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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

RMEF Removes House, Restores Elk Habitat

“As I watched that house roll off of crucial elk winter range and down the road, all I could think of was RMEF’s commitment and spirit to conserve elk country can move houses!”

It’s been said that once elk habitat is gone, it’s gone for good. But what if there was a way to restore elk habitat that already fell victim to development? Or more specifically, what if you could return important elk feeding grounds and winter range to the way it was before a home was built on a given site? That’s exactly what the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation pulled off in southwest Montana.

In late 2014, RMEF acquired 631 acres of grassy winter range 24 miles south of Ennis along the Madison River adjacent to the 6,557-acre Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA). In fact, the entire southern edge of the property borders the existing WMA while the east edge borders Bureau of Land Management land that provides access to the Madison River. It’s a pristine piece of property that provides crucial winter range for 2,000 elk as well as hundreds of mule deer, antelope and other critters. The acquisition increased the overall size of the WMA by about 10 percent.

It’s just that there was a problem, a big problem—a 3,096-square-foot cedar-siding log house on the property. Actually, there was also a 1,260-square-foot garage with guest quarters as well as an unfinished 2,500-square-foot building. Those structures, as well as a man-made, three-acre pond stocked with non-native, farm-raised fish, were not exactly ideal for elk country. 

So RMEF developed a plan by notifying locals that the home would be available for purchase through a sealed bidding process with the winner assuming full responsibility to remove the structure from the property. The winning bid came in at $20,000.

“They (the winners of the bid process) were motivated both by helping RMEF with its mission of conserving elk habitat and finding a new home in Montana in an area that was already impacted by a planned subdivision and out of occupied elk habitat,” said Mike Mueller, RMEF senior land program manager.

Moving day came several months later. Workers from a moving and rigging business located some 200 miles away traveled to the site. They jacked up the house from its foundation and placed a heavy duty towing trailer underneath. A big rig then negotiated a slight downhill path off of the property. The home successfully towered over fencing as it rolled down a narrow dirt road, across a bridge over the Madison River and down the highway to its new location.

“As I watched that house roll off of crucial elk winter range and down the road, all I could think of was RMEF’s commitment and spirit to conserve elk country can move houses!” said Mueller.

As for the remaining structures, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) will reclaim them for management objectives and administration purposes. The actual home site will most likely be reseeded and the pond reclaimed as well. The land is now permanently open to public access during hunting season and beyond. It will be conveyed it to FWP later this year. 

“RMEF and its partners will turn back the clock on residential subdivision, habitat fragmentation and loss, and the restricting of public access when we can. The bottom line is we saved the integrity of one of Montana’s oldest and most popular WMA's by reestablishing a buffer along its northern boundary. It took a total team effort to pull this miracle off. God did not want this house to stay where it was,” said Mueller. 

Man may not be able to move mountains but, in this case anyway, he can remove a house to conserve and protect elk and elk country.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Montana Rendezvous: 20 Years of Food, Fun and Celebration

They gathered from all corners of Big Sky Country. Members and volunteers of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation came together at the Madison County Fairgrounds in Twin Bridges, Montana, for the 20th Annual Wild West Rendezvous.

Three days of camping and fun began with dozens of volunteers of all ages who headed into the backcountry with their boots, work gloves and fence pliers to remove old barb wire fencing. Their hard work will free up migration corridors for years to come by making it easier for elk and other wildlife to travel across the mountainous Montana landscape.

“It is amazing how much RMEF volunteers can accomplish when they come together with a common goal to make an impact on the ground in elk country,” said Matt Ashley, RMEF regional director.

When all was said and done, the volunteers filled pickup beds with wire and removed them from the land.

“Our volunteers made quick work of our work project and are always underestimated at how fast they can get things done,” said Jared Wold, RMEF regional director. 

Other rendezvous highlights included a wild game potluck dinner, the second annual washoe tournament and a wide array of informative learning seminars including elk calling, hunting, filming your hunt, how to hunt in bear country and Dutch oven cooking. Staffers from RMEF and our partners from the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management provided updates on the latest RMEF land projects. Kids of all ages practiced their skills on a nearby archery course while others took their fly rods to the nearest stretch of blue ribbon rivers and streams.

 The final evening included more food and fun at the Wild West Fun Night of games. It included a happy hour with games and raffles, a catered pig roast barbecue, prizes and awards, and live music provided by the Rocky Mountain Pearls.

All in all, the 20th annual Montana Rendezvous was another successful celebration of elk and elk country. Who’s ready for the 21st?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Battle-Tested Rut Warrior

Below is a photo and its story that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation received from John Wheland.

When I receive my issue of Bugle I always go to the photos section first as I am an avid wildlife photographer as well as a hunter. As I looked through the "Bonus Points" section in the current issue I took particular notice of a shot taken by Dave Irwin. I have an image of the same bull probably taken a year later. This bull had the same point broken off two years in a row. My image is of interest because it was taken moments after the fight and the point is still hanging from the main beam. I doubt I will ever get a shot like this again.

John Wheland
Roseburg, Or.

Monday, October 12, 2015

RMEF Grants to Benefit 24,000 Acres of Arizona Elk Habitat

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2015 grants for the state of Arizona. Find more information here.

Apache County—Provide drinker trough extensions to improve accessibility for wildlife (especially antlered bulls and bucks) on six water tanks situated on 3,840 acres of Arizona State Trust Lands; carry out prescribed burning on 1,321 acres northwest of the Greens Peak area within the Springerville Ranger District on the Apache National Forest to improve wildlife habitat and restore meadow conditions on summer range and transition areas; and provide funding to replace a fence and stabilize the headcut of a spring on the Apache National Forest that serves as a wildlife water source in an area affected by the San Juan Wildfire of 2014.

Coconino County—Thin pinyon and juniper from 800 to 1000 acres where they are encroaching into former grasslands and savannahs in the White Hill area of the Williams Ranger District and Watts area of the Tusayan Ranger District on the Kaibab National Forest; thin 200 acres of woodlands on the Williams Ranger District to improve wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of severe wildfire in an area that serves as an important wildlife travel corridor in the Upper Verde River Watershed 10 miles south of Williams on the Kaibab National Forest; remove encroaching pinyon and juniper from 1,600 acres of historic grasslands on private land to increase the production of grasses, forbs and browse species on yearlong habitat where wintering elk numbers can double or triple from the non-winter population; and provide funding and volunteer support for an annual Adopt-a-Ranch work project to repair damaged fence and install elk jumps.

Greenlee County—Provide funding to clean out and rehabilitate eight dirt wildlife water tanks adversely affected by the 2011 Wallow Wildfire that will positively benefit elk and other wildlife on 5,120 acres within the Alpine Ranger District on the Apache National Forest (also benefits Apache County).

Maricopa County—Provide financial and volunteer support for an effort to remove more than 10 tons of trash from the popular Table Mesa Recreation Area north of Phoenix; and provide funding to help students and coaches from the Wickenburg Christian Academy Archery Club travel to Kentucky for the National Archery in the Schools Program national tournament.

Navajo County—Remove silt as a result of the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Wildfire from 18 dirt tanks in Game Management Units 3C and 4B within the Black Mesa Ranger District on the Sitgreaves National Forest; and provide funding to assist members of the White Mountain Trap and Skeet Club Clay Busters within the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) with entry fees, shells and other expenses related to various shooting competitions. 

Pima County—Provide funding to boost a new archery program to benefit the Boy Scout community in Tucson that would assist scouts with merit badges, summer camps and archery competitions.

Santa Cruz County—Provide funding to help Santa Cruz County 4-H Shooting Sports purchase new equipment to upgrade its program which strives to teach safe and responsible use of firearms and encourage personal growth of its members.

Yuma County—Provide funding for the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club 2015 Youth Small Game Camp which lays down the fundamentals of ethical hunting, wildlife identification, good sportsmanship, hunter safety and conservation; and provide funding for Yuma Young Guns SCTP members as they learn about skeet shooting, gun safety, teamwork and sportsmanship.

Statewide—Provide funding for a joint effort to host youth camps in 2015 and 2016 to teach youth, novice hunters, and others about skinning, archery shooting, predator calling, turkey calling demonstrations, hunter mentorship, tracking and big game field dressing and handling as well as other skills.

Partners for the Arizona projects include the Apache-Sitgreaves and Kaibab National Forests, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, private landowners, and various sportsmen, civic and other organizations. 

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 205,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.6 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.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kids Flock to RMEF for Youth Wildlife Conservation Field Day

More than 110 boys and girls age 2-16 recently spent a morning at the headquarters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for Youth Wildlife Conservation Day. The free gathering offered an opportunity to learn about RMEF's conservation and hunting heritage mission, North America's wildlife and the value of spending time outdoors through a variety of hands-on activities. 

The archery manager from the local Sportsmen’s Warehouse taught basic skills and participants had the opportunity to take aim at targets. Just across the way, staffers from the local Cabela’s provided firearm handling and safety instruction as kids honed in on the bullseye inside an inflatable BB gun range. 

As part of the National Be Bear Aware and Wildlife Stewardship Campaign, 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. Youth even got to practice discharging bear spray by using test cans containing a benign spray formula. 

RMEF staff sponsored a paintball target game where youth practiced target shooting with paintballs and a slingshot. There was also a 45-foot climbing wall, a conservation activity corner, balloon entertainment and other activities. 

When the time came to go home, nobody did so empty handed. Everyone received a free copy of Bugle magazine, a RMEF hat and a calendar. Alps Outdoorz also offered a backpack through a drawing. On top of that, the first 50 youth that registered for the event received a free RMEF youth membership.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wisconsin RMEF Chapter Remembers, Honors One of Its Own

They gathered in the town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, like they do every year. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation members, volunteers and friends alike came together for the annual Rock Prairie Chapter Big Game Banquet.

One man was noticeably absent. Long-time RMEF supporter, avid hunter and family man Peter Holte did not attend. At the age of 45, he passed away in 2014 from complications of a spinal cord injury from many years earlier.

To honor their fallen father, son, and brother, the family purchased a special rifle, a Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifle. It featured an RMEF plaque on one side and another under the lever labeled PETEHOLTE001. They donated it in a live auction dedicated to Peter.

Ken Holte took to the stage to talk about his brother.

Ken Holte
“Pete had a love of the outdoors and a determination to continue with our hunting trips long after his physical abilities had left him. Even after he lost the ability to walk, we would literally carry him with us. Pete had a fondness for verbally joisting and ribbing others, and he never lost that. Those are the things that most every hunting/fishing group has, so it is always hard to lose that spirited individual,” said Ken.

After Ken’s remarks the auction opened and the bidding began. What the average banquet attendee did not know is he or she had no prayer to win that rifle. Peter’s father, Alan, assured RMEF organizers beforehand that the Golden Boy would go home with one person and one person only—him! Alan lived up to his word.

As the bids rose in price, Alan remained an active participant. And when the bidding closed, Alan’s bid of $2,900 topped the pack. He happily accepted the rifle and placed it the hands of Peter’s daughter Kendra, his granddaughter.

Kendra Holte (left) and Alan Holte
In dedication to Peter and his life, the family plans to make the rifle available to be auctioned off every year.

The Rock Prairie Chapter asked Ken to write up a story about Pete (see below).

Peter Holte
It all started in 1984 with a simple tingling of the arms and a little dizziness. Perhaps nothing too alarming for a scrappy junior-high kid. But, symptoms persisted, and it turned out to be more severe than expected. A small bone which tied several vertebrae to the base of Peter’s skull had been broken. Likely an injury from his days on the wrestling team. Left undiagnosed it could be fatal.

The following two years involved a series of surgeries for Peter and a considerable amount of time in a halo brace with limited ability to move about. But, over time Peter began to regain his strength and he became more active again, and his admiration for the outdoors began to grow, including our family tradition of an annual hunting trip to the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming.

The Wyoming trips brought out the best in Pete. He established many friendships with the locals, and enjoyed accessing new hunting areas. He also hunted regularly in southern Wisconsin. He even dabbled with bow season for several years, but the gun season was his preference. Over the years, he collected a few “trophies,” but more importantly he built a library of stories and lasting friendships with all those who shared his desire to be outdoors.

In his mid-30s, something “broke loose” in Peter’s neck. The tingling and numbness returned, and he experienced some paralysis on his right side. He returned to the operating table – this time for an experimental procedure to stabilize his neck. He was in traction for a week to realign the vertebrae, followed again by months in a halo brace, and although some limited paralysis still remained and he had lost considerable muscle mass, the surgery was considered a success, and Peter did his best to resume his active lifestyle.

Peter continued his hunting escapades. Annual trips to Wyoming and the Wisconsin deer hunts were never far from his thoughts. However, the paralysis continued to expand and erode his physical abilities. Eventually he stopped hunting in Wisconsin as his limbs could no longer carry him, but the annual Wyoming trips were too important to give up. With the help of family and friends, Peter continued to go to Wyoming every October. Long after he gave up carrying a gun, he served as guide and companion to his young nephews, shepherding them into adulthood and the hunting tradition. A time came that the nephews had to lift their uncle in and out of the truck, but he still watched over them. He lived for the pleasure of sitting quietly, watching for the site of a mule deer during the day and the gentle banter around a meal (or dice game) at night.

Eventually paralysis overtook Peter’s body, and in August of 2014 Peter Holte breathed his last breath.

Antlers adorned the flowers placed upon his casket and family gathered once again to tell stories, mainly centered on annual hunting trips with Pete.

Hunting for Pete was more than sport; hunting was his connection with the outdoors and a thread woven deep into his family. In June 2015, family and friends gathered in the Big Horns to fulfill Pete’s final wish and release his ashes in the place he loved. His spirit will live on in the love of the hunt that he fostered and passed on to his nephews and his daughter.

The Holte Family sincerely appreciates the honor the RMEF has bestowed upon Peter with this Memorial Fundraiser. We wish all of you many safe and successful hunting seasons to come.

Ken Holte

New Mexico Elk Habitat, Research Get Boost from RMEF Grants

Below is a complete listing of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s 2015 grants for the state of New Mexico. Find more information here.

Catron County—Continue mechanical thinning and follow-up burning on 100 acres in the Slaughter Mesa area on the Gila National Forest to restore grasslands and increase forage production on yearlong elk habitat that also benefits mule deer, pronghorn, wild turkey, Mexican spotted owl and other wildlife; and convert an existing but unused 20,000-gallon steel rim tank and associated drinker into a multiple use wildlife-livestock trick tank system by building a water collection skirt to fill the storage tank and repairing the existing guzzler system that transports water to two drinkers downslope into Squirrel Springs Canyon on the Gila National Forest. 

De Baca County—Provide funding to the De Baca County 4-H program for youth ages 9-19 to learn about the safe handling of firearms, take part in competitive shooting and learn other skills in a supervised and healthy setting. 

Grant County—Remove juniper from five units ranging in size from two to 43 acres totaling 66 acres in the Gattons Park area of the Wilderness Ranger District on the Gila National Forest by using a combination of mechanical and hand thinning to benefit yearlong elk habitat. 

Lincoln County—Provide funding for the Lincoln County 4-H Shooting Sports Program which offers youth ages 9-19 the opportunity to learn responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline, and other qualities through participation in firearm safety training and shooting sports activities.

Los Alamos County—Provide funding for the Northern New Mexico Youth Clay Challenge, hosted by Los Alamos Young Guns, which gives youth statewide an opportunity to compete in multiple shooting events at no cost and learning through trained instructors.

Rio Arriba County—Apply prescribed fire treatment to 2,600 acres on the Santa Fe National Forest to enhance crucial winter range and yearlong habitat for elk and mule deer (also benefits Sandoval County); and mechanically treat 450 acres of decadent sagebrush on the Jicarilla Ranger District of the Carson National Forest to stimulate sprouting, followed by seeding with native grasses and forbs.

Sandoval County—Provide funding for a continuing study in the Valles Caldera National Preserve to assess the responses of elk to large-scale forest restoration treatments in an effort to help guide future vegetation treatments designed to enhance forage conditions for elk (also benefits Rio Arriba County).

San Juan County—Provide funding for the San Juan Wildlife Federation, based in Farmington, which hosts a Youth Sports Fest to introduce youth to the shooting sports and the principles of wildlife conservation.

Socorro County—Thin pinyon-juniper and small diameter ponderosa pine from 372 acres within the Upper Point of Rocks and Kellog South units on Bureau of Land Management land to enhance habitat within the North San Mateo Landscape area. The treatment also functions as pre-treatment preparation for future prescribed burning.

Statewide—Provide Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) funding for 1,805 hunter orange safety vests for graduates of the New Mexico Game and Fish Hunter Education program.

Partners for the New Mexico projects include the Carson, Gila and Santa Fe National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as well as various sportsmen and other local organizations.

RMEF uses TFE funding solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 205,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.6 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.

Tales from the Field: North Dakota

On Monday evening I was bowhunting for whitetail in central North Dakota in an area that looked great (rubs and trails everywhere). I noticed a tree that was rubbed over six feet high and so I decided that is where I wanted to stay for the evening to see if I could see what produced that, figuring it was either a moose or an elk. 

Just as the sun started going down, I noticed two mature bull elk sparring about 100 yards away in the brush. After a while of waiting, I decided to make an imitation bugle with my mouth and to my surprise the bulls both came screaming in within seconds to 15 yards. I had the best evening ever by being blessed enough to come across some of the rare central North Dakota elk.

Matt Doyle