I first heard about the massive die-off of Wyoming’s moose from Tim Trefren.
It was last October, and we were sitting on a sun-splashed rock about a thousand feet above the elk that fed out of aspens deep in the Wyoming Range. This is elk country, for sure, and some whopper mule deer roam this range.
The backcountry also looks moosey, but in a hard week of hunting we had seen only a cow and a calf more than a mile away. I asked Tim where they were.
Each year we take a lucky OL reader on the hunt of a lifetime through our Grand Slam Adventure program. Last season we introduced Jim Ewing to his first elk and Montana whitetail. Ewing is an enthusiastic, diehard hunter from Vermont, and he proved himself in the snowy mountains of the Big Sky. Ewing and Hunting Editor, Andrew McKean, hunted with Advantage Backcountry Outfitters and Upper Canyon Outfitters.
See the introduction to their adventure here and check back on Friday for the full footage of the trip.
The first hunter OL content editor Alex Robinson and I met at the Mosquito Creek coyote tournament was shopping for a red spotlight. First we bumped into Dick Billote outside the local sporting goods store (it was closed) in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. Then we saw him in the fishing section of Wal-Mart. (No spotlights.) Then we saw him again in the parking lot of Tractor Supply. (Again, no spotlights.) Alex and I were on the same retail tour of the small town - looking for rain pants as the sky had opened up just hours before the midnight kick-off of what’s billed as The World’s Largest Coyote Hunt.
It’s looking like wolves will once again be managed as wildlife: by restrained public hunting.
At least that’s one of the more optimistic conclusions I reach after last week’s welcome news that hard-core environmental groups are split on whether to stay the course with a lawsuit keeping wolves on the federal endangered species list or to hand some management authority of the predators to state wildlife agencies.
There were nearly 30 of us standing on the side of the road—all in camo, shotguns and rifles slung on shoulders, GPS units and walkie-talkies dangling from necks, half the lot chewing tobacco, dogs whining from crates in the back of pickups—when someone hollered, “Good lord, it looks like the 101st Airborne just landed!”
This road to wealth I’ve been traveling just isn’t getting me there fast enough. Forget wage-slaving. Instead, I’m going to buy a chunk of ground, build a high fence around it, import a herd of grotesque-antlered, immunity-compromised whitetails, and wait for my payday.
That’s the model being pursued by a landowner in Wisconsin, who stands to make a good deal of money by selling 80 acres of Portage County to the state. Why would the cash-strapped state want to buy a farm? Because it’s infected with chronic wasting disease, or CWD, after years of being operated as a commercial game farm.
Earlier this winter, as the first wave of deep snow and arctic cold slammed northeastern Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ game warden Todd Anderson was dispatched early one morning by the Valley County (Montana) Sheriff’s office.
“I was told that the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad) engineer had just called to say his train had hit a herd of antelope west of Vandalia, and there were wounded animals to dispatch,” Anderson told me this week. “I drove out there, and as I got close, I was flagged down by a railroad worker.”
Just inside the front door at my sons’ elementary school is graphic indication of the type of winter we’re enduring.
It’s a 9-foot length of red construction paper, starting at the floor and climbing the wall, hatched with black magic marker to indicate both inches and feet. Near the top, pointing to the 8-foot, 1-inch mark, is a big arrow, and near the bottom, at the 30-inch mark, is a smaller arrow arrow. Off to the side is a note that makes sense of this graph.
The news release reads like any other plea to the public to solve a wildlife crime: An antelope had been shot in the head and left on the side of the Montana road where it died.
It’s an egregious crime against wildlife. Unless you know the context, in which case it may not be a crime at all, but rather a mercy killing entirely justified by the circumstances.
I don’t know all the details of this incident, and until I do I must remain neutral. But the case raises a conflict that I struggle with every day on my 4-mile drive to town and back. During this killer winter—we’ve received nearly 100 inches of snow and the arctic cold hasn’t broken though we’re in March—I’ve been close to dispatching any number of emaciated, broke-down or wounded whitetails and pronghorn antelope.