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Weekly Update from the Field December 28, 2006
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* Update from the Field
* Buffalo Hunt not Cheap for Hunters
* Colorado Ski Vacation Auction to Benefit Buffalo Field Campaign
* Last Words

* 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 habitat.
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* 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 hunting trip.

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 = $58.50

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.
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* Colorado Ski Vacation Auction to Benefit Buffalo Field Campaign
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:
http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/auctions/crestedbutte.html
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* 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


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