RMEF Volunteers Donate $24 Million in Mission Value


MISSOULA, Mont.  In 2020, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteers contributed just shy of $24 million worth of value in donated time and labor to further RMEF’s mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. 

“Our volunteers are amazing and are the heart of RMEF. Day in and day out they truly represent who we are as an organization,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “At no time was that more evident than in 2020 when, despite facing a litany of challenges, they found creative and innovative ways to generate revenue for our mission. We thank them for their passion and dedication.” 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provided information to the Independent Sector which calculated the 2020 value of one volunteer hour as $27.20 

RMEF boasts a volunteer army numbering approximately 11,000 men, women and children from more than 500 chapters. They each average approximately 80 hours of service annually which equates to $23,936,000 of total conservation value for RMEF’s mission. 

In addition to hosting banquets, membership drives and other fundraising events, volunteers also improve elk country by pulling on their boots and rolling up their sleeves to remove old fencing, plant seedlings, construct and repair wildlife water guzzlers and carry out other habitat enhancement projectsIn addition, they mentor novice hunters and give of their time to provide education and support at camps, seminars and other outdoor-related hunting and conservation outreach events across the entire nation. 

April 19-25, 2021, marks National Volunteer Week. 

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: 

Founded more than 36 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 231,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 8.1 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK. 

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Say Cheese! Elk, Other Wildlife Caught on Camera


It’s a team effort and so far, it’s having a lot of success.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, the University of Montana and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation combined to install about 360 trail cameras in the rugged Black Hills and other parts of South Dakota. The goal of the two-year study is to acquire millions of visual assets to help researchers learn more about elk populations, movement and habitat use.

Biologists will then use that information to guide them in making future wildlife management decisions.

“We haven’t captured Sasquatch yet,” Andy Lindbloom, GFP senior big  game biologist, said during a recent GFP Commission meeting as reported by the Argus Leader. “But I know we will.”

RMEF funds went toward the purchase of additional cameras.

(Photo source: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks)

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Hunting Interest Soars in Montana, Elsewhere


If early season elk and deer permit applications are any indication, hunting participation in Montana remains strong and may even be more robust than in recent years.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued a recent news release announcing draw results for those who put in for 2021 special tags. In doing so, it stated hunters applied in record numbers including more than 82,384 residents and 16,650 nonresidents. That marks a 12.48 percent and 29.52 percent increase over last year, respectively.

That trend is a continuation from 2020 with increased hunting participation in Idaho, Washington, Michigan and many if not most other states across the nation. Recent research shows hunting participation experienced an eight percent increase by males in the first half of 2020 alone and a whopping 24 percent increase by females.

Looking at the bigger picture, due Covid-related concerns and a desire to create more of a connection with nature, Americans flocked to the outdoors. Yellowstone Park had 110 percent higher visitation in October 2020 than one year earlier. Colorado had 18.3 million visitors to its state parks in 2020, marking a 23 percent increase from 2019. Visitation to Pennsylvania state parks boomed by seven million and Great Smoky National Park had 2.3 million more visits between June and December than the ten-year average for the same time period.

(Photo source:  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)

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Web-based Tools Can Help Idaho Hunters with Controlled Hunt Applications


Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

As the months of May and June approach, many big game hunters find themselves doing research on which controlled hunts to apply for. Fish and Game has year’s-worth of data on their web page which are excellent resources available for hunters to use when researching controlled and general hunts.

Harvest Statistics

The harvest statistics web page is a great source of information for those who wish to maximize their chance of harvesting an animal by identifying which units have the highest harvest rates. The data comes from mandatory hunter reports provided by hunters who purchase big game tags in Idaho. This tool allows a hunter to sort the data by species, harvest year, weapon type, as well as the percentage of antlered bucks or bulls harvested with four or more antler points.

There is also an option to sort by how many days hunters reported being in the field, and even the total number of hunters that were out in the field for that hunt. These tools can help hunters find a hunt that meets personal preferences such as, average antler size, time out in the field, and even areas with less hunter density.

Controlled hunt odds

The drawing odds web page is similar in application to the harvest statistics page which gives hunters a historical perspective about their chances of drawing as a first choice hunt and a second choice hunt. This page has the exact number of hunters who put in an application for each controlled hunt, how many were successful, and what the over-all percentage of hunters who drew that tag. Non-resident data can also be found which identifies how many non-residents put in a controlled hunt application and the success rate of those applicants.

Hunters can apply for mule deer controlled hunts in May.

For example, in 2020, 203 hunters applied for a controlled antlered deer hunt that had 25 tags. Out of the 131 residents who applied, 23 were drawn, creating an 18% success rate. Nonresidents, similarly, had 75 applicants for this hunt with two successful applicants and a 3% success rate.

A reminder to hunters, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has limited non-resident big game tags to no more than 10% of the total number of controlled hunt permits available in a specific deer or elk controlled hunt.

The harvest statistics and controlled hunt odd webpages are incredibly useful tools available to hunters. While useful, they are often overlooked by big game hunters planning to hunt in Idaho. Hunters who have questions are encouraged to call their local fish and game office.

(Photo source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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Scientists Developing New CWD Test on Live Animals


A new study shows scientists are working on a way to better detect chronic wasting disease in deer, elk and moose. Instead of gathering lymph nodes samples from a rectal biopsy via a dead animal, researchers pinch off a small piece of an animal’s ear near the central nerve where prion activity is more available and active.

“We need to do more in the form of field testing to verify its utility,” Byron Caughey, chief of the TSE/Prion Biochemistry Section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Billings Gazette. “We hope this will be simpler and safer for the animal,”

Scientists took samples from the ears of 58 supposedly healthy deer taken by hunters in Colorado and found good success in determining CWD-positive samples from this method.

The goal is to better detect CWD in live animals the wild so wildlife managers can take more timely and appropriate action containing the spread of the disease.

(Photo source:  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)

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Nebraska Commission to Consider Elk, Deer and Antelope Hunting Recommendations


Below is a news release from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider recommendations for 2021 deer, antelope and elk hunting seasons when it meets April 20 in Kearney.

The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. in the North Loper Room of the Holiday Inn, 110 2nd Ave.

A public hearing is scheduled for proposed amendments to Commission orders pertaining to season dates, bag limits, permit quantities and areas open for deer, antelope and elk hunting.

Staff will recommend deer permit increases and additional bonus antlerless-only whitetail tags in several management units to stabilize populations. For antelope management units, it will be recommended that 39 either-sex permits and 390 doe/fawn permits be added. To reduce elk populations in many elk management units, an additional 78 bull elk and 267 antlerless elk permits will be recommended.

The commissioners also will hear staff updates on shooting range development across the state, fisheries research at Harlan County Reservoir, water policy, and the National Archery in the Schools Program. They also will hear a law enforcement staffing plan and an environmental report.

(Photo source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

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Hunters Assist Wyoming Brucellosis Monitoring Efforts


Below is a news release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Elk hunters stepped up in 2020 to help the Wyoming Game and Fish Department with brucellosis research. Elk hunters submitted 1,130 blood samples from the bulls, cows and calf harvested this season to help Game and Fish monitor the disease. As a thank-you to hunters who submitted blood samples and other information from targeted areas, each complete submission was entered into a raffle to win high-quality outdoor equipment. Game and Fish is happy to announce the winners of the 2020 brucellosis monitoring raffle.

The winners of the gear prizes are:

  • Red Brickman, Iowa: 6.5 Creedmoor Weatherby Weathermark bolt-action rifle donated by the Sportsman’s Group Wyoming, Gillette; Vortex 6.5-20×50 rifle scope donated by Vortex Optics; and Sig Sauer Oscar8 27-55×80 spotting scope donated by Sig Sauer
  • Randy Day, Wyoming: 6.5 Creedmoor Weatherby Weathermark bolt-action rifle donated by the Sportsman’s Group Wyoming, Gillette
  • Tanner Eastman, Wyoming: 6.5 Creedmoor Browning X-Bolt bolt-action rifle donated by the Wyoming and Cody Chapters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Sam Stephens, Wyoming: Maven C.3 10×50 binoculars donated by Maven and the Wyoming chapter of The Wildlife Society

Winners of the Game and Fish sweatshirt and hat combo are:

  • Calvin Jones, California
  • Kaio Uhing, Nebraska
  • Dan White, Wyoming
  • Jeff Sandvik, Wyoming
  • Joshua Fink, Wyoming
  • Brian Pardue, Oregon

Game and Fish has seen an increase each year in the proportion of samples returned by successful hunters since the raffle began.

“We’re glad to encourage hunters to submit blood samples to help Game and Fish monitor brucellosis in Wyoming,” said Eric Maichak, Game and Fish disease biologist. “Thank you to our generous sponsors who provided the prizes and to each hunter who submitted a sample. You truly make a difference for the health of wildlife.”

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease found in elk and bison throughout the area surrounding Yellowstone in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. A state/federal eradication program has almost eliminated the disease in cattle, but infected elk and bison pose a continuing threat.

“Voluntary hunter participation is fundamental for the program’s success, and Game and Fish appreciates hunter efforts to submit samples,” Maichak said.

(Photo source: Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

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Oregon Controlled Burns Address Wildfire Risk, Wildlife Habitat


Seeking to reduce the possibility of catastrophic wildfire, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) plans a series of prescribed burns across several counties in the northeast part of the state. ODF will use grant funding from the Oregon Legislative Emergency Board in combination with cooperation from other partners, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“The funds from the Emergency Board provide the state with an incredible opportunity to bring together public and private groups to complete some critical fuels mitigation work in advance of the 2021 fire season,” Peter Daugherty, Oregon state forester, told the Capital Press. “This is shared stewardship in action. When we work together, we can treat more acres across ownership boundaries and have a greater impact on fire resiliency in communities and forests throughout the state.”

In addition to improving overall forest health, prescribed burns enhance habitat for elk and other wildlife.

Oregon’s 2020 wildfires scorched more than 1,000,000 acres, killed at least 11 people, triggered evacuations and destroyed thousands of homes. Catastrophic fires also decimate soil structure, preventing regrowth and the reproduction of native grass and other vegetation.

(Photo source:  Eric Knapp/U.S. Forest Service)

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National Initiative Focuses on Conservation Funding


It’s called ‘Partner With A Payer, a national initiative that sheds much-needed light on the vital link between manufactures, hunters and anglers, state agencies and how that partnership pays for wildlife management, habitat and conservation in America.

Excise taxes on guns, ammunition and archery equipment generated by the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 combine with excise taxes on fishing equipment, boat engines and fuel from the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 to provide more than $1 billion a year to support fish and wildlife.

The website includes a small section on wildlife management, specifically elk in West Virginia.

“In the 1870s, West Virginia’s last native elk disappeared, but in 2015 the state’s Division of Natural Resources reintroduced the species, using more than $6 million from excise taxes to conserve a 10,852-acre property for elk habitat and to research, tag and transplant the animals. Elk are just one of 500 mammals and birds studied and managed with Wildlife Restoration funds.”

RMEF provided funding and volunteer manpower to help with the successful restoration of elk to their historic West Virginia range.

Go here for more information.

(Photo source:  Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

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How to Help Girls and Boys Become Hunters, Anglers


Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

As the weather warms and fishing and hunting seasons approach, many families are looking to get their young hunters and anglers ready for a year of hunting and fishing adventures. Fish and Game is committed to ensuring that Idaho’s youth are offered many opportunities to grow as hunters and anglers. The first step is having the correct licenses and permits before venturing out in the field, and knowing what training is required for hunting and trapping.

Depending on their age, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what licenses are necessary for young hunters or anglers to possess for each activity. To minimize this yearly confusion, this guide has been developed to answer frequently asked questions about how and when to get the youth in your family ready for a year of outdoor adventures.

To prove residency, non-drivers under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian provide proof of residency to purchase resident products.

Youth fishing

Youth who are residents of Idaho 13 years of age and under do not need a license to fish. However, they are still held to the same daily and possession limits and fishing rules as an adult. When fishing for salmon or steelhead, a permit is not necessary unless the youth wants to catch and keep their own limit, otherwise the salmon/steelhead they possess is counted on the supervising angler’s permit.

Resident youth between the ages of 14 and 17 are required to obtain a junior license to fish. This license can either be a one- or three-year license.

Junior fishing license holders are required to purchase their own salmon or steelhead permit.

All anglers, no matter their age, are required to purchase a two-pole permit if they choose to fish using two poles.

Youth big game hunting

Anyone over 8 years of age is eligible to purchase a Hunting Passport prior to taking a certified hunter education class. Idaho’s Hunting Passport is part of Fish and Game’s mentored hunting program, allowing any first-time hunter, resident or nonresident, to try hunting for one year with an adult mentor without first having to complete an Idaho hunter education course. A person on a passport (regardless of age) may buy tags, but is not eligible to submit an application for any controlled hunt tags.

Idaho youth who are residents between the ages of 10 to 17, after successfully completing an Idaho hunter education class can hunt big game with a “junior” license and a general big game over-the-counter tag for deer and elk. Youth with a junior license are eligible to submit an application for a controlled hunt.

Archery and muzzleloader permits are necessary for all youth hunters when participating in an archery- only or muzzleloader-only hunt. If the hunt is specified as short range only, neither permit is necessary to use a bow or muzzleloader.

Youth hunters do not need a bear bait permit to hunt over another person’s bait, however they must obtain a bear baiting permit if they intend to place and remove bait from a site.

Youth wanting to hunt mountain lions must have a valid hunting license and a valid hound hunter permit when hunting over dogs. Regardless of whether the child is handling or just hunting alongside dogs, this permit is required. The only exception to this rule is if the hunter (regardless of age) is with an outfitter with a valid hound hunter permit.

Youth turkey hunting

Youth ages 8-9, and older, may purchase a turkey tag with a Hunting Passport. Youth ages 10-17 with a junior license can buy a turkey tag and may also apply for youth-only controlled turkey hunts.

Youth small game and waterfowl hunting

Waterfowl can be harvested by anyone using a hunting passport, or youth who have a  junior hunting license.

Migratory Bird (HIP) permit is required for all waterfowl, sandhill crane, and mourning dove hunters. A Federal Migratory Bird (Duck) Stamp is also required for any waterfowl hunters ages 16 or older.

Sage/sharp-tailed grouse permits are required for all hunters to harvest sage or sharp-tailed grouse.

An upland game permit is not required for hunters 17 years of age or younger. This permit is only required when the hunter is 18 years of age or older when hunting for birds that have been stocked by Fish and Game on certain properties across the state. A list of stocking locations can be found on Fish and Game’s pheasant hunting webpage.

Youth trapping

A trapping license is required for anyone to trap wildlife in Idaho. A junior trapping license is available to any youth under 17 years of age who has completed trapper education. Anyone who has not held an Idaho trapping license prior to July 2011 is required to take trapper education before purchasing a trapping license.

Contact your local Fish and Game office if you have questions about licensing requirements for any aged hunter or angler.

(Photo source: Seirra Mcneil/ Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

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