Montana Senate race a toss up

Montana State University released its Treasure State poll Wednesday, Oct. 14. The results show the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Steve Daines and challenger Steve Bullock, the current, but term limited governor, is too close to call. The Treasure State poll shows Bullock ahead 49% to 47%.

The result is within the margin of error of 3.9%.

The race has been competitive since Bullock ended his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and entered the race. Both candidates have come out on top in recent surveys, and other than one poll that had Daines up 9 points, neither has led by more than 3 points in polls since September.

Flathead Beacon senior reporter Tristan Scott looks at the race here, and Hatch Magazine shares the perspective of Montana anglers.

The poll showed close races in the other statewide races. In the governor's contest, current U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte leads Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney by five points, 47% to 42%. In the race for the open seat for Montana’s U.S. Representative, Matt Rosendale leads Kathleen Williams by two points, 48% to 46%. 

The Treasure State poll is administered by the MSU Political Science Department.

Pandemic survival skills: sourdough

The pandemic has turned me into a sourdough ... baker. I have extra time on my hands, but have been confronted by empty grocery store shelves — in the yeast section, at least. So a couple weeks ago I whipped up a batch of sourdough starter, and now I no longer needed commercial yeast. The wild stuff is starter was enough.

The internet makes starting hobbies less intimidating than the dark old days when we had to rely on things like the Encyclopedia Brittanica to figure stuff out. YouTube is a great resource fo how to stuff like this, and that's what I relied on to get my sourdough game on. So far I've cranked out four loaves of bread, and there's sourdough pizza dough proofing in the fridge. And my starter on the kitchen counter keeps belching out CO2.

Here are some links to help you brush up your pandemic sourdough survival skills:

I followed this recipe from Joshua Weissman to create my starter. He's a young foodie social media influencer. The recipe works well, using unbleached AP or bread flours mixed with equal parts rye.

I used this Weissman recipe to bake my bread. It's from an episode of Basics with Babish, a YouTube foodie channel that I think is quite good. The recipe is great, but the Weissman-Babish bromance can be a little much at times. It's all in good fun, however.

Here are some other useful sourdough resources.

Sarah C. Owens is a California-based baker and author of "Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More." I haven't read her book, yet. You can find her on YouTube baking sourdough bread here.

The Wild Life offers free online sourdough courses. I haven't taken one yet, but I plan to check it out.

Patrick Ryan is an Irish baker, and O'Day was my mom's maiden name, so I'm biased. His rye sourdough recipe on YouTube is on my schedule for next week.

Mentoring the next generation of hunters

Here's an thought-provoking story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the need for hunting mentors. I've written about this in my column recently, about how millennials may be key to R3 efforts and how outdoor education courses for women are important to fishing and hunting. And these piece from the New York Times explains how this younger generation's motivation to hunt may be slightly different from the past: Wade Truong and Rachel Owen are all about moving quality protein from field to table.

Griz hunt opponents challenge Wyo quota

Groups trying to stop Wyoming's planed grizzly bear hunts this fall say the state borrowed part of Montana's quota to increase possible females killed from one to two. Officials in both states dispute this.

Under the Wyo proposal, hunters could kill up to two female grizzlies, even though the state's allocation is just 1.45. Montana's female allocation is 0.9 females. The states have agreed to round up or down the allocations, so Wyoming should only have one female tag, as would Montana if it had set a hunt.

Wyoming's hunt also provides tags for up to 10 male bears. All grizzly hunting would cease, however,  once two females tags are filled to prevent more females from being mistakenly killed.

US caribou almost gone

The last remaining caribou herd in the lower 48 has been declared effectively extinct, according to a story in the New York Times. Recent aerial surveys counted only three animals in the herd.

Woodland caribou once ranged into Montana as far south as Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot.

The small and dwindling herd that roamed into the United States used the  Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho and Washington near the Canadian border part of the year.

A University of Montana wildlife biologist blamed mismanagement in British Columbia for the vanishing herd.

“The functional loss of this herd is the legacy of decades of government mismanagement across caribou range,” said Mark Hebblewhite, a wildlife biologist at the University of Montana, in the story in the New York Times.

The animals require old growth forest to survive. During the winter the animals move up slope in areas of heavy snow. The caribou's large hooves allow it to stand on, rather than plunge into deep snow. This allows them to feed on Old Man's Beard, a lichen that grows in old growth trees.

The deep snow also protects the caribou from predators, which move down slope in winter.