Montana Elk, deer prospects look good this year

This won’t impress most of that fraction of hunters who have decided that wolves have killed off the elk populations of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, but most years I have put up articles like this.

From the Missoulian. Montana Elk, deer prospects look good this year. By Michael Jamison.



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  1. JB Avatar

    “But whatever the reason, herds holding steady or in slight decline “make up an awfully small portion of the whole region. Overall, west-central Montana is growing a bumper crop of elk.”…And this year’s spring surveys showed the region’s elk numbers “higher than we’ve ever been,” Thompson said.”

    Wait, I thought wolves were decimating elk populations in western Montana? This article discusses factors affecting elk and deer populations in Montana and never even mentions wolves? Hmm…. 😉

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This article, and the facts, once again show that wolves generally have little relationship to the size of elk and deer populations over fairly wide areas.

    Unfortunately, anti-wolf is becoming part of what I call (and others) the “cultural politics” of the Republican Party, where many people are diverted from acting on their loss of jobs, lack of health care, spouse on 4th military deployment, inability to get an education, etc., into a politics of resentment that they carry to the voting booth before they go back to their unsatisfactory situation.

  3. JB Avatar


    I know we’ve had this discussion before, but it appears that wolves have become a symbol–representing the urban left–for some Westerners. There are a number of interesting cross-disciplinary studies on “cultural cognition” that show a strong link between what the authors alternatively call “worldviews” and “cultural values” and opinions on a number of issues. In essence, the research suggests that for highly-charged, symbolic issues (e.g. drilling in ANWR, gay-rights, and–I would guess–wolves), individual’s opinions are highly dependent upon their worldviews–which are consulted as a kind of decision-making heuristic. Very interesting stuff!

    Here’s the link:

  4. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    I’ve heard this first hand more than once from outfitters and elk hunters…MFWP is deceiving the public and lying about the number of elk.
    For years they’ve been able to take their clients into the same watershed and guarantee them a sucessful hunt. Now that the elk are being disbursed by wolves and actually becoming wild elk, it takes more effort to fill their tags, so in their minds “the wolves have killed all the elk”.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I think you are correct about one of the major reasons for this perception. The same thing is true in Idaho and Wyoming.

    The elk habits have changed and many hunters don’t realize it, and/or they can’t, or haven’t adapted.

  6. Barb Avatar

    Not to seem off topic, but Ralph your comment about cultural politics got me thinking….

    If you look on hunting blogs, you will find that hunters are voting for McCain and Palin as they Palin as “protecting their right to own guns.

    That seems like a silly thing to decide who to vote for as it is already guaranteed in our constitution.

    The number #1 issue with voters is the economy, jobs, etc.

    But some people are so paranoid about losing their right to own guns that it colors their view on everything else.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think you’re right, Barb.

    Creation of believe in false threats is used to keep people from acting on behalf of their true interests like protecting their livelihood, demanding access to affordable health insurance, or keeping their homes.

    Divide and conquer . . . really a very old tactic.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E

    Here is Idaho, Idaho Fish and Game is blaming wolves for every lack of success regarding hunting. It’s clearly a deliberate decision on their part.

    They never mention the hunting units where elk hunting success and numbers are up and there are wolves.

    They are being extremely unpleasant about it, personally and otherwise.

    I don’t any government agency getting pushy. They badly need a course correction.

  9. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I’ve been keeping an eye out for this years numbers in Idaho but have not seen anything to date. I do know that the delisting propaganda machine has been ratcheting up so it will be interesting to see the numbers.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E.

    I’m pretty sure there won’t be numbers for some time.

    Right now Idaho Fish and Game is touting a study of the “wolf-created” decline of elk in the Lolo zone, but they have released no study to the public.

    They are either dragging out their discredited 2006 study or have done a new study which they are keeping secret (I should add that this is not legal if they have a new study and are withholding it).

  11. Salle Avatar


    May I chime in with some cultural anthropological perspective?

    It is a “cultural thing” as it is a developed-over-time condition that includes many collective ideals like hunting rights, religion, the urgency in protecting gun ownership, the dime-store novel romanticizing the rugged life in the west, “it’s all we know”…, and in many cases lack of education.

    All of these “traditional” symbols of values that are not clearly defined and become colored with the lens of religious tenets, modern complexities that are beyond localized understanding…

    and fanned into flames by the politics of fear of the unfamiliar ~ like CHANGE.

    Adaptation does not take place out of voluntary aspiration, it requires a narrow set of options for survival of the familiar, change presents an unknown that is to be feared and, therefore, resisted.

    When you mix all that with localized norms that are isolates lacking updates in adaptations in sync with the society in general, the rest of the world for some, you find that any accepted messenger with a fear factor can incite small populations to regard anything outside their norm as a threat.

    It appears, after personally observing for over a decade, that the trusted messenger is the F&G, the elected familiars and other localized primary sources. They are good at marketing fear which has long been their message.

    Fear is a very strong motivator.

    These articles, their “cooked” online and other info are examples of how this works.

    merely for those who are interested… ;>

  12. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I do not usually do this when I go hunting but this year I made a point of talking with as many hunters as I could in the immediate area where I was hunting. While not a large number, I believe about twelve different individuals, each and every one raised the issue of of wolves. As we talked the stance taken by this group ranged from slightly negative with a strong opinion that we needed to get past the legal issues and into the management mode, too absolutely rabid hate of wolves. (I find that attitude especially fascinating and spent more time with those expressing that opinion than the more middle of the road hunters). The conversations followed the general course that we all are probably familiar with, but what I was paying particular attention to was the actual way each individual went about hunting. now where I was at on that particular day the elk were hanging at ~6000 ft and higher.Right about the snow line as you would expect.(these conversations were at around 4500) I had already climbed the mountain that morning; came across several dozen fresh beds and other fresh sign in addition to watching some cow elk and the occasional rifle shot from off yonder some where. Also came across VERY fresh cougar tracks/sign and bear sign everywhere. looks like it was a excellent berry harvest.8*). Also some older wolf scat here and there, nothing fresh.
    Anyway as I was talking to these different hunters and telling them what I saw I noticed that the ones that voiced a middle of the road opinion showed way more interest in climbing up the mountain where the haters(about a third of the total) did not even get out of their truck and from the looks of it had not all that day or at all on any other day for that matter. now this does not prove or indicate any thing other than I found it kinda interesting. By the way on that day and the next two I was he only one that climbed that particular mountain.(8000+feet, nor roads at the top) Tracks in the snow proved that. It just does not get much better, as far as what I most enjoy about hunting


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Ralph Maughan