A photo of a pen-raised pheasant hunt posted on a Wild Bird Hunters Facebook group sparks a spirited debate about hunting ethics.
Are spring-sagging tailgate shots of piles of dead birds OK? Is it elite to hunt only wild birds? When is it OK to give the dogs a run at the game farm?
Unseasonably warmer weather lured a garter snake out of hibernation and to its end. But the unseasonable is getting more common every year.
Spring is not my favorite season, but it's better than winter.
Im mostly indoors this time of year, watching my favorite teams on television.
I wrote my first "Out of Bounds" column for the Flathead Beacon in March 2012. Approximately 520 columns later here's my 10th anniversary column. The highlights of this run include winning first place in the Outdoor Writers Association of America Excellence in Craft contest in 2021, and anything I wrote about spending time outdoors with my daughters.
Lowlights include every week when deadline approached and I was still a long way from done.
Thanks for reading.
Flathead Beacon Tristan Scott recounts the story of Wolf 57, collared in Canada near Banff National Park in 2001. The wolf's last transmitted location was in Alberta in 2003.
The story might have ended there, until a shed hunter found the collar near Little Bitterroot Lake west of Kalispell in 2021, 300 miles from where 57's journey began.
My column on the unfortunate tendency toward hunter shaming as a solution to issues such as waning bird numbers.
I don't advocate hunting purely in pursuit of reaching a limit, but hunting is about killing, and I'm not going to apologize for shooting and eating a few quail, or eating a limit of quail on those rare occasions I shoot that well.
And for you Terry Jones fans.
I collect bird bones all season, storing them in the freezer. Then, when hunting is through, I spend a day making a pot of wild game bird stock. I then use that stock to make ramen.
I do make a few adjustments. For instance, instead of cashew pork I like to serve it with a confit leg of pheasant.
Here's my column on game bird ramen.
While the FWP Commission was rewriting rules for hunting districts across the state, some more restrictive for hunters, one change opened things up in HD 270 in the Bitterroot's east fork. Ravalli Republic editor Perry Backus outlines the changes in this report.
Hunters still need to draw an unlimited bull tag to hunt the district, but now they will be able to hunt other districts earlier in the season, before the weather chases elk out of the Big Hole Valley to the east.
Up until now, HD 270 was the only district in the state that required hunters to obtain an “unlimited” bull elk permit to hunt there. To obtain the “unlimited” permit, hunters give up their opportunity to put in for a more coveted elk permit elsewhere in the state.
New Region 2 Commissioner, Jana Waller, made the motion to exempt HD 270 based on feed back she received from hunters.
“Unit 270 is a unique unit in terms of elk and geography,” Waller said Monday. “Originally a general unit, it was changed years back due to the bull to cow ratios dipping too low when early weather drives the elk into 270. For biological reasons it was changed to an unlimited-style tag.”
That gives hunters an option when milder weather allows elk to linger in the Big Hole.
It takes winter weather to drive elk over the Big Hole divide into the East Fork of the Bitterroot. Because of that, hunters with an HD 270 permit like the freedom to be able to hunt other general elk hunting districts in the state earlier in the season.
New elk regs were approved by the FWP commission Friday, but this report by Tom Kuglin of the "Helena Independent Record" indicates some of the proposals least favorable to in-state hunters were scaled back.
Spokespersons for both the United Property Owners of Montana and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association were unhappy with some of the changes — especially dropping unlimited archery elk permits in many hunting districts. That suggests the commission adopted regs more favorable to private, in-state hunters. That's almost always a good thing.
Montana's Stream Access Law is considered the gold standard for river access in the West. Just try anchoring your drift boat in the wrong place on some Wyoming rivers if you doubt that.
Maybe the fact that Montana's law is so good is the reason a small, but wealthy and powerful minority are so committed to getting rid of it. That was the case in the 1990s on Mitchell Slough, a branch of the Bitterroot River in the braided reach between Victor and Stevensville. That's when wealthy landowners, who had bought up the old ranch property that lined the Slough, hung trespassing signs along the water and waged a war to keep the riff-raff — a club of which I am proud to proclaim membership — out.
"Bitterroot Star" newspaper owner and reporter Michael Howell, along with a band of rabble-rousing old school Bitterrooters, formed the Bitterroot River Protection Association and went to work protecting the Stream Access Law on Mitchell Slough, finally winning a unanimous Montana Supreme Court decision in 2008. That fight is chronicled in Howell's new book, "Saving the Mitchell." Here's a link to my column reviewing the book.
While the topic is maddening, the book is a worthy retelling of a good fight. I know many of the characters in the story as I lived in the Bitterroot for six years in the 1990s and even worked for Howell at his newspaper, the "Bitterroot Star" for a couple of years. It was nice reading about some of my old friends, many who have faded from my life with time. It also helped that I knew the story has a happy ending.
If you can't find the book in your local bookstore, you can purchase it through the website of the Bitterroot River Protection Association.
I've written about Mitchell Slough and the SAL often enough. Here are links to a few of my earlier columns.
Bring on the Roaring Twenties
A Fight Now Decades Old
Ruby Access Battle Over, For Now