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Proposal would kill the wrong elk
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Proposal would kill the wrong elk

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I have never heard an elk hunter or a Forest Service employee complain about too many elk on Montana's public lands. The persistent narrative of over-abundance is a private lands issue, not one of public lands. Yet, we are about to make it one, with dire consequences.

Under FWP's current proposal to open up January and February elk hunting in 19 hunting districts — now including national forest — many will die for the wrong reason, in the wrong location, at a time when they shouldn't be hunted in the first place. Worse, in the process of decimating our public land elk herds in the interest of meeting outdated goals set by select and narrow interests, we will kill the wrong elk — the good elk that try to stay on public lands in winter — and train the surviving elk to set up shop on private refuges, perpetuating the very problem we hope to solve. This is declaring war on elk and will perpetuate a death spiral that we will not escape as long as we believe we can somehow shoot ourselves out of the dilemma and treat the current situation as an "abundance" rather than the "distribution" issue that it is.

When the gunfire stops, we will be left with de facto private land elk in Montana as our public land elk have been shot to pieces. Elk are quick to learn and will continue to find refuge as long as private lands are inaccessible to hunters, and shooting the remaining elk on public lands for up to six months a year will do nothing to solve this, only make matters worse.

Any public land hunter — or private landowner with a legitimate elk problem — who supports this ill-fated proposal is shooting themselves in the foot.

Thomas Baumeister is the Capital Chapter leader of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

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