Monday, July 02, 2018

Good elk hunting leads to conflict in southwest Montana

The hunting is good in southwest Montana, but the elk herds roaming open ranges of state land in a section of Centennial Valley southeast of Dillon aren't just good hunting — they're a source of conflict. Under a startlingly blue sky dotted with puffy clouds, several pickups rolled to a stop on a dusty, isolated road Saturday. A remote valley shadowed by cotton-ball clouds lay below, with Lima Reservoir adding more gorgeous blue to the picture. The pickups carried sportsmen, ranchers, and agency professionals. Around 30 people gathered in this remote corner of Big Sky country to air grievances and seek common ground in a good-faith effort to improve things. Most agreed that the sportsmen who took time out of their Saturday to attend the outdoor meeting are not the problem. To emphasize how big the hunting has become, Martin Balukas, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokesperson, said he saw a refrigerated semi-truck parked at the popular hunters' camp at Wolverine Creek Road one recent hunting season. "The elk have exploded on the landscape," Balukas said. Some hunters who are unethical and others who just don't know they're breaking the rules are creating problems for ranchers who use the same state land to graze their cattle, say various agency officials and ranchers. The ranchers in the valley have their own stories. Bob Dixon, who owns Santana Ranch, lost at least $2,200 last year when hunters left a dead cow on the road during last year's hunting season. Dixon said he doesn't know if hunters shot the cow or if they ran her over. In addition, Dixon's ranch manager and workers found the hunters had left a gate open and cows had traveled for miles up the road before the ranch hands realized the situation and rounded them up. The Santana Ranch leases state trust land to graze. The popular hunting camp at Wolverine Creek Road is on the state land Santana Ranch leases. Ranchers also say their fences have been cut. They want more enforcement...MORE

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