Now that the hunting season is winding down, we have to deal with some issues that come up during hunting season.
If we had a successful season, from the standpoint of having venison in the freezer, that’s a happy issue. I look at having birds and venison in the freezer as a wonderful opportunity to try new recipes, as well as old, reliable ways to convert those packages of frozen meat to dinners that make our mouths water. Every time I put wild game on the dining room table, it’s an occasion to celebrate those days in the field.
Alas, there are other leftover issues and slobs are at the top of that list.
An egregious example is Earl Benes of Roundup, who dealt with a perceived annoyance at having to stop for a herd of elk crossing a road by pulling out a handgun and shooting a couple bull elk. A couple days later, he took issue with something a companion said, and shot another bull elk.
All three bull elk were left to rot. At least one of them was mortally wounded but still wandered off to die a long, miserable death.
This man wasn’t a hunter. He’s a slob and a criminal. In point of fact, he had previously lost hunting privileges because of a previous act of slobbery, in which he ran antelope down with his vehicle.
According to news reports, he may have to pay the state some $24,000 in restitution for the value of the bull elk. That’s just the beginning; Benes is facing 24 criminal counts, including eight felonies, with potential penalties of $278,000 in fines, and 83 years in jail or prison
This is an extreme case, of course. Not all slobs cause this much damage, and sometimes damage might have been just carelessness.
My daughter brought to my attention a Facebook posting from a farmer in the Shields River valley. After the hunting season he discovered four bullet holes in a grain bin. He complains, in his post, “Another hunting season come and gone and 4 bullet holes in a very expensive grain bin. Guess where they came from? Not from my side where the hunting pressure is managed but from g-d block management!”
In a long thread of comments, he explains that his farm borders another property that’s in the Block Management program, and that the stray bullets would have come from someone on that property.
He mentions that he and some other landowners were going to have a meeting with a local game warden to discuss the problems, and concludes that he’s working hard get ready for winter, and is preparing to deliver his barley crop so it can be made into beer. “All my buildings and equipment are valuable to what I do and this kind of thing just costs me money and time.”
Greg Lemon, a spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, conceded that, “Every hunting season we get some complaints. No landowner is immune from someone acting carelessly.” He agreed with the landowner bringing his complaints to the attention of a local game warden, “That’s the right thing to do, is talk to the local game wardens first.”
He added, “Until the dust settles after the end of the season, we don’t know if we have any more problems than usual. At this point we’ve had no indication of any uptick in problems.”
He also asserted that Montana’s Block Management program is successful. “It’s a flagship for wildlife agencies around the country. It provides hunter access to lands (8 million acres and hundreds of landowners) that might not otherwise be open. The reason it’s successful is that it works.”
As a lifelong hunter, I’m all too aware that sometimes, in the excitement of the moment, we might do stupid things, such as, in this case, shooting without paying attention to distant farm buildings.
Don’t be a slob. Always be aware of where you are and don’t pull the trigger until you’re sure it’s legal and safe.