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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hunting Ranks High for Women Who Own Guns

A new study indicates hunting is the second most popular activity for women who own guns. The report, titled Women Gun Owners –Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation and commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), indicates the number-one reason females own guns is self or home defense while shooting with friends and family ranks third.

"In the past decade, the number of women owning firearms and participating in target shooting and hunting has soared,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti.

Data released in 2014 from studies conducted by the National Sporting Goods Association showed a 10 percent increase in women who hunt from just four years earlier.

The new NSSF report shows women are also an increasing integral part of the outdoor industry marketplace. More than half of women (55.6 percent) surveyed said they intend to purchase at least one firearm in the next 12 months. Women also spend an average of $870 per year on firearms and an additional $405 on firearms accessories. In 2013, retailers estimated 20 percent of their shooting- and hunting-related sales were attributed to women, marking a five percent increase since 2010. 

"The women's market is a force in our industry, and manufacturers, retailers and shooting ranges are making changes to their products and services to satisfy women's tastes and needs,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director of Industry Research and Analysis.

The increasing growth of women gun owners was personalized at the news conference unveiling the report by two successful women who related their stories. One of them was national and world shooting champion Julie Golob who said she used to tell people when she was a little girl that she wanted to grow up to be a professional shooter. Today, she is a national and world shooting champion. She has seen great changes over her lifetime.

“When I go to the range (now) I see a variety of women…and that’s such a great thing,” said Golob. “I’m a product of what we’ve seen in this industry.”

The other storyteller was Lucretia Free, the owner and publisher of American Woman Shooter magazine. She overcame a “distorted view and perception of guns” from her peers to make a 180-degree change in her life.

“I was asked to go to a range a couple of years ago by a dear friend and after some internal debating, I went. And I’m so glad that I did because it changed my life,” said Free. “Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple said, ‘The most common way we give up our power is by thinking we don’t have any.’ Ladies, we have power!”

Laura Kippen (report author), Lucretia Free and Julie Golob
(left to right)
The NSSF study, conducted in 2014, focused on women ages 18 to 65 who owned at least one firearm. Over a third of women in the study were new gun owners, having purchased their first firearm within the last three years. This group of new gun owners, who are primarily between the ages of 18 and 34, reflects the changing demographics among women choosing to own firearms and the fastest growing segment of the shooting sports.

Among the report’s findings:
  • Nearly all women (95 percent) have tried target shooting, and more than half (58 percent) have hunted.
  • The most commonly owned firearm by women is a semiautomatic pistol, with 56 percent of women reporting they owned at least one. Shotguns ranked second, with 50 percent of women owning at least one.
  • Women say their purchases are mainly influenced by fit, quality and practicality.
  • The majority of women report they are not driven to buy a gun on impulse but rather considered their purchase for months before deciding.
  • More than 42 percent of women have a concealed carry permit for their state of residence.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of women reported having taken at least one training class. (See more details in the “Girl Power” infographic below.)
The report shows women are attracted to shooting activities such as practical pistol, clay target shooting, long-range shooting and plinking; they were not as active, however, in gun collecting or 3-gun and cowboy action shooting.

According to the National Sporting Goods Association, female engagement was up 85 percent for hunting to 3.3 million participants between 2001 and 2013, and grew 60 percent to 5.4 million participants for target shooting to 5.4 million during that same period.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RMEF Executes ‘Game Plan’ at SHOT Show

RMEF Booth at SHOT Show
To put it simply, a number of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation staffers find themselves among the masses (64,000 to be accurate) at the largest gathering of the firearms and outdoor industry on earth. It’s the perfect place to solidify RMEF’s relationships with its conservation partners for the present and into the future.

To better understand that, you need to have a feel for the enormity of this event. The 37th go-round of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show runs daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. January 20-23 at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas. More than 60,000 exhibitors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, buyers, wildlife conservation organizations, media members and other industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 different countries are on hand. (67,000 attended a year ago.) More than 2,400 members of the outdoor and mainstream media cover the show to view and promote the products they see in their print, Internet, radio and TV stories.

The show is for trade only and is not open to the general public. Consumers will see the products unveiled here on retailer’s shelves during the course of the year.

The exhibit floor is massive! Exhibit space totals more than 630,000 net square feet. If you do the math, that’s more than 13 acres or roughly the same area covered by the New Orleans Superdome or the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza. SHOT Show features 12.5 miles of aisles which lead to displays of a wide range of products, including firearms, ammunition, gun safes, locks and cases, optics, shooting range equipment, targets, training and safety equipment, hunting accessories, law enforcement equipment, hearing and eye protection, tree stands, scents and lures, cutlery, GPS systems, holsters, apparel, leather goods, game calls and decoys.

RMEF Team Elk members Lee
& Tiffany Lakosky with RMEF
President/CEO David Allen 
Firearms and ammunition are an $8 billion industry. The total economic impact of the industry is nearly $38 billion, which supports more than 245,000 jobs. The market for firearms, ammunition and accessories remains strong, with statistics showing more people going target shooting and hunting.

RMEF carries out a SHOT Show approach of “divide and conquer.” Sales, marketing, public relations, merchandising and publications personnel hold meetings with sponsors, associates, peers, journalists, outdoor personalities and other key groups and organizations. In this day and age of texting, email, Skyping and other forms of high tech communication, there’s still something to be said for meaningful face-to-face meetings and a good, old fashioned handshake. 

SHOT Show is also an opportunity to learn more about marketing and other industry trends, hunting and wildlife-related research, and to rub shoulders with so many folks with like-minded vision. These established ties with conservation-minded partners help RMEF carry out its mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

After all, members of the vast world-wide outdoor industry may live a world apart when it comes to distance, but when it comes to creating and maintaining more public access, and conserving our wildlife and wild landscapes, we’re all on the same page.

Monday, January 19, 2015

RMEF Helps Sponsor Poster Program that Supports Public Access

Below is a news release issued by Tread Lightly!, an organization that promotes responsible outdoor recreation through ethics education and stewardship programs. It also developed a campaign to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors. RMEF helped sponsor the Tread Lightly! poster program.

Tread Lightly! and Partners Successfully Saturate Nation with Key Educational Signage

Salt Lake City, Utah—January 20, 2015—The national nonprofit Tread Lightly! is celebrating the successful completion of the 3rd year of an interpretive education program aimed at protecting and enhancing access and recreational opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor activities ranging from recreational shooting to off-highway vehicle recreation. 

By bringing high quality, research-based educational messages to trailhead kiosks, visitor centers, public shooting areas, campgrounds and other hubs of outdoor recreation, Tread Lightly! is fostering a stronger sense of individual stewardship throughout the nation’s recreation community. The poster program, part of Tread Lightly!’s Respected Access is Open Access campaign, was made possible through grants from the Right Rider Access Fund, Dallas Safari Club, Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (see bottom of post).

“I cannot express what a relief it is to be able to post such a positive message out there,” said Patty VerWiebe, US Forest Service Ranger at the Hiawatha National Forest. “It would have taken many seasons for us to pay for this many signs. I am very grateful and happy that we were able to take advantage of this program that promotes education and awareness so clearly…they are fantastic!”

As of today, Tread Lightly! has produced and delivered nearly 5,000 Outdoor Education Posters across 44 states at no cost to the recipient. Public agencies, enthusiast clubs and Boy Scout troops that submitted requests for these posters were able to customize each print using issue-specific messages and recreation tips. A QR code could even be added directing scanners to designated route maps. 

Statistics gathered from each recipient suggest the posters distributed in 2014 will be viewed by more than 10 million people per year.

Messages were pulled from Tread Lightly!’s celebrated Respected Access is Open Access campaign and target multiple outdoor enthusiast groups including hunters, recreational shooters, and equestrians. They also utilized the campaign’s RIDE ON Designated Routes messages to resonate both with off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts and with the 4 out of 5 sportsmen who use OHVs to reach a destination to enjoy activities like hunting and fishing.

“This swift saturation of our crucial messages straight on the ground is unprecedented in our 25 years as a nonprofit,” said Lori McCullough, Tread Lightly!’s executive director. “The feedback we’ve received from the educational poster recipients across the country is phenomenal. As Tread Lightly! continues to add more corporate partners and individual members, our organization’s reach is expanding and recreational access is improving.”

“The posters are a great asset,” said Aaron Angeli, Park Ranger at the Chappie-Shasta Off-Highway Vehicle Area. “They draw attention and state great practices for people to follow in a non-threatening way. They seem to get more of a draw than the typical finger-shaking, don’t-do-this-or-that type of prints that are more commonly found on such info kiosks.”

Although free posters are not currently available, posters can still be customized and purchased from Tread Lightly!’s website at treadlightly.org/programs/educational-posters-program. An interactive map showing the placement of each poster in the country can also be found at this site.

The Respected Access is Open Access campaign was developed to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors by educating users to minimize environmental impact and social conflict. The campaign’s messages address litter, trigger trash, the use of improper targets, riding on designated routes and other specific issues.

Taking Shape at SHOT Show

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is spending the week forming new relationships and solidifying others, attending news conferences and conducting outreach with many friends and businesses  at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas. SHOT Show runs from January 20-23.

RMEF's home base is booth #1214 in the Sands Expo Center. Its transformation from the cement floors and pillars of a glorified "parking garage," for the lack of a better term, to a first-class showroom is rather remarkable. The three-man RMEF set-up crew is charged with assembling what old schoolers may refer to as a hybrid between a mutant Erector Set and Tinkertoys.

Pictures tell the rest of the story.

Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the carpet is laid

Structure parts are sorted and laid out to simplify construction 
A change in elevation...
...stretches the structure skyward

"Nuts" and "bolts" are tightened with a "wrench"

RMEF meeting room walls start to go up

Audio-visual equipment is assembled...
...and banners are  hung

Let there be light
Things are starting to take shape

...and wrinkles are steamed out
Fabric walls are hung...

Mission accomplished...bring on SHOT Show

Thursday, January 15, 2015

RMEF Team Elk Named Golden Moose Award Finalist

RMEF Team Elk, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s TV show, is a finalist for the upcoming 15th Annual Golden Moose Awards (GMA). The program is one of 12 finalists in the running for “Best Conservation, Education & Instruction.”

“We are not in the conservation business to win awards, but at the same time it’s nice when peers recognize the hard work our folks dedicate to this production,” said Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of Marketing. “Winning or losing on awards night won’t change the fact that we have a very dedicated and talented marketing and production team that excels in what they do. It’s great that others have taken some notice of those efforts.”

The GMAs are the country’s premiere outdoor entertainment awards featuring programs that air on the Outdoor Channel. The ceremony will take place on Thursday, January 22, at The Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas during the annual Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) and Conference.

Among the GMA presenters are Sarah Palin, Joe Mantegna, Craig Morgan and Eva Shockey. The event will include musical performances by Ted Nugent, Nate Hosie and Kari & Billy.

For the first time ever, Outdoor Channel will be streaming the GMA live at http://outdoorchannel.com/goldenmooseawards. And, fans can get real-time Golden Moose Awards updates and images from Outdoor Channel talent by following the #GoldenMoose hashtag on social media.

RMEF Team Elk, presented by Cabela’s and hosted by Brandon Bates, focuses on elk, elk habitat and elk hunting. Season five features great storylines and adrenaline-filled hunts that spotlight the beauty of the backcountry and the importance of conservation and our hunting heritage. Featured hunts include a Fort Hood shooting victim who finally realizes his dream of hunting elk after almost losing his life in the 2009 attack, a wounded warrior seeking to punch her elk tag in California and many more adventures. 

RMEF Team Elk was also nominated for and eventually won a Golden Moose Award in 2011 for “Fan Favorite New Series.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RMEF Joins Groups Seeking Appeal of Great Lakes Wolf Ruling

The organizations in the attached letter are encouraging Minnesota Senator Al Franken to urge the Secretary of Interior to immediately appeal the decision of US District Judge Beryl A. Howell that granted a motion for summary judgment vacating the US Department of Interior’s action that delisted the wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The groups, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, further request the appeal include a petition for immediate stay of the order and full reinstatement of the final rule revising the Listing of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in the Western Great Lakes (the “Final Rule”), 76 Fed. Reg. 81,666 (Dec. 28, 2011), pending completion of the appeal process.

January 12th, 2015
The Honorable Al Franken
United States Senate
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Franken,

As you are aware, on December 19th, 2014, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell made a decision to immediately reinstate Endangers Species Act protections for gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Wolves now revert to the federal protection status they had prior to being removed from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region in January 2012. Meaning, wolves now are federally classified as threatened in Minnesota and endangered elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

The undersigned organizations are requesting your support and assistance in urging the Secretary of Interior to immediately appeal the decision of US District Judge Beryl A. Howell that granted a motion for summary judgment vacating the US Department of Interior’s action that delisted the wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. We further request the appeal include a petition for immediate stay of the order and full reinstatement of the final rule revising the Listing of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in the Western Great Lakes (the “Final Rule”), 76 Fed. Reg. 81,666 (Dec. 28, 2011), pending completion of the appeal process. 

Since January of 2012, Minnesota’s gray wolf population has been managed under the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR). By all measures established by the MN DNR, gray wolf populations have been maintained in Minnesota and the western Great Lakes states and should remain delisted. Neither USFWS nor the states dispute that wolves have recovered and maintained their populations in this area. However, efforts to de-list wolves in this area continue to be challenged on procedural and technical, rather than wolf conservation, grounds. The success of the ESA in recovering this population and the management efforts of the MN DNR have been overshadowed by litigation and the unnecessarily onerous process to delist the gray wolf. 

We urge you to contact Secretary Jewel and tell her that wolves have recovered in Minnesota and no longer warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This should include a clear statement that wolves are deemed to be recovered in Minnesota, but would not change the statutory underpinnings of the ESA or preclude further action related to wolves under the ESA. This would also show that, since January of 2012, state agencies have been able to successfully manage wolf populations. With this type of action, we firmly believe it would remedy what is necessary to overcome the long history of legal and technical challenges to managing a clearly recovered species, and return the management of the wolf population to state agencies.

The State of Minnesota’s wolf plan has and will continue protect wolves and monitor their population, while giving owners of livestock and domestic pets and wildlife more protection from wolf depredation as well as diseases carried by wolves. 

The original USFWS recovery plan called for 1,251 to 1,400 gray wolves in Minnesota to meet delisting criteria. The state plan establishes a minimum population of 1,600 wolves to ensure the long-term survival of the wolf in Minnesota. The state’s wolf population, which was estimated at fewer than 750 animals in the 1950s, has grown to nearly 2,400 animals. This obviously far exceeds state and federal recovery goals and has led to more conflicts between wolves and humans, pets, and livestock.


Tim Nolte
President – Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association

Pat Lunemann
President, Minnesota Milk Producers Association

Melanie D. Pamp
President - MN Lamb and Wool Producers

Tim Spreck
President - Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance (MOHA)

Blake L. Henning
Vice-President of Lands & Conservation - Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Shawn Johnson
President – On behalf of the Board of Directors and membership of the Minnesota Trappers Association

Craig Engwall
Minnesota Deer Hunters Association

Kevin Papp
President - Minnesota Farm Bureau

David Torgerson
MN Association of Wheat Growers

Adam Birr
MN Corn Growers Association

Copy to:
Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, Commissioner Tom Landwehr MN Department of Natural Resources, Commissioner Dave Frederickson MN Department of Agriculture

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Hunter's Friend or Foe?

We received the poem below from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Life Member Tom Diesing after posting a video (see bottom of this post) on the RMEF Facebook page. Adrian Cde Baca, who took the video during a deer hunt in New Mexico, talked about watching the elk get closer and closer until the wind "busted them."

Here is Tom's note:
"I just saw that video you posted on Facebook of the herd of elk winding the deer hunters. This year during my muzzleloader hunt, a friend of mine took this picture below and it inspired me to write a poem. I thought I would share it."

A Hunter's Friend or Foe

This friend he is with you wherever you go,
He is fickle at times like the unforeseen snow.
A thermal, a gust, a swirl or a breeze,
He will cover your tracks when your feet hit the leaves.
You think he’s your friend in the heat of the chase,
Then in a moment he’s gone from your face.
The fear comes at once he’s betrayed you again,
And you feel his harsh breath on the back of your skin.
Your quarry’s aware of the danger that’s near,
Thanks to his friend he has nothing to fear.
His friend was there when he needed him most,
But he’s a double-edge sword a nasty old ghost.
A foe or a friend you never will know,
On any given day which way he will blow.

Tom Diesing
Courtesy Tom Diesing

Courtesy Adrian Cde Baca

How to Rig a Packhorse

For a hunter, there’s an incomparable thrill in riding a horse into elk country. Just you and your buds and a string of ponies, headed up, flanked by glowing aspens, snowy peaks and a special kind of freedom. It’s the classic image of the ultimate sporting adventure. So strong is the allure, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for many years has offered horse-packing clinics during its annual convention – including the 2014 edition held Dec. 4-7 in Las Vegas alongside the National Finals Rodeo. Here’s what attending cowboys and hunters learned from a veteran outfitter.

Blain Jackson (above) talks tack with clinic attendees. Jackson operates Cottonwood Ranch Hunting Services in northeast Nevada. His outfit has been guiding elk hunters for many years, packing several hundred loads per hunting season in and out of the Jarbidge Wilderness. With all that experience, Jackson can offer plenty of tips, but admits that as long as your gear makes the trip and nobody get hurt (including the stock), there’s really no wrong way to rig a packstring.

Jackson advises, drolly, that if you have a choice between shooting a Boone and Crockett-class bull versus a wee raghorn, you really should consider taking the bigger one. The main reason? Wider antlers, he says, offer more packing options. A big rack fits either astraddle or atop a load.

A hands-on clinic, instructors and attendees work together positioning elk antlers across the top of panniers, the containers that hang on either side of a packsaddle.

One trick for packing an elk rack is laying a stout pole across the packsaddle and tying each end to an antler, which helps secure your trophy for a long, rough ride out.

Antlers are lashed to the packsaddle, crossing from one side to the other, around the main beams and between the tines. Done right, the ropes get tighter, not looser, as your horse or mule moves along the trail.

The pile of gear needed to make an elk camp comfortable can seem overwhelming, and rigging it all for transport is, Jackson says, a form of art. Small, loose items are wrapped together in a tarp, called a manta or mantee, to make a bundle secured with ropes. 

Clinic attendees compare and contrast types of packsaddles. A decker saddle, shown here, has a single cinch. A sawbuck, or crossbuck, saddle has a double-rigged cinch.

Size matters but weight matters more. It’s critical that bundles to be loaded on opposite sides of a sawbuck packsaddle are of equal weight, or at least within a pound or two (decker saddles are more forgiving). Jackson actually uses scales to check. Otherwise, he says, a packhorse won’t get far up the trail before you have to stop and re-pack the load. Balancing a load can be especially challenging when you’re packing one particularly heavy item, such as a wood stove.

Be sure to tie and load mantied bundles in a way that sheds water, in case it rains or snows before you get to camp. However, Jackson warns jokingly, if your pack animal happens to end up upside down in the creek, your sleeping bag is getting wet no matter how well you packed and tied the load.

Jackson says the vast majority of packing involves tying box and diamond hitches. Use plenty of rope and tuck-in any extra. May not look pretty but secure beats pretty all day long, literally. Clinic attendees also learned about breeching, breast collars and cruppers.

Bring what you need, but you don’t need the kitchen sink. Nearly every elk outfitter, including Jackson, has funny stories about hunters who insisted on packing things like ice skates, bowling balls, bathrobes, business suits and other nonessentials. But it’s not really funny – overloading is hard on a horse’s loins and kidneys. 

A well-packed load adds to the enjoyment of riding horses into elk country, and, ultimately, the hunt. Along with the annual horse-packing clinics, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recommends two classic books: “Horses, Hitches and Rocky Trails” by Joe Back, and “Packin’ In on Mules and Horses” by Smoke Elser and Bill Brown. 

For more information about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit www.rmef.org.

Steve Wagner