Living – Life – Large

July 17, 2023

By Dan Abernathy
Posted 7/18/23

To reduce the elk population, these hunts could be outside of the normal season and focused on private land-dwelling herds. Last winter, wildlife managers authorized a few hunts on ranches south of Laramie. Thirty-two hunters killed 39 elk during the month of February. Wyoming hadn’t held a depredation hunt since 2004.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Living – Life – Large

July 17, 2023


As the marinating of issues constantly continues to raise repugnant flavor within the sacred areas of public land, lawmakers and politicians continue to play top chef with our natural environment.

Elk populations have doubled to tripled the state’s objectives in central and eastern Wyoming. Elk-related bills are emerging from the Agriculture Committee, where lawmakers took on unassigned topics.  

Ordinary hunting is not working for the elk management numbers wanted. It also will not reduce elk numbers to their target levels. As an alternative, Rep. John Winter (R-Thermopolis) suggested commissioning a helicopter crew to remove overpopulated herds that are eating grass.

“I really believe that if you get the right pilot and the right organization, we could take care of this problem in a relatively short time,” Winter added.

Rep. John Eklund (R-Cheyenne) questioned whether elk killed from within inflated herds need to be processed: “Can they just be gunned,” he asked, “and let the coyotes take care of the carcasses?” 

Craig Smith, the deputy chief of wildlife for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, responded by telling the lawmakers their ideas were illegal. Smith explained to Eklund that Wyoming law prohibits wanton waste of game meat.

It is a violation of state law to needlessly or intentionally allow game to go to waste under Title 23. If you kill a big game animal that is reasonably accessible, the law requires you to take the carcass to your camp and properly dress and care for it within 48 hours.

“It’s just not something that the public is going to stomach,” Smith added, of leaving dead elk to rot. “I personally wouldn’t stomach it.” 

Perhaps the idea for helicopter hunting is a derivative of the mountain goats that were dealt with extreme prejudice in 2020. Sharpshooters killed 36 mountain goats from a helicopter in a contested effort to eradicate the non-native animals from Grand Teton National Park. This mass shooting left the mountain goats to rot in their blood and stained white hides.

Sen. Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle) added an option for handling the potential meat. He wondered if the meat couldn’t be sold to help recoup some of the costs for the landowners.

This idea, I believe, is moving toward the right conclusion. As man has been playing with nature for so long now, the bubble is no longer level; the elk need to be managed. I don’t think that hunting from a helicopter is the right thing to do, but being hunted by professional hunters could be a solution. I also do not believe that the meat should be sold to recoup some of the costs for the landowners. Perhaps it would be better to ship it to inner cities to help feed the unfortunate and homeless.

John Baker Omohundro is known as “Texas Jack” and a legendary figure in the American West. Texas Jack, among other things, was a scout for the government. He also led hunting expeditions for American and foreign parties, which were popular at the time. In 1874, Texas Jack guided Lord Dunraven on a hunting expedition through the Bighorns, Sweetwater Country and Yellowstone.

The hunt killed thousands of animals, none of which were left for the coyotes to clean up. Harvested animals fed the hunting expedition and then were packaged and sent to Fort Steele to feed the soldiers. The remainder was put on rail and shipped to Omaha, Nebraska, where it was sold to the poor for half the cost of Texas beef.

If this could be done in 1874, it surely could be done in 2023. This meat could be harvested, processed and delivered in a matter of days with no waste. If the elk were left for the coyotes, their numbers would increase and the agriculture community would again have their knickers in a knot.

To reduce the elk population, these hunts could be outside of the normal season and focused on private land-dwelling herds. Last winter, wildlife managers authorized a few hunts on ranches south of Laramie. Thirty-two hunters killed 39 elk during the month of February. Wyoming hadn’t held a depredation hunt since 2004.

Another way for management could be hiring professional hunters to kill elk. This would be legal. Last winter, Game and Fish contracted elk hunters to thin the Iron Mountain Herd. Two professional hunters managed to kill 129 elk. The meat was salvaged and distributed via the Food from the Field program.

Food from the Field, now in its third year, is a program connecting donated game meat to food pantries around the state. Food pantries then provide the game meat to their patrons.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and longtime livestock industry lobbyist, wants lawmakers to amend wildlife-damage laws to make landowners automatically eligible for payments in areas where elk or other big game species are more numerous than the state’s goal. 

Magagna’s reasoning is that grazing leases on state lands are based on the estimated amount of available forage, not the number of livestock. If the elk are eating this grass, the stock growers suffer the same loss.

I am an advocate for beef producers, just as I am for the multiple uses of public land. It seems though that we are being skillfully influenced to find comfort within a region of chaos. We are being manipulated psychologically to believe and accept the voice being forced on us. We have looked past and lost the fear of knowing the most dangerous person is the one that insists they are right and believed never to be wrong. - dbA

You can find more of the unfiltered insight and the Art of Dan Abernathy at

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, The Intrepid Explorer!