniversary edition of Colorado's Biggest Bucks and Bulls highlights and Other Great Colorado Big Game, Third Edition, this 416-page book contains thousands of photographs and stories of all 13 categories of big-game animals from Colorado that are entered in the Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young and The Longhunter Society. Hundreds of detailed hunting stories and a chapter on “Your Odds for Taking a Colorado Trophy Mule Deer, Elk or Moose” give you hours and years of reading enjoyment.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Big Bull Elk from Colorado's Past

Renowned 19th century wildlife photographer Allen Grant Wallihan photographed “Dummy” Smith (standing in rear door) and an unidentified friend in the doorways of his taxidermy shop near Lay, Colorado, circa 1894.

While compiling material for the book Colorado's Biggest Bucks and Bulls, author and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Life Member Susan Campbell Reneau met a customer in the Norwood Hardware Store who recognized Dummy Smith, a popular character from the turn of the century, in this phenomenal photograph. 

As far as anyone knows, none of these bull elk were ever officially scored. 

Photograph courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Expanded for the 30th anniversary edition of Colorado's Biggest Bucks and Bulls highlights and Other Great Colorado Big Game, Third Edition, this 416-page book contains thousands of photographs and stories of all 13 categories of big-game animals from Colorado that are entered in the Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young and The Longhunter Society. Hundreds of detailed hunting stories and a chapter on “Your Odds for Taking a Colorado Trophy Mule Deer, Elk or Moose” give you hours and years of reading enjoyment.

Young New Mexico Shooters Get a Boost from RMEF

Young shooters in central New Mexico got a leg up on the competition thanks to some help from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The RMEF Sierra Blanca Chapter recently presented a $2,500 grant to the Lincoln County 4-H shooting Sports program in Capitan.

“This year we took six individuals to the State 4-H shooting competition in Raton for the shotgun and archery categories,” said Audra Lyon of the Lincoln County Extension services. “This group is very interested in becoming more competitive and with these extra funds, can purchase the proper equipment to help the local club be more useful and productive.”

Lincoln County 4-H shooting Sports is open to boys and girls ages 9-19 with a goal of youth development. Through participation in firearm safety training and shooting sports activities, young men and women receive the opportunity to learn responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline and other qualities critical to the development of productive citizens.

Standing (left to right): Slick Graham, Audra Lyon, Jean Cunningham and David Cunningham.
Kneeling: Clay Stearns, Wade Stearns and Tyler Jobe
(Courtesy Eugene Heathman/Ruidoso Free Press)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Marking a Great 30th Anniversary

Yvonne and Charlie Decker
May 14, 2014 marked the 30th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. For the most part, it was business as usual around RMEF headquarters.

Earlier that same week, RMEF completed a conservation project seven years in the making that now permanently protects and provides public access to more than 4,000 acres of prime elk habitat in Washington.

Just prior to that, RMEF announced that so far in 2014 it allocated more than $3.5 million for habitat stewardship and hunting heritage projects.In Virginia, elk continue to disperse from the third and final phase conducted last month of a restoration project, funded in part by RMEF dollars and powered by volunteers, that returned elk to their native range. Volunteers also continue to crack the whip by organizing and hosting chapter banquets and other fundraising events around the country to raise money for RMEF's mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

One of the things that made the day special was that so many members, volunteers, sponsors, partner groups, hunters and other good folks went out of their way to thank RMEF for its past, present and future. (See some of them below. Sorry if we missed you as there were so many.). Thank you to all who support the RMEF, elk and elk country!

Bob and Vicki Munson
We capped our work day by hosting a casual reception attended by co-founders Charlie Decker, Bob Munson, their wives, staffers, supporters and many other people throughout the community. It was a good chance to shake some hands, share some stories and just plain enjoy each other's company as RMEF family members.

Earlier that morning, Bob Munson encouraged staffers at a small department meeting to "Keep the pedal to the metal!"

We certainly will Bob!

The Deckers, Munsons, and a framed blanket originally presented to the RMEF in 1988 by Buntz and Bill
Watkins and the Watkins family of Zip Beverage Company (distributors of Budweiser) which was
instrumental in RMEF's Robb Creek acquisition in 1988

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday RMEF!

RMEF in the early days
Conservation, sacrifice, passion, elk, perseverance, hunting and family. That, in a nutshell, sums up what it took for four hunters from northwest Montana to form one of America’s great conservation movements. 

The date was May 14, 1984, when Charlie Decker, Bob Munson, Bill Munson and Dan Bull –a logger, a realtor, a drive-in owner, and a pastor— drained their bank accounts and borrowed whatever funds they could get their hands on to officially establish the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, an organization dedicated to conserving elk and elk habitat.

First edition
They started off by setting up shop in the back room of a trailer house in tiny Troy, Montana. They printed 32,000 copies of the premier issue of Bugle magazine. By the end of 1984, membership grew to almost 2,500. RMEF had its first convention in April of 1985 in Spokane, Washington. At that gathering, Anheuser-Busch announced a $500,000 gift for the fledgling organization. That year also marked the first-ever RMEF habitat project—a grant that helped pay for a prescribed burn in the appropriately named Elk Creek on the Kootenai National Forest near Libby. 

RMEF's first building in Troy, Montana
In 1988, RMEF facilitated its first land acquisition—the 16,440-acre Robb Creek property in Montana. By then, RMEF had 12 staffers, 2,000 volunteers, 70 chapters, 32,000 members and enhanced more than 110,000 acres of elk country. Busting at the seams of office space in three separate locations, RMEF packed its bags and moved 180 miles south and east to its present day home of Missoula. The first stop was a converted warehouse that also became overcrowded after time because of tremendous growth. 

Fast forward to May 14, 2014, and the ball keeps rolling as RMEF celebrates its 30th birthday. The organization can proudly proclaim it enhanced or protected more than 6.4 million acres of habitat across the country and opened or secured public access to more than 708,000 acres for hunters and others to enjoy. RMEF also helped reintroduce thriving, wild elk herds to their native range on six states and one Canadian province. Riding its fifth consecutive year of record membership, RMEF now boasts more than 203,000 members and 10,000+ volunteers in more than 500 chapters around the country. 

RMEF Founders Bob Munson (left) and Charlie Decker
“It’s almost unimaginable to see how far we’ve come as an organization since we struggled just to keep our heads above water three decades ago,” said Charlie Decker, RMEF co-founder. “The reason we made it is because our strong base of volunteers. I am so grateful for them.” 

“The growth and on-the-ground accomplishments of the RMEF is a tremendous blessing,” said Bob Munson, RMEF co-founder. “Our members, volunteers and staffers are like a family. They really care and make a difference for elk and elk country every day.”

“We are doing more today than ever before to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. And we maintain that same ‘Full speed ahead!’ course established by the passion and determination our founders,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

One thing that remains a constant from May 14, 1984, to May 14, 2014, is the lingering passion for and dedication to elk and elk country.

Happy birthday RMEF! The future looks bright!

If you are interested in joining the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, go here.

RMEF headquarters in Missoula, Montana

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Elk Return to their Native Virginia Range

The elk relocated to Virginia were released from their holding pen six days after arrival from Kentucky. They since dispersed on the landscape and started to intermingle with elk already on the ground. Below is a news release originally posted on rmef.org on April 15, 2014. The photos are courtesy the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Overlooking the acclamation corral on reclaimed surface mine lands in the
Warfork area of Buchanan County

Mission Accomplished! Virginia Elk Restoration Project Complete

MISSOULA, Mont.—A multi-year project to restore wild elk to their native hills of Virginia is complete thanks to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, its volunteers, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and several other partners.

“This is a prime example of what can happen when good people work together,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “There is now a growing and sustainable elk herd on the ground in Virginia for the first time in more than four decades.”

Unloading at the pens at 1 a.m. after a
six hour drive from Kentucky
The third and final group of 45 wild elk –14 bulls and 31 cows, 16 of which are pregnant– arrived in Virginia’s Buchanan County from Kentucky. They join an existing herd of approximately 40 elk previously relocated in 2012 and 2013.

Financially funded by RMEF and several major donors, RMEF volunteers also played a major role in the restoration program.

“Volunteers first got involved when approached by Buchanan County officials back in 2010,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “They helped search for and find suitable locations in the southwest part of the state and then rolled up their sleeves and went to work in many reclaimed mining sites. Crews cleared brush, applied fertilizer and planted native grasses to improve habitat, talked to and worked with local landowners, and stepped up each time to assist wildlife officials with the actual on-the-ground elk reintroductions.”

Blue tags identify the new arrivals from the estimated 40 elk already
on the ground from the 2012 and 2013 releases
Virginia has a goal of growing the herd to about 400 animals and eventually instituting a regulated hunting season. Proceeds from hunting permits will target elk habitat and conservation efforts. Elk viewing opportunities will also give a boost to Buchanan County’s outdoor recreation and tourism business as well as throughout the southwestern part of Virginia.

RMEF’s project partners include the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Resident elk herd watches the release from
nearby ridge
RMEF completed successful elk restorations in Wisconsin in 1995, Kentucky in 1997, Tennessee in 2000, Ontario in 2001, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002, Missouri in 2011, and Virginia in 2014. RMEF also previously funded feasibility studies in Illinois, Maryland, New York and West Virginia.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 200,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Virginia Elk Restoration Team (left to right on back row): Leon Boyd-RMEF Southwestern Virginia Coalfields Chapter chairman & VDGIF Board member, CPO Jamie Davis, CPO James Brooks, Tom Hampton-lands and facilities manager, Johnny Wills-biologist, Mark Robinett-biologist assistant, Jason Blevins-biologist assistant,
Marvin Gautier-biologist assistant, CPO Jeff Pease, Jake Perry-elk caretaker, Bill Bassinger-biologist,
Allen Boynton-wildlife manager, Megan Kirchgessner-wildlife veterinarian, Ron Southwick-
assistant bureau director and (kneeling) Joe Watson-biologist assistant, Jake Rieken-elk caretaker