Montana elk (mis)management

BuzzH

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I'm probably wasting time trying to figure this whole Montana elk mismanagement/ shoulder season debacle out.

IMO, there is no elk management in Montana being conducted by the MTFWP.

For the fun of it, I looked at the 2015 data provided on the MTFWP page that shows elk distribution and population estimates.

I think the MT Sportsmen had best start asking some damn serious questions about those numbers. This is why. The area I hunt the most, has a herd objective of 900-1100 elk. If I look at the tables, the observed elk numbers are listed at 834 elk...yet the estimated population is 1043...over 200 elk that are "claimed" to be in the unit. How in the hell, and where in the hell are over 200 elk hiding during flights, in the dead of winter, where they cant be observed? I'm supposed to believe the MTFWP estimates, and that they simply cant find 20% of the elk that are supposed to be in that unit?

I don't buy it...its a bunch of bullchit and a complete fabrication of the truth.

Now, to take this one step further, I've "heard" but not seen on paper, that the bull to cow ratio's in that area are around 10 bulls per 100 cows. I seriously doubt that, but I'll assume for the sake of argument that's a valid number. Using the "observed" number, that means roughly 83 total bulls. Using the "estimated" number we're talking 104 bulls.

How in the good Christ, can the MTFWP, explain or justify that all 170,000 general tag holders in Montana, can legally hunt that area for 11 weeks?

How is allowing general OTC hunters, 11 weeks of hunting for 80-100 bulls (assuming all of them make it through the winter and into the following hunting season, and are accessible to hunters) even a management decision?

What is likely the best case scenerio, it that 40-50 bulls may actually be somewhere that a public land hunter can access them...and we're hunting those bulls for 11 weeks.

If ANYBODY within the MTFWP even tried to make an argument that this a good idea or even called it "management" I would fire them on the spot...and recommend they should be disqualified from ever working in the wildlife field again.

Yet, this is the "management" that the MTFWP has been justifying for the entire 36 years that I've hunted in Montana.

Some questions I have is why haven't the MT hunters demand that the MTFWP be REQUIRED to manage for a certain bull to cow ratio?

I recently talked to a local Biologist here in Wyoming and reconfirmed what their bull to cow objectives are for general and trophy areas.

Here, general units (OTC for Residents) must maintain at least 15 bulls per 100 cows, post harvest. If the b-t-c ratio drops lower than that, the following general bull hunting season is shortened and/or spike harvest is stopped. Once the b-t-c ratios increase, the seasons go back to normal.

Here is where Montana minds are going to be blown away...WY's trophy (special) LQ areas are required to have 40 bulls per 100 cows post season. Yes, 40. If they drop below 40, bull permits are reduced the following year. In the areas I've hunted in these trophy areas, bull to cow ratios from 50-65 are NOT uncommon in some hunting seasons.

Also fair to note that many of WY's hunting units are managed on "observed" elk, not on population estimates. In other words, decisions on management are made on what is 100% for sure on the ground...not some lame fantasy where there must be "another few hundred elk we didn't see".

That is managing an elk herd...what Montana does is wage war on elk, and treat bull elk the same as a pheasant population where, "you cant kill too many males out of the population".

Its too bad what's happening in Montana, as the potential for elk hunting there is really staggering.

I believe what Montana should do, and I may recommend this, is to simply start mowing elk down every time a landowner complains. I say hire helicopters, government hunters, whatever it takes. When a landowner complains, kill every last one of them off their land, starting with the bulls first (so they cant hoard them for their buddies and paying clients) and then work on the cows and calves.

Problem solved and I don't have to hear about it again.

Next phone call...get the hired guns out again...repeat until ranchers quit calling and the elk are under control.

This is where its headed anyway, so why fiddle-$%^# around with shoulder seasons, hunter lists, damage hunts, etc. etc. etc.

One last thing, I will never turn in another poacher in Montana...ever. In particular if they shoot too many elk. The MTFWP wants them dead anyway, and I see no reason to waste my time, or a wardens time, to report an elk poacher, when the same elk will likely be killed later via a shoulder season.

Montana is off my list of States to hunt elk in...I refuse to participate in a state that has dug their heels in and made the decision that the only good elk is a dead elk.
 
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ShootsManyBullets

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How is 10 bulls per 100 cows a healthy ratio? Obviously too low and it makes it too easy for predators to hammer the herds in the spring b/c the calf drop would occur over a longer period where the predators can constantly hammer newborns. If ratios were better calves would hit the ground over a shorter period.

Have to agree that managing tag sales and landowners is not sound herd management since they really aren't managing the herd at all. Reminds me of Washington who just gives out OTC tags for deer and elk with no regard for herd numbers whatsoever.

Just keep saying we're "above objective" so out of state dipsticks like me buy their $800+ elk tags...

Sad to see the politicians managing Montana's elk.
 

Big Foot

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One of L. Lundquist's articles stated MT FWP commission was pushing for shoulder seasons now to stave off an attack during 2017 legislature regarding land owner tolerance of wildlife. Pretty sad if true since FWP will be under attack regardless of any action today. (Unless us montanans can vote out some of the dipchits in office before then) But who are we kidding! Ha.
 

MT_elk

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It is all about politics and the elk are the ones that are suffering. I don't have a degree in biology, but even I could come up with a better plan!
 

BuzzH

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Not to beat a dead...elk...but, here's an even more ridiculous number.

There were supposedly 71 brow tined bulls killed in that unit in 2014 by rifle hunters, according to the MTFWP harvest statistics. Not sure about archery kills.

IMO, the MTFWP must not even look at their own fictitious numbers...they don't even know how to lie and make it half believable. Their own population and harvest statistics make absolutely no sense. You cant claim to have, at the very most, 100 bulls in a unit post harvest in December...then kill 71 of them the following fall, 10 months later, and sustain that. Its mathematically impossible.

What a crock of chit...

What I have a hard time with is what are they lying about? The total elk population? The bull to cow ratio? The harvest statistics?

Pretty safe bet that they are lying about all 3 and don't give a big rats ass about it...they just hope nobody looks that close at their "numbers".
 
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Big Fin

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One of L. Lundquist's articles stated MT FWP commission was pushing for shoulder seasons now to stave off an attack during 2017 legislature regarding land owner tolerance of wildlife. Pretty sad if true since FWP will be under attack regardless of any action today. (Unless us montanans can vote out some of the dipchits in office before then) But who are we kidding! Ha.

I don't doubt that is a consideration. I know for me, as unfortunate as it is, I've forced myself to consider that reality. I'll explain why, and then expand on some additional concerns.

The reason I do worry about legislature intervention is that hunters are apathetic when a topic gets to the legislature. Honestly, it is disappointing to see how much energy gets invested in the chatter about a topic, yet how few call, email, or testify when it becomes a legislative issues. Quite frankly, the apathy is not just among hunters, but among all parts of our society that is busy trying to make a living and raise a family. The special interests know this and it is part of their strategy.

Another reason I would rather do things with some consideration of legislative intervention is that when it is a Commission or Department decision, we can tweak/change/improve/remove the action taken whenever appropriate. When it becomes a legislative action, you aren't going to have another crack at it until the next session, or at least two years. And if history is an indicator, you aren't going to get it changed without a citizens ballot initiative.

Finally, as imperfect as the Commission and Department process is, we are dealing with people who have a background in wildlife and a motivation to make wildlife better. In the legislative session we end up dealing with people who have a low level of wildlife background and often a questionable motivation.

None of that means the threat of a legislative hammer is the reason to way one direction or another. Yet, one would be a fool to not consider such given the political climate and recent history of western legislatures.
 

Big Fin

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And now to the bigger topic that has come to mind after reading Buzz's comments. Merely my observation after 25 years of being deeply involved in the processes.

When are hunters going to have enough frustration that they will take action on a bigger scale that restores some consistency to the process that will result in some predictability and sanity to the outcomes?

When are hunters going to get engaged to a much higher degree in both the legislative and Commission process?

When are hunters going to demand a consistent methodology in how decisions are arrived at regarding wildlife? Not just the process of public comment, but the priorities and principles that guide where each piece of information and consideration will fall in the importance of the final options being considered.

When are hunters going to demand a new elk management plan, or a complete hit of the reset button and compliance with the current elk management plan? Right now, FWP has the option to go to cow only in units that are "over objective." Imagine the riot that would cause among many people. The EMP has many other requirements that are not being followed, some to the benefit of hunters and some to the detriment. Are we going to demand that the EMP be followed in all instances or only in those instances that are to our personal preference? Trying to have it both ways destroys the integrity of the plan. I can give you many examples where it is followed that I find troublesome and just as many examples of where it is not followed that is troublesome.
Randy's opinion - Until hunters decide to get serious about taking initiative outside the Department and outside the legislature that starts by working with all parties who have some consideration on the topic, the end result of which is to craft a new Elk Management Plan, expect more of the same. More of the same from the legislature. More of the same in terms of inconsistent policy. More of the same frustration by hunters. More of the same in different hunter priorities/perspectives pitting hunters against each other.

Are we there yet? Or, are we too busy.
 

Ben Lamb

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Randy's opinion - Until hunters decide to get serious about taking initiative outside the Department and outside the legislature that starts by working with all parties who have some consideration on the topic, the end result of which is to craft a new Elk Management Plan, expect more of the same. More of the same from the legislature. More of the same in terms of inconsistent policy. More of the same frustration by hunters. More of the same in different hunter priorities/perspectives pitting hunters against each other.

Are we there yet? Or, are we too busy.

Seats were packed for the 313 discussion. After the lunch break, and shoulder seasons came up, you could have set up an archery course in the commission meeting room. Apparently we're too busy.

Thanks to those that showed up and for crying out loud, let's get the comments in and work to change this proposal.

I concur Randy. It's our resource, let's take it back and put together a different vision than the divisiveness that the Legislature and some lobbies throve on.
 

BRI

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I hope I'm wrong but unfortunately I think we are the minority and it is going to have to get a lot worse before enough people care enough to demand action. What good is 4 months of opportunity to hunt if the opportunity to harvest an elk is next to nothing?
 

PatrickK

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FWP numbers for 313 seemed a little off also. I am pulling these numbers from memory so I might be off a little bit but its pretty close.
FWP says there are about 4000 elk in 313 including the section of northern range inside Yellowstone. They also say that there are about 2.2 or 2.7 bulls per 100 cows - lets call that 3 bulls per 100 cows or 30 bulls for every 1000 cows, or 120 bulls in the unit. Then they state that last year 380? bulls were killed.
How is that possible? How can 380 bulls (or 250 or 310 or whatever the current number is) be killed when there are only 120 to begin with?

Patrick
 

tjones

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Do we really want the crew that brought us shoulder seasons reworking the EMP?

I don't.
 

kenton

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Buzz, I can't say I disagree with anything you're saying about the management of the elk population in Montana. I do, however, think you are incorrect on one point:

I will never turn in another poacher in Montana...ever. In particular if they shoot too many elk. .

Your entire post was filled with a tremendous amount of passion but this statement is nothing but apathy. It's obviously apparent that you care a great deal about elk population numbers and whats best for wildlife but just keep in mind that poachers give you, me, and all real hunters a bad name. Just a thought and keep up the good fight.
 

dcopas78

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Pray that they never give out crop damage control permits like they do here in Ohio. I know one farmer that shot 56 whitetail bucks/does/fawns in ONE year. The bad thing about it; they aren't required to use the deer. They can just leave them lay in the fields where they are shot. He also doesn't allow hunting. It makes me sick.
 
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cowboy

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Pray that they never give out crop damage control permits like they do here in Ohio. I know one farmer that shot 56 whitetail bucks/does/fawns in ONE year. The bad thing about it; they aren't required to use the deer. They can just leave them lay in the fields where they are shot. He also doesn't allow hunting. It makes me sick.

Your above example illustrates the ideology that the wildlife on private property is owned/controlled by the landowner and not the property of the people/State. This shoulder season here in Montana is an end around with that same basic philosophy but written/proposed to be more politically correct.

Everyone should read BuzzH's comments very carefully - although he comes on pretty strong there is an awfull lot of truth in this statements of current conditions and proposed regulations.

If we do throw in the towel and say nothing, promote poaching, not buy a license etc., etc. I would guess that public land hunters will loose Big Time and we will be eliminated - hell with that attitude we won't have any public land for my grandkids anyhow. With the amount of agriculture represented in the asylum convention every 2 years in Helena it is time the true hunters of this State start rounding up some viable candidates for the next election.
 

Chucknduck

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So the biggest issue I see is the elk management plan and the rediculously low objective numbers. I know this was passed by the legislature. Seems like fwp needs to run without legislative control. So what can us sportsmen do to correct this????
 

Chucknduck

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And now to the bigger topic that has come to mind after reading Buzz's comments. Merely my observation after 25 years of being deeply involved in the processes.

When are hunters going to have enough frustration that they will take action on a bigger scale that restores some consistency to the process that will result in some predictability and sanity to the outcomes?

When are hunters going to get engaged to a much higher degree in both the legislative and Commission process?

When are hunters going to demand a consistent methodology in how decisions are arrived at regarding wildlife? Not just the process of public comment, but the priorities and principles that guide where each piece of information and consideration will fall in the importance of the final options being considered.

When are hunters going to demand a new elk management plan, or a complete hit of the reset button and compliance with the current elk management plan? Right now, FWP has the option to go to cow only in units that are "over objective." Imagine the riot that would cause among many people. The EMP has many other requirements that are not being followed, some to the benefit of hunters and some to the detriment. Are we going to demand that the EMP be followed in all instances or only in those instances that are to our personal preference? Trying to have it both ways destroys the integrity of the plan. I can give you many examples where it is followed that I find troublesome and just as many examples of where it is not followed that is troublesome.
Randy's opinion - Until hunters decide to get serious about taking initiative outside the Department and outside the legislature that starts by working with all parties who have some consideration on the topic, the end result of which is to craft a new Elk Management Plan, expect more of the same. More of the same from the legislature. More of the same in terms of inconsistent policy. More of the same frustration by hunters. More of the same in different hunter priorities/perspectives pitting hunters against each other.

Are we there yet? Or, are we too busy.

So I've talked to a bunch of hunters I know and they all think this is a great idea. I also know that most hunters love the either sex units witch all seen to be the units with the most wolves. I know families that will slaughter 5-10 cows a year. 90% of elk hunters could never kill a elk if they were only allowed to shoot Bulls. Most hunters are not willing to put in the work to hunt elk so anytime something that comes along to give them access to easy elk they will be all over it. I feel that it will be darn near impossible to get most of the hunting public to support what needs to be done in the interest of heathy herds and populations. Just look at all the opposition to doing something in the Gardner area. That's why I think we need new people in fwp that will have some balls to do the right thing even if they ruffle a few feathers.
 

Big Fin

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So the biggest issue I see is the elk management plan and the rediculously low objective numbers. I know this was passed by the legislature. Seems like fwp needs to run without legislative control. So what can us sportsmen do to correct this????

Prior to 1977 (?) the FWP Director was reportable to the FWP Commission. The legislature had hardly any say in wildlife matters. As wildlife became a more valuable resource, the legislature decided they needed to have some say. So, the legislature, along with Governors who wanted the Director under their thumb, changed the structure of FWP by making the Director a Governor appointee and the Commissioners subject to Senate approval. They also took much of the authority away from the Commission.

Given wildlife is now an even more valuable resource than it was in the 1970's, the odds of getting a legislature and Governor to go back to how it was, and make the Department accountable strictly to the resource, is very unlikely.

Whether people want to acknowledge this fact or not, under this changed structure that makes FWP accountable to political leaders, the fact is, when you go into the voting booth you are making an affirmative statement as to what kind of wildlife system you want in your state.
 

Greenhorn

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I'm thankful the lion's share of hunters are lazy mouth breathing morons that can't chew gum and walk at the same time. If they weren't - there wouldn't be any elk or deer in Montana outside Leanards ranch to hunt. WTF more opportunity does anyone need in a state this big with as much national forest and 10 weeks to hunt?
 
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