RMEF Lauds Its ‘Driving Force’ During Volunteer Week

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/rmef-lauds-its-driving-force-during-volunteer-week/

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation honors and celebrates its dedicated volunteers for efforts to advance its mission during National Volunteer Week.  

“From our chapter committee members to those who give of their time at work projects to our board members, RMEF volunteers are the driving force that advance our mission,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “Without them, we cannot do what we do to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.” 

“Dating back to the earliest of RMEF’s days, people from all walks of life recognized and valued this hunter-backed conservation group, so they donated their time, talents and efforts to support and sustain it. That dedication by thousands of volunteers continues today,” said Fred Lekse, RMEF Board of Directors chair. 

During RMEF’s first-ever fundraising season (fall 1985 through spring 1986), volunteers hosted seven big game banquets that generated about $30,000. Since then, some four decades later, volunteers have raised millions upon millions of dollars to put on the ground to enhance, conserve and open public access to wildlife habitat, support wildlife management and promote hunting heritage. 

Lifetime accomplishments: 

  • 9 million acres conserved or enhanced
  • 59 million acres of opened/improved public access
  • 14,295 conservation & hunting heritage outreach projects
  • $1.6 billion in total conservation value
  • Elk population growth from 550,000 in 1984 to 1.1 million today

Click here to become a volunteer and here to see a listing of upcoming RMEF banquets and other events.  

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:  

Founded in 1984 and fueled by hunters, RMEF has conserved more than 8.9 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. 

The post RMEF Lauds Its ‘Driving Force’ During Volunteer Week appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Wisconsin Expands Elk Hunting Season, 2024 Application Period Opens

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/wisconsin-expands-elk-hunting-season-2024-application-period-opens/

Below is a news release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation helped with the initial 1995 restoration in Clam Lake Range and the Black River Range in 2015.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that the application period for the 2024 elk hunt is now open through May 31. New this year, the Black River Elk Range will be open to hunting for the first time since elk were reintroduced to the state.

Once widespread, elk were eliminated from Wisconsin in the 1880s due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss.

Reintroduction efforts began in 1995 by releasing 25 elk into the Clam Lake Elk Range, and a second herd was established in the Black River Elk Range in 2015. The state elk population is projected to reach over 500 animals after this year’s calving season, 180 of which belong to the Black River Herd.

Due to this new opportunity, applicants are required to select between the Black River Elk Range or Clam Lake Elk Range when applying.

Wisconsin residents can purchase an elk license application online through the Go Wild license portal or in person at a license sales agent. The application fee is $10 and is limited to one per person. The DNR recommends that all applicants check and update their contact information to ensure contact with successful applicants.

For each application fee, $7 applies directly to elk management, monitoring and research. These funds are also used to enhance elk habitat, which benefits elk and other wildlife.

If selected in the drawing, an elk hunting license costs $49. Winners will be notified by early June. Wisconsin residents can only draw an elk tag once in their lifetime.

Before obtaining an elk hunting license, all winners must participate in a Wisconsin elk hunter education course. The class covers Wisconsin elk history, hunting regulations, biology, behavior and scouting/hunting techniques.

This year’s elk quotas for the Black River and Clam Lake Elk Ranges will be presented to the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board as an informational item later this spring.

(Photo credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)

The post Wisconsin Expands Elk Hunting Season, 2024 Application Period Opens appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Watch: BOSH Project Improves Wildlife Habitat

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/watch-bosh-project-improves-wildlife-habitat/

A new video shines a light on a massive landscape-scale habitat stewardship project in southwest Idaho, long supported by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other partners.

The Bruneau-Owyhee Sage Grouse Habitat or BOSH Project aims to remove select juniper trees across hundreds of thousands of acres to greatly enhance sagebrush habitat for sage-grouse, pronghorn antelope, elk, other wildlife and plant species as well as livestock grazing.

In recent decades, western juniper, historically scattered in nature, escalated to compete with sage-steppe vegetation for water, nutrients, space and sunlight, while also altering the natural wildfire cycle. Wildfire is a primary threat to sage-grouse habitat.

The project involves contract crews cutting down juniper trees, and then cutting the branches on the downed trees so that no branches stand more than four feet above the ground. This reduces potential impacts to sage-grouse by preventing the downed trees from acting as perches for predatory birds. Timing restrictions are used to minimize impacts to sage-grouse and other wildlife species.

The public is also welcome to cut juniper trees within the project area as firewood.

RMEF supplied funding for the BOSH Project dating back to 2019.

(Photo credit: Idaho Rangeland Resources Commission)

The post Watch: BOSH Project Improves Wildlife Habitat appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

RMEF Lauded for Conservation Work in Arkansas

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/rmef-lauded-for-conservation-work-in-arkansas/

Below is part of a news release from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).

Wes Wright, AGFC elk program coordinator, updated the Commission on the 2023 elk harvest and subsequent elk population monitoring efforts.

According to Wright, 27 elk were harvested during the 2023 hunting season. Twenty-three came from Searcy County, three from Newton County and one elk was harvested in Boone County. No elk were harvested from outside the Core Elk Management Zone.

Wright said 18 bulls were taken by hunters and nine antlerless elk were harvested. As with most years, hunters pursuing bulls were much more avid in their efforts, while those who drew antlerless elk tags tended to not fill their tag as often.

Overall, the harvest has returned to roughly the same level as it was immediately preceding the discovery of chronic wasting disease in the state.

“We increased limits to reduce the population when CWD was discovered,” Wright said. “Now we’re at a point where we should return to more conservative harvest practices like we had last year to conserve the resource.”

Wright also briefed commissioners on improvements to Lick Mountain, which was acquired by the AGFC in 2017 and was under a conservation easement with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation from previous landowners. The 311-acre property has seen extensive management with the help of an additional 20 acres of wildlife food plots, 3 miles of fire line restoration and prescribed fire implementation to reduce invasive vegetation.

Wright highlighted the importance of the RMEF, which also contributed $25,000 to the habitat work.

“It’s kind of a showcase of what we can do through partnerships,” Wright said.

Since 1992 the RMEF has contributed more than $5.4 million toward the completion of 110 projects, enhancing more than 80,000 acres of habitat and 514 acres of public access in The Natural State.

The Commission also recognized AGFC Deputy Director Brad Carner, who announced Luke Naylor, AGFC wildlife management division chief, and Jason “Buck” Jackson, AGFC wetlands program coordinator, as the recipients of the Ducks Unlimited Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award for their leadership in wetland planning, restoration and habitat management for the benefit of waterfowl and waterfowl hunters on a national and international level.

(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

The post RMEF Lauded for Conservation Work in Arkansas appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Record $4.8 Million Raised for Utah Habitat Restoration, Other Wildlife Projects

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/record-4-8-million-raised-for-utah-habitat-restoration-other-wildlife-projects/

Below is a news release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is one of the conservation groups that helped fund the projects.

Dozens of projects benefiting wildlife — including wildlife research, conservation and habitat restoration projects — have been funded after a record $4.8 million was committed to the projects by participating conservation groups during the annual conservation permit project funding meeting held on April 10.

The Utah Conservation Permit Program was launched in 1980 in an effort to increase funding for conservation projects for fish and wildlife throughout Utah. Each year, the Utah Wildlife Board designates a small percentage of limited-entry and once-in-a-lifetime hunting permits as “conservation and expo permits.”

Conservation projects

Many of the conservation projects that are funded by these special permits are proposed to Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, a Utah Department of Natural Resources partnership-based program launched in 2006. The WRI focuses on improving watershed health and biological diversity, increasing water quality and yield, improving wildlife habitat, and increasing opportunities for sustainable uses of natural resources. Over 148,000 acres across Utah were improved through WRI habitat projects in 2022–23.

Proposals for the projects are due around the first week of January each year. After reviewing all of the proposals, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and WRI committees decide which habitat and conservation projects are of the highest priority. They then give the conservation groups an opportunity to review these projects, and the groups determine during the annual meeting which projects to assign funds to. The annual funding meeting has been taking place since 2008.

“These projects help improve wildlife habitat and watershed health throughout the state, which helps our fish and wildlife populations in these areas,” Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative Program Director Tyler Thompson said. “These projects are crucial, and the conservation permits and funds help make them possible.”

During the April 10 meeting, DWR biologists presented 105 projects, 88 of which were then partially or fully funded by the conservation groups in attendance. The groups assessed the individual projects’ goals, benefits and costs, and then selected the projects they wanted to support. A total of 103,276 acres of fish and wildlife habitat will be improved as a result of the projects.

The funded projects will benefit wildlife in several ways, including:

  • Protecting and improving critical winter and summer ranges for deer and elk, particularly in sagebrush and aspen ecosystems.
  • Helping the DWR better understand movements and migration routes of big game and other species in Utah so they can build wildlife crossings and improve habitat in crucial areas.
  • Monitoring survival rates and condition of adult deer does and fawns to help the DWR better understand the status and trends in deer populations throughout Utah.
  • Increasing resistance to uncharacteristically large and severe wildfires.
  • Addressing impacts of developments (roads, fencing, etc.) on wildlife migration corridors.

The projects that received the highest funding from the meeting were:

Burnt Beaver Project: This is an ongoing landscape project on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Summit County aimed at reducing the risk of severe wildfire through decreased hazardous fuel loads, improving wildlife habitat and restoring aspen trees on roughly 861 acres. This project received $287,500 in funding.

Twelve-Mile Watershed Restoration Project: This project is located on the Twelve-Mile Wildlife Management Area in Sanpete County. In the past, this area has experienced large mudslides, and this project will improve big game summer and winter range habitats, reduce wildfire risks, stabilize the soil, and improve the water quantity and quality. This project received $260,000 in funding.

North Zone Aspen Restoration: This project will restore aspen tree communities by removing conifer trees located within the aspen stands on roughly 1,200 acres in the Swan Flat area of the Logan Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This project received $160,000 in funding.

“We are really grateful for the support of our conservation partners who believe in wildlife conservation and want to help improve wildlife populations and habitats in Utah,” DWR Habitat Conservation Coordinator Daniel Eddington said.

Most of these habitat projects take multiple years to plan and complete. Funds for these projects become available July 1, with much of the seeding and restoration work being conducted in the fall, during prime planting season.

Conservation permits

The conservation permits are offered to conservation and sportsmen’s groups who then auction them at banquets, fundraisers and other events. The conservation groups provide 90% of the money raised from these permit sales toward conservation and research projects like habitat enhancement, wildlife transplants, aerial surveys and deer survival studies. The remaining 10% of the proceeds are retained by the conservation groups to help cover administrative costs.

Expo permits

The expo permits are not auctioned, but rather, are offered once each year through a drawing held at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City. Utahns and nonresidents who attend the expo can apply for these permits. There is a $5 application fee and part of that fee goes to the conservation groups hosting the expo to help pay for costs associated with hosting and running the permit drawing. The remaining portion of the application fee is used for conservation efforts.

How do these permits benefit Utah hunters?

Since 2001, conservation permits have generated more than $80 million for conservation work in Utah. If not for the revenue from these permits, the DWR and its partners would have much less funding to complete high-priority wildlife conservation projects. The conservation and expo permit funding has led to the enhancement of thousands of acres of crucial habitats and the completion of important research to help the DWR better manage big game populations.

The conservation groups that participated in the meeting and helped fund the conservation projects include:

  • Mule Deer Foundation
  • Utah Wild Sheep Foundation
  • National Wild Turkey Federation
  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Safari Club International
  • Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife
  • Utah Archery Association
  • Wildlife Conservation Foundation
  • Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit Association

(Photo credit: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

The post Record $4.8 Million Raised for Utah Habitat Restoration, Other Wildlife Projects appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Oregon Elk Hunter Catches Rare Fish, Could Be World Record

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/oregon-elk-hunter-catches-rare-fish-could-be-world-record/

Below is a news release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

April Fool’s Day was no joke for Oregon angler Rebecca Jones when she caught a monkeyface prickleback weighing 4.8 pounds and 28 inches long, potentially the new world record.

Jones dug sand shrimp early Monday morning then headed to Barview Jetty near Garibaldi hoping to catch rockfish for dinner. Instead, she hauled in an eel-like fish she’d never seen before, the monkeyface prickleback.

“I’m relatively new to fishing and was losing bait off my line, but I kept at it. Within an hour of fishing, I felt another hit. It wasn’t a hard fight, the fish came right up,” Jones said. “But it was a very strong fish though, I had to sit on it to get the hook out.”

Once Jones realized what she caught, she weighed and measured the fish, knowing this was a keeper and a potential record fish. She is applying to the International Game Fish Association to see if her catch could be a new record. The current world record monkeyface prickleback is three pounds four ounces, caught in Yaquina Bay in 2008.

Often called monkeyface eels because of their eel-like bodies, they are a species of prickleback fish that live in Oregon’s rocky shores within a small (15 feet) home range. More common along southern Oregon shores, anglers have reported catching them along the central and north coasts over the last 20 years. These hardy fish can survive out of the water for at least 35 hours.

Jones began fishing and hunting a few years ago, learning some basics from friends but is mostly self-taught. She watches hunting and fishing videos, reads books, magazines and the Oregon sport fishing and hunting regulations cover to cover.

“I’m passionate about fishing, hunting, crabbing, and clamming. And encouraging women to have and use these skills to pass on to the next generation. Taking advantage of the opportunities Oregon offers gives you self-confidence and self-efficiency,” Jones said.

Jones mostly hunts and fishes alone. She keeps safety at the forefront letting friends and family know where she’s going and when to expect her to return, learned compass and map reading skills, uses GPS, and won’t take a shot at animals she knows she can’t safely get to.

She’s been hunting deer, elk, and bear for three years. This year, she’s trying her skills at spring turkey season. Living in Tillamook, Jones takes advantage of trout fishing and ocean fishing, landing ocean salmon, rockfish, and Dungeness crab.

(Photo credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

The post Oregon Elk Hunter Catches Rare Fish, Could Be World Record appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Missouri Seeks Comment on Future Antlerless Elk Hunt

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/missouri-seeks-comment-on-future-antlerless-elk-hunt/

Below is a news release from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation supplied funding and volunteer support for the successful restoration of elk to Missouri in 2011 and subsequent support since then.

After several years of successful antlered elk hunting seasons for Missouri residents, the Missouri Department to Conservation (MDC) is considering adding a limited antlerless elk hunting season for residents and wants public input.

MDC reintroduced wild elk in portions of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties in the Missouri Ozarks about a decade ago. According to MDC Elk and Deer Biologist Aaron Hildreth, those elk numbers continue to grow and may soon be able to allow the harvest of a small number of antlerless elk.

“Since the elk reintroduction was completed, we’ve watched elk numbers steadily increase,” Hildreth said. “We are approaching the time where we can support hunting a limited number of antlerless elk in addition to the limited number of antlered elk.”

Hildreth explained that MDC’s population goal for elk in Missouri is to get to about 500 animals and to use hunting to manage herd size and keep them limited to Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties. He added that the herd is currently estimated to be around 320 animals before calving begins this year.

SEASON DETAILS

To keep elk-hunting regulations as simple as possible, MDC is proposing that many aspects of antlerless-elk hunting mirror antlered-elk hunting, which has been occurring since 2020.

As with antlered-elk hunting, antlerless-elk hunting would be limited to Missouri residents who would be at least 11 years of age by the first day of the hunt for which they are applying. The application fee of $10 and permit cost of $50 would be the same for antlerless and antlered elk and all permits would be assigned through a random drawing. All permits would be allowed to be used in Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties, except the refuge portion of Peck Ranch Conservation Area. Permits would be valid for both an archery portion and a firearms portion, as with antlered elk permits. Season dates, landowner opportunities, methods of take, and other details would also be like antlered-elk hunting.

MDC has not determined the number of permits that will be issued or confirmed a year to begin offering them. The recommended number of permits will be determined though annual staff surveys of elk numbers to monitor population growth. MDC currently designates five hunting permits for antlered elk.

Watch a video on potential future antlerless-elk harvest at youtu.be/_4G-jNAD-3U.

SHARE COMMENTS

MDC is seeking input on future antlerless elk hunting opportunities and welcomes public comments at mdc.mo.gov/antlerlesselkcomments through April 28. Individuals who have applied for antlered-elk permits in past years will be emailed a survey for their comments on antlerless-elk hunting and do not need to provide comments through the webpage.

“Input received during the comment period will be used by MDC staff to help finalize a proposed antlerless elk hunting framework that would be presented to the Conservation Commission at its Sept. 6 meeting for consideration,” said Hildreth. “The Commission would first need to approve the hunting framework prior to any permit quota recommendations. We would then make recommendations to the Commission early in the new year on elk permit numbers for the upcoming fall season.”

MORE ELK INFO

Once common throughout most of Missouri, elk disappeared from the state about 150 years ago due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss. MDC reintroduced elk to portions of Carter, Reynolds, and Shannon counties about 10 years ago.

Learn more about elk and elk hunting in Missouri at mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/elk.

Learn more about the Missouri Elk Management Plan at mdc.mo.gov/wildlife/mdc-management-plans/elk-hunting-management.

(Photo credit: Missouri Department of Conservation)

The post Missouri Seeks Comment on Future Antlerless Elk Hunt appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Man Convicted of Poaching Two Elk in Tennessee

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/man-convicted-of-poaching-two-elk-in-tennessee/

Below is a Facebook post from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. For 2024-2025, Fiocchi partnered with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to increase the visibility of poaching incidents in an effort to reduce poaching. 

A man from Jacksboro who was charged with illegally killing two elk on North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (NCWMA) last November, entered a plea agreement in court last week.

In a plea agreement, Preston William Douglas, 34, of Jacksboro, appeared in Campbell County General Sessions Court on April 4 and was found guilty on two counts of illegally taking big game. Douglas had his hunting license revoked for five years, is banned from NCWMA for three years, and was put on supervised probation for three years. He forfeited a rifle and a handgun and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution, plus fines and court costs.

Just before 9 a.m. on November 19, 2023, Wildlife Manager Darrell England was contacted by an informant who reported that he had heard multiple shots while deer hunting on NCWMA. The informant went to investigate and spoke with another hunter who said he had shot two “deer,” one being a doe and the other a six-point buck. The limit for deer on NCWMA at the time was one per person.

Using vehicle tag information, England identified Douglas and he and Wildlife Sgt. Dustin Burke visited him at his home the following day where he admitted to firing shots, but claimed he didn’t kill anything. The officers returned to NCWMA and searched the area where Douglas had been parked but were unable to locate any evidence. England then spoke with the informant again and decided to revisit the scene with Burke where they discovered the decomposing carcasses of a bull and a cow elk, both with bullet wounds to the bodies and heads.

Both carcasses were removed from the woods and were taken to UT College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy. Further investigation over the following days produced shell casings from a .40 caliber handgun and a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle, as well as a bullet inside a gut pile. The officers also located one unspent rifle cartridge from a 6.5 Creedmoor.

The officers met with Douglas again who gave a full confession of hunting, killing, and not retrieving both animals. He was charged with two violations each of hunting and killing big game in closed season, illegally taking big game, tagging violations, and failure to retrieve big game. The officers also seized a 6.5 Creedmoor rifle and a .40 caliber handgun.

Since the reintroduction of elk into Tennessee in the year 2000, TWRA is aware of 14 cases where elk have been poached. To date, eight of those cases have been solved. Elk hunting in Tennessee is only legal for a limited number of participants through the annual quota hunt system. Anyone with information about poaching in Tennessee is encouraged to call the poaching hotline at 1-800-831-1174.

(Photo credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)

The post Man Convicted of Poaching Two Elk in Tennessee appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Five Elk Shot, Left to Waste in Idaho

https://www.rmef.org/elk-network/five-elk-shot-left-to-waste-in-idaho/

Below is a news release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. For 2024-2025, Fiocchi partnered with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to increase the visibility of poaching incidents in an effort to reduce poaching. 

In early March, conservation officers in Southwest Idaho discovered five elk that were shot out of season and left to waste in two incidents in Unit 39 and are asking the public for information about these two cases.

At the first location, officers found three cow elk that had been shot and left on the north side of Arrowrock Reservoir’s South Fork arm, below the Neal Bridge and near the mouth of Camp Creek.

One of the three cow elk that were shot out of season and left to waste in Unit 39. Officers believe the elk were shot around March 4-5.

At the second location, they discovered two bulls—a five- and a six-point—that had been shot and left near the Forest Service’s Spur 121S access site on South Fork Boise Road. Officers determined that one of the bulls had been moved a short distance and that someone had attempted to hide it under a pile of brush.

Officers believe that in both incidents, the elk were shot sometime around March 4-5.

“Given that the two roads where these incidents occurred are connected, there is a chance that these two incidents are related,” said Greg Milner, conservation officer.

If anyone has information about these incidents, please call the Nampa Regional Office at 208-465-8465, or the Citizen’s Against Poaching Hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Callers can remain anonymous when reporting wildlife violations and may be eligible for cash rewards when that information leads to a citation for a wildlife crime.

(Photo credit: Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

The post Five Elk Shot, Left to Waste in Idaho appeared first on Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.