As I spoke yesterday I was going to continue writing about the elk and other wildlife of the northern Yellowstone region. To go back a few years from 1975 there was a “firing line” approximately one mile southwest of where I live and where I raised my family. This was mostly in the 1940s through the 50s and early 60s. The firing line was a term used to describe the method of hunting taking place at that time. Getting our winter meat was and still is important to the area residents and to all or Montanans who hunt. So as the elk came out two birds were killed with one stone so to speak. The families got their meat and the elk numbers were reduced to decrease the use of the winter range. At this time many said that all you needed was a knife, tag, and tennis shoes to get your elk.

Since these times hunters have changed, laws have changed and laws are in place to shut certain areas down if the elk are being shot at an alarming rate or public safety is compromised. Also at around the early 1970s the dumps in Yellowstone were closed to keep the grizzly bears from eating the garbage that had sustained them for 50 plus years. They turned to wildlife, domestic animals, campgrounds, homes, etc. for food. But one of their main food sources in the spring was winter killed elk which was abundant most springs. Which was due to the large amount of elk in Yellowstone Park and adjoining national forests. So as their was not enough winter range in the winter of 1975 and 1976 the MT. FWP instituted a late season from December thru February of each year until approx 2009. I would say that as an average their were 1500 elk taken a year.

During these years we had several major winter kills…I will attempt to remember most of them here. 75, 89, 97, 06, 11. I may have missed one or two but these were winter kills of significance. Most of the time the numbers would fall to about what the park biologists said they should be at. But by a few years the elk numbers would be right back to where they were before the die off. So as you can tell winter range was and still is an important ingredient to the survival of our most treasured animal in Yellowstone. For without them many of our predators would die or move on. So as the need arose, the hunters formed the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation in the Mid 1980s.

Me and Gary Duffy, another outfitter from the area, started to donate hunts to buy winter range for the elk. I don’t know what Gary donated but I know over the years I gave over 100,000 dollars to be used directly for elk winter range. Since then, many millions of dollars have been used to help wintering and summering elk. Since 1992 I have also donated at least 30 days per year to weed control on the winter range. From spraying to pulling to educating. Last year three different times I asked for help to do this. Their were only 5 local people show up!! Three non hunters and two hunters. You have nothing if you have no grass. It is that simple. No feed no animals. I work hard at this and it is documented at the local forest service.

I would be remiss if I did not include my employees who also help to keep the range looking good. Here are a few other things I have done that I am proud of. First I love where I live and the mountains and anyone who knows will say I know most of the flowers and plants in this region. Along with the birds etc. In 2005 Doug Smith called me and said there is a starving wolf around your place with a new type of collar and could you give him a chance to make it. I had seen the wolf and indeed he was hungry. I said thanks for the heads up and no problem I will lock the dogs up at night. Please let me know when he leaves. The wolf hung around for a week eating on an old dead elk on my property and then left. Doug called like he said he would. All was fine. He wasn’t in your face intrusive and respected me and my property. I showed him the same respect back. Unlike the eco-terrorist, ex-convict filming my property. That is no way to get my cooperation. I’ve built this place with nothing but hard work, which I respect. I don’t, to borrow a phrase, like rude behavior in a man…I wont tolerate it!

Please look tomorrow I hope hunters and non-hunters or even anti-hunters find it insightful.

Warren Johnson