Benefits for hunting outfitters snuck into FWP bill headed for Gianforte’s desk



At the end of the session, the Legislature passed a bill that had language inserted at the last minute that basically guarantees hunting outfitters more nonresident hunting clients. Other bills carrying the same language died in committee.

On Thursday, House Bill 637 was on its way to the governor’s desk after the House and Senate voted to pass subsequent amendments on mostly party-line votes on the last day of the session.

Sportsmen’s groups including the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Montana Wildlife Federation are telling their members to ask Gov. Greg Gianforte to veto the bill, partly due language added Tuesday that is a handout to hunting outfitters.

It would give thousands of big game licenses – elk and deer – to nonresidents who agree to hunt with an outfitter, thus exceeding the limit of 17,000 nonresidents allowed to hunt in Montana. It also gives extra preference points for future license drawings to any nonresident who hunts with an outfitter.

Both actions encourage nonresidents to hunt preferentially with outfitters.

These are similar to changes that sportsmen opposed in Senate Bill 143 and House Bill 505. Dozens of sportsmen spoke in opposition to both bills and both were eventually tabled in committee.

On Wednesday, the Montana Wildlife Federation issued a statement saying, “Public hunters made it clear this session that everybody should have an equal opportunity to hunt in Montana, and this provision is just another attempt to put outfitted clients at the front of the line.”

In mid-march, HB 637, sponsored by Seth Berlee, R-Joliet, started as a “clean-up” bill clarifying several definitions and requirements of Fish, Wildlife & Parks regulations, such as who needed nonresident bear and mountain lion licenses, when boats could be used in hunting and reclassifying wolves as furbearers.

Many sportsmen had issues with the bill to begin with, because it did little to preserve Montana’s wildlife resources. For instance, it increased the number of nonresident mountain lion licenses while allowing nonresident large landowners or their guests to hunt lions without a license to use dogs.

Still, the bill flew through the House even though a fiscal note estimated FWP would lose a half-million dollars a year due to fewer nonresidents being required to buy licenses.

The bill was amended in the Senate, adding a section that would increase payments to landowners participating in FWP’s Block Management program.

By the time the Senate sent the amended bill back to the House on April 26, it was getting late in the game. Legislators were already talking about making “Sine die” motions to end the session as the budget got closer to being finished.

After the House voted against the bill as amended, House Speaker Rep. Wylie Galt, R-Martinsdale, sent the bill into a special conference on Monday. When the conference committee returned the bill to the House on Tuesday, the outfitter big game licenses were suddenly part of the bill.

Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, tried to call attention to the change.

“This is being introduced on maybe the 2nd to last day of the legislature… Senate Bill 143 got tremendous interest,” Flowers said Tuesday on the Senate Floor. “To add this on as a simple amendment to what was a quote ‘agency clean up bill’ is disingenuous and does a disservice to sportsmen and women who don’t know this is happening.”

The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had already opposed HB 637 because it allowed hunters to pursue black bears and mountain lions on the same day they purchase their tags, setting up an opportunity for less reputable hunters to shoot first and tag later.

Because wildlife is part of the public trust that FWP should manage for future generations, BHA opposed allowing nonresident landowners to hunt lions and bears on their property without a license.

But the outfitter license giveaway was the last straw for sportsmen, according to a BHA website post.

“Both chambers, in record time, passed 2nd and 3rd readings last night- all within the same day as the bill taking an entirely new form, and all without public comment or a public hearing with public testimony. The NO votes deserve our thanks; the YES votes have some explaining to do,” the post said.

26 Grizzlies Captured, 18 Euthanized in Wyoming Last Year

26 Grizzlies Captured, 18 Euthanized in Wyoming Last Year


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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department captured 26 grizzly bears and euthanized 18 of them throughout 2020.

The department detailed the capture of the bears in its annual report on bear captures, relocations and removals in northwest Wyoming.

Over 2020, the department captured 26 bears in 27 different events (one bear was captured twice) in an attempt to prevent or resolve conflicts. Of the 26 bears capture, 18 were male and eight were female.

Over the year, 13 captures were a result of a bear killing livestock (primarily cattle) and the other 13 were related to bears obtaining food rewards or frequenting developed sites, the report said.×250&!2&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=LJLGGNpd0W&p=https%3A//

Of the captures, 15 took place in Park County, more than half. Five were in Sublette County, three were in Fremont County and two each were in Hot Springs and Teton counties.

The nine bears that were relocated were released on U.S. Forest Service lands in Park, Teton and Fremont counties, according to the report.

One bear was captured twice. The grizzly was captured first in July in Teton County and moved to Park County. After being captured a second time in Park county in August, the bear was euthanized, in part because of its aggressive behavior.

Bears are euthanized if they have a history of conflicts with humans, a known association with humans or they are deemed unsuitable to live in the wild.

The report detailed all 27 of the captures, which began in April and wrapped up in November.

According to a previous report July 27 to Aug. 21, six different grizzlies were captured southeast of the Moran Junction, with five of them being collared.

Information from the collared grizzlies provides data on survival, reproduction, distribution, habitat use and movements of the population.

Each summer, Game and Fish Department biologists and other researchers conduct grizzly bear observation flights to document grizzly numbers, distribution and reproduction. These observation flights have been conducted in the greater Yellowstone area since the 1990s.

This article was first published by The Cowboy State Daily on 16 February 2021.

Game and Fish program provided 2.6 million acres of hunting access in 2020


By Aaron BrownPublished: Mar. 8, 2021 at 9:47 PM PST|Updated: 14 hours ago

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) – A Wyoming Game and Fish Department program that works with landowners to secure permission for the public to access private lands for hunting and fishing saw another year of success. In 2020, Access Yes opened access to more than 2.6 million acres of land for hunting as well as 4,005 lake acres and 87 stream miles for fishing on otherwise inaccessible private, state and landlocked public lands. 

“Access to places to hunt and fish has never been more highly-valued than today,”  said Rick King, chief of the Game and Fish’s wildlife division. “Maintaining and expanding access for hunting and fishing is a top priority for Game and Fish for recreation and to meet wildlife management objectives.”

Revenue for Access Yes comes from the sale of lifetime and annual conservation stamps, court-imposed restitution fees from individuals convicted of wildlife violations and Access Yes account interest. The program also benefits from donations from organizations and individual hunters and anglers —  about 21% of the revenue is from donations. Combined, these sources generated $1.17 million for the program last year. 

Access Yes coordinators collaborate with landowners to enroll them into one of the Game and Fish access programs: hunter management areas, walk-in hunting areas and/or walk-in fishing areas. Donations from hunters, anglers and conservation groups are used to make easement payments to landowners for hunting and fishing access. ADVERTISEMENT

“Thank you to landowners for their partnership to make these access opportunities possible,” King said. “We also extend our thanks to hunters and anglers for donating to Access Yes when buying a license and to our partners for their continued donations to support the program. Each dollar donated equates to 2.8 acres of access.”

To learn more about Access Yes lands open to hunting and fishing, read the 2020 report and visit the Game and Fish Public Access page. Anyone can donate to Access Yes when buying and applying for their 2021 license to continue to support opening more places to hunt and fish in Wyoming.

Game and Fish proposes reduced wolf hunt quota

PINEDALE – One of the anticipated changes to this year’s hunting season regulations will be the trophy-game gray wolf quota set by Wyoming Game and Fish each year.

This year, with most trophy wolf hunt areas opening on Sept. 1, Game and Fish is proposing a lower harvest of 34, compared to the quota of 58 set in 2018. The proposed wolf hunts as well as changes in furbearing, falconry, firearm cartridges, archery and mountain lions regulations will be discussed and are open for comment through June 17.

The proposed 2019 wolf quota appears conservative, with some quotas almost halved from 2018, but large carnivore biologist Ken Mills of Pinedale said the end-of-year objective remains at about 160 wolves. Higher human-caused mortality rates are expected – and much larger litters are expected, he added.

“The main data from which the mortality limits are derived include the number of wolves in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area and the estimated mortality rate required to move the population toward the end-of-year objective,” he said.

Last year ended with an estimated 152 wolves within the trophy-game management area, eight below the wildlife agency’s objective. Balancing all of the factors includes gaining eight more wolves to be right at 160.

“We had at least 152 wolves in the WTGMA, which is 28 percent less than what we had at the start of 2018,” Mills explained. “However, we estimate a much higher human-caused mortality rate will be required to offset population growth (49.5 percent this year vs. 25.8 percent last year) because the population is lower and should reproduce at a higher rate.”

Mills added, “Note we are proposing the same end-of-year population objective as we did last year, 160 wolves, which means a slight increase in the population (eight wolves) to be sure we continue to remain above minimum recovery criteria, mostly the 10 breeding pairs.”

Mills said Game and Fish will keep the “same approach to depredation response as usual, not more or less aggressive.”

In 2018, predator conflicts declined but about the same number of wolves were removed as in 2017.

“We usually have had around 23-percent human-caused mortality, which includes lethal control in addition to hunting since 2009, so (it is) pretty constant.”

Lakeway woman once praised for freeing several trapped deer in viral video now facing charges

In the video, which was taken on March 8, you can see deer stuck under the net, with some of them bleating as they try to move around. Months later, Texas Parks and Wildlife has charged the woman who shot the video with criminal mischief and harassment after she freed two of the deer.

LAKEWAY, Texas — A Lakeway woman is facing criminal mischief and harassment charges, months after her cell phone video of deer stuck in a trap set by workers the city of Lakeway hired to control overpopulation went viral.

RELATED | Viral video of Lakeway deer control program reignites outrage

In the video, which was taken on March 8, you can see deer stuck under the net, with some of them bleating as they try to move around.

Ashlea Beck, a Lakeway resident, shot the video after her children discovered the trap near her home.

WARNING: The following video may be graphic to some viewers:

At one point in the video, you can hear her ask the workers, “Why are you doing this?”

Angry with what she saw, Beck cut part of the net and released two deer.

“I think they should do it away from kids, away from families,” Beck told KVUE in an interview on March 14.

Months later, Texas Parks and Wildlife has charged Beck with criminal mischief and harassment. A TPWD spokesperson sent KVUE the following statement:

“Ms. Beck interfered with lawful efforts to trap and remove white-tailed deer, causing damage to private property in the process. It is a violation of the Sportsman’s Rights Act to intentionally interfere with another person lawfully engaged in the process of hunting or catching wildlife, or intentionally harass, drive, or disturb any wildlife for the purpose of disrupting lawful hunting.”

Citizen Advocates for Animals of Lakeway president Rita Cross told KVUE she thinks Beck’s punishment is too harsh.

“She was in shock, she was trying to protect her kids and the deer, and she released two of them when she cut the net,” Cross said.

Cross thought TPWD would give Beck a warning or a fine.

“But they didn’t. They teamed up with the city of Lakeway, and they teamed up with the trapper himself, and they all agreed that she should be charged,” Cross said.

Neither Beck nor her attorney wanted to speak to KVUE about the charges. But in a post on a GoFundMe page Cross made to help pay for Beck’s attorney’s fees, Beck wrote the following comment:

“I was shocked and extremely disappointed by how Texas Parks & Wildlife and the City of Lakeway have handled this whole situation. My hope is that something good will come out of this, that changes will be made that prevent this from happening to someone else. Our city should be a safe place for families and animals alike.”

Cross just wants what she calls animal cruelty out of the city of Lakeway.

“Not just hiding them in some quiet, out-of-the-way location, but that we don’t deserve it in this city,” she said. “The deer don’t deserve the treatment that they get.”

Beck is facing two class B misdemeanor charges. Each carries 180 days in jail or a $2,000 fine.

City of Lakeway officials told KVUE in March they were done trapping deer for the rest of 2018.

Arby’s bringing back venison sandwich for hunting season

 – Arby’s, the restaurant chain that claims “We have the meats,” is bringing back its venison sandwich for hunting season for a second year.

The restaurant chain tested its venison sandwich in five popular hunting states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, last year. The venison sandwich, featuring thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll. Arby’s claims the sandwich was so popular it sold out within hours.

This year, Arby’s is releasing the venison sandwich nationwide. It will return to the menu on Oct. 21 and be available until supplies last.

The success of the venison sandwich has prompted Arby’s to add another game meat to its menu. A limited edition elk sandwich, featuring an elk steak topped with blackberry port steak sauce and crispy onions on a toasted specialty roll, will also be available at three locations in the popular elk hunting states of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.

Hunting seasons popping up like spring mushrooms

Daniel Smith, Seymour, Holds his first teal of the 2016 season while hunting at the Schell-Osage Conservation Area.
Ken White | Special to the Daily Mail

Opening day of the small migrating birds season started Friday. As usual, some cool nights have nudged the doves to pack up and head south.

“I have seen more doves this year than in a long time,” said Jim Lawson, a 67-year-old Missouri dove hunter.

“In my 25 years of hunting those fast flying birds, I don’t remember seeing so many birds before opening day, but it seems we always get some cool nights just before the season opener on September 1 and the birds aren’t around too long. Last year I had a good opening day; after that they got wise and you couldn’t get close to them.”

Lawson like a lot of other dove hunters, who also like to fish, hunts near a farm pond or utilizes small water holes. So when the birds aren’t flying, he can at least go fishing.

“Several times last year, I was able to shoot some doves and catch a few fish as well,” said Lawson

Another plus of the early dove season is that you can locate where the blue wing teal are working, so on opening day (Sept. 9) of the early teal season, you have an idea where they are or aren’t. Last year Lawson said he even added a snipe to the teal he bagged.

Waterfowl officials are predicting another good flight of teal that will be heading south this year. Already, there are a sizable number of these small ducks in the state. The teal season that opens Sept. 9 will run through Sept. 24. with a daily limit of six teal and possession limit after opening day of 18.

Lawson was scouting for dove last week and saw several teal as well as some wood ducks. Hunters will need to be sure they are shooting at teal and not “woodies.”

Teal hunters will have from sunrise to sunset to get their limit of a half-dozen teal this season and, in most of the state the water and food conditions are good. Some places, however, including the Schell-Osage Wildlife Area, have too much water at present.

One observer said it looks more like Truman Lake instead of Schell. It remains to be seen what effect the high water will have by the time the regular duck season opens later, but right now there are only a few teal in the area.

A boatload of successful teal hunters pulls into short after an opening day hunt 2016 at Schell-Osage Conservation Area. Things will be different for the opening day, Sept. 1 as the lake is very high and few teal on using the area.
Ken White | Special to the Daily Mail

As usual, both snipe and rail season also started on Friday.

There are a lot fewer hunters out for these two migrants. It’s a big difference between a rail and snipe. The rail is a slow flying small bird that can be found in weedy marshes. It has a short flight and often by the time a hunter shoots, the bird has already dropped back into the marsh.

Hunting them by wading in knee-deep water with mosquitoes buzzing around, looking for a bird the size of a common blackbird with the temperatures hovering near 90 degrees doesn’t appeal to most hunters. The daily limit on these small birds is 25 with the possession limit 75 after opening day.

The snipe, yes, there is such a bird, is a much different target than the rail. This fast flying bird with a long beak, is a challenge similar to the dove. It is usually found near the shore of ponds or small lakes looking for food. The snipe season opened Friday and will run through Dec. 16, with a daily limit of eight birds.

Although fishing is still going strong, hunting seasons will be popping up like spring mushrooms. As always, here in Missouri, we have a lot to look forward to in our outdoors.

Last chance to comment on hunting regs before Fish and Wildlife Commission

  • Tue Mar 14th, 2017

The public has one last chance to tell the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission the concerns about upcoming hunting rule change proposals in person at the commission’s March 17-18 meeting in Olympia.

The most notable proposed changes include the elimination of several special elk areas in and around Grays Harbor County, increasing the bag limit for white-fronted and white geese to address their growing abundance, and allowing the restoration of points to hunters who draw a permit for a damage hunt but are not called on to participate in a hunt.

The meetings are set to commence at 8 a.m. both days, with a public comment starting each session. There will also be a public comment period after each presentation, each featuring a different segment of proposed hunt rules changes. The meetings will be held in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building at 1111 Washington St. SE in Olympia; a complete agenda is available at All the proposed changes are available for review at

Some areas of interest for local hunters include a10:40 a.m. presentation Friday about the elimination of several elk areas, including the Tri Valley, South Bank, Chehalis Valley and Willapa, meaning the land within those areas will be reabsorbed into their respects Game Management Units and fall under the same rules governing those units. Following that at 11:05 a.m. will be a discussion of general deer seasons and deer and elk special permits.

The migratory bird hunting presentation will be at 1:40 p.m., where the public can hear about proposed bag limit changes for several species of geese, among other changes.

Final action by the commission on the proposed recommendations is scheduled at a public meeting April 14-15 in Spokane.

The commission will also be briefed on a few other topics, notably the Willapa Bay salmon management plan and its adaptive management objectives, scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Saturday. Also among the briefings will be in-season management of Puget Sound salmon fisheries and bird dog training at two units of the Snoqualmie Valley Wildlife Area.

Prior to the regular meeting, the commission will have its annual meeting with Gov. Jay Inslee March 16 at 3 p.m. in the Governor’s Office.

Wildlife managers also will provide an update on the status of wolves in Washington and actions the department took in 2016 to implement the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

In addition, the commission will be briefed on a petition the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received calling for a protection zone for southern resident killer whales off the coast of San Juan Island.

Manmade problem led wolves to kill elk

By Jared Lloyd

A lot of noise has been made about the 19 elk killed last month by a pack of wolves in Bondurant. What has been lost throughout much of the coverage are the facts about what actually led to this extremely rare occurrence. Behind the headlines is a manmade story. To be able to understand what went down that night in Wyoming, these facts need to be understood.

To begin with, the elk in question were killed on a feedlot. Just like cattle, in Wyoming elk have feedlots as well. Picture anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand “wild” elk standing around waiting to be fed. Wyoming has elk feedlots all over the place. Come winter, these feeding grounds shovel out bales of hay for the elk like they are livestock. Elk are heavily concentrated in these feedlots, fed all winter long, and have learned to just stand around waiting for their daily handouts.

So why does Wyoming feed elk in the first place? Is it because predators in the ecosystem are killing so many? No. Wyoming actually considers elk to be overpopulated. This practice was started in part to keep elk from competing with cattle back when predators across the Rocky Mountains were at their lowest numbers. In the absence of predators, elk populations exploded. Come winter, these animals would flood onto ranches in search of food, gorging themselves on stocks of hay.

So what has all this done to the elk? Quite simply, elk no longer act like elk. Given that these animals have grown up in a relatively predator-free environment for nearly 100 years, elk are now being forced to come to terms with the reality of predators again. And in order to survive, lesson number one is not to stand around in groups of a several thousand, in one place, for months on end waiting for handouts from humans.

So what did the wolves do? They committed what is known as surplus killing. Occasionally, when prey is so plentiful, predators will kill multiple animals in one go. Scientists state that when faced with a bonanza such as the feedlot provided, wolves may kill with the intention to return as often as that food is available.


copyrighted wolf in water

Texas executes suspected poacher who shot, killed game warden

This undated photo shows Texas inmate James Freeman.  (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

This undated photo shows Texas inmate James Freeman. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)

A Texas man was executed Wednesday evening for fatally shooting a game warden nine years ago during a shootout after a 90-minute chase that began when he was suspected of poaching.

He was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m., 16 minutes after Texas prison officials began a lethal dose of pentobarbital. As the pentobarbital began taking effect, he snored about five times and coughed slightly once.

The lethal injection was the second in as many weeks in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case earlier this month, and no new appeals were filed in the courts to try to block the punishment.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday declined a clemency petition from Freeman.

Freeman was suspected of illegally hunting at night in Southeast Texas’ Wharton County when a game warden spotted him. Freeman sped away, leading authorities on a chase that reached 130 mph. It ended near a cemetery near his home in Lissie with Freeman stepping out of his pickup truck and shooting at officers.

When the March 17, 2007, shootout was over, Freeman had been shot four times and Justin Hurst, a Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden who had joined in the pursuit, was fatally wounded. It was Hurst’s 34th birthday. About 100 law enforcement officers, many of them Texas game wardens, stood outside the Huntsville prison, during the execution.

Also outside were several motorcyclists who support law enforcement, the loud revving of their bikes clearly audible as the punishment was being carried out.

The brother of the Texas slain game warden thanked the law enforcement officers for coming to Huntsville.

“Nine years ago — nine long years,” Greg Hurst said after the execution, his voice cracking with emotion as he spoke of his brother’s death.

Texas Game Warden Col. Craig Hunter, head of law enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and a witness to Freeman’s execution, said the punishment marked “a moment that many of us have been waiting for since we first heard of Justin’s death.”

Hurst was an alligator and waterfowl specialist before moving to law enforcement. A state wildlife management area where he once worked in Brazoria County and about 60 miles south of Houston now carries his name.

Freeman’s trial lawyer, Stanley Schneider, said heavy alcohol use and severe depression led the unemployed welder to try to commit “suicide by cop” in his confrontation with officers.

“It was totally senseless,” Schneider said of the fatal shooting. “It really is very sad that it happened, that two families are suffering like this.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has at least eight other inmates set to die through July. Last year, 13 convicted killers were put to death in Texas, accounting for nearly half of all the 28 executions carried out nationwide.