FWP's Elk Shoulder Season - Outfitter Connection www.EMWH.org


At the June 2015 FWP Commission meeting, where the FWP Elk Shoulder Season Proposal was introduced, I objected to the proposal on many levels, pointing out the commissioners did not have enough data to make a proper decision. Part of the data I mentioned was outfitted lands, that I was creating a map (upper right corner) to help illustrate the situation.

FWP gave a presentation which included a map that showed elk Hunt Districts by elk objective status. One area caught Commissioner Vermillion's eye, an area FWP labeled as 200% over objective, with a huge land mass. That was HD 700 & 701, which only had 200-300 elk objective with a 2015 count of 1192. Vermillion asked FWP why, with such a large landmass, the objective was so small? FWP had to admit - land owner intolerence. But what they didnt say, was that this is artificially low and there is a huge amount of outfitting in these ares.

The following documention focuses on HDs 700 & 701, with the connecting 410 and 530, showing that some landowners/outfitters are wanting higher elk density for outfitted hunts, advertising that these elk concentrations with low hunter pressure increase hunt success rate (there is not one brush that paints all landowner/outfitters, there are some awesome outfitter sites that speak of ethical, fair chase hunting in the elk's natural habitat, not on lured alfalfa fields). This is creating "harboring" situations, a privatizing of our public wildlife - ranching for wildlife. This subject needs to be addressed in the elk objective/count conversation.

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2015 Elk Count Chart

Private Lands Leased to Outfitters Map

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MCA 37-47-201 - (d) rules establishing outfitter reporting requirements. The reports must be filed annually and report client names, outfitters and guides providing client services and the license numbers of those outfitters and guides, dates of client services, and private land acreage where licensed outfitters are authorized by the landowner to operate, including exclusive arrangements and lease agreements.

ARM 24.171.408 - Also, while total acreage of private lands where any outfitter is authorized to operate is a matter of public record, where a particular outfitter is authorized to operate is a confidential matter between the landowner and the outfitter. The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks or the Private Land/Public Wildlife Council may use board data to create a map depicting all private land where any outfitter is authorized to operate. All inquiries for outfitter records shall be reviewed and considered in relation to this rule and the competing interests between the public's right to know and the rights of privacy involved in the particular records requested.

DNRC outfitter leased lands HDs 700, 701, 410, 530 PDF - I still have some details to acquire, also, the MT Experience Outfitters & the Billingsley Ranch Outfitters have a bundled 48 CMR pkg of DNRC lands for $125 a year, not per parcel, for the whole bundle of 48 parcels.


BLM Outfitter Special Recreaction Permit
HDs 410 & 530 Map
This map shows the ranges for Flatwillow Creek Outfitters & Rivers Edge Outfitters in HD 410 & 530. They pay $105 application fee for the year, plus 3% of gross receipts. Am waiting on HD 700 & 701 data.


BLM Montana/Dakotas Special Recreation Permit
Information for:
Guiding and Outfitting on BLM Administered Public Lands




FWP Block Management Region 7
HD 700 has 29 Block Management participants that allow public hunting. Of those 29, 11 allow elk to be hunted by public hunters, the others do not. "Elk – Isolated but expanding populations of elk exist throughout Region 7. Primary elk hunting opportunities are located in the northern portion of HD 700 as well as the southern portion of HD 704."

BM Region 7 North map & Access Guide pgs. 87-117 (per FWP BM Basics 2010 data, Region 7 contains 18.6 million acres: 76% is private and 24% is public land)

I found this Farm and Ranch magazine at a gas station 2 days before the June FWP Commission meeting. Kind of ironic. Harris Ranch, owned by Rep. Bill Harris, is in HD 700, surrounded by BLM land. Harris Hunts/Fort Musselshell Outfitters outfit the Harris Ranch, as well as DNRC and BLM public lands.


Their PDF sale flyer states,

  • "The Harris Ranch nurtures a large herd of elk, deer, pheasants, and cattle in the rugged Missouri breaks, and lush irrigated hay fields along the river."
  • "The Harris Ranch has about 2,500 deeded acres with 330+/- acres flood irrigated from the river. There are 640 acres state of Montana lease, and about 7,250 acres of BLM."
  • "The ranch has been carefully managed for trophy elk, taking 10-15 Pope & Young bulls each year. A 402 bull and a 411 ½ bull have been taken. "
  • " Without baiting or fences, HUNDREDS of elk freely rut on the Harris Ranch. Although public land is very close, almost no bull elk have ever been killed on the neighboring public lands. Elk know where they feel safe and are not harassed."


Harris Ranch Sale Flyer w/ photos


"Elk drift off the public lands each fall to feast on the lush deeded hay meadows of the ranch. Elk are smart, and know they are safe on the ranch hay meadows. The rancher has allowed the elk to remain there without interference. Tree stands on the edge of the meadows are used to harvest the Pope & Young caliber bulls."

Montana Big Game Pursuits advertises on their site their hunting in HD 410, "Hunting Private Land in Central & Eastern Montana

We have spent many years securing prime hunting leases for your best chance of success. Our operation is small, the land is large and our success rate is high. We take only a limited number of clients."

"Archery Elk is our business. We have leased thousands of acres of some of the best archery elk hunting in Montana. We hunt District 410 in the reknown Missouri River Breaks. This area is Archery only for Elk with very limited rifle permits. With a large resident herd and light hunting pressure our success rate is high and most years we run 100% shot opportunity. Small camps with only 4 hunters per week insure we have ground that is given oppertunity to rest. 6 x 6 bulls 300 - 330 are our average bulls. We encourage a 6 pts. minimum. We hunt waterholes, travel patterns, spot & stalk, calling. You will see many bulls during your hunt. This area produces some trophy bulls in the 350-380+ class."







Flat Willow Creek Outfitters is owned and outfitted by Dwane Kiehl. Kiehl is also a landowner in that area, so his outfitted land that he owns will not show up on the private lands leased to outfitters, because landowners dont have to declare their own land if they are the outfitters. The same with Harris Ranch above.

Flat Willow Creek Outfitters are on the DNRC leased lands above, as well as the BLM SRP for Hunt Districts 410/530.

Please note the text on their web page:

  • "With high game densities and low hunting pressure our success rates are high."
  • "Our Montana Deer Hunts are conducted on large, private ranches."
  • On MOGA's page it also states of their wildlife species hunting, including elk, though they seem to focus on Mule Deer, "Their hunting operation includes hundreds of thousands of acres of private land that they and their guides and neighbors own."
  • On Global Outfitters site, "We offer combo hunts for mule deer, whitetail and pronghorn antelope or elk."
  • Yet, they also lease HDs 410 & 530 10,080 DNRC acres for .20 cents an acre, for a total of $2016 a year, and BLM's map above of HDs 410 & 530 list Flatwillow Creek Outfitters utilizing BLM public lands.







The desire for large congregations for outfitted hunting is not exclusive to the above hunt districts.
Just in my general searches in and around HD 700/701, other elk outfitting websites popped up with similar terminology.

Chimney Rock Outfitters operates in Paradise Valley, private land that butts up against Forest Service land boasts,

  • "Chimney Rock Outfitters guides hunters on private land in Paradise Valley, southwest of Livingston, Montana. 35,000 acres, owned or leased, is reserved exclusively for you.

    Chimney Rock Outfitters carefully manages the elk and deer for maximum potential trophies."

  • "2,000 acres of irrigated alfalfa and grass hay meadows lure elk, mule deer and whitetail deer to feed at night. By daybreak, Chimney Rock Outfitters-guided clients will often witness 200 head of elk still feeding in these meadows.Exclusive hunting is promoted on private land with a fair chase opportunity.Wildlife abundance is well known in this area: large resident herds of elk, mule and whitetail deer, moose and black bear. The yearly USFWP elk count in the drainages each spring: presently more than 1000 head ranging in the area. The elk numbers are increasing by 15-20% yearly."


























The Landers Fork Outfitters, Harold Gilchrist, were so bold to describe the leased ranches in HD 446 like deer feedlots.

  • "We have recently leased ranches in Montana for the 2015 Big Game Hunting Season.  These Northcentral & Southeastern Montana working cattle ranches hold a good elk, mule deer, whitetail, & antelope population's.   These unspoiled western cattle ranches are game rich.  The lush meadows and alfalfa fields that are connected to cedar & ponderosa pine draws and river bottoms make our leased ranches deer feedlots."
  • "This ranch is a new lease for the 2015 Big Game Hunting Season. The ranch has never been outfitted.  Over 200 head of cows & calvs summer here. There should be plenty of elk to hunt during the archery and rifle seasons. This HD unit allows you to shoot a brow tined bull only. This well known renowned area holds alot of 5 & 6 point bulls. The brow tine policy has helped the 5 & 6 point bull population.  We take 2-4 hunters on this ranch elk hunt."

Of concern -

Great Falls outfitter hit with poaching charges

"Great Falls outfitter Harold Gilchrist has been charged with a felony count of possessing illegally taken wildlife and a myriad of misdemeanors stemming from one of the largest field investigations into hunting violations in the past 20 years, according to Great Falls warden Terry Hill."

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