President’s Message – Oct 2019

Published on 10/07/19

President’s Message by Jim Vashro


Through a lot of hard work and luck, my family has basically lived on wild game for nearly 50 years. Other than an occasional beef steak for the grill, we eat deer, elk and antelope. We like the taste and health benefits of wild meat. That’s why an x-ray of lead bullet fragments in a deer, scattered well beyond the entrance hole and bloodshot meat, gave me pause. Standard bullets will commonly lose 30-40% of their lead on impact. Lead is nasty stuff, causes kidney and brain damage, weakness, and memory loss. I figure I need all the brain cells I have at this point. Initial tests didn’t show hunters to have higher lead levels but a follow-up study did show increased lead levels after eating hunter-killed venison but the levels subsided over time. Lead has been banned from gasoline, paint and plumbing and, of course, waterfowl ammo. I don’t reload, for many years I shot common factory ammo. Hoping for better accuracy and performance, I switched to premium ammunition. It costs about 50% more but accuracy did improve. After seeing the x-rays, I tested non-lead (copper) ammunition. My Savage can get fussy about what it is fed, the first brand didn’t group well. But the second brand, Wow! I was shooting MOA groups. Even more impressive was performance. On a quartering shot on a cow elk, the bullet busted ribs going in, drove through the lungs and far shoulder and was under the hide on the far side. The cow made a few wobbly steps and collapsed. The 180 grain recovered slug had mushroomed perfectly and weighed 179.6 grains. 99.8% retention. A similar angled shot with a 20 gauge 240 grain slug on a whitetail buck yielded the same results. And that 20 gauge slug gun shoots 2” groups at 100 yards with copper sabots. All my other shots on 20-30 animals have been pass through. An interesting thought is that copper bullets need speed to mushroom. Since copper bullets penetrate well with retained weight, it is possible to shoot a lighter bullet (150 gr. or 165 gr. vs 180 gr. 30 caliber bullet) for more speed and a flatter trajectory while still getting great penetration.

There are other positive points. Local bird rehabilitators Kari Gabriel and Beth Watne have taken in sick raptors with lead poisoning from bullet fragments, presumably from scavenging carcasses. California and some refuges have now banned the use of lead-based ammunition for big game hunting. And, of course, starting in the early 1990s, lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting. Duck hunters had to adapt but have found steel and other options to be lethal when used correctly.

Downsides? Copper ammunition isn’t stocked everywhere. You’re not going to find it in a gas station in eastern Montana so you have to buy ahead. It’s about the same price as other premium ammunition, sales and rebates can help. More ammo manufacturers are adding copper bullets to their line-up, watch for prices to fall and availability to increase as happened with waterfowl ammo. Shooters also complain about increased copper fouling and a loss of accuracy. When you think about it, all rifle ammo is copper clad and produces copper fouling. Some claim that jacketed bullets add about 5% tin, reducing fouling but that isn’t much. Good old Hoppes No. 9 is good for removing powder residue and crud but it takes a lot of brushing and soaking to really get any copper fouling out. Better to use a different solvent specifically made to remove copper. I should probably clean my rifles better anyway.

The previous statements are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect the policies of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.

President’s Message – Sept 2019

Published on 09/09/19

FWI Photo of President with deer in pickup

On September 11, 2001 I was driving to bowhunt in SW Montana when news came over the radio about the planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York. After several phone calls to my wife we decided I would go ahead and hunt. The next day I ran into a bowhunter from New York state. He hadn’t been listening to the radio, I told him he needed to call home! At the same time some friends had been drop camped to hunt caribou in Alaska. One mentioned to the others “Have you noticed there are no planes flying?” That is highly unusual in Alaska, they hadn’t rented a Sat Phone so they had no idea all planes had been grounded. Their outfitter tried to sneak out and get them, he was intercepted by two Air Force F-16s who indicated he needed to land NOW. It was several days before planes could retrieve hunters, even then commercial flights were still grounded so they ended up buying a pickup and driving home nonstop. 9/11 was a Game Changer.

Now another Game Changer has hit in the form of CWD in Lincoln County. CWD is no longer just something happening over east of the mountains, it is on our doorstep. It’s just a matter of time until it works its way east to areas we hunt. There is no drug or vaccine for CWD, currently the only strategy is to dramatically reduce game populations in infected areas. That reduces the chance for animal to animal contact and pressure for animals to outmigrate. That means lower game numbers in infected areas, both through CWD mortality and increased harvest. CWD also hits bucks and bulls harder so that could change game management strategies. FWP established a CWD Management Area around Libby and put out 600 whitetail doe B tags, they sold out in 2 hours. The hope is to harvest and test 200 whitetails to determine the prevalence and distribution of CWD. To date CWD has been found in 7 out of about 117 animals near Libby but those were high-probability animals, visibly ill or road kills.

Other game changers, hunters will be allowed to remove only boned meat and clean skull plates from CWD areas, not carcasses. It is always a good idea to wear gloves when butchering and to avoid contact with spinal fluids. Hunters everywhere need to stop dumping butchered carcasses and scraps in the woods, everything should go to landfills. Dumping an infected carcass from elsewhere is the most likely way CWD got to Libby. Don’t shoot an obviously ill animal, report it to FWP.

CWD has not been shown to infect humans but it is recommended to not eat infected meat. Instead, dump them in landfills and apply for a replacement tag if the season is still open. FWP will test animals taken in CWD areas but outside that you will need to pay yourself if desired. Tests currently cost $17.50 per animal. That doesn’t pencil out when deer licenses only cost $16 so FWP is losing money needed for management. But testing takes up to 2 weeks so you may have already butchered your game.

Prions aren’t alive so they can’t be killed in conventional ways. Bleach doesn’t touch them, it takes 1300 degrees heat, a little higher than I usually BBQ. You can bleach and rinse equipment but there’s no way to know they’re completely clean if you’ve gutted an infected animal. CWD is a Game Changer.

Jim Vashro
FWI President

The preceding comments are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect policies of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.

President’s Message May 2019

Published on 05/06/19

Jim Vashro
May, 2019

work projects

“The world is run by those that show up.” Flathead Wildlife’s day to day business is run by 4 officers and a Board of Directors. They manage a budget, formulate FWI comments on outdoor issues, and organize meetings, work projects and fun events. It is important work to keep Flathead Wildlife, Inc. relevant and to protect our natural resources. You can help in several ways.

First of all, join and/or renew your membership. Second, recruit friends and relatives to join. Having more members means Flathead Wildlife can educate more people and have more influence on decision makers. Third, volunteer for projects. There are a lot of projects that agencies aren’t doing or where agencies need help. Projects are an investment in our, and our children’s, future. Projects can be a lot of fun and they make the Flathead a better place to live. Last of all, consider stepping up as an officer or on the Board of Directors. That requires one 2-hour meeting on the last Wednesday of the month and possibly reading some materials. It’s a small investment in our outdoor heritage. We currently have several vacancies; Jim Cross, Scott Johnson and Doug Bolender have decided to step back after years on the Board. I thank them for their years of service, and I know they will continue to show up as needed. So FWI needs candidates for secretary, treasurer and at least one Board member, we will have elections at the annual meeting and BBQ on May 8 at Lone Pine State Park starting at 6 PM. Please consider stepping up. Don’t worry, there’s a good Board and officers still in place, we can do on-the-job training. ☺ You will be more involved in resource decision making and shaping our outdoor heritage. It means investing a few extra hours each month to read materials and attend a meeting. Without you, agencies will make their own decisions and you may not always like the outcome. And I thank the remaining Board members and officers for their continued dedication.

The picture above is a good example. Landowners blocked a county road leading to 65 acres of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (your) land on McGregor Lake in 2001. FWI originally joined in a lawsuit with Flathead County and FWP in 2009 against the landowners, resulting in a court ruling to reopen the road. When the landowners didn’t comply, Flathead County plowed one lane open but did nothing more. It was up to FWI to bring suit in 2017 to restore the road. Last July FWI signed a settlement agreement that fully reopened public access. In the interim, FWI joined FWP in clearing the right-of-way of encroaching trees. That’s your FWI Board of Directors in the picture at work on your behalf. It was a fun and satisfying day.

Sportsmen’s and service clubs are seeing a decline in membership in general. Facebook and social media seem to be where it’s at. Let me tell you, you can post a picture and a comment, but Facebook won’t be organized enough to bring pressure on government agencies, file a lawsuit, clear a right-of-way or do habitat enhancement. The Flathead Wildlife Board organizes meetings, comments and work projects. It’s a small investment in your outdoor heritage and your children’s heritage. Otherwise, the next time you drive up your favorite road, you may run into a gate. Or find your favorite season has been cancelled or drastically changed. The keynote speaker at our annual meeting on May 8 will be the always entertaining Jim Posewitz who will talk about the role of citizen groups in managing our natural resources. Come join the fun. And join the Board.

The preceding comments are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect the policies of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.

President’s Message April 2019

Published on 04/08/19

A friend ran into a guy he knew coming out of a gas station/convenience store. The other guy had just bought his fishing license and was griping about the cost ($21 resident season). Jerry was quick to point out the 18 pack of beer under the guy’s arm had cost almost that much but would be gone in a day or two except for a lingering hangover while his fishing license would be good the next 11 months. I think hunting and fishing licenses are one of the best bargains going. Of course, my white hair now qualifies me for a senior license at $10.50. The 6 fishing trips I’ve taken already have amortized to $1.75/day. My goal is to get it down to 25 cents/day which works out to 42 trips. A worthy goal.


Like many of you, when I started fishing the statewide regulations were printed on the equivalent of one newspaper sheet or 4 pages. And 1/3 of that was a map. The 2019 fishing regulations run 100 pages. That draws lots of complaints about complexity. Well, I’m biased because for nearly 40 years I was one of the guys who used to dream up those regulations. Despite the grumbles, Montana’s regulations aren’t too bad and in fact, won a national award a few years back. I fish in several states and Canadian provinces. Believe me, Montana’s regulations could be worse. But I’m sympathetic, when I go to another region or state, I have to spend some time studying the regs.

Regulations could be much simpler. But the focus would be the lowest common denominator, the regulation that protected the scarcest species. Around here that would be bull or cutthroat trout so the regional limit would be 1 fish or catch and release. That would do away with a lot of opportunity. Native fish regulations are usually conservative and make up about half the exceptions. The alternative is getting a species listed under ESA, that would not be good.

For all the pages of regulations they really break down into 6 categories beyond standard limits and seasons: closed seasons; catch and release or lower daily limits; more liberal daily limits, minimum length; maximum length, or a slot limit. FWP tries to standardize the sizes within any limit type. And, of course, you need to be able to identify fish species since limits may vary between species within the same water. If you know where you’re at, can identify species and spend time to understand the limit, you could come home with 50-100 fish a day if that’s your goal. The alternative is 1 fish daily. One of my former colleagues used to joke we should just set a regional size/number limit, say 30”. Each day you would lay all your fish nose to tail and when you reached 30”, you quit. So you could have one 30 incher, two @ 15”, a 14 incher and two 8 inchers, etc. It kind of works out. Every year everyone could wrangle over what the number should be for that year. It would sure make the regulation book slimmer.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks does a major review of fishing regulations every four years, starting now. So think about regulations that could be clarified, that you don’t think are doing any good. Also, identify fisheries that might benefit from a change in regulations. Most people just offer up a regulation: e.g., catch and release or a 12”-16” slot limit. That’s a solution that might not fit the problem. It is better for FWP if you identify what the problem is (fish are too small or catch rates low) and what your goal is (12” average size or catch 1 fish/hour). The reason for doing that is to identify the best regulation alternative and there might be a non-regulatory solution. I had one angler (25 years ago) who wanted catch and release for lake trout on Flathead Lake. His complaint was the fish were too small. The actual problem was that the fish were too abundant, we actually needed to harvest more to let the remaining fish grow better. His proposal would have actually made the fish smaller. But I could never convince him that raising the limits was the better solution. FWP will be setting regulations for 2020-2024 so contact them or FWI.

Jim Vashro – FWI President

The preceding comments are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect the policies and goals of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.

President’s Message March 2019

Published on 03/28/19

Dreams. Right now I’m dreaming of bare ground (or mud), maybe even green grass. After an easy December and January, Old Man Winter descended with a vengeance in February with snow and cold and it’s lingering into mid-March. Let’s hope the deer and elk saved enough fat reserves to make it through this latest nasty weather. The 1st day of Spring is only 11 days away!


It’s also time to start dreaming about hunting and fishing in the coming months. March 15 is the deadline for what’s commonly called “Bucks and Bulls”. There are some restricted hunting districts in Montana that can yield outsize mule deer and elk – if you’re lucky enough to draw a permit. Permits modify your general tag to let you take an animal that is not under general regulations. The odds of drawing are long, sometimes under 1%, but someone has to draw and you won’t strike it rich if you don’t apply. I had a Breaks bull tag several years ago, I’m hoping strikes twice because it was an outstanding hunt sighting multiple 6 point bulls. Be aware this year that some districts that offered B tag (antlerless) elk tags last year in Regions 1,2 3 and 6 have gone to antlerless elk permits and you have to apply by March 15. Unfortunately, the Big Game Regulations haven’t been printed yet due to some goof but are available online so check so you won’t be sorry. Next up will be moose, sheep, mountain goat and bison applications by May 1, then antelope, deer and elk B tags applications by June 1.

The other dreamers are young would-be hunters. After years of watching Mom and Dad, big brothers and sisters go hunting and maybe tagging along, now they’re eligible to hunt themselves. I attended a FWP Hunter Education Instructor workshop yesterday. Looking at the years of dedicated experience in the room, the future of hunting is in good hands. Hunting accidents in Montana dropped sharply when Hunter Education was made mandatory in 1957. Region 1 has 3 instructors who taught those first courses. Hunting garments with 400 square inches of hunter orange above the waist became mandatory in 1972 and caused another major drop in hunting accidents, particularly where hunters were mistaken for game. Flathead Wildlife, Inc. supports this important safety factor by partnering with Flathead Electric’s Roundup For Safety to ensure every Hunter Education graduate in Flathead County receives a hunter orange vest like the one pictured above. You’ll see lots of those vests in photos of young hunters in our fall “Preserve the Tradition” ads.

The other interesting statistic from the workshop is that Montana is bucking the nation-wide trend of dropping hunting license sales with increased participation. One of the prime factors is the increasing number of women hunting. So, dream of warmer days, some fishing, maybe some camping. But don’t get so lost in your daydreams that you forget to apply for next fall’s hunting licenses. And, by the way, it’s time to get all your 2019 licenses so you don’t get stalled on a last minute trip because of no license or you’re watching a warden walking towards you and you’re desperately trying to remember if you bought your new licenses. Here’s to turning dreams into memories.

Jim Vashro

The preceding statements are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect the policies of Flathead Wildlife,Inc.

Bluebird Nesting Boxes

Published on 03/26/19

Spring is coming and so are the bluebirds. Have you seen any?

Now is the time to purchase bluebird nesting boxes. The Flathead Wildlife Inc. have put together hundreds in preparation for their return.

Builing Bluebird Nesting Boxes BBNB display at Murdoch’s Bluebird Nesting Boxes Display

The Kalispell FWP made a display to honor Warren Lamoreaux who built thousands of these boxes for FWI.

BBNB are on sale at Murdoch’s (Kalispell and Columbia Falls) and at CHS Cenex for $10. Bluebirds

President’s Message February 2019

Published on 02/17/19

Yes, I hunt/fish like a girl.

Try to keep up.

Well, that doesn’t refer to me but refers to women like Laura Nyberg and Sandi Vashro pictured below – spent two cold mornings to bag some turkeys.

Women Hunters

It’s no secret hunter and angler numbers nationwide are flat or declining. That’s a huge concern because hunting and fishing license dollars and excise taxes on sporting gear are used to fund fish and game management agencies. Even more concerning are the many threats faced by fish and wildlife populations. Hunters and anglers have been great advocates for wildlife, pushing awareness and pushing politicians and agencies to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitat and protect public access. The North American Wildlife Conservation Model and the recovery of fish and wildlife populations in the last century is a great success story, a movement pushed and funded by sportsmen and women. But many hunters and anglers are graying out and younger people don’t seem to be inclined to outdoor sports. And younger people definitely are not inclined to join sportsmen organizations. The collective power of groups like Flathead Wildlife, Inc. magnifies and focuses our separate voices “To preserve and enhance our hunting and fishing heritage”.

What are the solutions? We can each mentor younger people. Programs like “Hooked on Fishing” introduce youngsters to fishing and aquatic habitat at a young age. Flathead Wildlife’s own “Preserve the Tradition” youth hunting campaign is aimed at encouraging young hunters. One group that is under-represented in the outdoors is women. Montana does better than most states but there are still about 3 times as many men as women hunting and fishing. But there’s no clear reason for the disparity. Women are the fastest growing demographic sporting group across the nation and that’s a good sign. What drives women to participate, what obstacles are there, what can we all do to encourage more women to come afield? At the Membership meeting Wednesday, February 13 we will look at the status of outdoor recreation in Montana and also have some notable women hunters and anglers tell us how to encourage more women in the outdoors. And there are programs like Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) sponsored by Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Flathead Wildlife will help sponsor a BOW ice fishing workshop on February 15-16 in Kalispell. Looking for a Valentine’s gift for your sweetie? Give her a certificate to the BOW workshop. She won’t be expecting that, who says you can’t still surprise her?

I know a Methodist minister, his wife played music during his service one fine Sunday. Afterwards they went out and got a load of firewood. She shot a deer, they threw it on top of the load.

And that night she gave birth to their son.

Yes, I hunt like a girl.

Try to keep up.

The preceding comments are mine alone and don’t necessarily represent policies of FWI. Jim

President’s Message January 2019

Published on 01/08/19

President Jim Vashro 8211 turkey

The gift wrapping is long gone, the Christmas tree hauled out to the curb. Lots of good food and time spent with friends and family. Hopefully Santa listened to your hints and brought that outdoor gear you have been wishing for. But there’s still time for giving – giving back to the outdoors.

The fact you’re getting this shows at least at some point you’ve been involved with Flathead Wildlife, Inc. It’s time to renew your membership. We need you – for ideas and information, numbers and funding. In return we’ll bring you great monthly meetings, analyze and comment on resource management plans, secure public access and continue to fight to preserve your hunting, fishing and trapping tradition. We’ll be needing some new officers, think about stepping up and helping guide club policies and programs, it is rewarding.

Get a friend involved in Flathead Wildlife. They’ll learn something, meet some great people and there’s strength in numbers. FWI will be working hard during the upcoming Legislative session to bring you information on bills of importance to you and to speak on your behalf for or against bills. Flathead Wildlife, Inc. is the largest sportsman club in northwest Montana and legislators pay attention when we speak. Buy a friend a gift membership.

Get someone new involved in the outdoors. It is extremely rewarding when you see the light go on in someone’s eyes. Taking kids out is fun, helps you recapture that youthful enthusiasm. But look for older men and women also, ones who are through school and settled into a job, looking for new experiences and challenges. Those kind of people are very likely to stay with the outdoors and become advocates.

Offer some wild game to non-hunters and anglers. Show them you are serious about using the game you harvest, talk to them about the health benefits of wild game, the spiritual connection and that hunting and fishing, as part of conservation, are responsible for flourishing animal populations and protected open and wild spaces.

Get involved in a FWI project. We have a lot of projects coming up – planting shrubs for wildlife cover, kids fishing days, building bluebird nesting boxes, putting benches around fishing ponds, veterans fishing days. Give back to the resource, you’ll find a lot of satisfaction and preserve the opportunities for future generations.

We have the wealth of opportunity we enjoy because someone before us took the time to protect fish and wildlife, wildlife habitat and the access to them. Don’t just be a taker, give back. You’ll be richly rewarded many times over.

Jim Vashro

The opinions stated are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and policies of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.

Youth Hunt and Preserve the Tradition Meeting – 2018

Published on 12/20/18

December’s monthly meeting had a great turn out! Enjoy the smiles and be sure to come next year to this annual event.

President’s Message November 2018

Published on 11/13/18

President Jim Vashro

President’s Message – November, 2018

Let’s hear it for the ladies. I’m one of those lucky guys whose wife likes to hunt and fish. She doesn’t go at it the way I do, she likes to go a little slower, doesn’t need to go dawn to dark, she likes to smell the flowers, she doesn’t think being cold, wet and dirty is all that much fun and it is mostly about putting meat on the table. Our neighbors came home last weekend, the Dad and sons had seen and passed on some small bucks. The wife went out mid-day, found a nice 2 point whitetail that looked tasty and tender and happily bagged it.

My wife and I get to spend some great times together and as a result she is more understanding of all my piles of gear, the early morning departures, dragging in after dark and my insistence that I need to make this trip right now to catch the bite/moon/snow/weather… Women make up half our population but are greatly under-represented in the outdoors. But they are a fast growing segment and that is important in the face of an aging hunting population and declining numbers. Take the time to introduce someone to eating wild meat, encourage them to go along, even if only with a camera. Take it slower, pick nice days. You’ll both be happy. The other part of the female equation is does and cows. Montana has some booming big game populations right now in many districts. Daily bag limits and permits are very liberal in trying to stem population growth. I’ve been fortunate to shoot some great bucks and bulls through the years. But my household also hasn’t purchased beef for home use for more than 40 years. We like wild game and does and cows usually eat better than their male counterparts. I’m at the point where given the choice between a mediocre buck and a doe, I’ll take the doe. My first archery elk I chose a cow over a spike bull because she presented a better shot. I’ve usually shot the first legal elk I’ve seen, it just happens I’ve seen a number of bulls first. These days I’m saying I’ll choose a cow over a rag horn bull, I hope I get to test that theory. And I’ll be honest, if there’s a 6 point in a herd, all bets are off.

I had an unwelcome surprise opening morning. Three miles up a road I’ve used for 25 years there was a “Private Road, No Trespassing” sign. There’s 4 more miles of road beyond there to Forest Service. I checked, it looks like the new owner of 35 acres can close the road and shut off access to hunters to thousands of acres of Stoltze, Weyerhauser and USFS lands. I could hike around the new parcel but hiking 4 miles just to start hunting is a little daunting. It will be an even more bitter pill if the new landowner continues to drive the 4 miles of road to hunt. Flathead Wildlife is also looking at a new private gate near Olney that could potentially block a long used road. Again, the road is private and the possible closure would be legal. There are lots of those types of roads in northwest Montana that the public is happily using now. FWI will be trying to identify those and come up with access solutions before the signs and gates go up. There are some options, the Governor’s Office has a Public Lands Access Coordinator and FWI is asking him to come up here so we can explore some of the options to keep roads open including right of way purchase and easements, tax credits and explanations of landowner liability. As we detailed in the last newsletter, there are 1.5 million acres of federal public land landlocked and inaccessible in Montana and also thousands of acres of state lands you can’t reach. We’ll keep working on your behalf to continue to access the public lands we all own.

Jim Vashro

The preceding opinions are mine alone and don’t necessarily represent the polices of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.