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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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.

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