Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Montana Bird Hunting Forecast 2014

Fish, Wildlife and Parks rundown on the current status of Montana's 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.

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.


Statewide, male attendance at leks averaged 13.1 males/lek, which is 54% below long-term average and down from 14.9 males per lek last year.  The continued drop is likely a function of cool, wet conditions during the brood-rearing season in 2013 which led to low brood survival.  The drop in abundance was more apparent in eastern Montana; abundance estimates in southwestern Montana were stable but still below long-term average.  Consequently, hunters can expect numbers to be near average to well below average in areas open to sage-grouse hunting.  Preliminary reports suggest nest and brood success are excellent in 2014 which may mitigate additional declines.

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.


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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Massive Mine Tailings Pond Blowout Makes “Coexist” Video Sadly Laughable

...Photo, Video Links and Article courtesy Field &Stream/Hal Herring

It’s turned out to be a tough summer on the headwaters of British Columbia’s famed Fraser River, as one of mining’s largest disasters plays out in and above Quesnel Lake. On August 4, a roughly 1000-foot-long tailings pond dam on an open-pit copper and gold operation called the Mount Polley Mine blew out in spectacular fashion. The video of the blow-out is astounding and depressing—almost 6 million cubic yards of mining waste, carried along by 10 million cubic yards of contaminated water, scouring creeks, leveling forests, destroying roads and sweeping the whole mess into Quesnel Lake, which feeds the Quesnel River. Watch Here

What the long-term effects will be on Hazeltine Creek (which before the spill was about six feet across, and is now a gulch over 150 feet wide), Quesnel Lake, and the Quesnel River are unknown. The Quesnel is a major tributary of the world-famous Fraser River, and is the spawning grounds for an estimated 1.5 million sockeye salmon each year, an essential part of the Fraser fishery that on very good years (which this one is expected to be) sees an estimated 23 million sockeyes come upriver from the Pacific Ocean. The fishery employs thousands of people and is a major part of British Columbia’s $2.2 billion salmon economy.

On August 10th, mine operators were still pumping water from the blown-out tailings pond down Hazeltine, because the wastewater lake was refilling at an alarming rate and threatening another breach. Imperial Metals, the owner of the Mount Polley Mine, may face a $1 million (Canadian) fine for the breach.
If there is any humor to be found here at all, it’s very dark, and it’s on video. Before the disaster, the Canadian-owned Pebble Partnership, which proposes to create the world’s largest open pit mine in Alaska on and in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, was using the Mount Polley Mine as an example of how the Pebble Project would pose no threat to the world’s greatest salmon fishery. “It’s not about trading one resource for another, it’s about mining and fisheries coexisting,” says the cheery narrator of the cartoon.

The advertisement vanished from the Pebble Partnership’s website after the Mount Polley dam collapsed, but my friend Sarah Gilman at High Country News found it hiding out in the jungles of the internet, and gave it a new home in her blog.

It is well worth the very short watching time. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150630434280437

I spent some time watching it back to back with the blowout video linked at the beginning of this post, and then I went home, gathered up my son and daughter and my wife and dog, and we went fishing and swimming in the river west of our house. I suggest you do something similar.

...Hal Herring
PS After reading and watching we too--Gale, Annie and me--packed up and went fishin'...
On another track I'm once again accepting comments ; click "no comments" and feel free (note to sickies Do Not Bother, AX is sharp and...over and out...Chuck

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Montana Non-Resident Hunting License Sales Lagging Once Again...

...In the four years since a ballot initiative raised the price of Montana's non-resident hunting licenses significantly, sales have been lagging, resulting in revenue shortfalls to Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Before the 2010 increase, a lottery system was used because there were far more applicants than tags available. This year, the total undersold licenses amount to more than $3.3 million in potential FWP revenue.

It would seem to me in light of the apparent (well advertised) shortfall in operating funds, the logical out for the agency (and let us not forget our illustrious legislators who, as I recall, pushed for the increase, changes, whatever, in the first beginning) might reconsider. But then, as we all know, logic just does not exist in government these days and to my way of thinking most likely never will.

As far as I can tell, based on numerous conversations with hunters "used to hunt Montana" but no longer, there are two reasons and neither have anything to do with increased license cost. 1) "The wolves ate all your elk and 2) "The wolves ate all your elk." C'mon guys this ain't rocket science you need to do a better job selling the idea, "Despite rumors to the contrary the Montana elk herd is indeed alive and well, sure there are a couple exceptions but overall numbers are above management levels across the board." Whoa partner, now hold on we preach just that ad nauseum in our newspapers and Montana Outdoors...Well, yes, but how many Californians or Pennsylvanians read Montana papers or MO...Like I say you need to ramp up the propaganda big time...Or do away with the wolves...not such a bad idea, right.