The hunter's perspective, from the One Montana August newsletter: In the words of one volunteer, Pippin Wallace, “The French's gave me a deep appreciation for their role as stewards of the land and its challenges. They shared a vision where the betterment of the land is the long goal and their cattle are just one of their tools used to achieve this. I honestly don't know how this sharing of experiences could be possible outside of One Montana and am deeply grateful for it!”
The rancher's experience, by Conni French, C Lazy J Ranch and RSA board member:
The first day of August on the C Lazy J ranch south of Malta, Montana was not as blistering hot as the previous week had been. Thank goodness, because three students and one organizer of the Master Hunter program were visiting the ranch to spend the day doing conservation work. The work crew had already spent considerable time and effort to get to the ranch – they came from Helena, Bozeman, Whitefish and Clyde Park.
We met at the house at 9 a.m. to get to know each other, talk about the ranch and the Master Hunter class, share coffee and cookies, and create a plan of attack. Our job was to put plastic clips on the top wire of any high collision risk barbed-wire fence that was within 2 miles of a sage grouse lek. The clips (a.k.a. tags or flags) are designed to minimize bird/fence collisions, and therefore deaths, as they fly in and out of the leks. The C Lazy J Ranch participates in a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) program, and the clips are one of the suggestions from the program to help protect the sage grouse population. The program is run by The Nature Conservancy and works with landowners to create management plans that benefit greater sage-grouse and 4 grassland songbird species.
We headed out, split into teams, got going good – and ran out of clips. Dang. After a few phone calls we realized it wouldn’t be possible to get more clips that day so we headed to the house for lunch and came up with a plan “B” to finish the day. (Some days on the ranch it feels like we get all the way to plan “K”!)
We finished the day rolling up some temporary electric fence along the creek. It was a job that needed doing and provided time for some great conversation about ranching, hunting and conservation as we worked side-by-side.
Our biggest take-away from the day was how important it is to keep communication open between hunters and landowners as they share the same resource. As we visited throughout the day we came to understand that these hunters were curious, ethical, hard-working, and enthusiastic. We were lucky to have them come out and work with us for a day and we look forward to another work day with the Master Hunter program down the road.