The Billings Outpost

Big game hunting prospects strong

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are hunting outlook reports for antelope, elk and deer in this section of Montana. The reports are from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Antelope

Things are looking up for Montana antelope with populations continuing to recover from previous years’ winter mortality and reduced recruitment in central and Eastern Montana.

This year, there are even a few more special licenses available reflecting that reduced but improving status. 

Successful antelope license applicants may recognize increased fawn production in many areas as populations respond to generally favorable weather and habitat conditions in 2014.

Montana’s antelope archery season will close Oct. 10 and the general rifle season for antelope will run Oct. 11-Nov. 9.

For more information on antelope hunting in Montana, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, click “Hunting” then click Hunting Guide.

Antelope numbers throughout south central Montana are stable to increasing from the past couple of years.  Fawn production increased dramatically in the spring of 2014 and should result in hunters seeing more antelope than last year. In areas impacted by bluetongue in 2008, population numbers remain below average, but are increasing. 

Elk

With elk populations continuing to be strong across most of Montana these are good times for elk hunters.

In some areas of Western Montana, where populations have declined, wildlife biologists have recently observed increased recruitment of calves.

In many hunting districts, however, because access to private lands can be difficult, which can affect hunting success given landownership patterns and distribution of elk.    

Montana’s general, five-week long, elk hunting season opens Oct. 25.

Even if you didn’t draw a special permit this year, remember Montana offers numerous opportunities to hunt for elk with just a general hunting license.

Elk numbers along the Beartooth Face and in the Crazy Mountains, Big Snowy Mountains, Bull Mountains and southeastern Belt Mountains are at all-time highs, though most are restricted to private land where access is difficult. Harvest will likely be slightly higher than last year.

Deer

Mule deer numbers have experienced recent declines in many areas of Montana but should be improving with favorable weather and habitat conditions in 2014. 

Recent seasonal insect-related disease outbreaks have reduced white-tailed deer populations in parts of eastern, central and west-central Montana.  Other areas have stable populations with favorable weather and habitat conditions in 2014 enhancing recruitment levels across the state. 

Bottom line, deer hunters in Montana will find improving populations but a mix of hunting opportunities when the general season opens Oct. 25.

Mule deer numbers throughout south central Montana are stable or up slightly from last year, though they remain 30 to 40 percent below the long-term average. Harvest likely will be similar to last year.

White-tailed deer numbers are quite low at lower elevations and north of the Yellowstone River, at least partially because of last summer’s outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, commonly known as EHD. Numbers closer to the mountains, where the bugs that spread the disease are not present, remain reasonably strong.

 Whitetail buck harvest opportunities likely will be similar to last year, while antlerless harvest will decline due to significant reductions in B-tag numbers.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:51

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Observe safety rules

The 1,200 volunteers who teach Hunter Education remind all hunters there are four basic rules of gun safety.

1. Always point the muzzle of your gun in a safe direction.

2. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded.

3. Always be sure of your target and beyond.

4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

      Hunting is a safe activity. It is up to each hunter to make responsible decisions to keep it that way.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:50

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Be aware of wild bears

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends the use of bear spray and urges hunters to learn other bear-aware safety measures.

Hunters in bear country need to:

• Carry bear spray and know how to use it.

• Hunt with a partner, leave detailed plans with someone and check-in periodically.

• Pay attention to fresh bear sign. Look for bear tracks, scat, and concentrations of natural foods.

• Use caution when hunting areas that have evidence of bear activity or areas with scavenging birds such as magpies, ravens, or crows.

      Most grizzly bears will leave an area if they sense human presence. Hunters who observe a grizzly bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area. If you do encounter a grizzly, stay calm, don’t run, and assess the situation by trying to determine if the bear is actually aware of you. Is it, for instance, threatening or fleeing? Always keep the bear in sight as you back away, and leave the area.

  Here are some guidelines for using bear spray:

When to use bear spray

• Bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.

How to use bear spray

• Each person should carry a can of bear spray.

• If a bear is moving toward you from a distance of 30-60 feet direct the spray downward toward the front of the bear with a slight side to side motion so that the bear spray billows up and creates a wide cloud that acts as a barrier between you and the bear.

• If the bear is within 30 feet spray continuously at the front of the bear until it breaks off its charge.

• Spray additional bursts if the bear continues toward you. Sometimes just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge.

• Spray additional bursts if the bear makes additional charges.

• A full canister of bear spray is essential for bear encounters.

• The expiration date on the spray should be checked annually.

Selecting a bear spray

Purchase products that are clearly labeled “for deterring attacks by bears,” and that are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

      No deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, bear spray has demonstrated success in a variety of situations in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved.

      For more on living with bears and being bear aware, see the FWP home page at fwp.mt.gov; then click Be Bear Aware.

      For information, go to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:49

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Outdoors in brief

Block management enrollees

For the 2014 hunting season, about 1,230 landowners have enrolled about 7.4 million acres in Montana’s Block Management Program.

      The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks program provides hunters with public hunting access to private land, and isolated public land, free of charge, while assisting landowners in managing hunting activities.

      Information about specific Block Management Area opportunities is available at all FWP offices and on the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov.

       Hunting Guides and most BMA maps also will be available on the FWP website. Click “Block Management.”

      Again this year, FWP will publish one statewide Block Management Hunting Access Guide that will list information for all seven FWP administrative regions.

      While many BMAs do not require reservations, some do. Hunters can use the Hunting Access Guides to determine how permission is obtained for individual BMAs. While some BMA reservations may be made this season beginning Aug. 22, others won’t open reservation lists until later in this fall.

Ask before you hunt

Montana’s millions of acres of private land offer some good hunting opportunities—the only catch is gaining the landowner’s permission to hunt.

It is Montana law that hunters obtain landowner permission to hunt on all private land.

Here are a few things to keep in mind that will greatly improve results when attempting to secure hunting access to private land.

• Show courtesy to the landowner and make hunting arrangements by calling or visiting at times convenient to the landowner.

• Plan ahead and secure permission well in advance of the actual hunting date.

• Provide complete information about yourself and your hunting companions, including vehicle descriptions and license numbers.

• Explain what type of hunting you wish to do, and be sure to ask any questions which can help clarify the conditions of access.

• Follow the landowner’s instructions, and bring with you only the companions for whom you obtained landowner permission.

• Be sure to thank the landowner after your hunt.

Hunters and landowners can learn more by investing some time on Montana’s Hunter-Landowner Stewardship Project, an information program for anyone interested in promoting responsible hunter behavior and good hunter and landowner relationships in Montana.

 Visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov, then click the “For Hunters” tab.

      For more information on hunting access in Montana, check out the “Hunter Access” pages on FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov.

Game bird forecast

 Here’s a rundown on the current status of Montana’s top upland game birds.

Gray (Hungarian) Partridge: While no formal surveys are conducted for huns in Montana, various observations along with weather and habitat conditions suggest huns will be average to below average again this season. Observations in Regions 4, 6, and 7 suggest average numbers. Observations from Region 5 suggest numbers will be below average and lower than last year.

Mountain Grouse: Observations in western Montana suggest average to slightly above average numbers of all species.  Preliminary information from Region 5 suggests overall blue grouse and ruffed grouse numbers will likely remain below the long term average.

Pheasants: Montana is experiencing a large decline in CRP acreage along the northern tier of the state, which may have an impact on hunting experiences in Regions 4 and 6. In this area, spring “crow counts”— where wildlife biologists travel specific routes to count and record the “crowing calls” of cock pheasants to determine population trends—were 42 percent above the long term average. Region 7 reported that populations will vary between fair to near the long-term average in good habitat.  In northwestern Montana, weather in Region 1 resulted in below average numbers on the Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area. Region 3 reported average numbers for southwestern Montana. In Region 5, pheasant crow counts varied but were below the long-term average. Overall, Region 5 expects the 2014 season will be similar to last year’s season. 

Sharp-tailed grouse: Region 6 reported fair to average numbers in good habitat. Lek surveys and other observations in Region 6 indicate sharp-tail numbers will be near the long term average across the region. General observations from Region 5 suggest below average numbers. Region 7 reported that sharp-tail populations will be near the long-term average where habitat conditions are good.

Chukar: Region 5 reports that chukar numbers remain below average but may have some potential for improvement this year.

Special youth season

Montana’s young hunters are the focus of a special weekend youth waterfowl and pheasant hunting season Sept. 27–28. Legally licensed hunters age 12 through 15 will be able to hunt ducks, mergansers, geese, coots and ring-necked pheasants statewide on these two days.

In addition, youngsters 11 years of age who will reach age 12 by Jan. 16, 2015 may participate in this hunt with the proper licenses. A non-hunting adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the young hunters in the field.

 The bag limit, shooting hours, hunter safety requirements and all other regulations of the regular pheasant and waterfowl seasons apply.

      There is an exception to the youth waterfowl season at the Canyon Ferry WMA near Helena—shooting hours will extend from one-half hour before sunrise to noon Sept. 27 and 28.

Last Updated on Thursday, 25 September 2014 10:47

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Local veteran wins award for service to disabled vets

COLD SPRING, Ky. –  Ernest L. Flynn of Billings and Frederica Haymaker of Los Angeles, were selected by Disabled American Veterans to receive the 2014 George H. Seal Memorial Trophy for extraordinary volunteerism.

The awards were presented by DAV National Commander Joseph Johnston at the organization’s 93rd National Convention Aug. 10-13 in Las Vegas.

“This year’s Seal award recipients are dedicated volunteers,” said Commander Johnston. “They represent the finest DAV has to offer in serving veterans.

“Volunteerism is one of the most important components of our mission and serves injured and ill veterans and their families,” said Johnston. “And DAV has more volunteers than any other veterans service organization.  From our hospital volunteers to our Transportation Network drivers, to our Local Veterans Assistance Program; we reach out to deliver assistance to the veterans who need us.”

The prestigious awards honor the best of thousands of remarkable volunteers who serve in the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service Program. The awards are conferred in memory of George H. Seal, who was DAV’s Director of Membership and Voluntary Services and the leading organizer and administrator of DAV volunteer programs.

“Our 2014 Seal Trophy winners show what volunteers can mean to our veterans,” said Johnston. They are there to honor the promises made to the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.”

DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.  It is dedicated to a single purpose; fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served.

 DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.  DAV, a non-profit organization with 1.2 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932.  Learn more at www.dav.org

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:15

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St. V pastoral education receives accreditation

St. Vincent Healthcare has announced that its Clinical Pastoral Education Program has received accreditation by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Inc. of Decatur, Ga., as a Satellite Program Center.

SV CPE is a satellite of Tri-Cities Chaplaincy in Richland, Wash. The program supervisor of SV CPE is the Rev. Wes McIntyre of Tri-Cities Chaplaincy. The Rev. Terry Hollister is coordinator of ministry formation and CPE at St. Vincent Healthcare.  

SV CPE was granted provisional accreditation in December 2013 and offered its first unit of CPE from February through June 2014. In late April, 2014 the Rev. Beverly Hartz, Accreditation Committee chairwoman, made a site visit to evaluate the program’s compliance with ACPE Accreditation Standards. Based on her findings and upon her recommendation, the ACPE Accreditation Commission took action to approve SV CPE as an accredited Satellite Program Center at its May meeting.  

SV CPE plans to continue offering CPE units in future. An extended unit will be held from October 2014 through May 2015. Eight students will be participating in that unit.

Two of those students will make use of videoconferencing technology as they participate remotely from the two other SCL Heath affiliate hospitals in Montana; Holy Rosary Healthcare, Miles City and St. James Healthcare, Butte. Plans are in progress for a 12-week summer intensive unit, to begin in late May or early June, 2015.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:14

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Clinic opens ExpressCare

Billings Clinic’s second ExpressCare retail clinic opened for business in March. Located near the pharmacy in the Billings Heights Albertsons store at 607 Main St., the clinic offers patients quick access to primary care in convenient locations for minor medical issues provided by Billings Clinic nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:12

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For healthier eating, embrace bitter flavors

FLASH IN THE PAN

By ARI LEVAUX

The people who shaped modern food have consistently selected against nutritional value, writes Jo Robinson in her fascinating book, “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.” We all know we’re supposed to add vegetables to our diet, she argues, but given the state of modern vegetables, that’s not usually enough. The vegetables you consume should be as nutrient-dense as possible, and as a general rule, the most nutrient dense foods are usually the strongest flavored and least domesticated.

“Early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil,” she writes. These seed savers chose the least bitter specimens to replant, at the expense of their and our health. “It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste,” Robinson writes.

Phytonutrients are biologically active, plant-derived compounds associated with positive health effects, even if they don’t taste too like doughnuts.

If bitter is indeed better, perhaps it’s time we rethink our relationship to this difficult flavor. It’s a shift that might not be as hard as one might think. The first time I tried beer, for example, I thought it was horrible, largely thanks to the bitterness. But as my body began to associate the flavor of beer with getting hammered and hanging out with similarly inebriated coeds, those same bitter beer flavors began to invoke feelings of expectation, comfort and delight.

Something analogous can happen with dietary bitter greens, thanks to a whole-body understanding of how good they will make your body feel. For some, this flavor becomes like the burn from a set of pushups, a la “no pain, no gain.” For others, like my sweetheart, who I’ll call Shorty, bitter is truly sweet. She eats radicchio like some people eat potato chips, dipping the leaves into an oily dressing as she goes. It’s half olive oil, with the other half equal parts soy sauce, balsamic and cider vinegars.

Shorty is the exception. Americans consume more servings of iceberg lettuce per week than all other fresh vegetables combined (not including potatoes), Robinson notes. Iceberg is the poster child for modern agriculture’s nutrient drain. It’s about as bland and non-bitter as water, and nearly as pale as the ice formation it’s named after.

“The most intensely colored salad greens have the most phytonutrients,” Robinson writes. “The most nutritious greens in the supermarket are not green at all but red, purple, or reddish brown. These particular hues come from phytonutrients called anthocyanins ... . Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that show great promise in fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, slowing age-related memory loss, and even reducing the negative effects of eating high-sugar and high-fat foods.”

Taking Robinson’s telltale signs to their logical conclusion, one might expect radicchio, with its dark purple leaves, to be among the most nutritious greens of all. And indeed they are, just a few steps behind radicchio’s wild cousin, the dandelion, which contains an even richer supply of nutrients - just make sure any gathered specimens haven’t been fortified by neighborhood dogs, or with added fertilizers or pesticides. Endive and escarole are also in the same family, as is chicory, their wild progenitor.

If you’re not a bittervore like Shorty, or aren’t the type to make peace with the bitter side of your sustenance, there are some easy ways to soften, obscure, and even put the bitter flavors to work.

Adding chopped dandelion greens or radicchio to a salad of paler, milder leaves like lettuce can add depth to the salad’s flavor, as the mellow leaves dilute the pain. If such a salad is still too bitter for your taste, consider a sweet or creamy dressing, like honey mustard, or even ranch. “Fat is one of the best antidotes to bitterness,” Robinson writes.

Indeed, what isn’t fat the best antidote for?

At the same time, cover-ups like fat and sweet, while making bitter greens palatable, are crutches. They turn eating your greens into a constant uphill battle in which some form of assistance is always required. Embracing the bitter side makes a lot more sense. As you get used to these flavors you’ll be able to distinguish one plant’s subtle flavors from another’s, along with differences in texture, acidity and juiciness. You’ll find variety among the shades of bitter.

Another worthy approach to consuming bitter greens is to combine them with other bitter foods, which can create a bouquet of bitter flavors. This works best with bitter foods that also have redeeming characteristics to counter their inherent bitterness. Walnuts, for example, are astringent, but have a compensating oiliness. Grapefruit’s bitter flavors are balanced with tartness and sweet.

Here’s a salad recipe that blends bitter red and green leaves with grapefruit and walnuts. It’s a bright, unexpected gathering of components, with each one’s bitter side adding to a smooth, bitter bouquet.

Ingredients for four servings:

2 heads radicchio

About the same amount of other greens, such as dandelion, endive, escarole, lettuce or

lambs quarter.

Two or three pink grapefruits

½ cup chopped onion (red, of course)

1 cup walnuts

½ cup olive oil

coarse salt and pepper

optional: smoked or baked salmon, fried scallops, bacon or other protein; perhaps a soft goat

cheese

Directions

On low heat, dry roast the walnuts in a heavy pan, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until they brown. When the nuts cool, crush them.

Peel the grapefruits and separate the fruit from the membrane. Do this over a plate that catches all the juice that drips. Give the fruit a little squeeze so more juice comes out. You want about half a cup for the dressing.

Wash, dry, and chop the radicchio and other leaves, about as finely as coleslaw. Mix with the onions, grapefruit pieces, walnuts and optional animal proteins. Whisk together the olive oil and grapefruit juice, and dress the salad.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 15:11

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How meat cartel arose

BOOK REVIEW

By GILLES STOCKTON

Although at first glance, a book about the development of a fully vertically and horizontally integrated cartel controlling the raising, slaughter and marketing of poultry, pork and beef may seem dry, “The Meat Racket” author Chris Leonard tells a compelling story.

He follows the rise of the Tyson family in the creation of the meat cartel in a balanced and non-inflammatory manner.

Leonard concludes that the handful of companies that now control the production and marketing of all meats can set prices at will.

The disappearance of free markets in agriculture mirrors the disappearance of free and open markets in much of the rest of our economic lives. What Leonard chronicles in the rise of the Tyson family is the banality of evil when it aligns itself to our own petty self-interests. Meat is now produced in a system based on exploitation of everything it touches – the animals, the environment, the contract growers, the plant workers, and ultimately the consumers themselves.

My awakening to the growing threat to the competitive markets for beef came in 1987 when Benny Bunting, a disaffected contract poultry grower from North Carolina, addressed the annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council. He concluded with this warning: “Do not allow yourself to become a serf on your own land.”

“The Meat Racket” is a kind of requiem for the three decades of work and passion that I and many other staff and leaders of WORC have devoted to prevent the “chickenization” of the hog and cattle industries. We organized, we studied the complexity of the issues, and we came to the simple, elegant conclusion — rule — to save the integrity of the hog and cattle markets from what happened to the chicken market: forward delivery contracts for slaughter-ready beef and hogs must be publicly bid.

The rule

It received serious consideration by a number of academics and from U.S. Department of Agriculture leadership. In the end, it was not that the giants were too large and powerful for us to confront but rather that their minions, the “orcs” you might say, were so numerous and pernicious.

After a long battle on many fronts, the rule has never been implemented. Instead, the vertically integrated contract meat production system has become even more entrenched.

Leonard ends his book with the dismal assessment that now that the vertical and horizontal integration of the poultry, hog, and cattle feeding industries is complete, it is not possible to restore the ideal of independent farmers selling their livestock in open competitive markets. For us ranchers and farmers this suggests we accept the fact that we will be nothing but the serfs of our corporate overlords. For consumers, it means higher prices, lower quality, and more safety issues will be our new normal.

However, even though meat, as a commodity, is firmly in the hands of the meatpacking “racket,” they still do not control the market for local, natural, or organic meat. The opportunity for niche producers and for consumers interested in local consumption is viable and growing. The local market network may remain a fraction of the size of the commodity market, but it offers an opportunity for farmers and consumers to collaborate in quality food. That is scant reassurance, however, for most western ranchers because we simply do not have enough local consumers for all of the beef and lamb that we can raise.

But is it all over for us ranchers? It will be if we give up trying to restore free, public, and competitive markets for cattle and sheep. I am not ready to give up and I know many who feel the same as I. If you are interested in food, and concerned about how your food is raised and where it is sourced, you should read The Meat Racket. Then you should join us in the fight to restore free, public, and competitive markets for all agricultural commodities.

Gilles Stockton is a rancher from Grass Range and a member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, a regional network of conservationists and family farmers and ranchers based in Billings.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 13:04

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Wolverines not threatened

CONSERVATION

By DEB COURSON SMITH -Big Sky Connection

MISSOULA – A decision on whether wolverines should be considered “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act took 14 years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided the animals are not imperiled, citing uncertainty about the ecology of the wolverine.

Wolverines are found mainly in areas that receive deep, late-season snow in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. Kylie Paul, who has been researching wolverines for several years at Defenders of Wildlife, said wolverines are clearly at risk of extinction - and climate change is part of the problem.

“If we’re not willing to protect a species that has only 250 to 300 individuals,” she said, “one of the rarest mammals in the Lower 48, how imperiled does a species have to get to get federal protection?”

While there may be up to 300 animals, Paul said their reproduction rates are low and it’s estimated that only a few dozen females are able to reproduce each year. Wolverines do survive in higher numbers in Canada.

Paul said wolverines have declined not just because of changing snowpack levels and timing but also because of trapping, loud winter recreation and habitat degradation.

“They’re just this amazing, tenacious animal,” she said. “This native species that we have - it will be on its way out within our lifetime. They need to be able to withstand these issues that face them, now and in the future.”

Wildlife organizations including Defenders requested ESA listing for wolverines in 2000. Fish and Wildlife proposed listing the species as “threatened” last year, mainly because of climate change, but reversed that stance last week.

Details of the decision are  at fws.gov.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:26

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