North ID Elk Habitat

westbranch

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ID Panhandle
This article is mainly about the Clearwater/Panhandle but could probably apply it to NW MT as well from what I have seen and heard. these articles seem to come out every year going back several years and sometimes I wonder if any progress is actually being made. To have any sort of landscape scale impact it seems like it would take a huge increase in funding. The Panhandle and Clearwater national forests already have the two largest maintenance backlogs in the country. So it would take a ton of money and decades to have the impact needed. Will anybody agree to make the commitment? The small prescribed burns and other projects are nice but seem like a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Most of the hunters with a platform (podcast or big social media following) out there keep saying the habitat is great and blame the drop in elk numbers on wolves. Wolves do not help and some of these areas are affected by a predator pit. But not sure how anyone could hike around these areas and say that the habitat looks great. When I have wandered around the CDA river, St Joe and NF Clearwater the last five years it looks like an overgrown mess. Find young growth shrubs and grasses and elk will be utilizing it. Impenetrable brush fields that are 8-20 ft tall are not going to get better by shooting more wolves.

 

TheTone

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Sep 14, 2002
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ID
This article is mainly about the Clearwater/Panhandle but could probably apply it to NW MT as well from what I have seen and heard. these articles seem to come out every year going back several years and sometimes I wonder if any progress is actually being made. To have any sort of landscape scale impact it seems like it would take a huge increase in funding. The Panhandle and Clearwater national forests already have the two largest maintenance backlogs in the country. So it would take a ton of money and decades to have the impact needed. Will anybody agree to make the commitment? The small prescribed burns and other projects are nice but seem like a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Most of the hunters with a platform (podcast or big social media following) out there keep saying the habitat is great and blame the drop in elk numbers on wolves. Wolves do not help and some of these areas are affected by a predator pit. But not sure how anyone could hike around these areas and say that the habitat looks great. When I have wandered around the CDA river, St Joe and NF Clearwater the last five years it looks like an overgrown mess. Find young growth shrubs and grasses and elk will be utilizing it. Impenetrable brush fields that are 8-20 ft tall are not going to get better by shooting more wolves.

Having spent most of my life in the Clearwater it’s sad what it is compared to what it was or could be. I think we are truly losing hunting culture up here with people not going into the woods to hunt and experience camp; now it’s day hunting, sitting edges of private or just road hunting hoping to catch one where it shouldn’t be or seeing what you can sneak back to the truck

The issues have truly been studied to death and it seems like a complete waste to me to do anything except actions. A few small fires a year isn’t accomplishing anything and calls to log the heck out of things seem crazy. The cost to get the wood to market would be really high and loggers aren’t lacking for easier front country and private job. I’m about to the point where I think people should just drive the st joe, north fork and lochsa shooting Roman candles out the window. Trails are completely overgrown, lost and abandoned. Just because it’s on a map in this country doesn’t mean the FS hasn’t wiped it out to avoid having to maintain it

There are areas of great looking habitat and they’re essentially dead zones. It’s almost weird being in them with the lack of critters
 

westbranch

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ID Panhandle
Brush field? Not a term I'm familiar with.

Some were ridges that were cleared/burned and brush grew in. Then shifted to more mature trees and mature brush. Also southish facing slopes that were logged/burned and grow into brush with no/minimal trees and just a tall jungle of brush. Mix of Ceanothous (snowbrush and red stem), elderberry, serviceberry, rocky mountain maple, alders, huckleberry, etc. I will look through some pics to see what I find.
 

westbranch

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ID Panhandle
Don't have much for pics that show the areas. This is a roadless area, used to be very popular. Light green areas are overgrown thick brush. Looks good from a far or escouting but once you start walking around it's a mess. The hunters and harvest stats for this area from early 90s and prior are crazy. 3x as many hunters and 25-30% success rates.

IMG_20200819_173452927_HDR.jpg

Random pic of alder and maple hell hole. I had found some articles about this creek drainage and they had decommissioned old roads back in the 90s to improve water quality and landslides. Now a crazy jungle. This was northish facing, big fire nearby in 2015 did not penetrate very far into the north facing slopes.

IMG_20200922_160944592.jpg
 

44hunter45

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Aug 14, 2019
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4,031
Location
North Idaho
This article is mainly about the Clearwater/Panhandle but could probably apply it to NW MT as well from what I have seen and heard. these articles seem to come out every year going back several years and sometimes I wonder if any progress is actually being made. To have any sort of landscape scale impact it seems like it would take a huge increase in funding. The Panhandle and Clearwater national forests already have the two largest maintenance backlogs in the country. So it would take a ton of money and decades to have the impact needed. Will anybody agree to make the commitment? The small prescribed burns and other projects are nice but seem like a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Most of the hunters with a platform (podcast or big social media following) out there keep saying the habitat is great and blame the drop in elk numbers on wolves. Wolves do not help and some of these areas are affected by a predator pit. But not sure how anyone could hike around these areas and say that the habitat looks great. When I have wandered around the CDA river, St Joe and NF Clearwater the last five years it looks like an overgrown mess. Find young growth shrubs and grasses and elk will be utilizing it. Impenetrable brush fields that are 8-20 ft tall are not going to get better by shooting more wolves.

In the 1980's my former brother-in-law ran an aggressive prescription burning program on the Selway for USFS and the elk loved it. He always contended you needed the fire to get both summer and winter feed. Food sources like Red-Stem Ceonothus require fire in their germination. They are then useful for the elk until they grow too tall. What he did that others did not was get hotter burns by doing them in the summer. Higher risk, higher reward. He was looking for the magic window of ground temps before sterilization occurs. I killed my first elk on one of those burns.

He once showed me historical photos of dead elk floating down the Selway and Clearwater in the 1930's. Horrible, but the result of the explosion in elk in North Idaho after the 1910 Big Burn. The hard winters in the 30's made a huge adjustment in population.

I don't know if what he did can be replicated with today's fuel loads, climate change, etc. There are certainly plenty of seasonal wildfires in North Idaho every year. Too hot?

I wonder what the fire conditions were like in 1910 versus what we see today.
 

BackofBeyond

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Jan 2, 2018
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Boise, ID
I’m with The Tone. We used to spend a lot of the summer camped at The Cedars while dad worked. I shot my first elk just across the road in 1993. I managed to catch the tail end of the good years. I don’t know what the fix is, but actions need to happen.

Enough studies.
Enough councils.
Enough guidance papers.

The FS and F&G is going to sit on the fence long enough that the elk herd and moose will never make a come back.
 

44hunter45

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Aug 14, 2019
Messages
4,031
Location
North Idaho
I’m with The Tone. We used to spend a lot of the summer camped at The Cedars while dad worked. I shot my first elk just across the road in 1993. I managed to catch the tail end of the good years. I don’t know what the fix is, but actions need to happen.

Enough studies.
Enough councils.
Enough guidance papers.

The FS and F&G is going to sit on the fence long enough that the elk herd and moose will never make a come back.
It's the Salmon method.

I'm just reading David Montgomery's Salmon book. We have known what salmon need to thrive since the time of the Tudor kings. Clear unsilted gravel beds, log jams in free-flowing rivers, limits on harvest,etc. Easy, right? Toothless managers and Government policies have doomed them. EVERY TIME.

Even at the time of Henry VIII, fish managers kowtowed to the extraction industries, it's still happening.

We don't need more science about what elk need, we need managers with enough balls execute the science we have. I don't put this on Toby, I think this is institutional in the west. We have sure had the pleasure of reading about Montana's CF here on HT.

If I were to post that I support the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, I would barely hit enter before they would be asking for my donation to fund more studies.
 

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