Montana Hunters Cited
November 07, 2014 6:23 pm •
On the second day of Montana’s general big game season, dozens of hunters converged on a large herd of elk on a section of state land near White Gulch near Canyon Ferry Reservoir. While many of those hunters took clean shots, as the herd scattered others reportedly shot into the herd, shot at running animals and generally displayed what some consider unethical hunter behavior.
By the end of the day, around 30 elk lay dead, an unknown number were wounded and three hunters had received citations, with one 5X5 bull seized by game wardens and an illegally killed spike shot and left.
“Unfortunately a situation like that brings out the worst in unethical hunter behavior,” Warden Sgt. Dave Loewen said that Monday. “If I could emphasize one thing, it’s that type of activity drains local game wardens babysitting elk and unethical hunters. I wouldn’t even consider it hunting.”
The herd of around 500 elk split and moved between public, block management and private land throughout the day, continuing to get shot at, said Warden Justin Feddes. As word spread, more and more hunters arrived to join the fray, with some attempting to keep the elk on the flats with vehicles.
Montana Code 87-6-405 addresses using vehicles to hunt.
“Use of a self-propelled vehicle to intentionally concentrate, drive, rally, stir up, or harass wildlife, except predators of this state,” is unlawful, according to the code.
Proving intent and that hunters are purposely using vehicles to herd animals is difficult, Warden Justin Hawkaluck said, adding that wardens had stopped vehicles near White Gulch for safety reasons.
Two Great Falls hunters, Robert B. McCaslin and Brett Gene McMurphey, were cited for failing to obtain landowner permission. Those citations occurred on private land not open to public hunting, Feddes said.
East Helena hunter Kenneth S. Garrison was also cited for failing to obtain landowner permission on the Hensley Block Management Area. Wardens seized a 5X5 bull elk from Garrison, according to the citation.
“Overall, for the activity that was going on up there it was a pretty minor incident, but it needed to be addressed,” Hawkaluck said of Garrison’s citation. “He wasn’t signed in on block management, and it was an unfair advantage for those that did sign in.”
All three hunters were required to appear in Broadwater County Justice Court with bonds of $170. None had a phone number listed in the phone book.
“We issued a whole lot of verbal warnings,” Feddes said. “It’s a drain with three of us up there all day long tying us all down.”
With the resources required to monitor the hunting near White Gulch, wardens were unable to patrol the rest of their territory, he said, which had them concerned about what else might be going on in other areas.
Events like those over opening weekend give hunters a bad name, said area landowner and outfitter Kelly Flynn, who saw the large number of vehicles parked but did not witness the shooting firsthand. Flynn also caught trespassers on his land, but chose not to prosecute, he said.
The gang mentality of hunters when they surround elk on the flats is something he has witnessed multiple times in the past, Flynn said.
“People seem to lose some of their common sense when there’s that many elk that close,” he said. “It’s difficult to watch, and I’ve talked to several people who did see it and said it was as ugly as it could possibly be.”
Flynn believes that cellphones play a major role in coordinating between hunters and that party hunting, or one hunter tagging an animal harvested by another hunter, as was also taking place.
“We have rules and I don’t think that’s too much to ask from our hunters to follow them,” Flynn said. “I think that’s disappointing.”