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Reducing the Friction Between Working Landowners and Elk

MTGomer

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To echo what has been said... it needs to be quantified how many elk there really is, and real management on a unit by unit basis needs to happen. There should be real population targets, with goals, including distribution, bull:cow ratio, with real plans of obtaining them, backed up with real harvest numbers from mandatory surveys. (I got
a harvest survey call again last week and I didn’t even have a Montana tag last year)

Montanans need to demand better and be willing to pay for it. $20 elk tags are a joke. You can’t put a $20 price on 10 weeks of general hunting and expect people to value the resource.
 

BWALKER77

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Were these issues apparent back in 2004? In talking to people it seems these issues are worse now than in 2004.

I wonder how much of our problems are being exacerbated by the length of our seasons and the increase in technology over the last 15 years that is dispersing hunters all across the accessible ground and pushing elk to the inaccessible ground the longer the season lasts.

Seems as though our liberal season structure needs to be addressed in any meaningful discussion about the future of elk management.
I believe the factors you list play a big part in the current problem.
 

Walkalot

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My opinion keep as simple as possible. Some land owners never gonna let the public hunt. Some are. True bma will pressure the elk away. If more problems after the season or before throw in damage or call it what u want hunts on that private ground. Hunting pressure will solve the problems. Access.

Just a thought but how can we make the public lands better.
 

BWALKER77

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The other thing is the habitat is just plain better on private in many cases. If you planted things like food plots on public land there would be game on them. When an elk has the choice of dining on irrigated alfalfa with little or no hunting pressure vs trying to scratch it out on over grazed public with a hord of people firing away at them it's no question which way the elk will go.
 

timmy

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How about no bulls get shot on private until the “objectives” are met and the landowners are happy. Joking, kind of.
 

antlerradar

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Lost of good ideas.
Me too. Zoom had me on lock down.

Here are some ideas I see in other states, all having mixed results. None will solve all the problems, especially on a complicated and diverse landscape and ownership pattern as Montana has.

I think each idea needs to be considered in the context of what the idea is hoping to accomplish. Is the objective population reduction, financial compensation for crop and property impacts, incentive to increase elk tolerance, other?

I think it is also necessary to understand where it is truly an "uncooperative neighbor" problem and not try to solve that problem. There are just some situations where no level of incentive is going to solve the problem. In those instances it is not an elk problem, rather a neighbor problem, where a neighbor refuses to allow any management of elk by any means.

In SW Montana, we have more and more new landowners who allow no hunting, not by the public, not by friends, not by outfitters, nobody. No amount of incentive is going to work in convincing them that large accumulations of elk have problems for their neighbors who are trying to make a living on the land.

We also need to consider that the blanket approach FWP has used to date is not a solution. What works in Regions 2 or 3 isn't necessarily what works in Region 4, 5, 6 or 7. MT is too diverse to expect a "one-size-fits" all approach. This requires more work by FWP, which I think falls under the responsibility of "management."

I'm tossing out a few ideas for consideration, none of which have been completely vetted in my mind, but are an effort to look at what works in other places and see if they might work here. No order of priority, just the order in which I have them in my notes:

1. PLO - Private Land Only antlerless elk permits might work for some who are being hammered by too many elk. I would be interested in the CO and NM folks to hear how that is working for them. How the tags are issued is to be determined, likely OTC until certain harvest objectives are met.

2. General Fund funding for property damage - We have too many instances where FWP is not going solve the issue. These landowners are not going to allow elk to be managed. There are not enough financial incentives for these billionaire landowners to allow for access that will help with management. This is not a problem the neighboring landowners can solve, nor can hunter, nor can FWP. For those neighbors negatively impacted, we need to compensate them financially from the general fund. I say the general fund, as this is 5th Amendment issue related to property rights, not related to wildlife management. We cannot expect the neighboring landowners to bear the impacts of these "new age landowner's" high elk tolerance. And it is not possible for FWP to change that situation. So, I would propose it comes from the general fund, given it is not a problem specific to FWP.

3. Block Management focused more on elk and big game - Wyoming does a great job of allocating their access program money towards properties that have good elk hunting. It costs money and it results in unwanted competition in the mind of outfitters. Yet, it works in Wyoming. Through their access program, WY gets access to private lands that have great elk hunting or those private lands provide access to public lands that have great elk hunting. It also moves elk around the landscape during hunting seasons and allows for a better harvest.

4. Start killing the "problem elk," not the migratory elk - In Montana, our "one-size fits all" approach has resulted in a lot of migratory elk getting shot in these late antlerless seasons, while the elk conditioned to private lands find their sanctuary and are off-limits. This lack of precision allows higher exploitation of herds migrating down low, not knowing the safe spots, and they get toasted upon arrival to the low country. The non-migratory elk know who provides safe boundary and they have lower exploitation than the migratory elk. End results is the harvest goals might get met, but we shoot more of the "well behaved" elk that spend most their time on high ground that is public and we shoot fewer of the "problem elk" that have learned to never leave private. Over time, we get elk herds that have lost the migratory patterns and thus fewer elk on public, while seeing more private land elk that never leave.

5. Improve public land habitat - Elk select for private lands because of habitat and hunting pressure. The private landowners get accused of "harboring elk," a stupid term in my mind. They aren't harboring elk, the elk are just selecting for better habitat and less hunting pressure. If we are not going to manage public lands for wildlife and just let the land manage itself, we will have far fewer elk on public where they can be harvested.

6. Manage Seasons (hunting pressure) with more consideration of how that changes elk behavior - This ties to the point above. Elk select for habitat and safety. When we shoot the hell out of elk for months at a time, elk are going to select for places where they can get away from hunters.

7. Focus on antlerless harvest, not bull harvest - Seems simple, but we often hear about wanting bull tags. Well, we know bulls are not dropping calves in late May. It is hard to take an overpopulation concern seriously when the proposed solution is some sort of bull elk hunting.

8. Get serious about the impact bad hunter behavior has on this situation - Hunters might disagree, but I work with way too many landowners who have had their days ruined by idiots. I know there is the claim of "a few bad apples." Well, in the experience of the many landowners I interact with, there are way more bad apples than hunters are willing to admit. I'm trustee of a ranch that has a lot of public trails through it. To call it a PITA is being kind. I don't see the problem improving, rather declining. We better get serious about this if we expect credibility.

Forget any idea that can be flipped as the old rag of "hunters forcing access to private lands." I've never advocated for any such solution and I would never support such. I'm only interested in working with willing landowners. I want to reward those who are working on solutions. I want to help the working landowner, the landowner I work with in my CPA business, who is trying to make a living from his land.

I'm not interested in wasting time with those who bought their big piece of paradise and feel they have no responsibility to their neighbors. As a public land hunter and a Montana resident, I can't help with that situation. We have big enough issues to solve that we don't need to pretend we can solve the elk issue on lands owned by billionaires. If they want to be included in solutions, that's great, but let's not pretend they are concerned about their working ranch neighbors or the average Montana hunter.

Given how long this issue has been brewing, it's going to take a lot of WORK to solve it. It will take leadership and risk. Like most hunters I know, I'm willing to stick my neck out and work with any group and consider any idea, something that always comes with risk. Without the hard work and some risks taken, progress won't happen.
Lots of good ideas in this thread.

season structure. One of the problems with Montana's season is it is just too late in the year for hunting to be an effective tool for landowners when it comes to reducing damage to many crops. By the time the season starts the vast majority of damage is done and the best you can hope for is to trim numbers so damage will be less next year. This is close to impossible with elk. You can have 150 head of elk all September in the hay fields and you are lucky to get a half dozen cows killed the opening week of rifle season before the herd has left for a sanctuary. (archers are just not nearly as effective at moving elk and for the most part they mostly pick off bulls from the fringe of the herd)
Most landowners would love to see an Oct rifle season and forget about hunting in Nov. That is a tough sell. I would go for cow hunting on private land starting in early Oct and if needed game damage hunts even earlier. Absolutely no early rifle bull hunts and shoulder seasons after November. All the late seasons hunts do is allow landowners that want to sell bull hunts a way to attempt to control elk with out effecting the bull hunts and the bad is that elk that spend the fall in the mountains get another dose of lead while on winter range.

I am not sure I can support paying landowners for game damage. Going to be real expensive, hard to qualify and is likely to be abused by some landowners. Bad precedent to set in my opinion. I do like the idea of helping to put up game proof hay corrals. Lots of damage could be stopped for the cost and this may also help with the spread of CWD.
 
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SAJ-99

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By the time the season starts the vast majority of damage is done and the best you can hope for is to trim numbers so damage will be less next year. This is close to impossible with elk. You can have 150 head of elk all September in the hay fields and you are lucky to get a half dozen cows killed the opening week of rifle season before the herd has left for a sanctuary.
So if you "trimmed" the herd by 25% and there are only 115 elk, will the rancher/farmer really notice? I'm sure that if you measured the damage (somehow, not sure how) it would be less, but I doubt the rancher would feel 25% better. You picked hay indoor example, but if the problem is in corn I am even more confident the farmer is still going to be pretty irritated. Maybe I'm wrong, you have a better perspective on the materially of that damage.
 

diamond hitch

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To echo what has been said... it needs to be quantified how many elk there really is, and real management on a unit by unit basis needs to happen. There should be real population targets, with goals, including distribution, bull:cow ratio, with real plans of obtaining them, backed up with real harvest numbers from mandatory surveys. (I got
a harvest survey call again last week and I didn’t even have a Montana tag last year)

Montanans need to demand better and be willing to pay for it. $20 elk tags are a joke. You can’t put a $20 price on 10 weeks of general hunting and expect people to value the resource.
If you think the cheap tags are unreasonable perhaps you need to move here so you can fully enjoy our really cheap wages that go with them.
 

SAJ-99

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If you think the cheap tags are unreasonable perhaps you need to move here so you can fully enjoy our really cheap wages that go with them.
I agree that is a point. But the government doesn't price electricity or vehicle registration tags or anything else off of any particular individual's ability to pay. FWP has expenses and there is no reason for them to give out "welfare" tags (although I have previously expressed that as an option). Generic example, if 80% of resident Montana hunters are calling for an increase in tag costs to pay for adjustments to management strategy then the other 20% are going to have to learn to be mad. The upside is we get a say in the management strategy and put our money where our ideas are. The risk is dividing the hunting community (the goal of a lot of people in legislature and government).

The new reality is the old reality. Don't expect to go through life getting everything you want.
 

BRI

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I agree that is a point. But the government doesn't price electricity or vehicle registration tags or anything else off of any particular individual's ability to pay. FWP has expenses and there is no reason for them to give out "welfare" tags (although I have previously expressed that as an option). Generic example, if 80% of resident Montana hunters are calling for an increase in tag costs to pay for adjustments to management strategy then the other 20% are going to have to learn to be mad. The upside is we get a say in the management strategy and put our money where our ideas are. The risk is dividing the hunting community (the goal of a lot of people in legislature and government).

The new reality is the old reality. Don't expect to go through life getting everything you want.
Unfortunately, I think we're the 20% advocating for higher priced tags to go towards better management that would piss off the 80%. Lots of good ideas that deserve to be part of a larger conversation. To me, a good start would be to stop managing with a broad brush and one size fits all approach. I'm guessing a lot of us here could support a season structure overhaul but again, that is likely the minority.
 

antlerradar

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So if you "trimmed" the herd by 25% and there are only 115 elk, will the rancher/farmer really notice? I'm sure that if you measured the damage (somehow, not sure how) it would be less, but I doubt the rancher would feel 25% better. You picked hay indoor example, but if the problem is in corn I am even more confident the farmer is still going to be pretty irritated. Maybe I'm wrong, you have a better perspective on the materially of that damage.
Elk can and will eat lots second an third cutting alfalfa, but you could be right that they are harder on corn. People near me quit growing corn because of the elk damage. Trimming the herd by 25% is a pipe dream if you don't have 50 thousand acres. Bow hunters just don't kill that many cows a when you pore on the rifle hunters opening week of the season you might get two or three days of hunting in and the elk have left for a safe place. Like I said you will be lucky to kill more than a half a dozen, unless you have a situation like you had at White Sulfur last year and no landowner in there right mine wants one of those.
 

SAJ-99

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Elk can and will eat lots second an third cutting alfalfa, but you could be right that they are harder on corn. People near me quit growing corn because of the elk damage. Trimming the herd by 25% is a pipe dream if you don't have 50 thousand acres. Bow hunters just don't kill that many cows a when you pore on the rifle hunters opening week of the season you might get two or three days of hunting in and the elk have left for a safe place. Like I said you will be lucky to kill more than a half a dozen, unless you have a situation like you had at White Sulfur last year and no landowner in there right mine wants one of those.
Makes sense. I guess my point is that the reduction in elk #'s isn't as important as moving them away from the field. So maybe we start buying these...
Screen Shot 2021-03-22 at 1.22.59 PM.png
 

BuzzH

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Elk can and will eat lots second an third cutting alfalfa, but you could be right that they are harder on corn. People near me quit growing corn because of the elk damage. Trimming the herd by 25% is a pipe dream if you don't have 50 thousand acres. Bow hunters just don't kill that many cows a when you pore on the rifle hunters opening week of the season you might get two or three days of hunting in and the elk have left for a safe place. Like I said you will be lucky to kill more than a half a dozen, unless you have a situation like you had at White Sulfur last year and no landowner in there right mine wants one of those.
I think having days when there is no hunting on ranches will keep the elk around longer and more accessible. Many of the places on HMA areas in Wyoming have 4 days of limited hunting then 3 days of no hunting or something similar. It keeps the elk in a better pattern and gives then days where they aren't being hammered. We get pretty good harvest rates doing that.

But, more to the over-all point, there are ways to make things work better and a lot of good ideas have been presented.
 

SAJ-99

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Unfortunately, I think we're the 20% advocating for higher priced tags to go towards better management that would piss off the 80%. Lots of good ideas that deserve to be part of a larger conversation. To me, a good start would be to stop managing with a broad brush and one size fits all approach. I'm guessing a lot of us here could support a season structure overhaul but again, that is likely the minority.
Maybe. Then make an access program like BLM another checkbox on the license purchase system and make people pay $10 for it. Not like we don't have enough of them or checkboxes for various stuff. Screen Shot 2021-03-22 at 1.28.21 PM.png
 
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antlerradar

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I think having days when there is no hunting on ranches will keep the elk around longer and more accessible. Many of the places on HMA areas in Wyoming have 4 days of limited hunting then 3 days of no hunting or something similar. It keeps the elk in a better pattern and gives then days where they aren't being hammered. We get pretty good harvest rates doing that.

But, more to the over-all point, there are ways to make things work better and a lot of good ideas have been presented.
I could see how that hunting management could help, especially if elk are leaving your ranch for public or another landowner that allows hunting. When you have a big out of state owner that is uninterested in elk management my bet is the effectiveness falls off rather quickly.
 
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SAJ-99

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Just a thought but how can we make the public lands better.
We, as in the people on this thread. We can't. I would like to see BLM alternate grazing rights on various sections so 25% of an public area with elk doesn't get grazed to the ground by cattle. And therein lies the core problem. Any "improvement" for elk will be utilized by cattle.
 

BuzzH

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We, as in the people on this thread. We can't. I would like to see BLM alternate grazing rights on various sections so 25% of an public area with elk doesn't get grazed to the ground by cattle. And therein lies the core problem. Any "improvement" for elk will be utilized by cattle.
Sure we can...don't make cow tags that are valid on public, or more to the point, make cow tags private land only. WE can also demand shorter rifle seasons, shorter archery seasons, influence better habitat improvements, etc. on public lands.

There's a reason that general elk hunting units in Wyoming have 18-50 bulls per 100 cows post harvest. We don't pound on elk with general hunting for 11 weeks and limit cow hunting via permit only.
 

Gerald Martin

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Easing the constant harassment of elk on public land by shortening the season is one of the easiest ways to get elk to spend more time on public and less in ranchers crops.

It’s going to take a while for it to work even if it were implemented. Entire generations of the elk herds that used to spend a majority of time on public have either been decimated or conditioned to change their migratory patterns.

Pressure on private in the form of private land only cow tags in a separate season structure can help elk learn to associate public land with sanctuary rather than danger.

Pressure is going to move elk. Where the pressure is applied determines where they move.

Attraction will also move elk. Elk are herd animals and elk attract other elk. A desirable habitat can also attract elk with food or security cover, but not if there isn’t an easing of pressure.
 
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