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Cabela’s new Missoula store opens June 12

OUTFITTERS — The grand opening for the Cabela’s Outpost store in Missoula is set for June 12, with a ribbon cutting at 10:45 a.m. and doors opening for business at 11 a.m.

Opening day will kick off a weekend-long celebration highlighted by special appearances, family events, giveaways and more.

The 42,000-square-foot store is located in the growing South Crossing retail development on Brooks Street in the southeast quadrant of South Reserve Street and Highway 93.

It will be the third Cabela’s store in Montana, joining the 80,000-square-foot Billings location opened in 2009 and a 42,000-square-foot Kalispell Cabela’s Outpost store opened in November 2013.

The Post Falls Cabela's store is 170 miles west of Missoula of Interstate 90.

The Missoula store will include an indoor archery range and archery tech.

Currently, Cabela’s operates 53 stores across North America with plans to open an additional 21 over the next two years.

Elk group gives Idaho $276K for projects

WILDLIFE — Shoshone County is one of 10 Idaho counties that will be sharing a $276,584 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation grant for wildlife habitat projects on nearly 76,000 acres in the state. 

Shoshone County's portion will be used in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to aerially ignite 1,200 acres to improve big game forage, stand conditions and reduce natural fuels on elk summer range within the Heller Creek and Wisdom Creek drainages on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  

This project is part of a larger plan to treat 3,750 acres with prescribed fire resulting in up to 21 percent of the project area becoming forage openings, according to RMEF officials.  Prescribed burning also will be applied to 1,500 acres in the Lost Creek area of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains as part of a 5-10 year habitat enhancement project. 

The grant also will help fund statewide research in areas where elk are declining, especially in the Clearwater region.

The steady elk decline in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho over the past three decades is attributed to substantial loss of habitat, human pressures and the reintroduction of wolves, RMEF officials said. Money in that county will be used for a multi-year elk nutrition study and developing habitat models.

Read on for details about the grant funding for other counties and statewide projects.

 

Survey: Sportsmen’s groups top list of wildlife habitat supporters

CONSERVATION — I write often about the contributions hunters and anglers make to preserving fish and wildlife habitat in contrast to animal rights and anti-hunting groups that have never made the commitment to help critters on the ground where it counts.

Here are the latest hard numbers. 

The chart above illustrates the response to just one of many questions on wildlife management posed last month in a rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department.

  • See all 190 pages of the the survey report as well as the summary.
  • See my column on the survey, which deals primarily with public opinion on wolf management in Washington.

Pope and Young OKs lighted nocks for bowhunting records

HUNTING — A Spokane man's four-year crusade to make lighted nocks allowable for archery hunters — as a means of reducing wounding loss, among other things — has found his ultimate reward.

The Pope and Young Club, the bowhunting record-keeping group for big-game trophies since 1961, has voted to make an exception to its ban on electronic equipment for taking animals submitted for archery records.

Jim Sutton, president of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, started his campaign by showing up at public game-rule meetings, writing letters and testifying before the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission — often with his daughter.  Over and over they made the case that the state should allow bowhunters to use the electronic devises, since they gave the hunter no killing advantage but a big advantage in finding wounded game and recovering arrows from the field.

The Suttons' proposal was slow to be accepted, but gained backing by most archers, save for the traditionalists.

Once the state made the exception in 2013, Sutton and others turned their attention to convincing the members of Pope and Young. He knew that even though it was finally legal to use lighted nocks in Washington, many hunters would not use them if it would disqualify a once-in-a-lifetime trophy from being recognized in the record books.

Last week, he proudly sent me this memo from Pope and Young:

Lighted Nocks will be Acceptable; Other By-law Changes Passed

TO:  Pope and Young Club Members,

Standard lighted nocks and bow-mounted cameras will be exempted from the “no electronics attached to the bow or arrow” rule, as a result of changes to the Club's By-laws that had passed a vote of the Board of Directors and passed ratification by the voting membership.

Since the late 1980s, the Club has had bowhunting equipment definitions and a Rule of Fair Chase that addresses electronic devices. Among other things, those stated “no electronics attached to the bow or arrow.” This is part of the Club's By-laws constitution and governs the acceptability of animals for entry into the Club's Records Program (“the record book”).

The significant change, the result of much internal discussion/debate over many years, creates exemptions that read as follows:

  • RULES OF FAIR CHASE #7: [Not] by the use of electronic devices for attracting, locating or pursuing game, or guiding the hunter to such game, or by the use of a bow or arrow to which any electronic device is attached, with the exception of lighted nocks and recording devices that cast no light towards the target and do not aid in rangefinding, sighting or shooting the bow.
  • DEFINITION OF A HUNTING BOW, EXCLUSIONS #2:  Electronic or battery-powered devices shall not be attached to a hunting bow, with the exception of recording devices that cast no light towards the target and do not aid in rangefinding, sighting or shooting the bow.
  • DEFINITION OF A HUNTING ARROW, EXCLUSIONS #1:  No electronic or battery-powered devices shall be attached to the arrow, with the exception of lighted nocks.

This change will officially go into effect on Aug. 1, 2014, as new Fair Chase Affidavits are created and distributed to our corps of volunteer official measurers. The change IS RETROACTIVE — meaning that animals previously taken, as well as those taken from this point forward, will now be eligible to be entered into the Records, provided they meet all other conditions/criteria.

The By-law change language passed voting membership ratification by a vote of Yes-296 (75%), No-101 (25%).

State’s opinion survey on wolf, bear management online

PREDATORS — The gist of the comments and online chat-room posts I've seen regarding my column about Washington's survey of public opinion on wolf management seem to sum up this way:

  • Wolves: a few people love 'em, a few people hate 'em, and most people are in between, generally supporting wolf recovery but not to the point that wolves are hurting the livestock industry or decimating big-game herds.

Sizing up the comments also confirms that a few people, especially in the anti-hunting camps who grieve over the death of any critter, would prefer to kill the messenger, especially if it's an outdoor writer writing about wolves.

You don't have to settle for my take on this rare random survey of 904 adult residents across the state commissioned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Department. The agency has posted the entire 190 pages of the survey report as well as the summary.

The full title of the survey is: Washington Residents’ Opinions on Bear and Wolf Management and Their Experiences With Wildlife That Cause Problems.

It offers some interesting insight on several issues, including how Washingtonians view hunting in general: 88 percent of residents support hunting while only 8 percent strongly or moderately disapprove.

But mostly the survey is about wolves, the hottest state-wide fish and wildlife management issue in Washington.

See a longer, more hunter-oriented analysis of the survey by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

 

Sinlahekin wildlife area anniversary features summer programs

WILDLIFE WATCHING — See the complete list of the free Sinlahekin Wildlife Area 75th anniversary events, programs, field trips and clinics scheduled this summer in Okanogan County starting Saturday.

The list is long and offerings are impressive.

Events are scheduled for this weekend as well as on June 14-15, July 5-6, July 26-27, Aug. 23-24, and concluding with National Hunting and Fishing Days, Sept. 6-7. 

Washington delivers hunting rules to your smartphone

HUNTING — Washington hunters have the option to download the state's 2014 hunting regulations into their smartphones.

The cool thing is that the application will zero in on the unit from which the phone is being used, if you desire. 

The cautious reminder:  you need to be in a cell phone coverage area for the app to work — and your batteries must be charged!

Cost: $5.99.

 

Idaho draws names for moose, bighorn, goat hunts

Updated 2:50 p.m. — IFG corrects itself and says there will be no second drawing. — RL

HUNTING — Sportsmen who have applied for Idaho controlled hunts for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat tags can see if they were chosen by going to the Fish and Game web page, the agency just announced.

All of the available tags were drawn in the first drawing. There are no leftover tags.

 Click here for more information on hunts for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

Spokane Olympian gets to the roots of good shooting

SHOOTING — Amanda Furrer, 23, flew into town this week to be with family and celebrate her silver medal from last weekend — a performance that won her a berth on the U.S.Women's World Championship Shooting Team.

Furrer's dad, Michael, who still coaches the Spokane Junior Rifle Team where Amanda got her start, snapped this photo of Amanda giving her niece and nephews a few pointers with the ol' Daisy BB gun in the family's back yard.

I'll bet that Michael has taken the little kids over to the garage in the background to show them the two dimples in the door where Amanda missed the target and backstop by two feet with her first two shots with a pellet gun when she was their age.

I'm also betting that Michael Furrer NEVER repairs those dents.

Montana may curtail hunting of sage grouse

HUNTING — Here's some disturbing news from Montana, which we might have considered to be the “last best place” for sage grouse:

With preliminary results from Montana’s spring surveys showing a continued population decline of the state’s largest native upland game bird, wildlife officials will seek to close sage grouse hunting for the 2014 season.

Read on for the details that will be presented to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission meeting in Fort Peck on Thursday, May 22.

Big-game hunting permit application deadlines loom

HUNTING — Special big-game hunting permit applications for 2014 seasons are coming due in the Inland Northwest.

Wyoming least tolerant of wolves among managing states

PREDATORS — Wyoming's bottom line is at the bottom.

Wyoming manages wolves to keep number near allowable level
Of the five states that are managing wolves—Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Michigan and Wisconsin, Wyoming has set its sights on keeping the number of wolves in the state at the bare minimum required to comply with federal rules.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide

Learn to distinguish Eurasian collared-dove from mourning dove

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Eurasian collared-dove is an exotic species that's unprotected in Washington and Idaho and can be shot by licensed hunters year-round where hunting/shooting is allowed. They're delicious, too.

But it's important to be able to distinguish the collared-dove from the similar mourning dove, which can be hunted only during designated September seasons.

Eurasian collared-doves are larger than mourning doves and slightly lighter in color. Aside from the diagnostic black collar on the backs of their necks, they also have a squared tail as opposed to the pointed tails on mourning doves.

See more diagnostic features and listen to recordings that distinguish their different calls at the following Websites:

  • Eurasian collared-dove, click here.
  • Mourning dove, click here.

Grizzly killed by Idaho black bear hunters

HUNTING — An 11-year old male grizzly bear was killed by black bear hunters near Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday, May 7, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department.

The incident occurred on the Caribou-Targhee Forest, just off of the Cave Falls Road in Idaho.  Both black bears and grizzly bears are known to frequent the area just outside of the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.

The incident is under investigation and information will be released as it becomes available, said IDFG, which is assisting the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the investigation.

Hunters are responsible for sharpening their bear ID skills.

Educational info and a bear ID quiz — this can be humbling — is available on the Idaho Fish and Game website.  

 

Remington recall rifles with trigger issue

SHOOTING — In April the Remington Arms Co. issued a nationwide recall of its Model 700 and Model Seven rifles equipped with the X-Mark Pro trigger saying that some may have “excess bonding agent” that could cause the rifles to accidentally fire.

The recall applies to all of the rifles that were manufactured between May 1, 2006, and April 9, 2014. Rifles manufactured after April 9 have already been repaired, according to a Billings Gazette story by outdoor writer Brett French.

“Remington has determined that some Model 700 and Model Seven rifles with XMP triggers could, under certain circumstances, unintentionally discharge,” reads a recall notification on the company’s website.

To participate in the recall, Remington Arms Co. recommends the following:

Step 1: Visit xmprecall.remington.com or call 1-800-243-9700 (Prompt #3 then Prompt #1) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. You will be asked to provide your name, address, telephone number, and rifle(s) serial number.

Step 2: Upon receipt of the information requested in Step 1, Remington will send you pre-paid shipping tags, boxes and written instructions. Remington will cover all related shipping, inspection and cleaning charges. Please ONLY return your rifle with the designated shipping tags and boxes, as they are marked to expedite the rifle to a dedicated Remington facility. 

Upon return of your rifle, you will note a punch mark on the bolt release. This mark confirms your rifle has been inspected and specialty cleaned under this recall program.

 

OR-7 may have found a wolf mate

ENDANGERED SPECIES — OR-7, a wolf originally from northeast Oregon, may have found a mate in southwest Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

In early May, remote cameras on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest captured several images of what appears to be a black female wolf in the same area where OR-7 is currently located.  The images were found by wildlife biologists when they checked cameras on May 7. 

The remote cameras were set up by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of ongoing cooperative wolf monitoring efforts.  New images of OR-7 were also captured on the same cameras and can be accessed and viewed at ODFW’s wolf photo gallery (see first three images).

“This information is not definitive, but it is likely that this new wolf and OR-7 have paired up.  More localized GPS collar data from OR-7 is an indicator that they may have denned,” said John Stephenson, Service wolf biologist. “If that is correct, they would be rearing pups at this time of year.” 

The Service and ODFW probably won’t be able to confirm the presence of pups until June or later, the earliest pup surveys are conducted, so as not to disturb them at such a young age.  Wolf pups are generally born in mid-April, so any pups would be less than a month old at this time.

If confirmed, the pups would mark the first known wolf breeding in the Oregon Cascades since the early 20th century.

Wolf OR7 is already well-known due to his long trek and his search for a mate—normal behavior for a wolf, which will leave a pack to look for new territory and for a chance to mate.  “This latest development is another twist in OR-7’s interesting story,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator.

The Service and ODFW will continue to monitor the area to gather additional information on the pair and possible pups. That monitoring will include the use of remote cameras, DNA sample collection from scats found, and pup surveys when appropriate.

Wolves throughout Oregon are protected by the state Endangered Species Act.  Wolves west of Oregon Highways 395-78-95, including OR-7 and the female wolf, are also protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, with the Service as the lead management agency.

At the end of last year, there were 64 known wolves in Oregon.  Except for OR-7, most known wolves are in the northeast corner of the state.

About OR-7

OR-7 was born into northeast Oregon’s Imnaha wolf pack in April 2009 and collared by ODFW on Feb. 25, 2011.  He left the pack in September 2011, traveled across Oregon and into California on Dec. 28, 2011, becoming the first known wolf in that state since 1924. 

Other wolves have traveled further, and other uncollared wolves may have made it to California.  But OR-7’s GPS collar, which transmits his location data several times a day, enabled wildlife managers to track him closely.

Since March 2013, OR-7 has spent the majority of his time in the southwest Cascades in an area mapped on ODFW’s website.

Mother’s Bad Day: Moose loses fight with wolves for calf

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I hope everyone had a great Sunday honoring the mothers in your family. But in the world of wildlife, it may not have been flowers and breakfast in bed.

Don't watch this video if you don't want to see one of the most sobering lessons in the natural order. 

I'm posting this video because it shows a wild side of motherhood: A cow moose fighting bravely for the life of her calf against impossible odds: a pack of five wolves. A pack's efficiency and teamwork is at once fascinating and terrifying

This is simply educational: not pro-wolf or anti-wolf.

It's just the way nature is in all its rawness.

Wyoming wolf quota increase fires up debate

PREDATORS — Few of the dozens of outfitters and conservationists who showed up for a Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf meeting Wednesday saw eye to eye, or approved of the status of the hunt, according to a report in the Jackson Hole Daily.

Wyoming Game and Fish is proposing to target 46 wolves this fall — 20 more than last year — in the state’s trophy game management area. Managers aim to bring the population of wolves in Wyoming’s jurisdiction down to near 160, wolf program biologist Ken Mills said.

Big-game hunting outfitters want more wolves killed. Wildlife-watching outfitters want more restrictions on hunting wolves that venture out of  Yellowstone Park.

Scoot-n-shoot turkey hunting raises issues of ethics, safety

HUNTING — Promotion of a controversial turkey hunting technique that involves hiding or sneaking behind a fanned out gobbler decoy has caught my attention this season.

As you can see in the video above by Mojo Outdoors, this “scoot-n-shoot” method, also known as “fanning,” poses major issues with hunter safety as well as ethics.

In today's Outdoors column I write about on these tactics, featuring the viewpoint of five experts in the field, from the International Hunter Education Association to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Check out the video first and then the reactions from the experts. Then let me know what YOU think.

Should the state enact a rule that prohibits a hunter from being closer than 5 or 10 feet from a turkey decoy while in the act of hunting?

  • To show how the basics of hunter education are deteriorating behind this mentality, the photo with this post shows TV crews and men who call themselves turkey hunting experts setting up an outdoors show filming featuring Miss Kansas shooting from behind a gobbler decoy.

Alaska bear largest to be killed by hunters

HUNTING — The largest grizzly bear killed and recorded by a hunter has been entered into the Boone and Crockett record book.

The big bruin, taken in 2013 near Fairbanks, Alaska, by Larry Fitzgerald of Fairbanks scores 27-6/16. It missed the world's record mark by seven-sixteenths of an inch but landed a spot as the second-largest grizzly ever recorded. The reigning World's Record is a skull found in Alaska in 1976.

Bears are scored based on skull length and width measurements.

Conservationists use Boone and Crockett trophy data to gauge outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management and fair-chase hunting.

“One would think that a relatively accessible area, with liberal bear hunting regulations to keep populations in line with available habitat and food, would be the last place to find one of the largest grizzly bears on record,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club's Records of North American Big Game committee.

Hale said the area is being managed for an overpopulation of grizzlies. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game liberalized hunting regulations to help balance and control bear predation on moose. Baiting is allowed although Fitzgerald stalked his trophy.

Hale added that Boone and Crockett Club recognizes found or picked-up trophies, like the reigning world's record grizzly which scores 27 13/16, alongside hunter-taken trophies because all are useful for documenting historic conservation successes.

Elk Foundation funds Washington habitat projects

WILDLIFE – Nine counties in Washington have been granted nearly $180,000 for habitat projects and research from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

The 2014 grants will affect nearly 1,600 acres in Asotin, Cowlitz, Jefferson, King, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Pierce, Skamania and Yakima Counties.

 The money will boost local, state and federal programs for prescribed burns, forest thinning, meadow restoration, noxious weed treatments and other projects, said David Allen, RMEF president.

“We also committed considerable resources toward three different elk studies including one focused on determining the cause of hoof rot,” he said.

RMEF volunteers in Washington raised the money through banquets and activities.

 Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 521 different conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington.

Read on for the specific projects funded by the 2014 grants.

Unethical marksmen shooting sport in the foot

SHOOTING — Shooters have a widespread issue to deal with, regardless of their perspective on the mind-boggling surge in firearms sales in recent years and movements that have liberalized the application of firearms in national parks and college campuses.

No one can deny that there's an unethical element out there trashing public and private lands with their makeshift shooting ranges.

Most recently, the jerks have eliminated places to shoot in Spokane County and they're on the verge of eliminating a traditional shooting site in Idaho's Kootenai County.

It's little solace to learn that Canada is having the same issues:

Makeshift shooting ranges in S. Alberta anger cattle ranchers
Target shooters are setting up targets around southern Alberta, putting ranchers, their herds and backcountry hikers and riders at risk of stray bullets, but law enforcement officials said there few regulations on firearms in Kananaskis Country, making shutting down such ranges difficult.
— Calgary Herald

 

 

Idaho spring bear hunting seasons underway

HUNTING — Here's a cue for hikers to wear colorful clothing — no black or brown.

Idaho's spring black bear hunting season opened April 15 throughout the Idaho Panhandle Region.

Season ending dates vary by unit.  In units 2, 3 and 5 the season closes May 15.  Units 1, 4, and 4A close May 31.  The higher elevation units close later with unit 6 open through June 30.  Units 7 and 9 close July 31.  Hunters may use a second bear tag and electronic calls in units 4, 6, 7 and 9 where bear numbers are higher and predation is depressing deer and elk numbers.

Only black bears may be hunted. Grizzly bears could be encountered throughout much of the Panhandle, but grizzlies are protected by state and federal law.

While grizzlies are most commonly found in big game unit 1, they may be found in any of the Panhandle hunting units. Several years ago, a grizzly showed up near Rose Lake in unit 4.  To get there it crossed through several big game units where grizzlies are very uncommon.

Also keep an eye out for this bear, as described by Idaho Fish and Game:

Last fall, a female grizzly collared in NW Montana crossed into Idaho big game unit 4.  This 16-18 year old bear then spent several weeks in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Apparently the area was not where she wanted to settle down for the winter, so she traveled toward the Silver Valley, crossed I-90 somewhere near Kingston or Pinehurst and made her way into the upper St Joe. She likely denned somewhere in the St. Joe drainage.

Her collar was programmed to automatically turn off for the winter to save battery power, so her exact den location is unknown.  

The collar is programmed to be back on now, but no signals have been detected.  The lack of a signal indicates she is likely still in her den. 

As she did not have cubs with her last fall, there is a good possibility she may have new cubs with her when she emerges.

Only the bear knows if she will move back toward Montana, or take up residence in the St. Joe country.  Because of the uncertainty of this bear’s next move, bear hunters should be aware that this (or another) grizzly could show up in any Panhandle big game unit.

IDENTIFICATION

Under field conditions, it can be very difficult to distinguish grizzly bears from black bears.  The mistaken shooting of grizzlies has been a significant factor limiting the recovery of grizzly bears in northern Idaho.

Grizzly bears have a hump on their shoulders, a dished face, longer claws on their front feet, and shorter more rounded ears than black bears.  

Size and color are not reliable features to identify the bears.   Black bears can be any color from black or brown to blonde; and, grizzlies can be so dark as to appear black.  A young grizzly can be smaller than an adult black bear and have a very small shoulder hump.

To prevent mistaken identity, bear hunters must learn to accurately identify black bears and distinguish them from grizzly bears in the wild, often in poor light conditions and possibly from long distances.

Bear spray is a good item to carry regardless of whether you're a hunter, hiker mushroom picker or anyone heading int North Idaho mountains.

Research has shown that bear spray is more effective and easier to use to deter a bear/human interaction than a firearm. 

On the fresh sheet tonight: wild turkey

HUNTING — Here's a hunting quarry you can gobble up twice in the same day.

By the way, I feel sorry for all of you who filled  your spring gobbler tag on opening day.  That left you less to look forward to!

Mike Coyle stepped up for fish, wildlife, sportsmen

CONSERVATION – Spokane sportsmen lost one of their most enduring worker bees with the recent death of Mike Coyle.

For decades he led efforts to put a smiling face and a handshake on the good things sportsmen do with their money and volunteer energy.

His heart was into big-game hunting, but he stepped up when the tradition of Spokane Fish Hatchery tours was in jeopardy in 2006 for lack of funding and interest. Coyle pitched a plan, got support from the Inland Empire Chapter of Safari Club International, which he helped organize in 1978, and got the program rolling again.

Behind the scenes, Coyle’s efforts taught hundreds of kids about the life history of trout while helping the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department set up nets that spare fry from birds and save fish for anglers.

Three years ago, at 79, he stepped down from coordinating volunteers who guided up to 60 group tours a year through the hatchery.

In an age when hunting-related groups often get bogged down and divided in political bias, Coyle was a model for rising above it all and putting fish and wildlife first on the agenda.

Hunters missed shot at possible world record bighorn

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A massive bighorn sheep that died of natural causes and was later found by wildlife officials could be a new world record, according to the Missoula-based Boone and Crockett Club.

The ram was found in Alberta. The skull is in possession of provincial officials and will be entered into Boone and Crockett records on behalf of the citizens of Alberta.

“Many hunters are unaware that Boone and Crockett records include many found trophies,” said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. “The main reason we keep records is to document conservation success. Although they aren't taken by hunters, found trophies are nonetheless an important gauge of outstanding habitat, strong recruitment of game animals into older age classes, sustainable harvest objectives and other elements of sound wildlife management. Picked-up trophies are an integral part of the conservation success story. Without them, the story is incomplete.”

Alberta biologists speculate the bighorn died in early summer 2013 at 10-1/2 years of age.

Boone and Crockett official measurers in Alberta taped the horns and alerted the Club they had totaled a preliminary green score that would exceed the current world record. That ram, also from Alberta, scored 208-3/8 B&C points and was taken in 2000.

Although Montana has been producing some tremendous rams in recent years, all Boone and Crockett world record bighorn sheep throughout history have come from Alberta.

The long-followed next procedural steps for certifying a new world record include an evaluation of an official score sheet (prepared after the required 60-day drying time) and photos, and officially entering the trophy into Boone and Crockett records. If all remains in order, the club will convene a special judge's panel to re-score the ram, confirm a final score and make a record determination.

An official announcement should follow within the next 90 days, said Hale.

Nailed! Deer poacher, 25, sentenced to 5 years, $24K

POACHING — “The man who wore a T-shirt reading 'Damn I’m Good' while hoisting the severed head of one of many trophy Okanogan bucks he poached during a 2012 and 2013 killing spree was sentenced to five years in jail and over $24,000 in fines,” reports Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

The Omak Chronicle and Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune report that Garret V.J. Elsberg pled guilty to eight counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game, seven counts of second-degree unlawful hunting, possession of a firearm, and one count of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game.

“These were the most flagrant acts of poaching in my 25 years as a game warden,” said Jim Brown, former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police officer and now the agency's region manager in Ephrata.

Walgamott has a full roundup of information about the case involving this young man gone wrong. 

Oregon rancher kills 500-pound black bear

WILDLIFE — A huge black bear by Oregon standards has been killed by a rancher legally defending the family's property.

Hunters are scratching their heads wondering how they missed seeing one of the biggest bruins experts have seen in the Northwest.

From the Associated Press:

Ranchers in south-central Oregon have legally killed a nearly 500-pound black bear after one of their heifers was killed by a bear and the giant animal was found in the family’s cattle herd.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Craig Foster says Marie Leehmann went beyond legal requirements by obtaining a kill permit before a family member shot the bear.

The Herald and News reports that field biologists say the male bear weighed 490 pounds, stood 6-foot-5 and was 13 to 15 years old. Foster said the largest bear he had previously seen weighed 345 pounds.

The kill permit was issued after it was determined that one of the Leehmanns’ yearling heifers had been killed by a bear. Two days later, on April 4, Leehmann was checking the cows when a bear ran out of the herd. Her son, Ryon, shot the bear within a quarter-mile of their home.

Foster says ranchers are legally allowed to kill bears that attack cattle.

Washington hunting regulations out; applications open; photo winner revealed

HUNTING — Washington's new 2014 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet has been posted on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website — with hard copies showing up at dealers. 

The month-long special permit application period for deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep and wild turkey starts today.

The deadline is May 22.

Note the cover photo: Jason Raines won the WDFW hunting camp photo contest for the braggin' rights of getting his camp featured on the cover of the 2014 pamphlet. The photo shows his his 2009 elk camp near Mount St. Helens in the general area where he's hunted elk for more than a decade. Raines reported he bagged a “raghorn” 3x4 bull on the last day of that season.

That's the beauty of a good hunting camp: It keeps you comfortable enough in the right place for as long as it takes to put the odds of success in your favor.

“It’s a place that calms the mind and soul,” he told WDFW about the photo entry. “It is so tough to describe, it just has to be experienced.”

Here's a tip of the blaze-orange hat to Raines who, since 2010, has been bringing wounded veterans out to enjoy the camp and the big-game hunting experience it fosters.