There has been quite a bit of chat lately regarding the concept of “Trophy Hunting” both within the hunting community as well as outside of it. Time and time again, as I have begun to follow some of these conversations along the way, many have taken a very biased and uneducated turn.
The core of much of this disagreement seems to be rooted in the fact that many in the mainstream news media have continually, for decades now, confused, conflated and interchanged the term trophy hunting and poaching to describe wildlife atrocities far and wide throughout the world. Because of this many inside the hunting community, mostly new hunters of which we have a lot of lately, also have made a definitive effort to distance themselves from the label of Trophy Hunter. Divided we will fall, this is certain. More on that a bit later.
Trophy Hunting is not poaching and poaching is certainly not Trophy Hunting. It is illegal to kill an animal and simply cut the head off and leave the meat laying in nearly every single state in the union as well as Canada and Mexico. This act would be considered poaching and the perpetrator deserves to have their ass hauled into a courtroom and have their hunting privileges taken away for the better part of a decade or worse.
I have had the good fortune to be afforded the opportunity to hunt all over this planet and never have I once seen a big game animal killed and beheaded and left to lay, Africa included. Every single ounce of meat provided by any hunt I have been a part of globally for big game, predators aside, as that is another subject altogether, has resulted in every bit of edible meat being consumed by humans who were more than happy to have it.
Africa is the epicenter of global poaching and Trophy Hunting interestingly enough. However, these are not the same people and activities, not by a long shot. The Trophy Hunters in Africa, usually foreigners, and mostly Americans are paying money to experience a hunting adventure like none other on earth. They are also playing a very vital role in sound wildlife management which in the end conserves the species that call a very dangerous and unstable place home. The rhinos and elephants you see on the news left to rot in the hot savannah sun with their tusks and horns missing are killed by poachers. Usually African poachers, locals that take it upon themselves to poach an animal to benefit financially from the illegal take by selling off the parts of the animal on the black market. In many countries in Africa the governments have become so corrupt that they themselves partake in illegally poaching their own resources for money, ie Zimbabwe. The only factor keeping many of these populations alive today on a continent such as Africa, even with the corruption in the governments, is the value of these animals to hunters. And Africa is not alone in this.
I love scouting for mule deer as much as the hunt itself. Which is why in my younger years I went in too early and blew up spots and lost opportunities at big bucks because I would go in too soon and too often. Effective scouting is an art form and once you are good at it, it will pay off in droves, but the learning curve can be painful. The most important part is all about the timing.
There is a caveat to this that needs to be understood though, scouting for archery hunts and rifle hunts are two different things. For good reason. Most archery seasons run somewhere around the last 10 days of August through the end of September, give or take. Any serious mule deer hunter will tell you that a mature buck’s behavior at the end of August is very different from the end of September and it’s all due to that little thing called velvet. The tail end of August sees a buck’s antlers begin to harden, culminating in them stripping their velvet somewhere around the 15th.
That one change sees the mature bucks transition during that time from the bigger basins to closer to cover. If you have a high country archery tag in your pocket, your best opportunity is going to be when the antlers are soft and the bucks are in the highest basins. In the juniper country, think of the more open areas where there is less opportunity to bump and harm sensitive growing antlers. The first few weeks of August are going to provide the most effective real time scouting opportunities as the bucks will have the same behavior as they will at the tail end of August.
This review features YETI’s Crossroads Bags line of products. Guy Eastman breaks down all the details on the new duffel bags, rolling luggage and backpacks built by YETI. These bags are featured-packed, durable and lightweight to boot! Built in pockets make organization a breeze, even in a duffel bag. This is gear meant to last a lifetime with serviceable parts including the roller bag wheels. Each bag is available in a selection of colors and sizes. Learn more at www.yeti.com.
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Go mule deer hunting for a 200-inch giant! This public land high country hunt is a grind. Using llamas Scott Reekers and Brandon Mason hike into the high country for a public land mule deer hunt. The guys located a monster buck on a scouting trip, but will they find it again on opening day? Watch this episode of Eastmans’ Beyond the Grid to find out!
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In talking about society’s misperception of what Trophy Hunting is around the office, the topic of how many “trophy” big game animals we all have taken came up. Obviously there’s a bunch of them and the number of states, countries and even continents where we’ve done so was surprisingly high. With those miles traveled and adventures lived we also realized just how important the term Trophy Hunting is and how misunderstood it is at the same time. For we would have never adventured across states, countries and continents in pursuit of meat only. We can get that in our big Wyoming “backyard”.
No, we undertook Trophy Hunts for the oldest and most challenging animals and we didn’t simply take the heads and hides, leaving the rest to spoil as today’s media would have people believe. We and others, ate the meat from our Trophy Hunts and we enjoyed the challenge of selectively harvesting a mature, highly sustainable animal, a specimen who required our utmost skill in order to harvest, an animal more than capable of surviving in spite of our best fair chase attempts.
Along the way these Trophy Hunts provided us with more than food to fuel our bodies. Instead the hunts nourished our entire beings. We benefitted physically from the exertion endured, emotionally from the hardships overcome, spiritually from serving in our God given role as stewards of his creation and personally by forging bonds of kinship with fellow hunters and human beings from Tajikistan to Teton County.
You see the point to all of this is that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation was created to abate the literal wholesale slaughter of our game animals for food, market hunting. However, today’s trend of only valuing hunting as a means of food provision places us dangerously close to reliving a past where the future of North American wild game was bleak.
The term, Trophy Hunting has been held captive by and prostitized for too long and it’s time hunter’s lead the charge of educating the public to the truth of Trophy Hunting. It is selective, controlled, scientifically based game management that fuels an entire human, not just their stomach.
We have seen many wildlife bills surface this year in Montana and a lot of them have really raised some eyebrows! The little publicized House Bill 242 was signed into law by Governor Gianforte earlier this spring that would establish a 9 day traditional muzzleloader season starting the second Saturday after the end of the Montana general season. There will be limitations to iron sights only, a .45 caliber minimum and flintlock or hammer/percussion cap and matchlock designs. This bill will embrace the nation’s traditional muzzleloader hunting heritage but saw some opposition. Some say there is little clarity on how these laws will actually be written by FWP as most hunting seasons are adopted by the wildlife commission not by state politicians.
The hunting heritage aspect is fantastic and will be great for the state, especially for opportunity. But I also think about how long the hunting seasons already are in the state of Montana. With the signing of this new bill, I think it could be a good time to revisit the duration of the 5 week general rifle season in Montana. This has been very unpopular to residents in the past when it has been brought up, but some districts are shortening the general season by 2 weeks.
I grew up in western Montana and spent 25 years watching the decline of ungulate populations region wide, largely due to predators not being managed, overhunting and habitat loss. A 5 week general rifle season during the peak of the breeding season creates a difficult scenario for up and coming bucks to survive until the next year. You may say, “but the numbers show that deer and elk populations have increased in Montana!” Well that is kind of true but it has been in the middle part of the state and mostly on private land. Remember that 68% of Montana is private land, making for high concentrations of hunter pressure on the public land that is open for hunting. And not all public land in Montana is accessible to the public. Montana also has 1.5 million acres of public land that is landlocked.
There’s also a new player in town that showed up a few years ago and that is Chronic Wasting Disease. CWD showed up in force and FWP started testing for it regularly and found it in the majority of the state. The consensus is that it is always fatal but there is still little known about the effects of this disease. Down here in Wyoming a perfectly healthy trophy mule deer buck was checked in at a check station that tested positive for CWD.
The management after effects for the majority of the state having CWD are grim. If you take a look at the true general deer areas throughout the entire state, you will prominently see “Either-Sex Mule Deer” and “Either-Sex Whitetail Deer” tags being offered, especially in areas that have agriculture. This includes high pressure areas like the Missouri Breaks. We also have seen a surge in deer permit allocations across the board. It is clear to see that FWP intends to knock the deer numbers down as much as possible to curb the spread of CWD on public land. Unfortunately, since the majority of Montana is private property, this will not curb the spread of CWD as a whole. There simply aren’t enough landowners out there that will allow hunting for the deer numbers to reach levels low enough to stop the spread.
The year 2020 was a turning point for the regulation of e-bikes and in particular how they are classified and where they are allowed to be used. The purpose of this directive is to expand the recreational opportunities and amend current regulations of the e-bike because of its growing popularity. Of course the big debacle is if e-bikes should be permitted on roads and trails where only non-motorized use is allowed. The purpose of this is to alleviate the confusion and inconsistencies with the current situation that each state has for its public lands.
The BLM opened a 60 day comment period in which it received 24,000 public comments in late 2020 which helped steer the direction of this new order. The BLM reported that many comments were supportive of the proposed rule, with some expressing support for increased opportunities for people to ride e-bikes on public lands and for e-bikes to be treated similarly to traditional, non-motorized bikes by land managers. Under existing regulations, e-bikes are managed as ORVs and can be allowed, based on site-specific considerations, on roads and trails that are located in areas designated as “Open” or “Limited” to ORV use in applicable land use plans. E-bikes are not currently allowed in areas that land use plans have closed to ORV use, some of which contain roads and trails available to traditional, non-motorized bicycles. Because this rule provides authorized officers with discretion to issue a decision that excludes Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes from the definition of ORVs, the final rule could facilitate e-bike use on roads and trails in areas that are closed to ORV use and help the BLM achieve its goal of providing greater access to public lands, particularly to people with limitations. This new ruling will provide authorized officers with greater flexibility to manage e-bikes in the future and an additional way to achieve greater consistency with adjacent land managers and other State and Federal agencies.
What is considered an e-bike? The BLM final rule states that an e-bike is a bicycle with a small electric motor of not more than 750 watts (one horsepower) which assists in the operation of the bicycle and reduces the physical exertion demands on the rider. E-bikes may have two or three wheels and must have fully operable pedals. Some e-bikes only provide motorized assistance when the rider is pedaling; others can operate without pedaling. Some e-bikes cease to provide motorized assistance to the rider when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour (mph). Others cease to provide motorized assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 mph E-bikes may appear virtually indistinguishable from traditional bicycles.
A Class 1 e-bike is a bike equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. A Class 2 e-bike is equipped with a throttle-actuator motor that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. A class 3 e-bike is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph. You will be seeing all federal and state agencies adopting this classification for e-bike usage from here on out. These rules will exclude e-bikes that provide assisted speeds greater than 28 mph or have a wattage greater than 750.
Currently the use of e-bikes is allowed in the urban setting and they are classified the same as a traditional bike. No license is required. E-bikes are allowed on just about any motorized or ORV trail across the West and not allowed in areas that are closed for motorized use on federal land. However, as stated above, each district in each state can make amendments to this rule if authorized officers choose to do so. Perhaps if a group of folks petition to get a certain non motorized trail open for e-bikes, they will have to go through the office at the local level to get the exception made. It’s not easy as there is a process of paperwork and “studies” including going through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in which they will do an environmental impact assessment and other analysis before the route is opened.
This review features the new and improved 3D mapping feature offered by the onX Hunt app. 3D maps now include layer views, including hybrid and topography. You can add, view and customize markers and tracks all in 3D mode. Whether you are hunting, camping or hiking, onX Hunt has the mapping tools you need to find success on your next outdoor adventure.
This First Lite hunting gear review features the Corrugate Foundry Pant and Obsidian Foundry Pant. Eastmans’ Todd Helms breaks down the features that make each pair of pants unique and shares his experience wearing them this summer. The Corrugate Foundry Pant is an all season pant with built in knee pads and designed to work with First Lite’s zip-off base layers. The side leg vents on these pants are every hunter’s dream! The Obsidian Foundry Pant is made of breathable ripstop wool that’s reinforced in all the right spots, including the seat and knees. It’s a pant ideal for early season temperatures and quiet stalks. Both come with double cargo pockets and a suspender system.
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With an overwhelming increase in demand, is it time to rethink the concept of “preference points?”
By Guy Eastman
Has the concept of the preference point run its course? No one really knows for sure how long the concept will be with us, however the fact seems to be becoming ever more clear by the day that the overall concept of the preference point will become mathematically irrelevant in the near future. Some would argue this is already in fact the case.
Over the past decade the steady increase in demand has slowly eroded the mathematical sustainability at the core of many points systems throughout the West. The steady, drip, drip, drip scenario that has created the ever-dreaded result of “point creep” has escalated into what is now a flood of new applicants into the system causing most of the draw systems to completely collapse upon themselves from a statistical and mathematical standpoint.
Guy Eastman hunts for a Dall’s sheep in the last wilderness of the Northwest Territory. Guy is retracing the hunting adventure pioneered by his grandfather Gordon Eastman in the Mackenzie mountains. He is joined by his brother Ike Eastman for this journey to hunt mountain caribou and Dall’s sheep. This shot film builds on the story told in YETI’s 2021 film tour featuring the Eastman family.
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If you haven’t heard about the radical Initiative Petition IP13 in Oregon gathering steam to make a ballot appearance in 2022 then it’s time to sit up and pay attention. The signatures to get this initiative on the ballot are stacking up as we speak! (Colorado had a brush with this recently too but their Supreme Court shot it down.)
In a nutshell IP13 is aimed at making hunting, trapping, fishing, and select animal husbandry practices illegal and goes so far as to recommend that people engaged in the above activities or teaching them should become felons and sex offenders.
Now, that’s an incredibly broad stroke and when I first heard about this back in the spring I Googled it and was shocked and appalled at what I found. A simple Google search and 30 minutes of reading will reveal all you’ll need to know about IP13 including the whacko faction in support of this lunacy.
Although not much surprises me anymore I found myself wondering, how on earth did this happen? How are hunting, fishing and trapping criminal acts and how is artificially inseminating livestock a sex offense?
Then it hit me… I remembered wondering why a spate of states, beginning with Vermont in 1777 and most recently Utah in 2020, proposed and subsequently passed “Right to hunt and fish constitutional amendments”. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it and still do but I did not understand why they were necessary. I think I get it now.
Almost 30 years ago I picked up my first bow with the intent of becoming proficient enough to go bowhunting that fall. I instantly fell in love with shooting a bow and arrow, as well as bowhunting big game. That first day that three young mule deer came within 10 yards of me, making my heart pound out of my chest, had me hooked for life.
Thankfully, I was surrounded by fantastic archers and was around a very active archery club in my home state of North Dakota, the NISHU Bowmen. This group and the multitude of articles and VHS tapes I watched, introduced me to the Pope & Young Club.
This year the Pope & Young Club celebrates their 60th Anniversary and their vision to continue the fight to protect archery, bowhunting, and sound wildlife management through selective harvest. This strategy is a key component to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and is what has made our model in this great country, the envy of the world.
When most people think of the Pope & Young Club, they either think of the legends Art Young and Saxton Pope, or they think of the tradition of records keeping the Club has had.
THIS IS THE BOW YOU COULD WIN
I’m on the fence… yup, you read that right. I’m on the fence with the proposed 90/10 tag split being debated by the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce as you read this. I wish I weren’t riding the fence because I hate being indecisive but the fact is that I honestly see points on both sides of this topic.
First of all, a little background in case you’re not savvy to what’s being proposed… A bill has been introduced to change the Wyoming Resident/Nonresident big game tag allocation for bighorn sheep, bison, grizzly, moose and mountain goat to change the current tag allocation of 80% resident, 20% nonresident to 90% resident and 10% nonresident. That’s the issue in a nutshell but as with most things in life, there’s a lot more to it.
First of all, it’s a bill, there are myriad steps in the process before a bill becomes a law and the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce is in the process of sifting through public comments and discussing the details and “what if’s” of this proposed 90/10 split. We are a long way from a final decision on this thing. Which gives us, the public, time to add our “dos pesos” to the conversation. I’ve provided links for you to visit for public comment and discussion below.
Back to my conundrum of being a spineless fence-rider.
First of all, as a Wyoming resident I would love to add 10% more opportunity to my chances of drawing a coveted tag for one of the “Big 5”. Afterall, I live here, it’s only fair that by making my home in Wyoming I should get more of a shot at those tags than someone who lives in say, Minnesota or California and comes to Wyoming for recreation. This is my home and because of that I enjoy the benefits of more affordable tag prices and higher odds of drawing those tags. I also firmly believe that’s the way it should be. If I want the chance to hunt whitetails in Iowa it’s going to cost me almost $700 for the application alone but my family who lives there just buys the tags they want OTC for less than $35.00. That’s one of the many benefits of being a resident and quite frankly it’s one of the many reasons I moved to Wyoming 15 years ago.
Bow hunting elk at the start of the rut can be wild! Things get a little western when Dan and Justin Pickar call a mature bull into their laps at 15 yards. Would you take a frontal shot? Leave a comment. It’s a brother bow hunt for a trophy bull on this episode of Beyond the Grid by Eastmans’.
65-year-old Leah Davis Lokan, a registered nurse from Chico, California was ripped from her tent and killed by a grizzly bear earlier this week in Ovando, Montana. The bear had awakened Lokan and others earlier in the night and returned later when it killed her. Fellow campers rushed to her aide with bear spray and ran the grizzly off but their efforts were in vain as Ms. Lokan had already passed.
This news is eerily reminiscent of the stories of man eating lions and tigers in the late 20th century. The bear’s behavior earlier in the night raises eyebrows as to its intentions as it appears to have stalked Lokan before killing her. Man eating grizzly bears are rare indeed and even though the bear in question didn’t appear to feed on its victim one can speculate that the only reason is due to not having the chance as other campers chased the grizzly away before it could begin consuming Ms. Lokan.
This tragic event is a stark reminder that there are no safe spaces in grizzly country as it appears this event happened in or very close to a town. Please follow bear safety protocols at all times in grizzly country and we encourage the training in and use of both lethal and non-lethal self defense measures.
The crew here at Eastmans’ Hunting Journals offers our prayers and condolences to Ms. Lokan’s family and friends during this horrific time.
Perhaps one of the hottest topics going is archery distance ethics. This is definitely a touchy subject for most and yet almost impossible to define. The first thing I think about is, “why am I a bowhunter?” First off, I love the challenge of getting close to big game animals. Close enough where I can hear them breathe or hear them eating, or having a bugling bull elk screaming in my face. That’s the rush that I can’t get enough of. This is the big reason that drew me into bowhunting at a young age. Getting close. That is what bowhunting is all about. Now, am I going to get within 20 yards on every hunt? No. It’s just not possible. In addition, making a 50 yard shot with today’s technology advancements is much easier than it was 30 or even 15 years ago.
This is where multiple other factors come into play in helping me know what my effective distance is. One must ask yourself. How much power does my bow have? How much do I practice and what distances do I practice at? How good am I at reading an animal’s body language? How strong is the wind? What is the terrain like? How much is buck fever affecting me? Now factor all this in while keeping ethics and fair chase in mind! Whew! It’s harder than it sounds.
So how much power does my bow have? With today’s technology, bows hit harder, tune easier, and shoot quieter than ever before. That right there is a factor that will extend your range and we haven’t even gotten into the meat of this yet. Since Kinetic Energy is easier to wrap your brain around and quantify I’m going to touch on it instead of Momentum. Easton’s Field Chart States 42-65 ft lbs of KE is suitable for large game such as elk, and >65 ft lbs is needed for the toughest game like cape buffalo and moose. After calculating my KE, I came up with 91 ft lbs. I have so much power that will carry down range, I have confidence that I have enough energy to harvest an elk at longer distances.
How much do I practice and what distance do I practice at? Well, that’s an easy one. I have been bowhunting for 20 years but I still practice consistently. Like shooting a rifle, shooting a bow is a deteriorating skill if you don’t keep doing it. Muscle memory is a huge part of this and your muscles need to be continually trained to perform at their best. And there is no workout that is a substitute for shooting a bow. I practice at least three times a week within three months of archery season and I like to shoot at least five times a week within three weeks before my first hunt of the fall. If I have a gap between hunts in the winter or spring I will take some time off to give my body and my brain a rest. This too is very important to avoid developing bad habits and keeping your skills sharp. My rule of thumb is to practice double the distance I am comfortable shooting at. So if that’s 60 yards, I practice to 120. The practice at 120 yards heightens your skills so much that a 60 yard shot is easy. This mentality has really improved my accuracy at the range and in the field, hunting. My rule of thumb for accuracy is one inch per 10 yards. If I can constantly shoot better than a six inch group at 60 yards, I’m ready to hunt at 60 yards.
How good am I at reading an animal’s body language? This is a huge factor, especially shooting at longer distances (beyond 40 yards). If you practice at long distance, you know your arrow has some “hang time” in which the animal can move and bad things can happen. It’s simple, the longer your arrow is in the air, the more the wind can affect it. This is a risk that can lead to wounded animals very easily. Is the animal calm? Is it traveling or feeding? These are all things that are learned with experience and why it is important to carefully observe animals and how they move, even if you aren’t hunting or don’t plan on shooting them. Furthermore, shooting at an alert animal is a gamble. They may or may not jump the string. Some say that past 50 yards they won’t hear the bow going off anyway and odds are they won’t jump the string. I have had experiences that have gone both ways. The fact is, there is a risk shooting at an alert animal with a bow. It just exponentially increases with range.
“On June 11, 2021, the Arizona Game and Fish Department Commission voted unanimously to ban trail cameras “for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife, or locating wildlife for the purpose of taking or aiding in the take of wildlife,” according to the bill.”
“The new ban will “ensure that we protect the quality of the experience, that we protect the wildlife itself and that they are being pursued under Fair Chase Doctrine,” Davis said.”
Fair Chase Doctrine… For some folks that means simply that the animals we hunt have the ability to escape and evade us hunters. For others a more stringent and restrictive code of conduct comes into play. It appears that the Arizona State Game and Fish Commission is leaning toward the latter ideology in framing its decision to ban game cameras for hunting.
Hunter on hunter conflict, overuse and overreliance on technology (think more than 50 cameras on a water hole/tank) have all worked to create more problems than benefits in the eyes of many hunters in Arizona and the state Game and Fish Commission. Thus a ban on cameras for hunting.