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Daniels recounts first day of elk hunting season
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It is Friday, Sept. 4, and my son Bill, my neighbor, D.J. Hagen, and I are setting around a camp fire deep in the Highwood Mountain.

I am trying to set a start on my column by the light of a Coleman lantern. The Montana archery elk and deer season opens in the morning, and we are hoping we can locate some elk. D.J. has hunted the area before, but it is our first time in the Highwoods.

D.J. said the plan will be to hike to the top of the ridge, glass the area and if we found the Elk to make a stalk on them.

At 0-dark 30 Saturday morning, we started up the hill, and it wasn’t long before I was huffing and puffing. I even think the wind direction changed a couple of times when I took a deep breath.

When we started our climb, I checked my GPS, and it showed an altitude of 5,130 feet. After we got to the top, I checked the GPS. It showed 5,750 feet, but when I checked to see who far forward we had traveled and I think it showed we had only traveled made 100 feet but that must have been some kind of mistake. That would explain why both my hands and knees had dirt on them.

Once on top, we glassed the ridges and surrounding area but did not find any elk, but we did spot a family of mountain goats and I think they were laughing at us. Late in the afternoon, we started back to camp and you know there is just something about the smell of hotdogs and hamburgers cooking over a campfire.

The next morning, we climbed back up the mountain, and D.J. said there was a good bedding area about three ridges over and just maybe the elk were there.

After an exhausting hike to the area, we found four hunters who were not familiar with the area. They had set up camp right in the middle of the area and by elk.

After returning to camp, D.J. was not feeling very well, so we decided to call it quits and head home.

On Monday, my son and I decided to head to Dupuyer, Mont. to try for some whitetail deer and also set up a few ladder stands. We had hunted the area last year and took some really nice deer, and the owner asked us to return and help take some of the deer.

After setting up our stands, we made a few stalks and I was able to shoot a whitetail doe that made it into some heavy brush before going down.

My son and I started in after her when we saw several piles of bear scat and backed out, remembering what the property owner had told us about grizzly bears in the area.

On the way back, we stopped in Conrad for something to eat and nothing to show for three days of hard hunting.

As most of you have heard in the news, hunters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have started hunting wolves again and, in fact, several wolves have already been taken in. Idaho and Montana’s wolf season opens today.

The state is divided into three management units: Unit 1 runs from Idaho to North Dakota and from Butte all the way to the Canadian border and had a quota of 41 wolves; Unit 2 covers the Missoula area and has a quote of 22 animals; and Unit 3, is the remainder of the state and had a quote of 12 animals.

But all of the planning might be for not, because at this time, environmental and animal rights groups have ask U.S. Dist Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula to stop the hunting..

Before you jump on your animal rights bandwagon, let me give you a few facts. First of all, each of the states involved in the hunt have programs set up to manage the wild game in their states and they do a very good job of it. The wolves are the only ones not managed.

According to the Montana Outdoors magazine, in the mid-1990’s, the USFWS, released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park to hasten the recovery.

At that time there were approximately 19,000 elk in the park. The estimate now is only 7,000. Records show that a single wolf will kill between 11 and 35 elk each year.

Mike Thompson, FWP regional wildlife manager in Missoula stated that the elk populations in Mineral and Ravalli counties may never return. Not only are the wolves killing adult and elk calves, the constant stress on the cows is causing them to abort many of the calves.

Last month just outside of Dillon, Mont., ranchers and game wardens found 122 buck sheep that were killed by wolves. The ranchers and wardens said it was the largest killing field they had ever seen and it looked like the wolves just ran along side of the sheep chewing on them until they bled to death.

You can find the story about the sheep by going to the Great Falls Tribune website. Can also see the full story on the wolf recovery and predation in Montana, which can be found in the Sept-Oct- issue of Montana Outdoors.

As for me, I picked up my wolf tag and if I see any, the pelt is going on my wall.

To contact Wayne Daniels, e-mail