Montana looking to create state sanctioned canned buffalo hunts

You too can hunt bison in fenced wildlife management areas.

The Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks is floating a plan to move the last remaining quarantined bison to State owned wildlife management areas. Good thing right? Not so fast, they would be fenced in and not allowed to roam freely on the landscape. On top of that they would be hunted as well just like at those canned hunting places in Idaho and other states.

It sounds like a sick joke to me and I’m not the only one.

“FWP’s plan would further the disrespectful livestock model while adding the sickening twist of hunting buffalo on fenced-in public land after they have been raised in prison since they were calves stolen from the wild,” – Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

via FWP eyes state land for bison – The Bozeman Daily Chronicle: News.

“Putting them behind a fence and shooting them dead is too low of a bar. That’s not how we manage our wildlife species,” – Glenn Hockett – Gallatin Wildlife Association.

via State may put at least 50 bison on Spotted Dog land
Eve Byron – Helena Independent Record.


  1. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    I’m almost afraid to search for the news every day with incredible stories like these. What are these people thinking? Manage my a*&. These people should be stopped!!The canned hunters will be lining up for these incredibly challenging hunts- gazelles have nothing on bison- such an agile moving target!!

  2. jburnham Avatar

    Hunting fenced in bison certainly doesn’t qualify as fair chase, but they’re already being shot and hunted as they leave the park, so in that respect this would only preserve the status quo.

    The news isn’t all bad though. The possibility of a quasi free-roaming population in the Bob is definitely an exciting idea. And Maurier’s statements sure are encouraging. Sounds to me like a challenge to the DOL’s influence over bison. Isn’t that one of the things that BFC has been working for all these years?

    “As the state agency responsible for Montana’s wildlife, it is time that we take a serious look at this big game species’ management,” Maurier said on Tuesday. “Bison have been ignored as a big game species for 100 years. It’s simply time to consider realistic options for its management in Montana.”


    He added that the 1 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Area also is attractive since its interior elevations are fairly low and it wouldn’t need to be fenced, which would allow the bison to roam freely.

    “Maybe the Bob is a place where they can have a small herd that sustains itself in the interior elevations; those kinds of spots might be acceptable,” Maurier said.

    Maybe nothing will come of this, but the fact that they’re pursuing these ideas seems like good news to me.

  3. dave Avatar

    Jburnham, I’m with you on this one. I don’t fully understand how returning bison to a 1 million acre wilderness area is a bad thing. Wouldn’t that offer lots of opportunity for these genetically pure bison to proliferate and repopulate an area they have not been part of for a very very long time??

    I’m not advocating canned hunting, mind you. But it has to be better than letting them sit in quarantine, no?

    1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

      There is a lot of public land in the upper Little Lost River area of Idaho that could use some wild Bison as well. I have found parts of Bison skulls and horns there in the past.
      Lets get those Bison out on public lands and fight with the game departments about hunting them later. This is a step in the right direction.

      1. PointsWest Avatar

        There were once bison in all of Idaho, in eastern Oregon and northern Utah. I think it is pretty well documented. They receded very quickly from Oregon and Utah and southwest Idaho as there numbers were never very high. Eastern Idaho had many bison and were not killed off until about 1870. The big operation at Fort Hall sent hunting expeditions up the Snake and Henry’s Fork for bison and other game to feed their personel and to sell to immigrants. Fort Hall also grazed livestock up the Snake River and Henry’s Fork. They would buy/sell/trade sick and week stock (horses and oxen) to the immigrants on their way to California or Oregon. Fort Hall saw as many as 300 wagons a day pass through and it was the only places on the middle Oregon or California trails where immigrants could purchase or trade for new stock. Fort Hall even grazed some stock up over Monida Pass into Montana. They would buy tired or week stock, graze it for a season, and then resell back at Fort Hall as fresh stock. It was a big operation for a time in the 1850’s and 1860’s. They had herds of thousands or horse and oxen.

        Beaver Dick reports seeing one bison near St. Anthony in the late 1870’s. He mentions that this may have been the last one. Eastern Idaho was once a rich and well defended buffalo hunting region commanded by the Bannock.

      2. PointsWest Avatar

        Correction…the heyday of the stock trade at Fort Hall was more the 40’s and 50’s (not the 50’s and 60’s). There were new roads to California by the 60’s and the Civil War disrupted immigration to Oregon. There were also the Idaho and Montana gold rushes in the early 60’s that brought many people and towns to the west so the era of the trading post was fading by the 60’s

  4. mikepost Avatar

    If you ever saw a “wild” buffalo hunt you would be hard pressed to differentiate the difference between a canned hunt and the “wild” one. Amazing as they can be once they get going, with settled herd you can just walk up pretty close and shoot them if you even half know what you are doing. Dave and JB…. have a point.

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      I thought the “buffalo hunters” who exterminated the buffalo would figure out who the leader of the herd was and shoot it. Once the leader was dead, the rest would just stand around and let the hunter shoot them. Hunters would dozens and dozens at a sitting. Over a hundred sometimes. Western lore said it would overheat their gun barrels so they would piss down the barrel to cool it off and go on shooting.

  5. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I think releasing them on a 1 million acre site that was unfenced in the Bob would be a good idea. I would think that would be fair chase. I still think they should be restored to the Red Desert. To my knowledge there are little cattle operations and even fewer fences. Plus that would be some rugged area so even if they were hunted it would be a challenge.

  6. PointsWest Avatar

    Very few would consider buffalo hunting much of a sport. Buffalo are not weary and generally spend most of their time in the open. It would always just be a matter of finding one and getting close enough for a shot which should never be very hard to do.

    If I lived back in Idaho, I would do it. I would love a buffalo robe. Buffalo fur is some of the softest I know of. I like things of the Old West and a buffalo robes reaks of the Old West. I would like to mount the head. I love buffalo mounts…especially the really bigs one like the one that used to hang in the Stagecoach Inn at West Yellowstone (it’s gone now….probably sold it for tens of thousands of dollars). Finally, I like buffalo meat. I’d love to have a freezer full of buffalo meat.

    So I would hunt buffalo but it would not be for the sport of it. It would be for all the freebies I would get from it. It would certainly be better if it were a free ranging buffalo however…it would be more authentic.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      When you do it with a longbow, believe me, it has a bit more challenge that you would like to admit!

  7. Patrick Avatar

    I would agree that I would prefer free-ranging bison, but if we can get them on federal land, even if it were fenced, it would be a good start. At least we might be able to supplant the cattle, and provide another native animal prey species for wolves.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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