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Montana’s Top Late Hunts Ducks-Geese-Pheasant-Sharptail Grouse-Huns By H&F News Pro Staff
T he Montana waterfowl hunting season should really pick up now as we head towards our winter season.
Plenty of public land and National Wildlife Refuges offer up outstanding duck and goose hunting in December. The late upland and pheasant hunting season also continues for the next few weeks, and with the big game season over, except for a few late shoulder elk and special deer unit hunts, it’s time to focus on getting some tasty birds to round out your freezer.
Here are a few late-hunt areas that should produce plenty of action: Clark Fork River - Golden Eyes, Geese You can try knocking on doors to gain access to riverside wheat fields around Huson, Alberton and Superior for good waterfowl action this month or hunt on the Clark Fork River itself both around Superior and downstream near Paradise. If the Clark Fork Valley stays balmy and relatively snow-free, you can expect great hunting anywhere farmers grow wheat or barley close to the river. Bring a couple dozen decoys and expect your best shoots to be on stormy mornings as the geese settle to feed. Sheridan County - Pheasants, Sharptails The entire Milk River Valley is worth a December visit for a great pheasant hunting road trip. Drive to Region 6 as there is a large amount of private land that is enrolled in the Block Management program. From Dodson through Nashua clear over to the Plentywood area will have plenty of options for you, as well as the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, located east of Malta along Highway 2. This area is a good location for both ducks and sharpies. Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge is also a good location for hunting waterfowl and heavy-cover roosters. Judith Basin - Pheasants, Sharptails, Huns You can hunt the expansive Judith Basin of Central Montana and have a good chance of returning home with birds. Not only do pheasants thrive in this upland valley hemmed in and surrounded by mountain ranges, but Hungarian partridge and plenty of sharptail grouse should keep you active where you can find their winter habitat. These birds can be reluctant to run or flush in cold weather, which means you can get closer for more deadly shots. Plenty of BMAs support the hunt or knock on a few doors to see if you can gain access to prime country now that deer season has closed in most areas. Remember - water means more birds.
Canyon Ferry WMA - Ducks, Geese This big lake located between Helena and Townsend gets much pressure early on, but as the season progresses expect good waterfowling, as the lake attracts plenty of birds in December. The south end of Canyon Ferry WMA will provide you with the best shooting opportunities with its series of four ponds that allow ample spots for small and large decoy spreads. Redheads, canvasbacks, shovelers, and teal all work the decoys. In the quiet waters in the dikes area, you’ll find mallards, pintails, and wigeon. The open fields around also make for good goose decoy spreads for our low flying Canadian friends. Missouri River - Geese If you make it over to the Fort Peck area, you can hunt below the dam for hundreds of geese that loaf on the water and feed in nearby fields in the morning and night. You can launch your boat at School Trust FAS out of Nashua, and try decoying for geese on the tails of islands. All along the Missouri from Great Falls east, should have plenty of geese to fill your bag this winter. Beaverhead River - Mallards The Beaverhead area, located south of Dillon, is one of those spots to take your shotgun on a sling and a good retriever. The river is lined in dense willows from Clark Canyon down to Poindexter Slough. The best approach here is to hike down the river jumping birds as you go, but you’ll need to be on the birds fast, as they flush off the water the second they see you approach. Flathead River - Ducks The Flathead River’s sloughs offer more than pike fishing. Duck hunting on Flathead River can be exceptional, but you gotta have a boat. Hunting the islands and sloughs below Kalispell can be great when these Northern birds arrive. Park at Sportsmans Bridge FAS, north of Bigfork, then motor upstream into Fennon, Rose Creek, and Church Sloughs for some outstanding waterfowl action. Nearby Smith Lake also offers some good decoy hunting. Yellowstone River - Geese Over the next month from Glendive to Miles City, Canadian geese numbers should continue to build and offer good hunting. Don’t wait too long, as an abundance of snow could send these birds south in a hurry. Decent croplands that are set up in Block Management or landowners that will let you hunt along the river if you ask, are prime spots to set up your spreads. Good hunting areas also include the confluence of the Bighorn River near Custer all the way to the North Dakota border. But, it’s from Miles City downstream that the river is at it’s best. Good places to look here are wheat fields, cattle feed lots, and irrigated corn that dominates the valley from Terry downstream. Birds tend to come off the river late, but they typically don’t go far, and are more likely to commit to a field and your decoys. Check MFWP regulations before you head out for the hunt.
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MONTANA LATE SEASON HUNTS By H&F News Pro Staff
Montana's Elk Shoulder Season Continues
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T here are still opportunities to fill a general elk license in Montana this winter, as elk shoulder seasons continue in
some hunting districts around the state. A shoulder season is a firearm season that occurs outside the 5-week general firearms season. These hunts focus on antlerless elk harvest on private land and are not intended to replace or reduce harvest during the existing general archery and 5 week general rifle season. Hunters can use their general elk license or elk B license obtained through a limited drawing or (OTC), depending on the hunting district.
[Key points for hunters to remember]
• Season timing and lengths will be tailored to each hunting district,so know your regulations. • Shoulder seasons will be focused on antlerless elk found primarily on private land. • Hunters can typically use their general license, antlerless elk permit or an elk B license, depending on the hunting district. Hunters need to check the regulations for each district. • Hunters should start early and build contacts and relationships with landowners who may offer access for shoulder season hunts. • Know the landowner’s boundaries, use a GPS and onXmaps to be sure of where you are hunting. After a few serious snowfalls, elk begin to concentrate into winter pasture areas, mainly on private grounds. This is where a shoulder season hunt will benefit you, if you are willing to put in some time and effort.
Valid Hunting Districts: Region 2
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The entire contents is © 2017, all rights reserved. May not be reproduced without prior consent. The material and information printed is from various sources from which there can be no warranty or responsibility by Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, Inc. Nor does the printed material necessarily express the views of Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, Inc. All photo & editorial submissions become the property of Big Sky Outdoor News & Adventure, Inc. to use or not use at their discretion. Volume 14 Issue 7 Cover Photo: ©Twildlife|dreamstime.com Proudly printed at Allegra - Helena, Montana 406.449.2847 www.allegrahelena.com
6 | Hunting & Fishing News
HD 210, 212, 213 - B license drawing only HD 215 - OTC B license HD 217 HD 291 - B license drawing only HD 290, 298 - OTC B license
HD 390, 393 - General elk license (November 27, 2017 January 1, 2018)
HD 411, 412 - B license by drawing only and general elk license HD 421 - B license only HD 422, 423 - B license only HD 445, 446, 449, 451 and 452 - B license by drawing only and general elk license
Region 5 All Region 5 (except HD 500, 511, 530 and portions of HD 520, 560 and 590)
B license by drawing only and general elk license HD511 and 530 - B license only and general elk license
Know the regulations before you hunt. Check MFWP hunting regulations for the area you plan to hunt and updates on shoulder elk seasons.
H unting for deer and some brow-tined bull or antlerless elk hunts still exist here in Montana for late season hunters.
Did you get out and hunt enough? If not, and you’re willing to tough out the harsh elements and maybe do a little traveling, you can put some steaks in the freezer this month, though limited. Check with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for any late news to come out in December. Make sure you read the Montana Hunting Regulations for opportunities that may exist for you. Here are some we have found. HD Unit 212 - North Flint Range There is a large amount of good country to hunt in this district, and it is one of the best options to fill a late-season tag. Deer: Either sex whitetail deer. Archery only. Prison Ranch only area. Elk: Brow-tined bull or antlerless elk. Archery only. Prison Ranch archery only. Open through January 1, 2018. HD Unit 260 - Bitterroot - Clark Fork Archery District Mostly private land. The access is difficult. You may have to knock on a few doors, but there are plenty of deer to hunt in these river bottom areas. Deer: Either sex - whitetail. Archery only. Elk: Brow-tined bull elk or antlerless elk, not valid on Lee Metcalf Refuge. Archery only. Open through January 15, 2018. HD Unit 290 - Helmville - Ovando Archery District This area offers another good opportunity to fill a tag, with plenty of quality deer and elk hunting available. Deer: Antlered buck mule deer. Archery only. Either sex whitetail deer. Archery only. Season ends December 15, 2017. Elk: Brow-tined bull or antlerless elk. Archery only. Season ends January 1, 2018. HD Unit 309 - Gallatin Valley - WRA Deer and elk hunting is restricted to archery equipment, shotgun, traditional handgun, muzzleloader or crossbow only, except on private lands,which are excluded from the weapons restriction. Map area available at FWP Region 3 in Bozeman or call 406-994-4042. Deer: Antlerless whitetail deer only. Elk: Antlerless elk only. November 27, 2017 - January 15, 2018.
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8 | Hunting & Fishing News
A 12 Year Old’s Montana Moose Hunt
This story all begins on the morning of June 6, 2017.
While manning my post at The Man Store in East Helena a customer asked me if I had checked on my moose tag. Every hunter knows the feeling of putting in your ALS info and clicking the drawing status button, hoping for that rare chance to see your trophy tag in the successful section. So I punch mine in, and what do I see…Unsuccessful. And then remembering I put my 12 year old son Justin, in for a moose tag, and I’d better check his. What I saw next I had to look at 5 times to finally believe. SUCCESSFUL! The first thought that entered my mind was how?! First year, are you kidding me?! My whole life I’ve Left Justin Brewer with his moose, been chasing that illusive tag with no success. center Kurt LaRoque, right Jeff Brewer The preparation began almost immediately. What the heck is he going to shoot it with? That question was answered rather quickly. Sadly, my Grandfather had passed less than two years prior, and my brother and I inherited his gun collection. A beautiful 270 WSM was one of the guns we inherited. I thought it would be a huge gift to take a little of Grandpa with us on this hunt. He would have LOVED this! Teaching a 12 year old that weighs 85 lbs soaking wet to shoot a gun that size? Well, all we could do was try. He handled it great and after several weeks of shooting he took a 24 inch group to less than 5. Next came the scouting and permission. Making several trips down to the Boulder valley and introducing this young man to the land owners was fantastic. Starting to see moose on the scouting trips was really getting Justin’s blood boiling. He was beginning to wonder if September 15th would ever come. Then it was finally here. I’ll never forget the excitement on his face as we staged all of our equipment for the next morning. I remember waking up at 4:50 a.m. to Justin standing over my bed with all of his gear on. I don’t think he slept that night. So off we went, stopping to pick up our friend Rick Haggerty and my dad Pat Brewer, who would be joining us. Wildlife was everywhere, as we started the hunt. First we spotted a nice sized whitetail buck. Very cool, but not what we were after today. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a monstrous black animal. Dang it! A cow moose. As we got in position to see if a bull was with her, she came right to us. Less than 50 yards, and just stared us down. What a cool moment, but no bull. We hunted the rest of the day and walked in blowing, wet snow with no luck. I remember the first thing my son asked me when we got home, “When are we going next?” His dedication was amazing. After taking Saturday off Sunday came, and we were off again. This time my father-in-law Kurt LaRoque was with us, as well as Rick. The morning was much of the same as our first hunt. Deer everywhere, elk screaming, coyote, and even a porcupine. And then another cow moose. Gotta be a bull somewhere. We decided before heading home we would try glassing another property. What did we see? Another cow! As we glassed in disbelief a nice bull stood up out of its bed. The hunt was on! We devised a plan and began to execute. Our original plan failed almost immediately. We ran into a swamp we could not cross. So plan B it was; sneak right in front of them to get around and get a shot. As we worked down the willows I told Justin, “Let’s pop out right here. They should be right in front of us.” As we cleared the willows, there he was! The bull was about 125 yards out. Justin quickly set-up, scoped it and said “Dad I have the shot!” I said “take it!” Just before the bull stepped behind another tree, I heard the boom! A perfect looking shot as the bull stepped behind the trees. I told Justin “great shot!” As we walked around the trees, I saw the massive black body lying there. Justin’s face lit up with joy. The realization that he had actually filled his tag was a moment I will never forget. As we walked up to the beast we just stood for a moment and marveled at its beauty. What followed was a lot of work, and a stop in Boulder to get some ice to cool the meat where Justin was a small town celebrity in the L&P Grocery Store parking lot. This is a day I will never forget. It is my greatest hunting memory ever. I am so proud of my son and what an accomplishment for such a young man. Jeff Brewer, Proud Father.
The Lost Skill of Knife Sharpening By Tom Claycomb www.ammoland.com
A ll Outdoorsmen use a knife and yet
only a very small minority can sharpen one. It seems to be a lost skill of the ancients but let’s see if we can’t help you out a little today. Due to the complexity of the topic, I won’t be able to totally train you in one short article Photo courtesy Tom Claycomb and www.ammoland.com so I’ve included some links below for further instruction. To begin, nowadays most knives are constructed of metal that is so hard that you cannot adequately sharpen them on an Arkansas stone so I recommend using a fine Diamond stone as you’ll be able to obtain an edge within minutes. I’ve had good luck with Smith’s Products.
So let’s get started. You see people grinding their
knife in a circular motion, others cutting into the stone and yet others cutting away. Which way is the correct method? It doesn’t matter, as long as you use the same (correct) angle all the way down the edge. For simplicity, I cut into the stone three times on each side. You will tend to have a smaller angle as you get into the curvature of the blade. To eliminate this, I recommend lifting your elbow when you start into the curvature. Watch the YouTube video below to comprehend what I mean. https://youtu.be/u6R4T3dsfoE
To use a smooth steel I hold it in my left hand against my bottom rib for stability and cut away from me, almost like I’m peeling a carrot. Do this move at the exact same angle that you sharpened it. If you do this every two minutes while filleting fish or boning out your game it is possible to stay razor sharp all day long. With practice you can become proficient at sharpening. But if you try to learn on a cheap knife from China you’ll be frustrated and lose faith. Use good knives. I’ve had good luck with Knives of Alaska. They’re well-made and constructed out of good materials. The metal is hard so they will hold an edge but not so hard that they cannot be easily sharpened.
Don’t let your knife get super dull and it will be easier to put an edge back on it. To clean your Diamond stone use warm soapy water and a rag. Buy good quality knives. I have an article for $.99 on Amazon Kindle titled “Knife Sharpening” that goes into deeper detail. https://www.amazon.com/Knife-Sharpening-Tom-ClaycombIII-ebook/dp/B005IHWILO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?utm_source=amolnd.us&utm_medium=amazon&utm_campaign=claycomb+author&ie=UTF8&qid=1503607903&sr=8-1&keywords=Tom+Claycomb&linkCode=ll1&tag=ammoland-20&linkId=371dc4bebff4b359e3dc4843fc906918 Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, Bowhunter.net and freelances for numerous magazines.
If the edge is really dinged up and mushroomed I’ll slide the blade backward the first four revolutions to get the metal molecules all lined back up and then I’ll start cutting into the stone. To put on a finer edge you’ll now advance to the Arkansas stone. Add a few drops of honing oil before you start. Use the same procedures as you employed on the Diamond stone until the edge feels smooth. When it does, then test it by slicing a piece of paper.
Most boning knives and fish fillet knives are going to be made of softer metal. So to sharpen one of them you’ll want to start right off on an Arkansas stone. Then to put a wicked edge on them you’ll need to progress to a smooth steel. Doing this will put an unbelievably sharp edge on them. For a smooth steel to perform it is imperative that you properly prepare it. I use 80 grit emery cloth and rub it up and down to put microscopic lines in the steel. You want these lines running straight from head to tail. If the steel is dinged up, rusted or has pits it will harm your knife edge more than it will help it. Hunting & Fishing News | 9
Mark Kayser with a Colorado dream bull. ©Mark Kayser
DREAM HUNTS By Mark Kayser
Y ou can’t question the greatness of Montana’s hunting opportunities. Despite having plenty of Big Sky to pursue
big game sometimes a trip to another destination is on your mind. You have plenty of options across this big country. What follows are a few ideas for out-of-state dream hunts. Some are next door while others may take a longer drive. There’s also information on how to plan for a future hunt. Keep dreaming and with some planning your hunting goals may come true. WYOMING ELK Montana has great elk hunting, but the Cowboy State next door is no sleeper either when it comes to wapiti. Sometimes you want a change of venue and sometimes you just want to fill the freezer to the brim. Consider elk options in Wyoming. You may be able to draw a tag the first year, especially in lower success units. The best bet to acquire a non-resident tag is to apply every year and purchase a preference point to increase your chances annually when you apply again. If you don’t draw you can take a scouting trip to increase your knowledge of particular areas. And if you don’t want to apply for a license Wyoming allows you to purchase preference points separately for big game. In most elk areas of the state herds are at or above objectives. The Bighorns, Snowy Range, Salt River Range, Laramie Mountains and even areas around Yellowstone have been providing good success. Some eastern areas are also offering great hunting without high elevation ascents. Access can be a challenge though.
For more information on the most comprehensive hunting maps available visit:
The best bet is to hunt where you have contacts with friends or relatives to speed along scouting. Like Montana, one of the big bonuses of Wyoming hunting is the fact that 50 percent of the state is publicly owned. The two major deed holders are the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Six national forests are found within the borders of the Cowboy State. Apply in January for your chance to hunt elk next door. Wyoming Game and Fish Department www.wgfd.wyo.gov
IDAHO WHITETAILS Are you looking for an easier option than elk in September? Consider archery whitetail hunting in adjacent Idaho. You can begin archery hunting in late August through September. As a rule of thumb, the farther north you go, the higher ratio of whitetails to mule deer you find. Whitetails are most abundant in hunting units 1 through 21 according to Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game. Stick to the northern and north-central parts of the state. A good bet is to set your ambush on the 1-million acre Kaniksu National Forest and ambush whitetails traveling to feed in lowland fields. Focus on openings, agricultural and water in the early season. Forested, publically-owned valleys funnel down to private green fields in this stretch. Scout for bachelor bands of bucks and whatever you do, don’t shoot the first buck in line. Generally the big daddy brings up the rear. You can purchase Idaho whitetail tags online, first come, first serve in an over-the-counter style. For 2017 Idaho Fish and Game had an established limit of 15,500 nonresident deer tags and 12,815 nonresident elk tags as general season tags available over the counter. These tags are reserved for nonresidents through July 31. If you mark it on your calendar you will receive a deer tag and you can even expand your horizons with an elk license. Idaho Department of Fish and Game www.idfg.idaho.gov KANSAS WHITETAILS Kansas has great whitetail hunting and it wasn’t until the last decade or two that it was even considered a record-book state. An aggressive management program coupled with a firearm season after the rut increased the number of trophies in Kansas and it showed up clearly in both record books, Boone and Crockett, and Pope and Young. In most regions of Kansas you can easily acquire a whitetail tag for archery, muzzleloader and firearm. For a change of pace consider the early muzzleloader season that starts the third week of September and wraps in early October. If you’re lucky enough to draw a license you can hunt for antlered or antlerless animals. You can also apply for a mule deer stamp divvied out via luck of the draw. Even if you’re really unlucky you’ll automatically receive a preference point for the following year. Kansas is mainly private land, but you can hunt public Wildlife Areas and certain Walk In Hunting Areas. Most WAs and WIHAs are located in the western two-thirds of the state. Kansas publications are great in directing you to public lands and informative on what species inhabit certain parcels. The key is to find a unit that has ample leftovers and research WAs and WIHAs in that unit. You’ll have more than 100 WAs to hunt along with approximately 1 million acres of WIHAs. Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism www.ksoutdoors.com
(continued on page 36)
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Lake trout often combine adventure with big fish potential and are ice fishing’s apex predator. Pictured is Jason Mitchell and Curt Reeff
O ur travels take us across both the United States and Canada each winter in a quest to explore some of the best
ice fishing destinations. Some road trips return us to consistent and dependable ice fishing opportunities that rise to the top of our “must fish” list each winter. Of course, we also try and mix in the old with the new, exploring new destinations that are peaking or somehow flown under our radar. We make a conscience effort each season to travel to new areas and see new fisheries. There is no doubt that more ice anglers are traveling and there aren’t as many secrets. In today’s world, word can travel incredibly fast and I still marvel at how far some anglers will travel to capitalize on a hot bite. A hot trend we are seeing amongst hard core ice anglers are remote adventure expeditions where teams of ice anglers will push back into hard to reach and remote fisheries where the ice fishing adventure resembles a back country big game hunt. Lake trout are often the quintessential fish for adventure with ice fishing. Ridiculously deep snow and no cell phone service is often the norm. Expect to be covered in sweat one moment and fighting frost bite the next. The locations where big lake trout live will often push both you and your equipment to the max. Crucial daylight hours will be spent shoveling snow to get a snowmobile unstuck. A ten-inch gas auger with two feet of extension on the flighting is about as good of a workout program as there is. Of course, the toll and tuition is worth the reward. Big lake trout are one of ice fishing’s most prized fish. A top of the line predator that can shoot up thirty feet or more in the water column to outswim a jig or spoon getting reeled up as fast as you can reel. A hard fighting fish that will snap graphite rods like match sticks. A fish that will destroy a tip up by spooling the tip up and snapping a plastic tip up at the base if the knot doesn’t break at the spool. Yes, big lake trout are incredible and when these fish get big, they take on a prehistoric demeanor that can warm the coldest hands. I was first introduced to lake trout fishing in Whitefish Bay on Ontario’s side of Lake of the Woods several years ago and have been hooked ever since. What can be amazing about winter lake trout is the simple fact that we have caught big fish in well over a hundred feet of water and in as little as five feet of water. These fish seem to cruise continually like sharks. There is a certain randomness or predictableness with lake trout under the ice. Despite the sometimes lack of a definitive comfort or temperature zone under the ice, many patterns and strategies ring true and bear repeating. (continued on page 41)
The Toughest Birds And Where To Find Them By H&F News Pro Staff
December can be a challenging month for upland bird hunting. There are still birds left to hunt during the late season, but their habitat is in flux, and they are in survival mode due to hunting pressure and the worsening weather. This combination makes successful upland bird hunting difficult - though not insurmountable.
PHEASANTS: Forget about pleasant fields of grass and
A Dream come true for the fly rodder and angler that thrives on small stream fishing.
easy-to-hunt swales. December ringnecks have moved into the crud. Hit the cattails as roasters will tolerate wet feet if it means staying alive. Also, plow into any shelter belts along ag fields, especially if they are close to any available water source. These birds will hold up here on any cold, wind swept day. High-step into knee busting swamp grass and switchgrass on these blustery, gray-sky days, but work slowly and pause often, or the birds will let you walk past or get the jump on you and get away. (bag limit; 3 cock pheasants daily) SHARPTAIL GROUSE: Sharpies enjoy a good view, but after a few solid freezes, the grassy knolls that these birds once favored just don't offer up enough cover now. So drop off the benches down into coulees and draws, concentrating on the brushy north and west sides, where December gales blow over the top. Sharptails will still have to come out to feed in stubble fields and table lands early and late in the day. You can glass these fields from afar and watch where they return to, then hunt them there later in the day or the next morning. (bag limit; 4 daily)
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HUNGARIAN PARTRIDGE: Like sharptails, Hungarian
partridge birds abandon the wind-swept prairies for lower country during the late season. Look for huns in winding prairie creek bottoms and gullies, often hunkered up against the leeward side of a cut. Don't pass up thickets, chaparral or any other brushy hideaways, especially if they are out of the wind and in any little sun-drenched pocket. Hunt through any area with a spring seep or still-open water source. Huns love to eat the greens that still remain in these kinds of places. (bag limit; 8 in aggregate daily) RUFFED GROUSE: December's ruffs move into the lowlands where the cover is thickest and any "green area" manages to hang on for feed and where predators are less likely to tread. Weave your way through any alder bottoms near lowland river beds for good grouse action. Hunt the margins between wet bog and dry ground wading your way through grassy swaths as grouse like to burrow down once they have fed for the day. In fresh snow, follow chicken-like tracks to locate grouse. Still-hunt these lowland areas, much as you would a white-tailed deer. If you have a hunting partner, take turns having someone go in deeper as the other stays closer to the edge of likely cover. This might prevent birds from running into the cover ahead of you or flushing up for a good overhead shot. Ruffed grouse have surprisingly small home ranges. They will move as cover and food sources change and they typically call less than 20 acres home. So mark your flushes on your GPS and remember the direction the grouse chose to fly. You'll often find birds in the same approximate spot two or three times in a row and each time you will have a chance to improve your odds. (bag limit; 3 in aggregate daily)
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WINTER FLY FISHING IN MONTANA By Brian McGeehan Montana Angler Call 406-522-9854 or www.montanaangler.com
After enjoying a spectacular fall...we are quickly moving into our wintertime fishing patterns.
Locating Winter Trout
Trout move out of their summertime haunts when cold weather (and water) settles in. Fish engage in a maintenance diet during cold months and experience very little growth. In order to conserve valuable energy, trout move into slower moving water. They generally prefer deeper water (greater than 3 feet) in larger rivers for added safety. The migration towards wintertime holding water produces dense concentrations of trout in a handful of slow and deep runs. The majority of the river becomes nearly devoid of trout. To be successful while fly fishing in Montana in the winter, anglers must focus on these slower and deeper runs that hold fish. Once you locate a good run they can be productive for several hours (on larger rivers) Photo courtesy Brian McGeehan, Montana Angler due to the high trout concentrations. Often the bottom of the river in especially good winter holding water will be black with the backs of trout that are packed like cord wood. Time of day Trout are cold blooded and feed when water temps reach their peak during the winter months. Donâ€™t bother fishing before 11am since trout will be in a thermally induced coma. The best hours to fish in the colder months is from noon until 4pm. Winter nymph strategies With some exceptions, winter fly fishing is generally a nymph fishing game. Different patterns work well on different rivers. In general, egg patterns, stone fly patterns and midge larva are a good bet. On tail waters and spring creeks scuds and shrimp patterns trailed by a midge larva is a good bet. The most important aspect of wintertime nymphing is to get slow drag free drifts right on the bottom of the river. Trout are not going to move far to take your flies so it is imperative that long leaders with adequate weights are used to ensure the flies get down to the fish. Takes are very subtle since the trout are not moving far during a take and they are in slow current. Both factors result in very little motion of the indicator. I exclusively use yarn indicators in the water since they help detect these delicate takes. Often a yarn indicator will simply flutter back or twist slowly. Strike first and ask questions later! Choose your river wisely Success on winter fly fishing trips is largely dependent on water temperatures. Many freestone rivers become unfishable when large ice shelves develop. Some freestone rivers stay ice free such as stretches of the Gallatin River near Big Sky or the Yellowstone River near Gardiner due to underground springs or hot springs. Another great bet is to target spring creeks and tail waters. Water that bubbles from the ground or flows from the bottom of a dam is warmer than other rivers. The warmer water temperatures results in higher levels of fish activity making locations such as the Spring Creeks near Livingston and tail waters like the Missouri or Bighorn a good bet in the winter. Wintertime dry fly fishing Midge hatches occur in the early winter and again in the early spring. On rivers like the Ruby, East Gallatin, Spring Creeks and Bighorn these hatches can be very strong. Great dry fly fishing can be experienced on these fisheries under these conditions. I prefer sunny days for good midge hatches. Black Canyon. Photo courtesy Montana Angler
16 | Hunting & Fishing News
The hatches usually occur in the late morning.
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How to Pick the Best ATV For Deer Hunting By Robert Gate
Reprinted with permission from Bowhunting.net For more please go to: www.bowhunting.net
H unting season’s here and you know what that means! Hauling outdoor/hunting gear into your hunting/camping area
and hopefully, hauling game out. So, how do you get your gear in and out? We hunters require a tough, versatile and durable vehicle to take the hard work and harsh terrain. And what other Photo courtesy Robert Gate and www.bowhunting.net vehicle can do better than the ATV? If you’re still wondering about how to choose the best ATV when going hunting, then read on and I’ll share some factors to consider in getting the right ATV for you to fit your bowhunting needs.
How to Choose the Best ATV for Bowhunting
Consider after-market parts you’ll want to add on your ATV
There are many things you may want to consider investing in for your ATV after purchasing it, such as the best ATV winch for it to stay working properly, or storage parts to keep secure your gear in. Keeping expenses in mind, you may want to choose an ATV that already includes these, especially one that would have the right space for the items you know you will need.
Familiarize yourself with the area you’ll be using the ATV on
To know what type of ATV you will need, consider the terrain where you’ll be using it the most. You might want to focus more on rocky or mountain terrain or rough sandy areas, while others opt for something that can operate well in water or wet, swampy ground. This will ensure that the ATV you choose can take on whatever terrain you need it the most for.
Be realistic with your budget
You get what you pay for, so expect to pay more rather than less. Make sure to set a budget that you can handle, achieving the perfect quality-to-price ratio to ensure that you get something that can do the job well without breaking the bank. You can also do an internet search for the brand and model ATV’s you are thinking about and customer reviews. You should also talk to your local dealer for advice on the right ATV for your needs and your budget.
If you’re looking for the best ATV to get you into and out of your hunting areas quickly, easily and comfortably, do your homework and find the right one to fit your needs.
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Say Hello To Success: Where to Chase the Fish This Month Brought to you by
Photo: © Taseret | Dreamstime
A quiet stretch of the East Gallatin River on a crisp winter's morning.
E arly winter fishing trips can be a blast if you are willing to get out and enjoy them. With the upper elevated lakes
starting to ice up here in the Northern Rockies and open water action on lower elevated rivers still in prime fishing conditions, it's an exceptional time to be outdoors in Montana. Make the most of these shorter winter days and hit the water. Great memories are out there waiting for you! EARLY ICE LAKES - MONTANA Fish still have to eat in December before the heavy ice, snow, wind and cold start slowing everything down for the winter. As many ice anglers know, the first ice-up of winter on lakes and reservoirs can be one of the best times to fish, for two reasons: one, the ice is generally clear and void of air pockets or eroded areas and two, the fish are biting! TOP EARLY ICE LAKES • Hebgen Lake - Load up your sled, it’s time to hit the hard stuff in southwest Montana. Normally, this area is one of the coolest in the state, and the ice starts to form quick here. An abundance of feisty deep-running rainbow trout that are heavy can be encountered on this lake, with big brown trout hanging near the bottom. Tipping your jig with a worm or maggot while using constant jigging action with your ice rods should pull up some hefty rainbows, and dropping a nightcrawler to the bottom will find those bigger browns. Here, you will find easy parking and walking to one of the best ice fishing waters the West has to offer.
• Hyalite Reservoir - Bozeman's local alpine lake is a 200 acre beauty tucked away at 6,700 feet in the Gallatin Mountain Range. Ice up will begin soon and you can catch an array of mountain fish. Yellowstone cutthroat, rainbows and even arctic grayling (catch and release) cruise the shallows looking for food. Vertical jigging is a preferred method through the ice. You can use two rods through the ice. Fishing at dusk and into the early evening with the aid of a lantern light is a popular technique. • Holter Reservoir - There are so many yellow perch in Holter Reservoir right now, and the exciting thing about this is that the walleye population in the lake should do nothing but improve, the down side is that it makes catching them a little more difficult, because they are so well fed. You can fish the open waters of the lake until the first real deep freeze occurs, usually sometime in December. Perch ice fishing on this north-central Montana lake during the winter can be outstanding. The perch swim in hordes and when one of those schools get near an ice fishing hole, the ensuing fishing will be memorable. Jigs tipped with crawlers works the best, but when the bite is on, so does about any kind of lure or bait dropped down through the ice. You can expect rainbow trout, brown trout and walleye to bite as well. • Georgetown Lake - The first ice and often the best fishing in the area occurs on Georgetown Lake. Most anglers will fish small jigs tipped with maggots. For added flash, try removing the hook from a Swedish Pimple or Kastmaster and running your jig as a dropper about six inches below the spoon. The flashing spoon will entice the fish in close, where they usually won't be able to resist the tasty morsel suspended below. Kokanee salmon and rainbow can be found around Piney Point, Rainbow Point, Denton's Point or the Sunnyside area. Generally, the bite is best early in the mornning. • Seeley/Salmon Lakes - Hit these lakes in the winter for big northern pike and yellow perch, as truly big fish come through the ice here. The bigger fish are in the deep water now, but most anglers have the best luck fishing weed beds in 4 to 14 foot depths. The ever effective whole smelt or herring just under the ice will work on pike. For jigging do something colorful with a twister tail. If open water still exists, go with lures or big, fluttering spoons. When spearing, most go 3 to 4 feet using a decoy. For yellow perch, go to a jig/maggot combo, again using a bright colored jig. • Browns Lake - Browns Lake is a prime location for early ice fishing action. Some really big trout swim these waters, especially right at first ice when big rainbows cruise the shallows. Try dropping small spoons or smaller jigs tipped with corn, crawlers or maggots for good success. Yellow perch will hit on these same combinations. It's fantastic fishing here when you can hit it just right. Browns Lake is located just off of Hwy. 200 near Ovando. • Smith Lake - In the Northwest part of the state, you’ll find dozens of smaller venues that will start to ice-up now, and Smith Lake, located just west of Kalispell gives folks lots of room to spread out. It’s not very deep, but most anglers have good success fishing above the weeds.
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Lots of yummy yellow perch are available here, and you can catch a bunch by dropping down what they love - maggots. The northern pike will be smacking your offerings as well. Smelt will attract these bait stealers consistently now, as they scower the banks looking for an easy meal. Other area lakes that you should explore in the area will be the Lower Stillwater Lake, which has perch all over in it. Start on the west side first for good action. Little McGregor Lake has trout fishermen scoring on rainbows and perch. Another good early producer is Spoon Lake, located north of Columbia Falls, where you can hook into brook trout, perch and smallmouth bass, although normal freeze-up here will be closer to January. Open water will produce when you target weed beds around the lake throwing smaller lures. HI-LINE FISHING • Nelson Reservoir, Fresno Reservoir, Tiber, Lake Frances On the Montana Hi-line, you’ll be able to fish on early ice here at Nelson Reservoir, located just east of Malta. Perch, walleye and pike will dominate the early ice. Spearing, fishing tip-up and fishing with minnows should be a major producing fish attack. You should be able to find an ice cap along the south shore. Also along Hwy. 2 you can fish Lake Frances, located west of Valier, which produces pike and perch. Tiber Reservoir, located southwest of Chester is a sleeper spot for magnum northern pike. Live minnows are a top catching bait here. You can also fish Fresno Reservoir, where things are looking up thanks to a boosted perch population which has fattened up the walleye and northern pike here. A shack and a spear may produce good early action for northerns, while the perch and walleye will take a dropped jig/worm-maggot combo or live minnows.
• Castle Rock Lake - Located on the edge of Colstrip, is the picturesque Caste Rock Lake, where good ice fishing days can produce walleye, northern pike, and good numbers of bass. • Gartside Reservoir - Near Sidney, this smaller impound can produce largemouth bass, northern pike and even a few tiger muskies. Rainbow trout and walleye can be caught through the ice as well. It gets cold fast here, as the wind sweeps across the eastern Montana prairie. Expect these waters to ice up quickly now as we head into the winter months. Dropping down the usual baits including nightcrawlers, jigs tipped with maggots and small spoons will pick up a variety of fish here. OPEN WATER ACTION Area rivers will continue to fish very well at times throughout the month. Ideally, pick a day when air temperatures are above freezing and then fish the warmest part of the day. Concentrate your efforts on holding water that is slower than you would fish in the summer. Oftentimes, a number of drifts through the same spots are necessary to coax a fish to bite. Expect most of the action to be subsurface, but you can do well nymphing San Juan Worms, Glo Bugs, and small bead head nymphs. The Bitterroot River, Rock Creek, Gallatin, Madison, Clark Fork, Beaverhead and Blackfoot Rivers will all be good areas to target in December. Remember, Montana winter weather can change rapidly. Be prepared.
EASTERN DISTRICT • Lake Elmo - This 64 acre urban pond located in Lake Elmo State Park in Billings has excellent shoreline access and can produce exceptional fishing through the ice. A variety of fish inhabit these waters as it is stocked with rainbows and some large cutthroat as well. Bass, sunfish and catfish are also in the pond. Bait seems to be the best option for catching numbers. Other notable early ice up fishing destinations include: • Box Elder Reservoir - This reservoir will produce yellow perch, walleye and northern pike. • Fort Peck Dredge Cut Ponds - You can catch a mixed bag here that includes pike, sauger, walleye and rainbows.
© Joshua Rainey | Dreamstime
Hunting & Fishing News | 21
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Rifle decibel level examples Rifle model Winchester Model 70 Remington Model 742 Remington 742 carbine (18” barrel) Steyer-Daimler Mannlicher Browning X-Bolt Rossi Trifecta Winchester 94 Ruger Model 1 Thompson Center Encore (muzzleloader) Winchester 70 XTR M14 Colt AR-15 Marlin 917 VS Ruger 10/22
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Shotgun decibel level examples Using hearing protection while shooting Browning X-bolt rifle Photo credit: Brady Miller
HOW SHOOTING A GUN CAN AFFECT YOUR HEARING Written by: The Smoking Barrel USA Originally published at
R ecently the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (HPA) was introduced. Why? Because shooting a loud gun can really
damage our hearing and we need all the protection we can get! But this article is not about the HPA. Rather, it’s to help us understand just how much shooting a firearm can really affect our hearing health. First, it’s important to determine how loud is too loud. According to studies done by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), if you are consistently exposed to noise louder than 85 decibels, you are likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). If 85 decibels is the benchmark for what is deemed to be too loud, then how loud are guns?...a 9mm pistol typically produces around 160 decibels. ...it is clear that the noise from even a small pistol is way over the limit! To put it another way: a shot from a 9mm pistol is even louder than a jet taking off, which creates a noise of approximately 140 decibels! If a 9mm pistol makes a lot of noise, how much does a hunting rifle create? The Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC) did some tests and came up with a list that compares the noise levels of specific rifles and shotguns.
The adjacent tables represent a wide array of different rifles and shotguns for a broad example of the decibel levels. 22 | Hunting & Fishing News
Shotgun model Ammo dB level Remington 11-87 turkey 12 ga. (3” ammo) 161.5 Remington SP-10 magnum 10 ga. (3.5” ammo) 161.4 Beretta Gold Match AL391 12 ga. (3” ammo) 161.0 Remington 11-78 slug 12 ga. (3” ammo) 160.1 Remington 870 12 ga. (2 3/4” ammo) 159.7 Rossi Trifecta 20 ga. (2 3/4” ammo) 159.1 New England SBI .410 (3” ammo) 157.5 Remington 11-87 field 12 ga. (3” ammo) 156.1 Pietro Beretta 20 ga. (2 3/4” ammo) 154.2 Mossberg 183KE .410 (3” ammo) 151.9 Mossberg 183KE .410 (2 3/4” ammo) 151.8 Mossberg pump 20 ga. (2 3/4” ammo) 150.0 Mossberg bolt .410 (3” ammo) 149.1 Based upon the above tables, it appears that most rifles generate a noise level around the 160 decibels mark (with the .22LR rifles generating closer to the 140 decibel mark). At these noise levels, if we do not use appropriate protection for our hearing health we are definitely going to feel the effects! HEARING PROTECTION OPTIONS Fortunately, there are a lot of protective equipment products now available to help you protect your hearing. These include old fashioned earplugs and earmuffs. Based upon the infographic above, doubling up by wearing earplugs and earmuffs provides the maximum level of protection. Of course, when you are out hunting, wearing this many layers over your ears isn’t the most comfortable or practical solution. Luckily, there are some products on the market that are designed with the hunter in mind. These include earplugs that can hang around your neck when they do not need to be in your ears as well as high tech electronic earmuffs that allow in low noise (such as a voice when someone is talking to you) while keeping out excessively loud noises (such as a gunshot). If you are using a rifle, adding a suppressor will also reduce the noise level you are exposed to even further. And, thanks to the HPA, obtaining a suppressor will become cheaper and easier in the future (check local state laws if hunting with a suppressor is legal)...
SAVE YOUR EARS. HEAR MORE. HUNT BETTER. By Anthony Hauck Pheasants Forever www.pheasantsforever.org
SOUNDGEAR PROTECTS YOUR HEARING, IMPROVES YOUR HUNTING.
I re-arranged the headline of this...three times because it’s hard to choose
which SoundGear benefit is most important. Photo courtesy Anthony Hauck and Pheasants Forever I settled on saving my hearing first because that’s going to have the longest-lasting benefits to both hunting and life in general. Then, hearing more of what’s going on makes the hunt more enjoyable. And that can also help you get more birds. Wearing custom-molded SoundGear units, you hardly know they are there. I knew I’d appreciate the hearing protection because I’ve always wore foam plugs while hunting. But you also always know that foam is there. HUNT BETTER What I didn’t know I’d appreciate so much with the SoundGear units is this: How much more I can hear of the little things that make the hunting experience better and can even contribute to birds in the bag: * Hearing my dog work without needing a visual. * Hearing a rooster cackle off in the distance that I otherwise would have missed, especially with foam plugs in. * Hearing the beat of sharptail wings off my flank, despite the howling Montana wind, and swinging on the flushing bird long before I otherwise would have. Bottom line? Simple. Hearing protection the quality of SoundGear creates a hunting advantage while doing something even more important – protecting your hearing. Little sounds are enhanced; big sounds, like the boom of a shotgun, are eliminated. PROTECT HEARING Every hunter needs hearing protection. Every shot affects your future hearing. * Young up-and-comers need to start protecting their hearing now. * People like me, who could have done better but still have plenty of “ear” remaining, can keep the hearing they have. * Longtime hunters who never bothered with ear protection in the field need to consider sound protection to preserve the hearing they have left. SoundGear offers a variety of hearing protection solutions for hunters. It’s hard to beat their custom-fit solution. Check it all out www.soundgearhearing.com. SoundGear is also the official hearing protection partner of Pheasants Forever, and a portion of every purchase goes toward the habitat mission both you and I believe in.
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Hunting & Fishing News | 23
Hunting & Conservation News Proudly Sponsored By
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Native Fish The True Trophy In Montana By Heather Fraley
Genetic conservation of native trout keeps increasing in priority
After what seemed like
The author helping to release a fish back into an endless bushwhack Little Wildcat Lake several years after the lake through pungent and sticky was treated with the fish-killing toxin rotenone. Photo courtesy Heather Fraley false azalea bushes, I fought the last few yards of imprisoning brush to the shore of the pocket-sized Little Wildcat Lake. Stringing up the neon-green fly line, I flipped a cast onto the lake surface. Within minutes I had a fat, genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout on the fly, fighting like a determined miniature freight train. The prevailing theory about fish management in Montana used to be that a trout is a trout. But over the past 20 years, fisheries managers have been increasingly managing for the benefit of native trout species. The newest research and management in the state focus on maintaining the intact genetics of Montana’s iconic state fish, the westslope cutthroat trout. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) just closed the book on a successful project to protect the genetics of cutthroat in the South Fork of the Flathead River above the Hungry Horse Dam. The threat to the fish in this stretch of river came from 21 mountain lakes. These lakes included Wildcat Lake, which feeds into Little Wildcat on the northern edge of the Jewel Basin Hiking Area. The introduced rainbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the lakes could make it to the river to interbreed with the cutthroat that had lived there for generations. This arrangement had the potential to turn the natives into genetic Frankenstein fish. State fisheries managers proposed an ambitious and initially unpopular solution: replace the non-native fish in the lakes with native cutthroat trout. This strategy would protect the fish from interbreeding. Since the lake populations were being replaced, there would also be no net loss in fisheries for anglers.
26 | Hunting & Fishing News
After ten years of effort, the largest connected population of genetically pure westslope cutthroat trout in Montana is secure.
The scenic Sunburst Lake was the last to be treated with the fish-killing toxin rotenone in early September of this year. The lakes have been restocked with cutthroat, and some of the new fish are descendants of wild parents from the South Fork of the Flathead River. Invertebrates and fish in the lakes are recovering well. FWP is getting a lot of positive reports from anglers who have begun fishing the lakes. Little Wildcat was one of the lakes restocked during the Project. The population there seemed to be thriving. Its 2010 rotenone bath was a distant memory. “It’s truly a world-class resource” said Matt Boyer of the population. Boyer oversaw the project for FWP. “Hatchery rainbow trout have been stocked on six of seven continents on this planet, but there aren’t that many places you can go to catch a wild, genetically pure westslope,” he said. Andrew Whiteley, an expert on fish genetics at the University of Montana, agrees that Montana is at the leading edge of managing to preserve native fish genetics. Whiteley is starting a genetic rescue project on cutthroat trout populations in five streams on the east side of the continental divide in Montana. He takes a few new fish and releases them into small, cut-off groups of fish in the wild that are losing genes. The new fish add genes to the dwindling gene pool. He says angler attitudes are a big part of Montana’s management success. Managing for native genetics is not catching on as much in Massachusetts where Whiteley previously worked, partly because it’s hard to get anglers excited about the native fish. The native fish there are these dinky little things in tiny headwater streams that no one wants to fish for,” he says. “It’s a hard sell there.” In Montana, anglers are finding native fish exciting species to fish for. The native westslope cutthroat and bull trout are beautiful and often big. Darwon Stoneman, a long-time fishing guide has seen native fish management evolve over 40 years. He is part-owner of Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier Montana, the longest operating raft company in the state. Some of his clients find the knowledge that they are catching native fish a special bonus. A lot of his clients just want to catch a fish, and cutthroat are ready-made for that. Cutthroat live in low-productivity streams and lakes where there isn’t a whole lot of food. As a fish in those conditions, you eat everything that might be food. You just spit it out if it turns out to be a piece of moss. Given this evolutionarily useful behavior, cutthroat are known for taking flies that other fish might turn up their nose at. Stoneman believes managing for the future of native fish in Montana is valuable, even though he also understands the challenges. “It’s important to me that we try to preserve the westslope cutthroat,” he said. “I’ll do my part to try to do it.”
The Black Butte Copper Project The Black Butte Copper Project, 17 miles north of White Sulphur Springs, began with Montana landowners and local
leadership. Tintina Senior Vice President, Jerry Zieg, was born and raised in White Sulphur Springs and grew up on a ranch on the Smith River. In 1985, after earning his masters in geology from the University of Montana, Jerry and his exploration team discovered the Johnny Lee deposit. This remarkable site would later become the Black Butte Copper Project. Many people don’t realize that Tintina Resources was formed when the ranchers who own this land reached out to Jerry. After they were approached by more than 15 companies hoping to lease the site, they realized that local leadership was key to creating a world class project that would be developed by the community and for the community. From there, Jerry assembled his “dream team” of staff and partners—combining Montana capabilities with global industry expertise. Here’s what we know. We can responsibly access our valuable natural resources and preserve the environment that is so critically important to all who live here. This will be an underground mine with traditional land uses remaining intact. To protect the Smith River and all water resources, the cemented tailings facility will be at least one mile from Sheep Creek, and will be completely separated from the Sheep Creek Valley by a large hill. All water on site will be treated with Reverse Osmosis and will go back into the groundwater system through a buried infiltration gallery. All water used in the process will be completely mitigated through retired irrigation water further upstream for instream flow. Because of this deposit’s high grade (nearly one billion pound of copper in just under 12 million tonnes of mineralization), we can afford to go above and beyond standard safety and engineering practices to protect the environment and restore the site completely back to grazing during reclamation. There will not be any mining from an “open pit” – which dramatically reduces our environmental footprint. A bond secured by Tintina before construction starts will ensure that sufficient funds are available to properly reclaim all disturbances at the site. This bond is reviewed every year and completely recalculated every five years. The Black Butte Copper project presents tremendous opportunity to Montana for jobs, economic development, and tax revenue. There will be approximately 200 positions needed during the mine construction phase which will last 24-36 months. When the mine opens, the operational phase will provide approximately 240 jobs. Positions will range from mine operators to truck drivers, electricians, mechanics, business and accounting services, management personnel and related occupations such as engineers, geologists, hydrologists, surveyors, maintenance personnel and other technical support positions. There will also be private contractors hired to perform certain tasks. Entry level labor positions will begin around $15/hr and range up to $29/hr plus for experienced miners and will include benefit packages for health insurance, sick leave, vacation leave and some form of retirement package. The average wage of workers will be approximately $65,000 per year including benefits. Please come take a tour to learn more or visit www.blackbuttecopper.com. 406-547-3466
Hunting & Fishing News | 27
POST-RUT DEER HUNTING TIPS By Zach Lazzari
T he rut is in full swing as I write this and bucks are chasing does around the river bottom by my house in Montana. Photo credit: Twildlife|depositphotos.com
It’s a great time to hunt and some of the bigger bucks are visible during the day. If you are missing the rut, it doesn’t mean you can’t still get after the big guys post rut. Here are a few post-rut deer hunting tips.
Bucks burn some serious calories while chasing the ladies and they need to jump on a food source to replenish before the serious snow flies. Take advantage of the late season and lower hunting pressure to find trophy deer.
Food and Patience Focus on the food sources post rut. Bucks need to replenish calories and they will bed down
close to food as the temperatures drop. Do not worry about placing your blind or stand deep in the woods on game trails. Keep them within 30 feet of the food source and wait for something to move. Bring your best gear to weather the cold and be very patient. Hunting through the cold weather requires some grit but you can have some great opportunities in the late season. Do a Push Grab a friend and do a drive when things are stagnant. You can hunt from a blind or stand in the early morning and evening, then push deer during the mid-day. Plan a route, spread out and walk slowly to get the bucks up and moving. Pay close attention to dense cover where they may bed down. Drives are a time efficient hunting method. Spend an hour or two picking your way through the woods when you don’t have time to setup or sit on a single spot.
Late Breeding Opportunities Breeding occurs after the main rut. It’s less obvious but you can rattle and use
scent to draw bucks. If you see any buck chasing a doe, revert to your rut strategies. You can also try rut tactics at random when things are slow. Drop some scent and throw a few rattles out then wait. It might be enough to get a buck interested and moving.
Follow Tracks Fresh snow makes it easy to find tracks and follow deer. Read fresh tracks and either follow them or setup in a strategic ambush position. Look for well used trails that show entry points and exit points on food sources. When you know the travel patterns, your odds of success increase. For more information on rut mule deer hunts and late season deer and elk combo hunts here in Montana with Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, please check out their website at www.lazyjbaro.com. You can also call 406-932-5687.
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Photo courtesy Delta Waterfowl
Find Ducks in the Late Season By Kyle Wintersteen www.deltawaterfowl.org
W hat’s my favorite time to hunt ducks? It’s not the early season, despite its pleasant temperatures, nor even the mid-season, when the migration often peaks. No, give me the bone-chilling days of late December and January, when only the heartiest ducks — and heartiest hunters — are found hitting the remaining waterfowl hideouts.
The remaining mallards are highly concentrated on waning food and open water resources. They’re therefore much easier to find and rather predictable — a cold duck must eat, and a duck that’s eaten must drink. Perhaps that’s why many hunters, myself included, tend to kill far more ducks in January than November. Here are a few places you’ll find ducks seeking refuge from the freeze.
Dry Agriculture Fields Field hunting is a go-to tactic in Canada and many areas of the U.S. prairie pothole region, as ducks and geese stock up on carbohydrates for the long journey ahead. In other parts of the continent, ducks are less frequently found dry feeding. That is, until the late-season chill fosters an urgent need for calories. Case in point: A cornfield near my mid-Atlantic home won’t see more than a few occasional ducks for much of the season. Yet every January, it’s covered in hundreds of mallards, causing me to ditch my waders for field bibs. The best fields are located near open water, allowing the ducks to make short hops from chow to beverage. Go with Canada goose decoys for maximum visibility, with a few full-body ducks mixed in. Often Canadas will save energy by dozing in the fields during extreme cold, so sleeper shells can offer realism.
Creeks and Streams Two seasons ago, a wind chill of -15 led a buddy and me to warm our hands by a small campfire as our decoys bobbed in the creek an hour before sunrise. But as the smoke cleared on that final day of the season, the ducks emerged: plump drake mallards and a quick limit
30 | Hunting & Fishing News
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of black ducks (we could’ve shot many, many black ducks that day). I look forward all year to hitting ice-lined creek banks winding through the hardwoods, because once the ponds freeze, creeks offer a taste of flooded timber: Ducks darting through the trees and presenting exhilarating, in-your-face shooting. No need to bother with a huge decoy spread. A dozen or two mallards, with at least a couple on the down-current edge of a riffle to add motion, are plenty. Smaller streams, particularly if they’re spring-fed to prevent sudden freeze-ups, can also be surprisingly effective. If you find one isolated from additional open water or near food, you’re in the game.
Gear up for WINTER DRIVING
Rivers Like creeks and streams, rivers tend to heat up as the freeze sets in. My preferred time to hit them is once a few ice floes are present, which tells me nearly all other water will be locked solid. Just be careful: Navigating the floes requires the right equipment and a little common sense — if they’re too large or numerous, it’s not worth the risk. Ideal places to set up include the down-current edge of an island, point or bend in the river. Thus your decoys are protected from the floes and force of the water, and your spread offers ducks enticing, calm water.
Lakes and Reservoirs Large lakes and reservoirs typically provide open water well into the season. However, access becomes an issue once plummeting temperatures form a ring of ice around the edge of the lake. If the boat ramp remains open or coated by mere sheet ice — allowing you to access the open water in the center of the lake — you’re in for a great float-blind or layout hunt for divers and other species.
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A few pockets of open water often remain, especially near the mouths of creeks down to the tiniest of streams, even as the ice thickens elsewhere. They’re easy to find — just follow the ducks. Locate one relatively near shore with thin surrounding ice, and you’re in business. Slide a jon boat onto the ice, and as it breaks across the bow of your boat, paddle or motor yourself into the open water. If necessary, carefully use your boat to bust ice around the edges of the hole to widen it after the overnight freeze. Then, toss a dozen floating decoys into the hole and line the edge of the ice nearest your blind with full-bodies and sleeper shells. Goose decoys work great for this spread, as they’re visible and ducks will decoy to them as well. This can be a highly effective setup, but it requires extra emphasis on safety. Take at least one hunting buddy, know the limitations of your boat’s construction and always wear your life jacket. Late-season conditions are hard on equipment, hunters and even the ducks themselves. Yet those who brave them know the rewards justify the shivering.
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Pro Staff. Nemnich is one of those rare individuals who is not only a great predator hunter… but a great teacher, quick to share his knowledge to help other predator hunters become more successful. As winter progresses, Nemnich stresses that coyote hunters have to make some major adjustments to not only their calling strategies but stand placement in order to be successful. Nemnich offers these insights for calling coyotes as the season progresses into mid and late winter. 1) Think outside the box! By the time the new year rolls around, most coyotes have heard and seen it all. New sounds and varying your stand position in relation to what sounds you used and where you set up earlier in the season will work. 2) When choosing sounds on your ecaller for late season calling, focus more on coyote related sounds. As coyotes transition from sustaining themselves as an individual to sustaining themselves as a species they will generally respond better to howls, fights and breeding sounds. 3) Be patient…in most cases coyotes responding to howls will approach the call with more caution than normal. This equates to a slower pace which means it can be beneficial for you to sit 10-15 minutes longer on stand than you normally would earlier in the season. 4) For a sound-sequence recipe; start your stand off with a series of 4-5 female lone howls scattered over the first 2- 3 minutes. After waiting another 2 mins in silence, start in with some female whimpers and/or estrus chirps. Let that play until the 10 minute mark. After waiting another 2 minutes in silence play a group serenade for 2 minutes. From that point roll into an aggressive coyote fight sound until the 20 minute mark. Sit quiet for 2 minutes then end the stand with several lone howls. If you get a coyote to answer you know exactly where to go on your next stand. 5) Prepare yourself for longer shots. Using a scope dial or drop reticle and knowing the drop of your bullet at extended ranges will allow you to ethically and effectively make shots out past 250 yards. It’s not uncommon for coyotes later in the season to hang up out past 300 yards and just look at the call. Being prepared for these situations will allow you the opportunity to harvest more coyotes. The coyote vocalizations on the new Revolution can be crucial for calling in coyotes late in the season.
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Photo John Benda. Shot on November 21, 2016 at 9 a.m. Age of Deer: 5.5 to 6.5 years old. Self Score: Gross 162, with deducts 155
Bull Mountain Buck
“ A Hunter's Tale” By John Benda The routine; wake before dawn, grab a coffee, drive twenty
minutes to my hunt area, start the ridge line hike, and hopefully harvest a legal western Montana bull elk. I have found a few sizable sheds from a reclusive mountain whitetail here, but I have never seen him. Good chance either late season loaner is hiding out on “Bull Mountain” this unusually mild November morning. I grew up in Missouri and took up bowhunting as a young man. It didn’t take long and I was addicted to hunting farmland whitetails. I often allow that fixation for deer to interrupt my present Montana elk hunts. Thus, my successes taking elk after relocating to western Montana 26 years ago from my birth state of Missouri have been few, whitetails many, yet after decades in the field never a buck with large antlers. Better than an hour into my national forest hunt, I’m standing yards from the exact spot where 15 years ago I tracked my first elk kill. I’ve encountered several bull elk here the past two decades while archery and rifle hunting. All but that one busted me. For all those other missed opportunities, I began calling the seasonal pilgrimage hunt “Bull Mountain”. I can recall the excitement in my wife and then 4 young boys who helped me pack out the small 6-point elk. Back then my tags were filled on the first legal animal crossing my path for food. Harvesting that elk was a huge bonus. I stand here reflecting momentarily on life’s leaner times. I spot two does grazing 100 yards above me in a small hillside clearing. For all the open country in Montana, the county where I live and hunt is comprised of steep dense forest. Open areas where I view the does are an oasis for a Mineral County hunter. Not seeing a buck with them I’m ready to continue my elk hunt. Then standing in sentry higher above the does along the forested edge of the clearing, I scope a buck with long tines. I end my pursuit for an elk and decide to try and harvest the deer. I pull my homemade shooting sticks over my shoulder from my daypack, but they set me down too low on the steep slope for the shot. I step up to the trunk of a young tree for a higher rest. I drop my rifle to my waist twice trying to settle my emotions. He’s darting around now and I’m losing my battle with buck fever. Shaking, I shoot and miss. The jolt through my body from the 300 Win Mag elk cartridge resets my composure, and I nail him with a quick second shot. He tumbles down the mountain slope taking his final breaths alongside a fallen tree. Slowly, I walk up to him and see the mass in his dark antlers, conscious of the fact that I have just taken a very special animal. My respect grows for the whitetail each time I relive the hunt. The mountain buck survived several long harsh Montana winters feeding on conifer tree lichen and browse. He was savvy, routinely escaping a variety of formidable Montana predators. The humbling experience has reinvigorated my passion for whitetails just like the ones I first learned to bow hunt in the hardwoods along the farm lands of Missouri.
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Bull of the Month #12 Montana Non-Typical BOONE & CROCKETT
Score: 406 4⁄8 Location: Granite County, MT Date: 1946 Hunter: Arthur Lundgren
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Directions: Take I-90 to Exit 101 in Missoula. Drive 1/4 mile north to 5705 Grant Creek Road. accessible with RV parking. Open year round. For information, call (406) 523-4545 or 866-266-7750 or visit www.rmef.org.
Recipe Corner Wild Duck Jalapeño Popper Quesadillas
From "a 12 Gauge Girl" www.huntingandcooking.com Ingredients: 2-3 jalapeños, finely diced Flour or corn tortillas 1 large onion, finely diced 3 wild duck breasts (cleaned and skinless) 8 oz cream cheese 3 cups cheddar cheese 6-7 slices bacon 1 tablespoon cooking oil or butter 1/2 cup water Instructions: In a crockpot, place the cleaned, skinless duck breasts. Cover with the half cup of water and place two slices of bacon over the top. Cook the breasts on low for 3-4 hours, until the duck becomes tender and starts to fall apart. Using two forks, shred the duck breasts. Discard the bacon. In a medium bowl, cream together the block of cream cheese and two cups of the cheddar cheese. Prepare bacon by placing on a large baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and cooking in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. Let bacon cool slightly and dice into small pieces. Finely dice onions and jalapeños. To construct quesadilla, take one tortilla and place about a tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on top. Spread it evenly over tortilla. Add a spoonful of shredded duck, diced jalapeño and onions, and bacon crumbles. Top with more cheddar cheese and cover with second tortilla. Preheat a grill to medium heat. Melt about a teaspoon of butter or cooking oil. Once oil is hot, place quesadilla on hot griddle and cook for two to three minutes, until the cheese has started to melt and tortilla is slight browned. Flip quesadilla and cook additional two to three minutes on second side. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Serve with chipotle sour cream and salsa.
36 | Hunting & Fishing News
DREAM HUNTS (continued from page 11) COLORADO OTC ELK If you’re still hankering for more elk then Colorado is your destination. Colorado is a big state with numerous over-the-counter elk hunting options, firearm and bow. It also boasts the nation’s largest elk population. Some years it nears or exceeds 300,000 animals. Some of the largest elk densities reside in northwest Colorado. Referred to as the Bears Ears elk herd it is found on the Routt National Forest with ample public acreage totaling 1.1 million acres. Obviously elk flourish here and ranchers will confirm that. Good numbers reside in an area bordered on the east by the Continental Divide and on the west by the Little Snake River. Craig and Steamboat are good-sized towns to stock up on hunting supplies. You can bowhunt, muzzleloader hunt or firearm hunt this region with over-the-counter licenses. Plus, the region boasts special management for trophy-quality animals so purchase preference points to plan a future hunt in those units. Colorado Parks and Wildlife www.cpw.state.co.us
PLAN NOW TO HUNT WHEN YOU WANT
Planning is the name of the game when you want to go on a dream hunt. This is particularly true for big mule deer where over-the-counter options are limited at best. DIY is an option, but sometimes you need help navigating state license systems and finding a reputable outfitter. It can seem like a daunting task. Help is available though. Consider utilizing application services like those offered by Worldwide Trophy Adventures...WTA is just one of dozens of consultants and booking services that provide similar assistance in this pay-for-application atmosphere. It’s designed for serious hunters hoping to land more than one dream hunt in their lifetime. What can you expect for your payment? It all starts with a consultation meeting to save you the time of research and applying. You tell them what you’re looking for in terms of a hunt and trophy expectations, your budget, physical abilities and timeframe. They take this information and begin researching state options and outfitter matches. Prices vary, but you typically will be charged a fee to apply for a species in a particular state. The price increases depending on how many states and how many species you wish to add to your bucket list. You also get confidence in an application free of mistakes. Many states still toss out applications with errors. Some businesses float or finance your license fee while others ask for your credit card information. WTA bankrolls your application and license fee. If you don’t draw you are just responsible for the state application fee and their service charge. If you draw a dream license the services just begin. Most consultants can team you up with a qualified outfitter, suggest DIY options and answer questions about particular units. Worldwide Trophy Adventures (www.worldwidetrophyadventures.com). CONTACT INFORMATION More hunting strategies from Mark at www.markkayser.com
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By Jay Anglin
Restore reliability and bring back bling to your blocks with these simple tips
While every waterfowl hunter has a long list of wants and needs, most of us have plenty of decoys that sit idle season after season for various reasons. Perhaps you take really good care of your decoys but in the heat of battle forget about the few that will inevitably end up in disrepair. Dealing with decoys is a lot like managing a baseball team: Phase new decoys in regularly and, as the season progresses, relegate others to the disabled list. Some of those game-worn blocks will end up being sent down to the minors for rehab and only be called up to the bigs on one of those days when a massive spread is required.
Avian-X decoys are essentially bombproof but even the toughest decoys need a bath once in a while.
W e all know that guy. You know, the one who seems to find new ways to destroy any duck or goose decoy in his midst. He leaves decoys in the back of his pick-up until July 4th or so – including the ones he borrowed from you two years ago and never returned – and then, in an unceremonious act of glory, tosses them behind the garage so they can be dealt with later. Perhaps you are that guy. It could be a broken decoy line, a missing head or busted keel that’s keeping that pile of decoys in the corner of the garage unaddressed – just high enough to constantly remind you that something needs to be done with them.
My grandparents gave me a dozen mallard floaters when I was twelve years old, well over thirty years ago. While they don’t look nearly as good as the incredibly realistic and effective newer stuff in my arsenal, they still work when a big spread is needed; joining a cast of characters that varies in origin but, ultimately, serving the same mission. I have two bags of such decoys relegated to this type of duty that are always ready for deployment. Last season they spent three days bobbing around in flooded corn with roughly two hundred other decoys – most of which made them look ugly, but they worked perfectly. This wasn’t by chance. I could have thrown those old blocks away or passed them on to a young hunter years ago, but I keep them around and seem to use them every season when the situation demands it. They’ve been repainted a few times and have worn a range of different anchors and lines. But over the years, I’ve taken care of them.
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Fixing Floaters The best way to fix up all your old decoys is to tackle them all at once. You’ll need to patch holes, glue keels and heads, and apply touch-up paint where needed. You’ll also need to fix or replace missing or damaged lines and anchors. It’s all cheap and easy. Finding shot holes and cracks is fairly easy, but may require some detailed inspection. Use clear or black silicone to patch holes as needed. Take a close look at the base of each keel for hairline cracks – a common problem on decoys that spend a lot of time packed tightly in bags. There are several good options when it comes to touch-up paint. One of the best, specifically manufactured for decoys, is Bird Vision UV Paint. These paints work great and are highly recommended for newer decoys. That said, plain old satin latex applied with disposable foam brushes can work just fine for decoys on the JV squad. Flat paints tend to look dull after use, and glossy paints have too much shine. Satin perfectly matches the natural sheen of waterfowl feathers. Ducks Unlimited and other organizations are great resources for specific tips on repainting decoys of various species. A quick search of the Internet will have you painting with confidence. Once the holes are plugged, cracks filled and the paint is dry, it’s time to repair and replace lines and deal with anchor issues. Have anchors and decoy cord handy, as well as crimps if you’re not into tying good knots. Fencing pliers or similar tools with crimping ability will help ensure those expensive new anchors don’t end up at the bottom of the drink. Full-Body Rehab Full-body decoys and stackable shells need love, too. Over time, heads become loose or broken, and paint becomes soiled and chipped. Scrub those filthy full-body decoys, then fix and repaint them as needed. Snow goose decoys, in particular, are susceptible to soiling, and while real snow geese do get dirty, decoy spreads have much better visibility and appeal to high-flying birds when individual decoys are clean and pop at a distance. A pressure washer can be used to clean some full-body decoys, but it’s risky for others, as the water pressure may blow off some paint. It’s best to start with a soft brush and warm, soapy water. Once the decoys are clean, take a close look at all feet and heads, which can become overly loose or broken. While broken heads can be glued back on, about the only thing I’ve seen that truly holds up to being banged around in a boat is black windshield urethane, which can be purchased at automotive glass repair shops, or permanent, black marine adhesive (3M 5200). Another option is to screw the heads on with short drywall screws and use black butyl-based roofing caulk or waterproof roofing repair cement. These adhesives form a flexible yet durable waterproof seal that typically dries flat and blends in nicely with flocked heads on Canada goose decoys. And, speaking of flocked heads, it’s wise to occasionally re-flock or replace well-worn goose decoy heads. However, a low cost, quick-fix is to use satin black Krylon Fusion for Plastic paint on flocked heads that are peeling or faded. The flat white Krylon Fusion also does a great job of freshening up cheek and rump patches. Just be sure and mask off the darker paint so you don’t bleed over into the body of the decoy. Some of the newer decoys on the market are molded with flexible materials that won’t crack or split and are marked flawlessly with paint that doesn’t chip...Ten years from now, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find Avian-X decoys needing repairs... But, even the best decoys out there still need occasional work on their anchors and lines...A little TLC can bring older blocks back to life...
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Lake Trout Hit List (continued from page 12) “A room with a view,” is what Colorado Ice Team Pro Bernie Keefe describes as a perfect location for finding lake trout under the ice. Deep structure that stair steps down into deep water. These deep benches and ledges are classic lake trout locations that seem to produce fish everywhere we travel... Large round boulders often make a good location even better. Deep structure that coincides with rock is often what separates the great spots from what appears like similar and not so productive locations on a lake map. Montana’s Fort Peck Reservoir can be a tremendous ice fishing destination for lake trout. In the past, many of our very best winter lake trout locations all had one factor in common… close-proximity to deep water and large rocks. Besides the classic “room with a view” location, a runner up location would be pinch points and funnels especially if there is some current. Troughs of deep water that connect basins or lakes are often prime winter lake trout locations. Now for the disclaimer regarding the classic lake trout locations described above. These types of locations are often where you will find the most lake trout and some big lake trout at that but, we often see some of the biggest lake trout each winter come from depths that are less than twenty feet. Shallow water lake trout patterns don’t get discussed as much but typically when you do find lake trout in shallower water, they are usually big fish. What is fascinating about lake trout on different bodies of water, however is just how unique each ecosystem can be. Extremely large water like Lake Superior has a current factor that has a huge influence on fish movements. The current demands that anglers fish out of a hole and drill a second hole for their transducer so that the lure can be swept into the cone angle. Depending on the depth, that second hole with your transducer might be ten feet or more away from your jigging hole. Some anglers will even modify their transducer by attaching it to an arm or boom that can be pointed. The current will often rip and pulse where changes in the current’s intensity will trigger waves of fish to feed. The lures need to be heavy enough to cut the current. The hooksets over deep water with massive current often must be exaggerated where the angler has to back away from the hole several steps to hook up. Away from the Great Lakes where strong currents aren’t typically as much of a factor, a trend we are seeing on so many fisheries is more finesse. A classic white tube jig is perhaps the greatest lake trout lure of all time but many lake trout anglers are gravitating towards lighter line and smaller presentations. The Clam Pro Tackle Leech Flutter Spoon has been an incredible lake trout lure for our team over the past couple of winters. Larger lure profiles still work but anglers are starting to embrace smaller lures that would traditionally be considered “walleye lures” with great success for lake trout. Across the board, downsizing lures while matching up with the appropriate rod action and line is producing a lot of big trout. As the popularity of lake trout through the ice has grown over the past decade, more guides and camps are catering to lake trout through the ice. Bernie Keefe (www.fishingwithbernie.com) has long been one of the best in Colorado. Other top shelf lake trout guides include Josh Teigen on Lake Superior (www.joshteigen.com) and Manitoba’s Bryan Bogdan from Wekusko Falls Lodge, (www.wekuskofallslodge.com). As ice fishing has grown in popularity, more camps are staying open through the winter providing accommodations on top tier fisheries when a decade ago, many of the camps closed in October after the spawn...
ELK COUNTRY VISITOR CENTER Trophy Elk Display Elk Country Wildlife Diorama Wildlife Theater Walking Trail Valid through December 31, 2017
$5 gift to you $5 off a single purchase of $10 or more at the Elk Country Visitor Center Gift Shop Coupon must be surrendered at time of purchase. One coupon per customer. Discount does not apply to memberships, gift cards, prior purchases, or in combination with any other discounts. No cash value. Reproductions not accepted. Certificate cannot be redeemed as cash or merchandise credit if merchandise is returned.
Directions: Take I-90 to Exit 101 in Missoula. Drive 1⁄4 mile north to 5705 Grant Creek Road. accessible with RV parking. Open year round. For information, call 406-523-4545 or 866-266-7750 or visit www.rmef.org.
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“ ove It to Death” is the third album by the Alice Cooper band, which was released in 1971. Loving it to death is how we, as a nation, seem to be treating much of our public lands, especially our national forests. More people are engaging in and having a greater influence on natural resource issues than ever before. People want to do what is best, yet are not necessarily familiar with what that is. There is a growing belief that “letting nature take its course” with no human interference is the best philosophy for managing natural resources. Many people are mistakenly or intentionally calling this way of thinking conservation, though it is more closely aligned with preservation.
These misconceptions are helping to shift the management of wildlife and its habitat from a “hands-on” conservation approach to a “hands-off” preservation approach that has serious negative implications, such as the wildfires we are witnessing across the United States. Imagine if we approached health care for humans the same way as we approached the health of our natural resources. Our life expectancy would be cut by at least a third. Relatively simple surgeries would be no longer. So, our quality of life would suffer. Is that what we want? I certainly don’t. Conservation and preservation are both concerned with the betterment of the environment. Conservation focuses on using and managing natural resources to benefit people. Preservation is a philosophy that generally seeks to keep natural resources in a pristine state by excluding management and limiting how they are used by people. Conservation is the overarching concept with preservation being one of many management options within a broad conservation approach. Conservation was developed and nationalized by the Boone and Crockett Club and its founder, Theodore Roosevelt, beginning in the late 19th century. One of the Club’s founding members, Gifford Pinchot, also the first chief of the Forest Service, is credited with first using the term “conservation.” One of the best-known advocates of preservation was John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club and fought for Yosemite to become a national park in 1890. He believed scenic forests and mountains were sacred, sublime places that should be used only for enjoyment and inspiration and not as a resource for goods. Muir and other early preservationists saw only one choice for saving awe-inspiring landscapes – keep people out unless they were there for appreciation and solitude. It was the beginning of a national controversy that pitted Muir’s idea of preservation against conservation. We are still having this national debate 125 years later. (continued on page 44)
Bob Humphrey photo
Bad Weather Birds By Bob Humphrey Yamaha Outdoors Tips www.yamahamotorsports.com
T urkeys don’t like bad weather and neither do most hunters. But regardless of conditions the birds are still out there
and you should be too. You just might want to change your tactics a bit when battling both the birds and the elements. SIT TIGHT A typical morning hunt usually begins setting up close to the roost in hopes of intercepting the birds shortly after they pitch down. The action, whether successful or not, is often short-lived. In bad weather however, turkeys may be a bit tardy in leaving the roost. And when they finally do, they may not disperse as quickly or as far. That makes waiting them out in the slightly improved comfort of a ground blind a better option. BE PATIENT Running and gunning is the preferred method of most turkey hunters nowadays. After the birds disperse over the landscape they switch covering as much ground as possible - on foot or ATV - stopping occasionally to try and shock a bird into gobbling. However, the birds are far less interested in breeding during inclement weather and you’ll be better off adopting the old school strategy of sitting tight for long periods and calling sparsely. THINK LIKE A TURKEY In really bad weather turkeys are far more interested in food and shelter. They’ll want to get out of the elements as much as possible, but once on the ground they’ll also want to consume as many calories as possible. Try and find sheltered areas to set your blind like a dense overstory or the leeward side of a hill, or near concentrated food sources. BE PREPARED Comfort is crucial, particularly when facing the elements. A ground blind will help break the wind and precipitation but you’ll still want to stay warm. Bring extra layers of clothing, hand and foot warmers and even a heater if necessary. STAY ALERT Turkeys could show up at any moment, and will be far less likely to announce their arrival. Remain vigilant, still and quiet.
Hunting & Fishing News | 43
Boone and Crockett Club VP: How We Are Loving our Forests to Death (continued from page 43) Nationally acclaimed wildlife biologist, Dr. Bruce D. Leopold, once said, “Nature just can’t take its course because frankly, there is no location on Earth where humankind has not had an impact. From radioactive materials and dust in polar ice, to ever-expanding distributions of invasive species, the evidence is clear that disruption of natural processes is a global phenomenon. Humans are a significant component of natural ecosystems (contributing the good and the bad) and the notion of suddenly removing their influence is both illogical and impossible. Natural ecosystems are just too altered to be left alone.” In August 2017, over 650,000 acres were burning in the Western U.S. Most of these fires were on public lands, particularly federal lands. By September 1, seven hundred wildfires raged in the state of Montana alone, ravaging some 1 million acres of public and private lands. The Club evacuated its own Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch in Montana on September 12 as two wildfires were approaching the 6,300-acre property. Across the state, evacuations were taking place, structures were being burned, people were breathing hazardous air, federal and state resources were stretched thin and the state of Montana was out of money. Most tragic…two young firefighters lost their lives. And now, California is on fire. What caused this wildfire phenomenon? Why, over the course of the last two decades, have wildfires intensified to the point of being natural disasters? What are the impacts on the people, landscape, wildlife, economies, and state and federal budgets and personnel? What can be done to correct this destructive situation going forward?
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44 | Hunting & Fishing News
National forests comprise a large segment of the ecosystems in the western United States. Most have evolved with fires, insect and disease outbreaks and blow-downs to retain biodiversity and forest health. But, times have clearly changed. More people are living further out into wild-land urban interfaces. To protect lives and homes this has logically led to a forest policy of suppressing natural fires and insect outbreaks. This intolerance of fires combined with decades of relying on our forests for timber production and then dramatically scaling this back, have helped produce very “unnatural” conditions of fuel build up ripe for the wildfires we’re seeing today. These unnatural conditions are resulting in wildfires that are destroying human lives, forests, wildlife habitat and homes and contributing to changing climate. Wildfires emit carbon that contributes to poor air quality. Healthy forests, as well as forest products, are a carbon sink, sequestering carbon that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. More than 60 million acres of national forests are at high risk of wildfire or in need of restoration. In the past 10 years, over 65 million acres have burned. Approximately 10 million acres burned in 2015, killing 11 firefighters. Federal foresters estimate that an astounding 190 million acres of land managed by the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are at an unnatural risk to catastrophic wildfire. On our national forests alone, since 2000, wildfires average 6.9 million acres burned annually. In 1995, fire made up 16 percent of their annual appropriated budget. In 2015, fire made up 52 percent of their appropriated budget. That is a decrease in 36 percent of their funds that would be used for other activities, including research, forest improvements and maintenance. Conservation can reverse these conditions through a variety of actions, such as harvesting trees and using controlled burns to mimic natural disturbances. These disturbances reduce build-ups of forest litter (fuel) and overgrowth to encourage a variety of successional stages for wildlife, biodiversity and the prevention of larger, hotter, more devastating fires from occurring that can destroy even old-growth forests. Preservation takes the opposite approach. It seeks to halt management actions and multiple use on the mistaken assumption the forests can and will return to their former “natural” condition. The conservation principles of sustainable use and active management has the greatest chance of producing the goods and services that people want, as well as retaining long-term ecological integrity. Conservation provides the means and knowledge to produce timber from the most productive growing areas to meet much of the demand for wood products while allowing less intensive management over the majority of the forested landscape. This enhances biodiversity while localizing the impacts of our demands for these products. We have the ability to locate and manage intensive industries (such as energy development) and urban growth so that it aids conservation — consolidating daily life and extractive industries in some places allows other places to produce the benefits of wilderness, scenery and wildlife habitat. Managing forests makes them resilient and able to withstand fire, pests and diseases. Management eliminates or reduces the impact of catastrophic wildfire; protects riparian areas important for stream health (shade, filtering, etc.) and fish species such as trout; and protects water quality due to fires followed by rains sediments washing downstream and damaging important drinking water supplies...
BASE LAYER ESSENTIALS FOR WARMTH AND WEIGHT By Stefan Wilson Originally published at
Merino wool base layers. Photo credit: Brady Miller
W hen I first started hunting, I bought whatever hunting clothing was on sale. It took several hunts before I realized that quality gear is worth its weight in gold. Layering is one of the most important parts of planning for your hunt. If you layer well, you will be able to be comfortable, warm, and dry during your hunt. If you do not layer well, you are at risk of being very wet, very cold, and, potentially, becoming a victim of hypothermia. This article is intended to give you a basic understanding of the materials, technologies, and techniques involved in proper layering of your base layer clothing for optimal performance, comfort, and weight. BASE LAYERS Base layers have become a staple for practically all hunters and for good reason: Base layers give you more versatility in the backcountry, allowing you to shed layers as it warms up and add more as it cools down. They also provide essential warmth when it gets cooler. But what base layers are best? Merino wool or synthetics? Let’s take a look at the options. WHAT IS MERINO WOOL? Merino wool is wool that comes from merino sheep in New Zealand and is spun into finely threaded wool clothing. Merino wool is effective at regulating body temperature, keeping you cool on warm days and keeping you warm when it is cold. Merino wool is also naturally odor resistant because the bacterium that grows and causes odor is unable to grow in merino wool. This means that you can wear merino wool for days on end without producing any odor. Merino wool is also effective at wicking moisture away from the body, which keeps you dry and cool when it’s hot. Merino wool can be very scratchy, though, if the wool fibers are not produced at the finest level. When looking for merino wool, make sure that it has a fine thread count and is comfortable to wear. WHAT IS SYNTHETIC? Synthetics are materials like polyester, nylon, spandex and other fabrics. It’s known for being breathable and light (think Under Armour, your favorite gym shorts, etc.). Synthetic is great at wicking moisture and dries very, very quickly; however, it doesn’t block odor and starts to stink after a while. There is a saying, “Cotton kills and synthetic stinks.” Cotton does not dry out well so if you are wet and cold, hypothermia might be at your doorstep. Synthetic, on the other hand, allows bacteria to grow, which produces odors. Some synthetics are infused, wound, laced, or treated with antibacterial materials like Polygiene, silver, carbon, zeolite and others. These help reduce the buildup of odors (some do it very, very well), but, ultimately, it is still possible for these fabrics to develop an odor if used for days without washing. IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER? The answer: yes and no. Merino is better in some circumstances and synthetic is better in others. It really depends on your needs, hunt location, and hunt duration. You also need to consider whether you are backpacking in (so that weight is a key issue) or if you are camping where you can have more articles of clothing available. Will it be wet, cold, hot, dry, snowy, windy? Will you be doing more sitting and waiting or will you be doing a lot of hiking where you’ll be sweating more? These are all factors you need to consider when selecting merino or synthetic. When is merino better? Merino wool is excellent for layering when it is cold. Its ability to regulate temperature is key. When you layer a 125 gr or 145 gr merino and a 210 gr merino together, those two pieces alone can sustain you from 45 degrees all the way to 80 degrees. For some, this might be all you will need. Additionally, if you are going on a long hunt and do not have the option of packing multiple shirts or pairs of pants, then merino is your best choice because you can wear it for multiple days without odor building up. When is merino not ideal? Merino does not dry out well in very wet conditions. It can move moisture through its fibers well, but it doesn’t dry out completely if the surrounding environment is not dry. On rainy, humid hunts, merino might become cumbersome if it gets too wet and cannot dry out. Also, merino can snag because of its fine threading, which means it’s not best for hunting in an area with lots of thorny bushes. When is synthetic better? Synthetic, as stated before, is great at drying quickly, breathing well, and being very light. Synthetics can dry out in even the most humid of environments. If you are going on a shorter hunt, synthetic might be the ticket because it is lighter and wears very well. Due to the thin fabric, synthetics can keep you very cool when temperatures go into the 80s and 90s, but they can also be layered well to keep you warm when it cools off. Also, many synthetics are snag resistant. When is synthetic not ideal? When you are going on long hunts where the potential for odor buildup is high, synthetic is not what you want. This factor alone might cause you to steer clear of synthetics, but don’t let it make you forget about the benefits of this type of fabric. Watch A Video Comparison Of Synthetic Vs. Merino here https://youtu.be/e8NGWrplagA BASE LAYER WEIGHTS The great thing about base layers is that there is not a “one-size fits all” option. (This is a good thing, I promise). Base layers are available in weights from 120g to 300g and can be mixed and matched to create the perfect base layer combination for you. With a good next-to-skin layer (120g to 175g) and a good mid-layer (210g to 300g), you can weather temperatures ranging from just above freezing to nearly 100 degrees. This kind of versatility from only two pieces of clothing offers a great deal of flexibility that allows you to match your clothing to the environment.
46 | Hunting & Fishing News
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Published on Nov 8, 2017
The complete December 2017 issue. Montana's Top Late Hunts, The Toughest Birds and Where to Find Them, Winter Fly Fishing in Montana and mo...