Buffalo Field Campaign. News from the Field. Jan. 18.

Montana is continuing with its phony bison hunt. That’s the hunting season for bison in a state that allows no bison. If some wander outside of Yellowstone Park, a hunter with a permit gets a chance. Otherwise, the state just collects money and provides no ground for the bison to live even though plenty of ground is available.

Here is the latest news from the field by the Buffalo Field campaign. They are opposing the hunt with the slogan. “no habitat, no hunt.”

* News from the Field (by the Buffalo Field Campaign)

Yesterday, January 17, 2007, marked the start of the latest phase in the Montana bison hunt. BFC’s Gardiner patrol took to the field at first light and discovered three bull buffalo already in the hunters’ sights near the Eagle Creek campground, and our hopes for a quiet day were shattered. With time against us we had to choose our location rapidly but wisely, having only one chance to sufficiently capture the day’s events.

Unfortunately, before we were able to get in position, the telltale crack of a rifle told us that the first buffalo had been shot. As we’ve seen time and again, when one buffalo is killed his companions tend to stay in the area rather than scatter and run. This enabled a second group of hunters to sight in on the second buffalo with great ease. Because of our location, we were able to capture on film the multiple shots needed to bring the second buffalo down. With so many shots we lost track at five but later overheard a conversation about seven brass casings being recovered at the scene.

As the third buffalo looked on towards his fallen brothers we approached the hunters and engaged them in conversation. We discussed Montana’s intolerance for bison, the nearly perpetual hazing and lack of habitat in Montana due to the complete failure of the Inter-agency Bison Management Plan. While we disagreed about the merits of the bison hunt we found some common ground in our views of how wild bison should be treated in the state. Although BFC disagrees with the hunt, we recognize the power of Montana’s hunting community and hope that such dialog, education, and outreach will eventually lead to positive change for the bison.

Later we came across a third buffalo that was shot in the Travertine area, on the other side of the hunt zone. We were able to document the loading of the carcass into the hunter’s truck. These hunters weren’t interested in dialogue and simply loaded up and left.

Near West Yellowstone another group of hunters, apparently frustrated at the lack of bison in Montana and their resulting failure to shoot one, have been untruthfully complaining to the local game warden that BFC patrols are chasing bison back into the park. Their frustration would be better directed at the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission, which ignored the advice of its own scientists and issued more permits than there are buffalo in the state. Rather than making up false excuses for their unsuccessful hunt, these hunters would do better to demand on-the-ground changes in bison management that would allow bison to flourish on Montana soil.

Over the weekend members of the Nez Perce tribe shot three bison near Gardiner in a hunt authorized by their government and falling outside the scope of the current hunt administered by Montana. The Nez Perce have hunted in the region for thousands of years, a relationship acknowledged under an 1855 treaty with the US government. If not for the incredible destruction visited upon the Nez Perce, other Indian nations, and the species upon which their cultures are based, the health and vitality of the land and its communities–human and nonhuman–would not be in such a state of crisis and conflict.

Unfortunately, the discrimination and lack of tolerance that had such disastrous consequences in the 19th century is alive and strong today. According to a story in the January 13 Bozeman Chronicle, the Nez Perce decision to re-establish hunting of species other than bison doesn’t sit well with members of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission. That article quotes Commission Chairman Steve Doherty as saying, “This does give me some pretty grave concern.” According to the same article, the Commission’s concern does not extend to bison: “The tribe’s desire to take bison drew no criticism from the commission, other than a desire to alert nontribal hunters now in the field that others will be joining them,” the Chronicle reported.

While the Nez Perce have received lots of negative attention for asserting their rights to hunt near Yellowstone National Park, apparently it is ok for Montana and the National Park service to enforce Montana’s lack of bison tolerance through the continued slaughter and harassment of thousands of bison.

With so many buffalo being killed in the past year and with the policies that led to such heavy slaughter still in place, we are concerned with the killing of bison by anyone. Aware of how much the Nez Perce have done for Salmon recovery efforts, we are hopeful that they will have a similar effect upon the bison who reside in and around Yellowstone. With these things in mind, BFC has established an open dialog with the Nez Perce, as we attempt to do with all hunters.

James Holt spoke to us on camera about what this hunt means to the Nez Perce. Excerpts from the interview, which can be viewed in whole at: http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org, are included below:

“What you see here is us being able to continue living the way we always have….the buffalo obviously need to have habitat out here…We’re here to provide for our families, to honor the ancestors and speak to the buffalo today…Our people are dying from diabetes. Our people are dying from all these health problems that we have on the reservation and many of their people are people that had ties to the buffalo that were severed 150, 160, 180 years ago. We’ve seen our people decline. We’ve seen our people get close to extinction through the way we’ve been forced to live. This [hunt] gives us an opportunity to strengthen how we live on this earth. It strengthens that resolve, that respect, that honor and that dignity that we have to live on this earth every day. That’s what that means for us… and so if they say that we’re out here and we’re helping them to slaughter, well you know we’ve been slaughtered too and we’re still being slaughtered to this day by the policies that affect our Indian people. From the poor health care to the lack of education to the lack of housing we have all these other problems at home and these things, they’re tied to the life of the buffalo…to the buffalo that is ailing right now because of the brucellosis that affects his body or the slaughtering under this Plan. The federal management plan that affects them is the federal management plan that affects us. It’s all about termination, control, and exercising the power that they have because it’s there rather than because it’s right. And so that’s what I would say in rebuke to those that would say we’re assistant to the slaughter. We’re here forging a relationship that was severed for us by the white man when these buffalo were slaughtered. We’re here starting that back up so that we can understand what it means to truly love and honor and respect our brother the buffalo.”

With the Buffalo,

Buffalo Field Campaign






  1. Jon Way Avatar

    There has been discussion of boycotting folks in Wyoming that don’t support wolves. I say we boycott people in Montana that don’t support bison. Only in America can politicians have such backward policies.

  2. Alan Gregory Avatar

    The Montana conservation group Friends of the Wild Swan sponsored a billboard campaign some years back that urged just such a boycott.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I remain hopeful that Montana will yet come around.

    I understand that a number of the hunters are figuring out that they have been taken for their money — bison permit in a state with no bison. If bison lived in Montana, their situation would be different.

    I still have hope for the governor. He has to replace a few more of the buddies of the old order on various boards and commissions.

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Brian Schweitzer seems to be putting his feet into the boiling bison controversy one toenail at a time. How much longer do we have to wait for decisive action?

  5. George Vallee Avatar
    George Vallee

    I’ve followed the Yellowstone bison controversy for nearly a decade now. Consequently, I’ve elected to boycott both Montana and Yellowstone National Park. I urge others to do the same.

  6. Dustin Davis Avatar
    Dustin Davis

    I am from, and live in Montana, and if you haven’t been here don’t bad mouth it until you have. If you want free ranging bison talk to the people in the cattle industry. There is plenty of public lands, but the land is also used by ranchers for grazing their cattle and they don’t want bison coming in contact with their cattle. Come visit and enjoy Montana. Don’t boycott us.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I think most people on this blog have been to Montana and a number live there.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan