* Update from the Field
We are excited to take this opportunity to wish everyone
a joyous solstice, happy holidays, and a hopeful new
year. All has remained quiet on the western front
this week. The same four beautiful buffalo bulls
remain contented to stay in the Yellowstone Village
housing area of Horse Butte. No other buffalo
have been seen since the days following the killing
of the buffalo right outside the Park border on the
Koelzer property. Buffalo hunters have also been
scarce during this holiday season. Our patrols
did have an interaction with one group of friendly hunters
we have seen over the past several weeks. They
were back again to look for buffalo and left once again
having only seen the four bulls in the Village, protected
and inaccessible. Through our conversation, we
learned of their increasing frustration, significant
expenses, and growing understanding that the Fish, Wildlife,
and Parks Commission simply issued too many permits.
Unfortunately, the Gardiner area was not so quiet last
week. The last of five permits issued for the
first hunting period was filled over the weekend.
A large bull buffalo was shot within a half mile of
the Eagle Creek Campground, the same area where the
majority of buffalo were shot in this year's and last
year's hunt. Eagle Creek was formerly the only
area in Montana where buffalo could and actually would
roam unmolested outside Park borders. Now this
former refuge for buffalo is a killing field.
More buffalo will be killed in this same area over the
next six weeks, because unlike West Yellowstone, buffalo
are likely to be in the Eagle Creek area throughout
the winter. Unfortunately, by the time all the
permits are filled, there may not be any more buffalo
left In Eagle Creek to utilize this good winter range
* Buffalo Hunt not Cheap for Hunters
Montana's Buffalo hunt is proving itself to be an expensive
prospect for the hunters who drew a tag for this first
part of the season. Montana does not have a resident
herd of wild buffalo. Buffalo are ecologically
extinct within our state. With so little year-round
habitat outside the Park, the chances of getting a buffalo
rest primarily on migration from within Yellowstone
National Park. That migration is typically triggered
by harsh winter conditions and calving in the spring.
So far, the winter has been relatively mild with little
snowfall, and the calving season is still months away.
This means a buffalo hunter in Montana could easily
spend large sums of money on a hunt in which there was
no legal game in the state. I started thinking
about this the other day as yet another hunter came
and went with no chance of getting a buffalo this season.
What are the costs to a hunter who draws a buffalo tag?
Exact costs are difficult to determine, but here's a
reasonable scenario for a general estimate.
For this example, let's say a Montana resident from
Billings draws a tag and takes four friends on a four-day
Buffalo Tag - Drawing fee, Conservation Fee, Hunter
Access Enhancement Fee, and License - total = $140.00
Travel - Drive from Billings to West Yellowstone - 232
miles with two trucks averaging 18 miles per gallon
at a cost of $2.25/gallon - total = $58.50
Lodging - Two rooms for three nights at the lowest rates
in West Yellowstone - total = $405.00
Meals - $20/day for five people - total = $400.00
Additional fuel during hunt - total = $20.00
Snowmobile rental - two snowmobiles for two days at
$100/day - total = $400.00
Travel back to Billings without a buffalo - total =
Total expenses = $1,482
Nearly $1,500 of expenses with little or no hope of
actually finding and legally killing a wild buffalo.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission has
authorized a buffalo hunt and issued more permits than
the number of buffalo that could reasonably be expected
in the state. Especially after the Park Service
and the Montana Department of Livestock killed over
1000 buffalo last year. This group of political
appointees has done a major disservice to Montana hunters
and owes an apology for disregarding the recommendations
of the biologists, wildlife managers, and concerned
citizens to issue fewer permits. Montana is clearly
not ready for a buffalo hunt. Buffalo simply do not
have enough viable habitat in our state. They
are still managed by the Montana Department of Livestock.
They are not even recognized as a valued native wildlife
species in Montana.
* Colorado Ski Vacation Auction to Benefit Buffalo
Support Buffalo Field Campaign by bidding on a February
ski trip to Crested Butte, Colorado. Auction includes
a week of free lodging in a slope-side condominium,
8 free lift tickets courtesy of Crested Butte Mountain
Resort, free ski jackets and hats courtesy of Patagonia,
and gift certificates courtesy of Crested Butte and
Gunnison businesses. This auction will run for
a week starting December 29.
View the auction at:
* Last Words
The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without
it we were nothing. Our tipis were made of his
skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter
coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night,
alive, holy. Out of his skin we made our water
bags. His flesh strengthened us, became flesh
of our flesh. Not the smallest part of it was
wasted. His stomach, a red-hot stone dropped into
it, became our soup kettle. His horns were our
spoons, the bones our knives, our women's awls and needles.
Out of his sinews we made our bowstrings and thread.
His ribs were fashioned into sleds for our children,
his hoofs became rattles. His mighty skull, with
the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar.
-John Fire Lame Deer