PHOTO BY: Mike Eastman
Too many hunters and not enough game has been the theme of many of my conversations in recent years. The discussion on this subject will continue for the foreseeable future but the easiest way to remedy the latter issue is…put more animals in the field to hunt. How do we do that though? How do we make a real effort to see more animals in the field, year in and year out? One simple sounding option would be to cut down the highway related collisions with mule deer, elk and antelope that happen every winter. But is it simple? Is it really that many?
Let’s use mule deer as they are the species cited as having the roughest go of it in Wyoming with 85% of reported wildlife collisions involving them. That number happens to be the equivalent of 4% of the overall population of mule deer. OUCH! Let’s also be honest, this is probably a little low as I can guarantee there are a lot of unreported collisions in rural areas where heavy bumper guards are the norm.
Let’s put that into some real world numbers instead of straight percentages. Right now our state holds about 350,000 mule deer, that means that roughly 14,000 mule deer die every year getting hit by vehicles. Now let’s break that down even further, most of those deer that are hit are going to be of the breeding age doe or juvenile variety. It’s pretty easy to see why Wyoming doesn’t need many antlerless mule deer tags with that many antlerless animals hit in the roads.
Also consider that when a fawn gets hit on a busy highway it’s the equivalent of say compound interest in the banking world. If the fawn hit is a female we are talking about removing YEARS of fawn recruitment off the landscape. Her years to produce fawns are no more and by the time that she would have been 4-5 years older her fawns would have been reproducing. In Wyoming for example, highways by Rock Springs are collecting interest on basins in the Hoback by this logic. The mountain may have it’s own ways but the highways certainly have theirs, too. For migrating mule deer it certainly hurts populations.
Yep, you read that right, just as many of us have feared Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) continues to spread across the west and now Idaho has confirmed cases found in two mule deer bucks just north of Riggins, ID. The specimens were harvested in October of this year. Now Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) is preparing for a cull hunt in an attempt to isolate this invasive disease, (some of the details of which are below.) Montana has tried similar hunts with what appears to be little success. But in some cases this method works, at least on paper. IDFG is asking hunters to hep procure 775 CWD samples by issuing 1527 deer tags to resident hunters onlhy. Public land tags will go on sale December 7th at 10am MST and private land tags will go on sale December 8th at 10am MST both will be available first come first served basis. Yes, you guessed it, they are only valid as described…thus you will not be able to mix match. If you have a public land tag you will not be allowed to hunt private land and vise versa. Perhaps this is an attempt to help with pressure? IDFG suggests many of the deer will be on private land during this hunt period. But of course this requires landowner permission and makes for a tough scenario if you don’t have those connections already lined up. Successful hunters will be required to submit their harvest for CWD testing-no exceptions and abide by the rules and protocols set by IDFG. There will be 35 separate hunts each with set quotas and type of tags, i.e. bucks/does, whitetail/mule deer, etc. Here are a few key points to keep in mind if you want to participate in this hunt:Tags must be purchased at IDFG REGIONAL offices onlyPublic land hunt begins December 7thPrivate land hunt begins December 8thBoth hunts are tentatively scheduled to end December 19th but may end sooner or be extended pending success rates and testing. Tags are available to Idaho residents onlySuccessful hunters are required to quarter and debone their animal AT the harvest site.The deer’s head must be presented at a check station or regional office within 24hrs of kill time.GPS location of kill site must be recorded shared for biologist research.More specific rules can be found on IDFG’s Press Release page
CWD is found in 27 states and much of Canada. Recently found in Montana in 2017 it appears to be spreading faster and is already hitting Idaho. A factor in this “wave” of CWD could likely be the fact that many deer have the disease, and it goes undiagnosed for quite some time. Meaning, discovery can be very difficult until late stages. All-in-all CWD appears to be very misunderstood…Share your thoughts with us, do you have any experience with this disease or animals tested positive with it?
Visit: idfg.idaho.gov/cwd/hunt for hunt specifics and details about each hunt.
As a resident of northwestern Wyoming I hear it all the time, “Man, I saw bears everywhere I hunted!” “There was more grizzly sign than elk sign in that unit.” “There is NO way there’s only 700 bears in the GYE!”
It’s the same old song every year. Residents of the GYE (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem) in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have sworn for years that the estimated grizzly population is much too conservative and that there are up to as many as twice the estimated number of g-bears on the landscape. Well, it turns out that all those folks claiming a disparity were darn close to being spot on.
A current population estimate now puts grizzly numbers around 1100 bears in the GYE. What changed? The counting method used by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in years past was purposely conservative to err on the side of caution when counting the recovering grizzly population. Past protocols granted sows and cubs a 30 kilometer distance between other sows and cubs. Current practice decreases that distance to 16 kilometers in order to gather a better estimate of bear numbers. The new protocols also take into account mortality rates, thus providing a much more accurate assessment of grizzly bear numbers.
I’m sure that I’ll continue to hear tales of woe about bear ridden hunt units with nary an elk or deer to be found but at least now we have wildlife officials implementing an admittedly more accurate population estimate system. Perhaps this will lead to state management and a limited hunting season for the big bruins as we can prove that numbers have fully recovered and it’s time to implement the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
I think it’s time to hunt these bears, how about you?
Facing down one misdemeanor charge for each year of his life, Brayden Reed of Shepherd, MT is in up to his neck.
“Brayden Reed has been charged with three counts of hunting without a license, three counts of hunting during a closed season, three counts of unlawful use of artificial light, three counts of waste of game, three counts of unlawful possession of game, two counts of killing over a bag limit and one count of hunting on private property without landowner permission.”
It seems that young Mr. Reed has a taste for backstraps and antlers but an aversion to lawful hunting methods and apparently the rest of the mule deer he left to rot at the Ahi-Nei Recreation area where he also illegally felled a tree and burned it while littering the ground with “beverage” cans, I will leave it to you to guess what kind of beverage cans.
It does not appear that need was the motivation for this poaching spree. So what then? Boredom? Teenage angst? Lack of guidance? Ego? Whatever it was, this young man’s blatant disregard for lawful hunting and methods of take is, unfortunately, all too common. We see the proof of this in the number of poaching cases streaming across our news feeds on a weekly basis.
What’s the answer?
This bow review features the Mathews V3X. This bow has 3 new features that set it apart from the V3.The Bridge-Lock Sight system and a sleek new Lower quiver design provides better balance than ever. You can even make easy adjusts at home or in the field without a bow press! The new Stay Afield System allows you to quickly and easily remove or repair strings and cables no matter where you are. Dan Pickar also speed tests this bow with a chronograph.
Recently, the director of Montana FWP informed wildlife managers that the state is moving away from shoulder seasons and will begin calling them early and late antlerless elk seasons. Shoulder seasons began in 2016 as an experimental season with the intent of curbing rising elk populations in areas that are over objective. The consensus is that shoulder seasons don’t work. This has been proven the case in over half the areas with shoulder seasons as elk populations have stayed the same, if not grown, because of the lack of antlerless harvest. This is largely due to hunting units that have a lot of private land and landowners not allowing access.
Shoulder seasons were supposed to be a three-year trial which turned into a permanent situation even though the criteria were not met. The obvious consensus is that shoulder seasons can be effective if the majority of hunters have access to a majority of the district. For shoulder seasons to work, hunters must harvest at least half of the cow elk during the regular season to equal half the female offspring born that year in the district. Districts that have very difficult access because of private land end up being sanctuaries for elk herds if they are not being hunted and do not leave these private safety grounds, in which it is impossible to meet harvest objectives.
The new proposal will suggest that both public and private land can be used during early and late seasons and instead of extending the season until Feb. 15 like the past few years, the late season would be shortened to just three weeks after the general season closes. The current FWP director, Greg Lemon thinks that with these early and late seasons on public and private land, we will see increased harvest in areas that are over objective.
Hunt elk in the rut with Eastmans’ Hunting Journals’ hunt winner Dann Miller and Guy Eastman. This episode of Eastmans’ Hunting TV is packed with elk bugling action! With two big 350-class bulls working in close, which one will Dann close the deal on?
Man! I hope this happens this time. This 20-year dance of proving the recovery of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) needs to see these critters delisted from the overreaching Endangered Species Act (ESA).
“It was on Sept. 16 that Gov. Mark Gordon and Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Brian Nesvik gathered in the Governor’s Ceremonial Room in the State Capitol to announce the planned petition. They noted that the state has invested 46 years and more than $52 million in conserving the species.”
“Grizzlies are moving well beyond areas where the bears can exist, causing loss of human life, damage to livestock, and eroding public support for the recovery of this iconic and important species,” the Republican senators wrote in their letter. “Clearly, this is not good for either public safety or the welfare of the animal.”
The protections and measures put in place over the years have more than recovered this species and it is just plain wrong not to delist them. Put the political posturing aside and get this done!
This knife review features Outdoor Edge’s RazorSafe series of replaceable blade hunting knives. These knives were purpose built for hunters by a hunter. The Eastmans’ Hunting Journals crew has relied on these knives for over a decade and haven’t been disappointed. From elk, deer, moose, antelope and beyond the sharp, quality knives produced by Outdoor Edge have gotten the job done in the field and at home.
The post Outdoor Edge Knife Review – Replaceable Blade Hunting Knives appeared first on Eastmans' Official Blog | Mule Deer, Antelope, Elk Hunting and Bowhunting Magazine | Eastmans' Hunting Journals.
When I use the word “rockstar” I don’t think of grizzly bears. In fact, that is the last thing I think of. But if we step back to yesteryear when hair bands ruled the airwaves and their wild partying was the stuff of legends maybe “rockstar” is the appropriate title to give to a grizzly bear that feeds its four offspring from the trash of high end Jackson Hole neighborhoods. Or teaching it’s Cubs that beehives are an appropriate delicacy for their entitled, endangered lives. Much like the rock stars who trashed hotel rooms these bears are certainly crashing the party in Jackson Hole. Even better is that 399 has her own twitter feed and instagram accounts documenting her life. How she manages to run those accounts without opposable thumbs is rather curious. Maybe she employs social media strategists?
Even though the sarcasm is strong in this article, the humanization of animals has done far more to harm animals than help. I mean what is the difference between a rockstar bear and Axl Rose misbehaving? The difference is, the bears are just being themselves and will do what is necessary for survival. She is an aged bear who at this juncture has one goal and that is to live a little longer and make sure her cubs survive after they leave her. Rockstars on the other hand knew better but did it anyway because you know, their reputations and ego needed it. Bear 399 is doing her best to ensure the survival of her cubs but is in turn putting them in future jeopardy. Bears will be bears and just being herself, 399 may end up putting her entire Motley Crue in the crosshairs.
How is she putting them in danger you ask? She is teaching them not to fear humans and in turn that a trash dumpster filled with all kinds of goodies with a side of beehive honey fresh off the comb is a good choice. In reality this is a very bad choice for the famous bear. The end result, in late October those behaviors turned into multiple agencies having to “harass” her to leave Jackson and push her away from potential areas of conflict. The bigger problem is that she is teaching four more bears to do the same and at some point this will result in conflict, at a minimum, injury and at worst, death for someone living or visiting Jackson and the bears being euthanized for their behavior.
This is where her status as a “rockstar” gets complicated. A bear doesn’t operate like a human, we can’t put her in bear jail or rehab. Once habits are formed it is nearly impossible to end them. The worst part is that someone likely fed her and taught her the behavior. This ends in 399 and the cubs meeting an early demise or being moved with another strike against her name for “bad” behavior.
Therein lies an even bigger issue, she has a rap sheet a mile long. This isn’t the first time that she has been escorted away from human dwellings and development, in fact it may be as many as 10 times. Is 399 getting a bit more grace than the usual three strike rule that most grizzly bears get? My gut says probably, would you want to be the person who takes the “rockstar” in for the death sentence? I know I wouldn’t and honestly I feel for the agencies that are having to deal with this mess, it isn’t pretty.
Bighorn sheep are such an iconic species out West and tens of thousands of hunters want to hunt them each year, yet few get to due to the bighorn’s limited range and population densities.
With the ever encroaching and expanding human population out West, especially after the craziness of the 2020 events in the country, further wildlife-human conflicts occur, even in places where you wouldn’t expect them.
Most high mountain wildlife species migrate down-country to lower elevations and milder weather when winter hits the higher elevations. A subpopulation of bighorn sheep in the Teton Range in western Wyoming is one of the exceptions to that rule.
“The sheep eke out a living in the winter on nubs of dried grass and flowers near backcountry ski routes cherished by locals” according to Wyofile.com. “The Teton Range herd shuffles slightly up to the sides of peaks in the winter where wind scours away the snow, exposing nubs of vegetation.”
“Every time the wary sheep see something — or someone — approach, they retreat, burning precious calories and abandoning valuable winter range, researchers say.”
Arizona Game and Fish Department is offering a lifetime bonus point as a reward for completion of its Ethically Hunting Arizona course. The course is designed to teach the following…Responsibility, safety, skills.Conservation, Fair Chase, ethics, hunter’s image.Planning, preparation, survival skills.Firearm safety, handling, shot selection.Hunting strategies, vital shots, game care.Arizona hunting laws, regulations, licensing.
The cost of the discretionary course is $150 for Arizona residents and $300 for nonresidents. All students have two chances to pass the course with a minimum score of 80%.
For more information:
This review features the 2022 Mathews Archery V3X bow. Bow hunter Dan Pickar unboxes this new bow and shares his first impressions before setting it up for a late season whitetail bow hunt. Full detailed review on this bow coming soon!
Hunting the mule deer rut is exciting! Shooting a big buck on a general season license is even better. Join Eastmans’ Hunting Journals staffer Adam Bender on an over-the-counter November mule deer hunt on this web episode of Eastman’s Hunting TV.
“This disease has now been identified in most deer hunt areas across Wyoming and necessitates a shift in focus of the program from detection to monitoring.”
The fact that CWD has been identified in “most deer hunt areas across Wyoming”, is disturbing to say the least. It also tells me that it’s been there for a lot longer than we’d like to admit. I for one have my doubts about it being a new disease. I have a hunch that it’s been around for a very long time and is now being found thanks to increased searching. We all know that if you go looking for trouble, you’re probably going to find it and I’m leaning on that being the case with CWD.
I will go out even further on a limb and posit the theory that CWD is a slippery slope. One where we can slide from detection to monitoring to eradication programs all too quickly and if the past couple of years has shown us anything at all, it’s that nothing can be ruled out or taken for granted.
I am exceedingly grateful that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department seems to be taking cautious steps with this as the draft of the CWD management plan that I read last year was incredibly alarming and other states have already thrown the fawn out with the bathwater. I would also encourage you to do your part in submitting CWD samples as the more knowledge we have in this fight the better armed we can be to stem this seemingly dismal tide.
Both of the past two seasons Utah’s OTC elk permits have sold out in a matter of hours. This has caused a panic and much grumbling among the citizenry, who heretofore could easily obtain an OTC tag for weeks after they were released. It has also prompted Utah wildlife officials to move the formerly “first come, first serve” elk permits to a drawing format. Uh oh?
The reason I post that last phrase as a question is I honestly have no idea how the residents of Utah will feel about this “one year trial period” draw system.
Within that one year, 2022, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will assess the pros and cons of each system before coming to a conclusion that will hopefully fix the woes of customers in the past two seasons. It appears that massive change is on the horizon for Utah elk hunters.
I would love to hear my southwestern neighbor’s opinions on this matter! Don’t hold back.
For more information:
GUEST AUTHOR: Scott Salmon
“Sarcocystosis is a disease caused by a parasite called Sarcocystis. There are numerous species of Sarcocystis. This disease usually affects animals but also can also cause disease in humans.” https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/sarcocystosis/faqs.html
2021 was the year I had planned to use my Wyoming elk points. I had 6 points and planned to put in as partners with my hunting buddy Brian. With a 3 point average we were pretty confident we would draw. Once results came out we saw we were given a general elk tag in Wyoming. Now with tags in our pockets we began to look at units to hunt. We looked at seasons, hunt success, and dates. Once we compiled the data we determined we would do a rifle hunt in October in a unit that had a success in the 30% range. Brian and I began looking at maps, contacting biologists, and researching anyway we could.
As time became close, our excitement grew. We planned on driving into the unit three days before the season opened and scout the areas we had picked out on our maps. With bags packed and gear ready we met up for the 17 hour drive and headed out. We split the drive into two days and hoped to get there early afternoon on day two to set up camp. The next morning we drove to a trailhead and hiked in to scout. Once into the drainage a few miles we started seeing elk and by afternoon we knew this was definitely a good area to be on the opener. That morning we had seen multiple bulls and heard other bulls bulging in the timber.
This review features onX hunt’s crop layer and how to use it to expand your hunting opportunities. Brandon Mason breaks down how he uses the crop layer to take advantage of public land that borders agricultural areas. It’s a powerful tool for big game and bird hunters alike.
Four black bear kills packed into one hunting video on this web exclusive hunt from Eastmans’ Hunting Journals. Bear hunting is an important tool for conservation of deer, elk and other wildlife. Elk calves and deer fawns are easy targets for hungry bears in the spring. One bear can eat as many as twenty elk calves in 30 days!
“Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun…” The Cremation of Sam McGee – Robert W. Service
Snow, ice, sub-freezing temperatures, bleak landscapes seemingly void of life… what’s not to love about late-season big game hunts. Now before all you snowbirds who fly South to chase Coues’ deer or rutting mulies in the deserts of the southwest begin to gloat please understand what I’m talking about here are the November, December and even January hunts for deer, elk, goats and sheep in the northern reaches of the West where venturing out to pursue big game this time of year demands a stoic determination bonded with an iron will because there are no other hunts that will test a big game hunter’s mettle more than these, where conditions can be downright life threatening.
Late-season big game hunts are risky propositions. There are a wagon-load of variables stacked against the hunter; extreme cold, deep snow, migrating animals and limited tags all stack up a wall of difficulty for hunters to overcome. Some of these hunts are very limited, there just aren’t an awful lot of tags given out for them. As an example, in our neck of the mountains there are several late bull elk hunts that are meant to capitalize on the late migrating giant bulls of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These hunts are no secret but drawing one of the highly coveted and very elusive tags is difficult at best. However, drawing the tag is only the first step down the difficult path of tagging one of these late-season bulls.