The white-tailed buck, poached near Four Corners Nov. 30, dead and wasted. Photos provided by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Killed and wasted

FWP’s Region 3 poaching investigations

Four big-game animals were killed illegally and left to spoil in and near Madison County within about two weeks.

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks is seeking more information from the public on a spike bull elk, a mature bull moose and two white-tailed bucks that were poached and wasted in FWP’s Region Three.  

“When we see this much waste at a time, we get concerned,” FWP Region Three warden Matt Wemple said.

FWP’s Region Three incorporates 11.5 million acres of southwestern Montana, but the poaching cases are concentrated around Madison County’s northern border.

The bull moose was shot and left in the Highland Mountains south of Butte between Nov. 15 and Nov. 22. The spike bull elk was found shot and abandoned on the Red Bluff Ranch in Norris Nov. 23. One of the white-tailed bucks was shot and left near Three Forks between Nov. 24 and Nov. 27, and the other was shot and left near Four Corners Nov. 30.

People with any information on these poaching cases should call 1-800- TIP-MONT (847-6668). Informants can remain anonymous and may be eligible for monetary rewards. The Skyline Sportsmen Association of Butte recently increased the reward for information leading to the individual who killed the bull moose east of Melrose to $1,500.

Every year, several hunters accidently shoot spike bull elk in restricted hunting areas. 

Dressed elk carcasses lay around the spike bull elk on Red Bluff Ranch, indicating hunters were in the area at or near the time the spike bull was shot. The ranch is in hunting district 311, where spike elk are illegal to hunt. 

The Montana State University owned research ranch is open to the public for hunting. Hunters need to talk with the ranch manager, JT Saunders, before accessing the nearly 14,000-acre property. According to Saunders, it is difficult to ensure every hunter that was on the property this season was accounted for because the public is gradually becoming more aware of the relatively new rule.

According to Wemple, the potential of wounding an animal is very high when large groups of hunters are hunting at the same time. Often multiple shots are fired at the same time and it can be difficult to know for certain who shot which animal. 

“It’s important for hunters to exercise restraint,” Wemple said. “And think about the public image that they portray [for hunters] when they’re wounding animals left and right and not retrieving them.”

Lawful protocol for accidently killing or wounding a restricted animal is to self-report to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, salvage the meat and donate it to the Montana Food Bank Network. 

About 30% MFBN’s meet donations come from FWP’s confiscated animals, according to MFBN agency resource coordinator Eric Ludngo.

“They are very helpful,” Ludngo said.

Thirty-two processors across Montana accept hunters’ donations for the MFBN, including Deemos in Ennis. The MFBN has $100,000 in funds this year to reimburse processors who donate meet to the MFBN. 

Self-reported illegal kills are treated on a case-by-case bases, but the fines are usually minimalized.

An individual convicted in Montana of purposely wasting suitable food from a killed animal by abandoning it in the field may be fined $50- $1,000 or be imprisoned in county jail for up to six months, or both. Convicted individuals have to forfeit Montana hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for at least two years. They may also have to pay restitution for illegal killing, possessing or wasting of the wildlife, which for elk and moose is $1,000. 

Restitution fines for antlered deer is $500. The two white-tailed bucks were poached on private property. The one abandoned near Four Corners was shot inside a weapons-restricted area. A house was in the firing line within 300 yards away, according to Wemple. 

More fines could be applied in either of the white-tailed bucks’ cases, pending the investigation.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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