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Hunting and Fishing News & Blog Articles

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Elk Feedgrounds Drafting Plan

Over the past two years we’ve kept you up-to-date on the growing changes surrounding the elk feedgrounds in western Wyoming. 

The public comments and meetings over this topic, in addition to the growing push for a change to the 22 feedgrounds the State administers, have brought us to the point of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department entering the next stage of development of a long-term elk feedgrounds management plan. 

“After several months of shared learning sessions and input from 60 volunteer stakeholders from across the state, the department’s elk feedgrounds steering team is now beginning to draft a long-term feedgrounds management plan,” Game and Fish said. “Game and Fish intends to have a draft plan for review by stakeholders and the public this coming winter. Ultimately, the steering team would like to bring a completed elk feedgrounds management plan before the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission for their approval in the summer of 2023.”

Whether you love it or hate it, changes are coming to Wyoming’s elk feedground program. For more in-depth info on this topic, click HERE to visit the ELK FEEDGROUNDS: A CHALLENGE WE CAN TAKE on page on the Wyoming Game & Fish Department website. 

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Revised Public Land Filming Bill Coming Down The Pike

We almost all know by now that our Government lives under the rock of unintended consequences regarding ridiculous legislation. There is no more clear example than the commercial filming law introduced nearly three decades ago by Wyoming’s own Senator Craig Thomas, God rest his soul. Senator Thomas was a good legislator and like many had good intentions when he introduced the law to the Senate. This law was based on the experience his local Forest Service office had regarding a car commercial that was being filmed high above the valley floor on one of the most scenic highways in the entire country. The film crew left the area in complete disrepair once the filming was completed, costing the local office thousands of dollars to clean up and repair for the busy upcoming tourist season. 

Based on that, and many other such incidents throughout the country, the Senate, House and President signed the bill giving federal and state agencies the power to require filming permits to film commercial projects. Like so many, the actual law itself was very vague and directed toward large commercial filming operations like Hollywood, large scale Television and Commercial film crews. Of course, once the bureaucratic establishment got ahold of the bill for “interpretation” the outcome was something much, much more confiningly restrictive. Many offices simply didn’t want to do the paperwork to get a filming permit approved. Some offices had no interest in letting anyone film on “their” district lands. And we even encountered some who would not approve a filming permit because they didn’t want “their own personal hunting location” publicized. It was a complete disaster in the making for most of the smaller content operators. 

Before his death, Senator Thomas even admitted that his bill had been transformed into a bureaucratic swamp monster, something well beyond what its original intent was meant to be. But it was what it was for decades, and many of us did the best we could to operate inside the bounds of the law-no, easy task to say the least. 

My personal dealing with this law was lengthy and daunting. At one point even discussing a possible remedy with a prominent outdoor media organization to push back in the court system based on a First Amendment violation argument. We were told by that organization’s legal representative in Washington DC that this tactic would not work and we did not fully understand the true capacity of the US Constitution. Come to find out, after all these years, I was a better lawyer than that clown. 

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Taxidermist Convicted!

Right on the heels of the blog that Todd Helms just wrote about a poacher’s sentence in Montana being too light (click HERE to read Todd’s blog), more discouraging news hit our radar.

This time it involved a taxidermist in Wyoming, White Mountain Skulls out of Green River Wyoming. The husband and wife tandem seems to have a knack for breaking wildlife laws, including purchasing resident hunting licenses in both Utah and Wyoming in 2018, plus the recent case against their taxidermy business.

Authorities hadn’t received their 2020 records as required by the State and an investigation was underway in April of 2021. The case finally closed and White Mountain Skulls was found having over 70 unfinished taxidermy pieces.

While I’m glad the two have been caught and prosecuted, I’m discouraged by the lack of stiff fines to make them second-guess their actions in the future. Their 2018 and 2020 cases amounted to a mere $4,043.55 in fines and restitution total! For repeat offenders, the fines need to be much more serious, in my opinion.  What say you? Am I being too hard-nosed on this???

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Montana Elk Hunters Should Choose Their Season, Per Advisory Group

The 12 member elk management citizen advisory group that was formed this year has been meeting the last few months with the hopes to solve some of Montana’s elk management problems. One thing that has come up to help curb the hunting pressure in Montana is to make hunters choose their season. As most of you know, Montana’s general season is perhaps the longest in the country. Archery starts the Saturday before Labor Day and goes for six weeks into October. There is a week off for the youth hunt then general rifle starts the last Saturday in October and finishes up five weeks later, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Then there is the 10 day heritage muzzleloader hunt after a week long break after general rifle. Then some late seasons stay open into February. That is a long season and a lot of pressure. No wonder all the elk end up on private property!

The citizen advisory group is in place to debate how to manage some burgeoning elk populations and difficulties with public access. A big topic in the Montana hunting community  has been overcrowding on public lands. Most of these hunters are residents as records have shown. In 2011, roughly 39,000 resident base hunting licenses were sold. There were 87,000 sold in 2021. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the increased hunting pressure on public land the last 10 years.

An even larger problem is that the number of elk on public land (western Montana) has decreased dramatically and the elk on the mostly private part of the state (eastern Montana) have increased over the last 30 years. So where are hunters going to gravitate to? Where the elk are! 

Also brought up in the citizen advisory group by a concerned citizen and public land elk hunter follows… “One of the hardest hit areas in Region 1 is the Great Bear and Bob Marshall wilderness areas. Historical data from the 1920’s – 1950’s show elk populations on the Flathead National Forest which corresponds largely to the Bob Marshall Elk Management Unit (districts 130, 140, 141, 150) fluctuated between 4,000 – 6,000 elk and the annual elk harvest ranged between 700-1,800 animals. Today this area is home to a mere 300 elk when surveyed in 2019. The historic harvest data for the Bob Marshall Elk Management Unit ranged from 700-1,800 elk, FWP harvest records for 2021 record 89 elk being harvested. The elk count data available online from 2008-2019 shows a reduction in elk numbers in the Bob Marshall Elk Management Unit from 603 to 300 animals. A reduction of 50% and this is getting little to no attention from the department. When local biologists are contacted, you’ll hear “elk populations in these districts are stable or slightly increasing”, this is simply not true and the data shows it. This is greatly due to the rise of the grizzly bear and wolf populations, and little is being done about that on a governmental level.

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Shepherd Montana Poacher Sentenced… Too Light?

Earlier in the year I reported on this case, Brayden Reed poached four deer and damaged recreational property in Yellowstone County, MT. Well, he has been sentenced and it’s once again a slap on the wrist! 16 years of revoked hunting privileges and a fine of $6,000. 

It has got to be frustrating for game wardens who spend hours and hours investigating and building prosecutable cases to bring before judges, many of whom don’t seem to take poaching very seriously, to watch the fruits of their labors brushed aside with little consequence. $6,000? You can’t buy a decent used vehicle for that price right now. 16 years of suspended hunting privileges? Poachers aren’t hunters anyway so the suspension of “privileges” means little or nothing to them anyway. 

Maybe I’m off base here but where’s the restitution? $6,000 is a smokin’ deal if you ask me… most guided deer hunts in Montana will set you back that much or more and that’s for one buck, not four! DO NOT get me wrong, I’m not condoning poaching deer, I’m bemoaning the fact that this poacher stripped the citizens of Montana and many non-residents of opportunity and diminished a valuable resource at the same time. I’d be willing to bet if we were to stack up figures that those deer had the potential to provide upwards of the sum of $60,000 when factors such as hunting licenses (both resident and non-resident) and tourism (money spent on local commodities: food, lodging, fuel, guide fees), are taken into consideration. 

My point with this rant is simple… poachers are thieves! They deserve jail time/prison, much higher fines, and community service to provide restitution for the damage they inflict on wildlife and tourism. Again, I’m NOT talking about hunting mistakes, those happen and lack the malicious intent that goes along with poaching. Poaching is intentional and often elaborately planned like most crimes and should be dealt with as such in our courts. 

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Wyoming “Rebrands” Elk Depredation Hunts

Elk populations in Wyoming are booming… well in some places, like the areas with no large carnivores and mostly private property, namely in the eastern half of the state, the elk picture is not nearly so bright in the shadow of the nation’s first national park. It’s the same story in Montana and with growing elk numbers comes management difficulties. Namely, how to keep landowners/stock producers from being eaten out of house and home or shuttering operations due to too much competition from wapiti. 

A proposal from the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association seeks to rebrand both the regulations and name of the state’s “depredation hunts” to allow for more flexibility. The new term would be “auxiliary management” and would supposedly open possibilities for expanded hunting of big game, wild turkeys and trophy species like grizzlies and wolves. 

What does this mean for Wyoming hunters? Well, it is possible that it means increased hunting opportunities, especially for elk in areas like the Black Hills and Laramie Mountains. The problem lies in that where the elk live is mostly private land that is leased by outfitters for hunting. If these changes are in fact put in place there will be a lot of ironing to do. For example, landowners managing hunting pressure, outfitters navigating demand for access and hunters jumping through hoops to tag an elk or two for the freezer. 

If done right this could be a winning scenario or hunters, stock producers, outfitters and the state of Wyoming. This burgeoning herd needs to be managed and responsible, limited hunting is the best tool for the job. Landowners would be relieved of having too many elk to compete with, outfitters could offer expanded services and hunters would gain more access to huntable elk. 

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Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce “Listening Sessions”

The saga of the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce continues and they are still open to public input and comments. It is the job of any taskforce to brainstorm ideas and present them for discussion and scrutiny, that can be a tough job. If you’d like the chance to participate in the process there are four meetings and six “Listening Sessions” remaining. 

Listening Sessions are opportunities for Taskforce members to listen to the public’s input about their “charge”. In other words it’s YOUR opportunity to voice concerns, air ideas and participate in the process. Please remember that this is civil discourse, the key word being “civil”, meaning it’s both civic responsibility and to be civil in our participation. 

One more thing… if you don’t participate and you have the opportunity to, you don’t get to whine later with things you don’t agree with. 

Listening Session Schedule

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Asking Eastmans’ – Q&A with Eastmans’ Hunting Journals

We get a lot of questions from folks about almost everything regarding western big game hunting and we do our best to answer them in a timely manner. That said, we thought it would be fun to explore some of our recent favorites and share them with you, our loyal blog readers. Let us know what you think in the comments; leave us a question or email it to [email protected]

Q: Should I hunt DIY or Guided?

A: There’s no doubt that DIY is what most of us would choose, the sense of accomplishment gained from a successful DIY western big game hunt is second to none. However, the reality can be much different. 

Take elk for example… Everyone knows they’re big but until you’ve tipped over a bull miles from your truck the reality of “big” doesn’t carry much weight. The sheer amount of work it takes to break down a mature bull and pack it out can prove too much for folks. This is where having an experienced guide with livestock can prove invaluable. 

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First Lite’s Rain Gear – Omen Stormshelter Review

This gear review features First Lite’s Omen Stormshelter Jacket and Pant. This system is built for mid and late season hunts when the weather becomes predictably unpredictable. The jacket features a unique hood design to channel water away from your face and down your shoulders and back. Both pieces feature magnetic pocket closures. Todd Helms tests First Lite’s eco-friendly DWR finish under a spring waterfall.

The post First Lite’s Rain Gear – Omen Stormshelter Review appeared first on Eastmans' Official Blog | Mule Deer, Antelope, Elk Hunting and Bowhunting Magazine | Eastmans' Hunting Journals.

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Pittman-Robertson Act Repealed

Photo and article by Adam Bender

I took this photo years ago, and was the perfect one to get my point across. Moments like this don’t happen in the not-so-distant future if we continue the trajectory we are on. Your voice Matters.

If you’ve never read a thing I wrote, make this the one, as this topic should strike a chord with you if you consider yourself an outdoorsman.

The news about a new bill just introduced this week literally made me sick. You hear me talking about the future of hunting and fishing often and this is going to directly inhibit that in a very real way if passed. I get it, it’s not sexy, won’t draw a lot of likes or shares, but I don’t take the time to do these write ups for that…it’s important to me to my core.

A Republican Representative from Georgia (yes, you read that right), has called the 85-year-old Pittman-Robertson Act “an attack on Second Amendment rights.” Taxes right?! Gotta be bad, we pay enough taxes, to hell with this act. But not so fast, there’s more to this story than the headline will lead you to believe.

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NEW Stone Glacier Review – Chilkoot 32º Quilt

This review features the Chilkoot 32° Quilt made by Stone Glacier. This packable, lightweight insulating quilt is built for early to mid-season backcountry hunts. An easy-to-use strap system keeps the quilt in place on a sleeping pad to trap warmth while preventing slipping and sliding overnight. The articulated foot box is compatible with boots making the quilt handy for cold glassing sessions too.

The post NEW Stone Glacier Review – Chilkoot 32º Quilt appeared first on Eastmans' Official Blog | Mule Deer, Antelope, Elk Hunting and Bowhunting Magazine | Eastmans' Hunting Journals.

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Wyoming Range Mule Deer Trends


I’ve got some very positive news coming in from western Wyoming in regards to mule deer population and herd trends. Based on what we are currently seeing, a mule deer rebound could finally be taking shape in the famed Wyoming mule deer Region-G. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish management team historically shoots for a minimum goal of 30 bucks per 100 does for the Region-G deer herd. As of this past spring the herd is running right about 45 bucks per 100 does. This is a very good sign for the health of the herd and its future viability and reproductive potential into the near future. This equates to a 50% increase in buck to doe ratio since the 2017 winter where the herd clocked a near 20-year low. A low that is only matched by the drastic all-time low of 25:100 that was recorded in the aftermath of the 2004 winter. 

In addition, the fawn survival numbers from this spring are yet another positive sign for us to place our hope into. The fawn mortality from the 2021-2022 winter was estimated to be right around 20% which is a very low number, particularly when compared to the all-time high tof 86% set during the 2017 winter. For the past five years and counting the fawn survivability has been well over 70% for this deer herd. This should bode well for the future population growth of the deer herd over the next few years if current conditions continue. In a nutshell, there are a hell of a lot of younger bucks on the ground in this region right now. 

A fact that may surprise some is the hard fact that this deer herd is currently being “under-hunted” by most historic measures. In 1992 nearly 13,000 hunters, resident and non-resident alike, hit the hills of this mule deer rich region in search of their buck of a lifetime. This fall barely 4,000 hunters will get the opportunity to head into the rugged country of this region hoping to strike mule deer gold. This represents a net 67% decrease in hunting pressure on this deer herd over the past 30-years and counting. Although the hunting pressure in this area can still feel very constricting, mostly due to the much shorter season duration under current management strategies, but also the fact that this deer herd is roughly half of what it was thirty years ago. 

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Grizzly Mauls Hiker In Wyoming

It’s been a fairly quiet spring and early summer for grizzly bear incidents around Wyoming. In fact, a bit too quiet. (Not that maulings are a good thing) About the time those of us who recreate in grizz country start to possibly get a bit complacent we are jolted back to reality with an unfortunate incident like this mauling not far from the Eastmans’ home base and in an area that is very popular with local recreationists. I have personally been on the exact peak where this incident took place. 

An unidentified non-resident hiker was life-flighted to a Billings hospital yesterday after surprising and then being mauled by a grizzly in the Francs Peak area south of Meeteetse, Wyoming. The hiker had zero chance of deploying bear spray or a firearm, a reminder that neither defense option is always feasible. 

Wyoming Game and Fish is investigating the incident but has no plans for management action at this time. 

As I stated in my opening paragraph. This incident is a solid reminder that grizzly bear encounters and altercations can happen anywhere in grizzly country and most often when we least expect them. Being prepared to defend oneself with bear spray and or a firearm is smart but as we’ve learned from this unfortunate mauling, deployment may not always be possible. That is why making noise and staying out of thick cover while moving through bear country is vital. 

All of us here at Eastmans’ are praying for a full and speedy recovery for this unfortunate hiker and would like to remind everyone planning adventures in grizzly bear habitat to follow proper bear safety protocols and always be bear aware. We’ve included a link to some bear safety guides for your reference. 

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BRAND NEW: Sig Sauer 6K Rangefinding Binos

This review features the brand new 6K rangefinding binoculars by @SIG SAUER, Inc. These feature packed binoculars are more compact and lightweight than ever! Eastmans’ bowhunter Dan Pickar breaks down all the features of the 6K and compares them to Sig Sauer’s 10K and Kilo3000 models.


The post BRAND NEW: Sig Sauer 6K Rangefinding Binos appeared first on Eastmans' Official Blog | Mule Deer, Antelope, Elk Hunting and Bowhunting Magazine | Eastmans' Hunting Journals.

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Taskforce Seeks Comments on the “Great Compromise” Package

This is a personal article written by Jaden Bales and is not a reflection of any views, beliefs, or perspectives of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.


You may have seen an increase in interesting hunter headlines coming from the Cowboy State lately. Part of the hubbub is related to the deeply complex, and controversial issues the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce is tackling in their 18-month tenure.

These eighteen Wyomingites originally were rounded up in the wake of bills brought to the legislature and issues brought to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission that caused significant conflict between all of the sporting community in the Cowboy State. The goal of the Force is presenting conclusions and recommendations to the Wyoming Legislature, Game and Fish Commission and governor to support decision-making on Wyoming’s wildlife resources after digging into the weeds to study each issue.

As the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce enters their final five meetings before disbanding, they are ramping up their efforts to tackle the most controversial issues that led to their creation in the first place – largely the dispersal of resident and nonresident hunting opportunities.

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Dan Pickar’s Mathews V3X Bow Set Up

Dan Pickar of Eastmans’ Beyond the Grid shares his 2022 hunting bow setup. This Mathews V3X bow has been a performer on three hunts in Wyoming and Hawaii. Leave a comment with questions for Dan about your bow set up.


The post Dan Pickar’s Mathews V3X Bow Set Up appeared first on Eastmans' Official Blog | Mule Deer, Antelope, Elk Hunting and Bowhunting Magazine | Eastmans' Hunting Journals.

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THAT’S HOW IT’S DONE! – Poacher Nabbed By Tip

Photo Courtesy of ODFW


Three Oregonians get this week’s moron award for poaching AND I’d like to give a round of applause for the anonymous informant who called in the tip to ODFW to kickstart their investigation into the poaching. Here’s how it went down…

Lionardo Munoz, Matt Wilkinson and Rachel Hallett killed the bull in question in Oregon’s Santiam Unit, the bull was a mature branch antlered elk and Munoz only possessed a spike elk tag. They brought the animal out whole, loaded on a trailer, not even field dressed. This is where it gets good…

The animal subsequently made an appearance on social media where the tipster spotted it, thought it suspicious and informed ODFW. Senior Trooper Brent Ochesky concurred with the tip and an investigation began. 

Ultimately Munoz, Wilkinson and Hallett were arrested and pleaded guilty. Munoz was fined $15,000, received a suspended hunting license for three years and will serve 18 months of bench probation. Wilkinson and Hallet were also assessed similar punishments but will each have to perform 40 hours of community service. 

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An Auction Tag We Can Get on Board With


At this year’s Hunt Expo in Salt Lake City a Utah state representative and mule deer aficionado bought the Antelope Island mule deer tag, arguably the best mule deer tag in the entire country for a whopping $310,000. A win for Utah conservation, but then he did something that was even more unthinkable to most- he turned around and gave it away! 

And who did he give it to? Well, this is the best part. Representative Shultz is giving this highly coveted mule deer tag to a more than deserving disabled Utah veteran named Tyler Jones. 

As most of you know, I have been somewhat of an outspoken critic of these auction tags in the past, but I can honestly say, this is one case where I am on board 100%. 

We all look forward to watching Tyler’s mule deer rut hunt on Antelope Island in November. Maybe he will even submit his story to the magazine. That is one mule deer buck we would be more than ecstatic to plaster on the cover of EHJ. 

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Endangered Bison? More Dangerous Than Endangered.

According to local reports, on Friday the US Fish and Wildlife Service made an announcement that the Yellowstone Bison is being considered for listing to the Endangered Species List under the United States Endangered Species Act, a US Statute that grants very strict and regulated management and protections for the country’s most endangered and threatened wildlife species.

What once roamed the plains and mountain-scapes of the West is now reduced to very limited pockets of bison populations throughout the western Mountain States. Mostly relegated to State and National Park areas such as Yellowstone and Teton National Parks in Wyoming and Montana, Custer in South Dakota, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and various mountain ranges and parks in Utah in addition to many Tribal lands are the most common spots to find plains and mountain buffalo populations. 

This possible listing is somewhat troubling to many in the West, most notably the livestock growers who fear the possibility of disease outbreaks and competitive grazing from current and proposed wild bison populations. 

Wild bison herds are very difficult to manage and even harder to control once released into wild landscapes as their movements and migrations are virtually unimpeded by common wire fencing solutions that currently exist for cattle and sheep grazing. 

Needless to say, an endangered species listing could be a catastrophic move for many reasons for our cattle ranchers and food producers in the Western portion on the United States. This move shows further evidence that the Endangered Species Act continues to be used as a weapon to destroy many elements of our Western way of life in states like Montana and Wyoming. 

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The Lighter Side: Maine Polar Bears & Colorado Cujo

In a world that is seemingly falling apart more and more each day it can be good to take a few minutes to read about less impactful news than skyrocketing gas prices, record inflation, wildfires and devastating floods. For example, what about Polar Bears in Maine? Or a case of mistaken identity in Colorado wolves? 

Let’s start with the Colorado Cujo as I’ve taken to calling them… 100 miles south of Denver, Colorado a pack of “wolves” were spotted earlier this spring. Reports from the area were of a pack of large canines hovering around a group of elk. Now this would be very newsworthy since wolves have not existed on Colorado’s “front range” for almost a century. It is true that some wolves from Wyoming have made their way into western Colorado and that the state of Colorado is transplanting wolves as well but wolves south of Denver? 

Well it turns out that this “pack of wolves” was nothing more than a group of St. Bernards out for a stroll. However, this wasn’t fully determined until the State sent officials from the Department of Parks and Wildlife up in a plane to look for the “wolves”… Oooops!

Another interesting story comes out of eastern Canada, on the Gaspe Peninsula to be exact, about 200 miles from Maine. A polar bear was recently dispatched by Canadian authorities when it wandered into the small community of Madeleine-Centre. Normally polar bears don’t stray nearly that far south and this particular animal found itself in hostile territory where it was simply not feasible for it to remain. 200 miles is not far in the bear world and it is totally feasible that if this bear ventured so far south that others can and will repeat the trip and possibly wind up in Maine. Now that’s a wild thought… polar bears in Maine!  I guess they aren’t concerned about gas prices. 


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