Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd
Some of our recent investments portfolios may look similar to this chart. Taking a 75% loss on this chat from the highs of 20,000 in 1994 to the lows of 2014 are devastating, and would leave many wondering what had gone wrong.
This scenario is being played out in many communities throughout the western states where the Canadian Timberwolves were introduced into its ecosystem. The figure above represents Elk population estimates for the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd from 1990-2015 (Wyman 2015). Elk herd numbers are rapidly plunging in these areas and have left many concerned conservationist, sportsman, outfitters, and communities looking for answers.
The Case for Hunting District 313
If any region in the west understands this scenario the best, it would be HD 313, located just north of Yellowstone Park at the northeast entrance of Gardner, Montana. HD 313 has over 100,000 thousand acres of public ground and is home to migrating northern Yellowstone’s elk during the winter range season in Montana.Big news was made last year that sent shock waves throughout the sportsmen community when Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks proposed a 95% reduction in hunting opportunity, going from 1,500 permits annually to 75 permits, for 2016.
I reached out to our long time BGF member Robert Arnaud, of the BGF Gallatin, Montana Chapter. Rob understands HD 313 better than anyone I know. Rob is a successful outfitter and owner of Montana Hunting Company, and until just recently, was acting President, of Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, following his recent successful two-year term. Where Rob represented 230 professional outfitters and guides in Montana. He also received a biology degree in Animal Science and worked as a biologist for Ted Turner’s private land management holdings. Rob currently sits on Montana’s Board of Governors, representing outfitters.
I called Rob over the weekend to get his assessment on the latest news of Montana’s FWP proposal. When I called Rob, he said that he was sitting at home cleaning his guns, I asked what gun are you currently cleaning? He replied, “ my .44 Magnum,” and I instantly thought of Clint Eastwood. Holding his .44 Magnum, in the movie Dirty Harry saying, “Do you feel lucky… punk? Well… do ya?
Unfortunately, sportsman and outfitters alike haven’t felt all that lucky with the current state of affairs in Montana. Rob mentioned, “just look at HD 313, in the pre-wolf days we had 50 to 60 postseason adult bulls per 100 cows. Now we’re lucky to find 12 bulls per 100 cows.” That’s just a microcosm of what’s going on in other areas in the state; Rob says that “a lot of areas in the state have single digit bull to cow ratios.
The economic impacts of such dwindling numbers are huge, 67% of Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks come from nonresident hunting licenses. The proposed 95% reduction in permits to HD 313 alone, would lose an estimate of 1.9 million in revenue from resident and nonresidents income for Garden City, Montana (Lewis and King 2014).
Rob mentioned that with the help of Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, added with the groundswell efforts of BigGame Forever’s political team and its members, along with other organizations, helped sportsman renegotiate the 95% reduction in tag numbers for HD 313.
BigGame Forever’s local grassroots efforts were enlisted last November, which produced a tremendous response with hundreds of members writing emails and making calls to their local Montana representatives. BGF stands with and supports Montana Outfitters and Guides recommendations found at. www.montanaoutfitters.org/assets/comments_HD313elk.pdf