Let's take the mule deer situation first. Up until the mid-1970s, this area had been known for producing a few quality bucks each year. But then long seasons, including hunting during the rut, virtually wiped out the trophy bucks here. Fortunately, about this time, a hard-core group of hunters began lobbying the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to manage a few units for more older-aged class bucks. I was there at the start of this effort, and often felt like the Lone Ranger. As the years passed, others took up the task.
It took a number of years, but the state did finally go to permit hunting in these areas, and it did implement a trophy management program. As a result, hunters are seeing the best bucks in decades in the East Fork of the Bitterroot (Unit 270) and the Sapphires (Unit 261). To illustrate the improvement, during the Bitterroot's January 2000 deer survey, local biologist Lyn Nielsen found 25.4 bucks per 100 does, which is up sharply from ratios as low as four to 100. Most wildlife managers feel that to have any trophy bucks in the population the minimum post-season buck-to-doe ratio has to be 20/100 or greater. Now, for the first time in over a quarter of a century, one can find herds of bucks here with a liberal number of 4 X 4's; this past season many hunters, including myself, saw true trophy-class bucks.
Turning to elk, what brought about........(continued)