Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It's Time For The MT FWP Overhaul To Begin!

Last October, a friend from back in Wisconsin contacted me for advice on a flat shooting load for his .50 caliber in-line muzzleloader.  He had drawn a tag for one of the premier muzzleloader deer hunts in America.  While he followed my NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website (at www.namlhunt.com ), he just wanted to know what I felt was the absolute best powder, charge, and saboted bullet to use.  Then, he inquired whether or not I had any truly great hunts scheduled for last fall.  So, I shared with him how bleak my hunting was looking, since I would be doing the vast majority of it very close to home in Western Montana, and how devastated our game herds were - due to excessive depredation.

Now, my friend also happens to be the editor of several Midwest outdoor magazines, and he shared that MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks had advertised in those publications that non-resident tags were still available...and that wolves had not significantly impacted big game herds.  The ad proclaimed that great hunting awaited those coming to Montana.  I hunted the entire season with the thought of how dishonestly the State of Montana was trying to sell those excessively priced non-resident big game licenses. 

By the time I finished what had been the worst hunting season of my life, the manner in which MT FWP has lied and deceived hunters, both resident and non-resident, had pushed my anger to the boiling point.  Early this past Thanksgiving morning, I drove out to an area where I used to regularly see elk and deer...and saw nothing...not even fresh tracks.  When I got back home, I knocked out the following e-mail and circulated it to more than 400 members of the shooting & hunting industry, and members of the outdoor media.

We now have a new Governor...now we need a new Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  It's time for the complete overhaul of that department to begin.  No more chewing gum patch jobs...no more recycling of former has beens.  We need new blood that is willing to get off their asses and out of their offices...roll up their sleeves...and to start taking care of the wolf and other predator problems in this state.  -  Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH


                                                                                                     Thanksgiving Day 2012

Dear Outdoor Industry & Media;
How many of you hunted in Montana back in the 1980's?   Among the outdoor writers and editors receiving this, how many of you attended the 1987 Outdoor Writers Association of America Conference held in Kalispell, MT?

If you have not been to Montana in the past 15 to 25 years, and you were to return today, you would find this to be an entirely different state - one with far less wildlife than 25 years ago.  And that can be largely credited to one of the worst state wildlife agencies in America - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  This agency now bends over backwards to insure that a minimum number of major predators are eliminated annually...to insure that the number of wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions continue to increase year after year - even when the agency fully admits that it is escalating numbers of these carnivores which have caused big game numbers to nose dive.  Most major elk herds in the western 1/3 of the state have been decimated by as much as 80-percent.

Most of that loss has occurred over the past 8 years, under the watch of Governor Brian Schweitzer...and the current MT FWP Commission, which has been headed by Dr. Robert Ream.   This one individual has done more to destroy wildlife resources and hunting opportunities in this state than anyone else who calls Montana home.  (Ream is very much a part of the wolf problem...he was part of the team which wrote the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan...and has absolutely no business heading the FWP Commission...or being on the Commission period!)

Last night, I returned from a lone six-day hunting trip, hunting an area in Montana where, just ten years ago, one could see upwards of a hundred deer a day.  Spending every day from daylight til dark in the field and hunting hard, the most deer I saw in one day was 14.  On three of those days, each day spending a full 10 hours still hunting and glassing some of the finest mule deer habitat in North America or sitting in a stand overlooking a river bottom hayfield (which normally drew 50 to 60 whitetails every evening)...I saw just 2 or 3 deer all day.

A few days before leaving on this hunt, the local NBC station here in Missoula aired a story on how the 11,000 hunters in MT FWP Region 1 (around Kalispell), during the first 4 weeks of the 5-week general gun deer and elk season, had "enjoyed" a 4.9% "success rate".  Now, that has to be the absolute worst "hunting success" rate in the entire United States.  As a member of the shooting and hunting industry...why would you waste your time and money to come to Montana?  Many other states offer far greater hunting opportunities.

Being as this is Thanksgiving Day, a day devoted to cooking and for being thankful for all we have, I pulled up a very appropriate LOBO WATCH release from a couple of years back which takes a harsh look at a not so tasty dish - one which the sportsmen of Montana (and Idaho) have had forced down their throats. 

When is our industry going to pull its head out of the sand, or out of wherever, and stop funding new agenda driven fish and game departments like Montana Fish, Wolves and Parks or the Idaho Department of Fish and No Game?

With the success rate so low here in western Montana, the number of hunters going afield is now plummeting quickly.
Hope your Thanksgiving Day is filled with a lot more thanks than mine, and hope to visit with many of you at the SHOT Show in January.
Toby Bridges

PS - The same stupidity that destroyed the hunting in Montana and Idaho is now spreading into the states of Washington and Oregon.

To Read The Release Mentioned In This Letter To The Hunting Industry & Outdoor Media Go To -


  1. Why can't incompetent or agenda driven people in authority be gotten rid of if the evidence backs the claim?

  2. Well...with MT FWP...the buck truly stops with the Governor. He appoints the Director and the Chariman of the Commission.

    And that's why we are now putting all the pressure we can on newly elected Governor Steve Bullock. The problem is right at the top. Inside FWP there are some very good people. Unfortunately, our new Governor has re-appointed a director which lost his job back in 2008, when former Governor Brian Schweitzer put his old college room mate in the Director's office. Bullock's choice for that office, Jeff Hagener, did nothing to fight the wolf problem back when he first served as Director...and is very much a part of the wolf problem. He also has extremely close ties with the Montana Wildlife Federation...which is a strong proponent of idiotic efforts such as the Wildlands Network and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative - of which the wolf is a keystone predator species.