Wisconsin Poaching Scheme Exposed

Four long-time hound hunters who have run their dogs in pursuit of bear, mountain lion, bobcat for decades are now identified as poachers after they were convicted of crimes related to illegal lion hunting in Montana.  The four men were charged with Lacey Act violations in addition to other charges related to killing a mountain lion while hunting near Mosby, Montana.  The Lacey Act was applied to the case because the violators broke Montana laws and crossed from one state to another with their illegally taken lion.


Two of the men were ordered to pay fines of $5,000 each and, “as a condition of probation, a ban on hunting, trapping, running dogs or assisting and/or accompanying others who are engaged in hunting, trapping or running dogs worldwide for two years.”

One of the men was ordered to pay  $25,000 in fines and serve a three-year term of probation. the leader of the scheme was ordered to pay $30,000 in fines and serve a four-year term of probation. These two hunters also” lost the privilege to hunt, trap, run dogs or assist and/or accompany others engaged in hunting, trapping or running dogs worldwide.”

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Montana Hunter Advancement Program Seeks Landowner Cooperators

The Montana Hunter Advancement Program is a  new Montana Access Program Developed by Landowners.

25 hunters have been certified through the 2018 50 hour Advanced Hunter Educations Pilot Course.  We have had a great response among Montana’s landowners for participation in this program and we are interested in adding more landowners to the program before the fall 2018 hunting seasons begin.

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The First 25 Graduates from the Montana Hunter Advancement Program

Montana Hunter Advancement Program
Ethics, Access, and Education
The Montana Hunter Advancement Program promotes safe, ethical, and responsible hunting through its focused “Master Hunter” certification program, offered in partnership with forward-thinking private landowners across the state.

25 Montana hunters have successfully completed our first-ever 50+ hour continuing education course, passing an exhaustive written exam and a field marksmanship and ballistics course led by Jason & Jordan at 406 Precision.
These dedicated individuals are ready for hunting season this coming fall and beyond, as we build our team of ethical hunters. These folks are on a mission to improve landowner – sportsmen relations in Montana!

How you can help:
• Refer a landowner to our program. We are actively seeking out additional access partnerships.
• Make a contribution. Every penny counts as we continue building this first-of-its-kind advanced hunting education, ethics, and access program.
• Tell your friends. We will soon be accepting applications for the 2019 course opportunities
Be in touch!

The Common Ground group believes that hunting is a privilege and not a right; and although it has been criticized by some, it is an important part of our Nation’s heritage and wildlife management system. As both land ownership and hunter behavior have changed, hunting access has become more limited and contentious. In an attempt to improve landowner-sportsmen relations as well as create more access opportunities for hunters, Common Ground is now developing this comprehensive, advanced hunter education program designed to put more ethical, educated, and effective hunters in the field.

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Good Elk Hunting Leads to Conflict in SW Montana

Southwest Montana is known for it’s elk and public access to thousands of acres of state and federal land as well as access to private lands through programs such as Montana FWP’s Block Management Program.  As elk numbers increase, so do hunter numbers.  As hunter numbers increase so do the few mischief-makers who shoot up signs, vandalize (or remove) forest signs and travel route designations, tear up roads which are too wet for reasonable travel  and trespass on private property.   As one landowner and his wife who have ranched in the are for more than 50 years recently commented, “It’s the 5% of the hunters who spoil it for the good ones.  Fortunately, a lot of thoughtful, respectful and just “good” hunters still come to the area.  We welcome these hunters to our property.”

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New World Record Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep in Montana were first recorded by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805 and 1806 with the majority of the bighorn sightings recorded on the expedition as being along the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.  Today ’s bighorn sheep conservation story dates back to 1869 when Montana’s first conservation law was passed by Montana’s Territorial Legislature and in 1872 hunting seasons were established for big game, including bighorn sheep.  Over the years since then, our bighorn sheep herds have seen a lot of change as the herds have been impacted by poor range conditions, severe winter weather, and diseases transmitted by domestic sheep.  Montana’s bighorns were at one of their all-time lows in density and distribution by 1941.

Today, approximately 5,000 bighorn sheep inhabit Montana in 45 distinct populations over 3.7 million acres.  The present numbers of bighorn sheep in Montana are due to regulated hunting, transplanting of sheep from healthy herds to areas with excellent sheep habitat as well as reductions in domestic sheep and goats in sheep habitat which has reduced the transmission of disease to the wild sheep.

Montana’s Wild Horse Island State Park, with its excellent bighorn habitat and lack of hunting has provided a virtual “nursery” for bighorn sheep and over the years has provided a significant number of sheep for transplants to other locations around Montana.  Although nearly all of Montana’s sheep populations are known for their horn growth and “trophy” quality, Wild Horse Island has produced some outstanding rams over the years.

Recently a ram was found dead on the island and because of its exceptional size, it was entered in the Boone and Crockett Records of North American Big Game.  When it was scored, it was determined that it was a potential world’s record bighorn ram.   As a result, a special Boone and Crockett judges panel was called in Bozeman, Montana to certify the score as the world’s record.

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Montana Wildlife Commission’s Recent Rulings

Montana’s Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission met this past week to consider proposed changes to Montana’s hunting regulations.  Among the issues considered was a proposal from Libby area sportsmen requesting a new “limited entry” mule deer area in a portion of hunting district 103 comprising about 132,000 acres.

Montana has very few mule deer areas which are managed as “limited entry” or “trophy areas” because the overarching philosophy for mule deer management in Montana is that Montana is an “opportunity” state.  Opportunity generally means that in nearly all mule deer units one can harvest a mule deer buck over five weeks of the rifle season as well as the archery season.  The rifle season extends through Thanksgiving annually and includes all of the mule deer “rut” period.  As a result, the majority of mule deer bucks are especially susceptible to being harvested annually and few mule deer bucks reach “maturity” at five years of age before being killed by a hunter.  Hunters who choose to limit their take to older and more mature mule deer bucks have to hunt very hard on public land or have access to private lands where mule deer buck harvests are not so liberal.

Limited entry mule deer seasons are extremely attractive to Montana’s resident and nonresident hunters.  In hunting unit 270 in the Bitterroot Valley which is a limited entry unit, 7362 hunters applied for the 45 mule deer buck permits issues for that area.

Montana’s big game season setting process usually involves FWP biologists making recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Commission with their recommendations based upon their data and public input received via public meetings.  The norm for these seasons is that they usually reflect more of the department’s position than that of the public.  The new Libby area “limited entry” unit is an anomaly in that it came from a local citizen’s initiative and was adamantly opposed by FWP professionals.  It “breathes new life” into the idea that Montana’s hunter can have a significant voice in the choices available to them for hunting our mule deer as well as other big game species.

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Montana Delays Establishing a Grizzly Bear Hunting Season

Grizzly bears have been one of Montana’s iconic species over the years and have had protection under the Endangered Species Act for over 40 years.  The greater Yellowstone area grizzlies were removed from the Endangered species List last year, permitting Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to establish hunting seasons for the bears.  Although Idaho and Wyoming are proceeding with establishing hunting seasons for 2018, Montana has chosen to “wait and see” with an eye to establishing seasons after 2018.

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