A Trophy Montana — Llama? Priceless

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts, and wild tales from the outdoors

Feb. 4, 2009

A Trophy Montana — Llama? Priceless
The story about an out-of-state hunter who traveled to Montana and mistook a shaggy-furred
feral llama for an elk has recently come to light after photographs of the
field-dressed, shaggy-furred import in the back of a pickup truck began making
the rounds on Internet blogs. The hunter? Well, he’s not talking. You’ll also read
about turkeys going postal this week, and much more!

J.R. Absher

Wanna Get Away?
You’ve probably seen the television commercials for Southwest Airlines, where
someone does something incredibly bone-headed, and the announcer asks,
"Wanna get away?"

We figure that’s probably how Rusty Saunders of Fort Edward, N.Y., felt
after he shot — and tagged — what he thought was an elk while hunting in
Montana’s Paradise Valley last November.

The details are sketchy as to how Saunders initially came to his
embarrassing revelation, but Mel Frost, the public information officer for the
Bozeman office of Montana Fish, Parks and Wildlife confirmed that the Empire
State woodsman turned himself into a game warden in Livingston after realizing
he’d bagged a shaggy-furred llama.

Outdoor writer Brett French of the Billings Gazette reported that Saunders’
case was ultimately turned over to the Montana Department of Livestock,
because, unlike in its native Peru, the llama is considered to be a farm animal
in the states, and not wildlife.

After investigating, the livestock folks turned the matter over to Park
County authorities without issuing any citations.

"We don’t have any statute to prevent that kind of thing," Steve
Merritt, information officer for the Livestock Department in Helena, told

A hunter in Montana mistook a llama for an elk!.

Photos taken by the livestock department showed the field-dressed dark brown
and black llama in the back of a red pickup truck, with Saunders’ notched 2008
elk tag clearly attached to its neck. Not surprisingly, the photo is reportedly
making the rounds on the Internet, along with verbiage inspired by another
television advertising campaign.

.30-06 rifle with Leupold scope? $650;

Out of state license? $600;

Gas to drive from New York? $700;

Taking a trophy Montana llama? Priceless!

Turkeys Go Postal, Attack Mail Carrier
Those charged with carrying and delivering the U.S. Mail pledge to do so in
spite of wind and rain, sleet or snow.

But when they’re attacked by wild turkey gobblers, that’s where some draw
the line!

A Massachusetts post office has suspended regular delivery to some homes
after a mail carrier was repeatedly harassed and chased by a flock of
aggressive wild turkeys for several weeks — with two notorious gobblers
serving as ringleaders.

Rockport, Mass., Post Office Delivery Manager Tim Russell told the Gloucester
Daily Times
last week that slippery sidewalks and territorial dogs are common
challenges for his carriers, but over the 22 years he’s worked for the U.S.
Postal Service, he’s never seen anything quite like this.

"Some of the neighbors said their dogs have been attacked, but mostly
it’s just been our postal truck," said Russell. "They chase the truck
down the street — two males in particular — it’s just unbelievable."

For the past several weeks, Russell said his carrier tried several different
strategies, like parking his truck in different spots or altering the time of
day he delivered the mail to that area, but the terrible tom turkeys saw
through his ruse every time.

"Last week, people had to intervene so (he) could get back to his
truck," Russell told the newspaper. "He was trying to wave a bag full
of mail at the turkeys as he ran when some folks pulled over to shoo the
turkeys away."

As a last ditch effort, Postmaster Bob Kerrigan said they would heed the
advice of a local game warden and try arming the carrier with an umbrella.
Capt. John Tulik of the Massachusetts Environmental Police said to prove
dominance over a charging gobbler, the carrier should open an umbrella toward
the bird, which will make it think it’s facing another dominant male.

So, in a few months when you’re preparing your gear for your spring turkey
hunt, don’t forget to pack your umbrella!

Wisconsin Bear Quota Increased 55 Percent
Based on new scientific data indicating that nearly three times the number of
black bears live in the state than previously estimated, the Wisconsin Natural
Resources Board voted unanimously last week to increase the bear kill quota by
55 percent.

As a result, for the 2009 Wisconsin bear-hunting season, the quota will be raised
to 4,585 and the number of hunting permits raised to 7,310.

As recently as 2007, the Wisconsin DNR estimated that there were 13,000 black
bears in the state, but a comprehensive research study completed by the
University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008 revealed a bear count closer to 37,000.

Last week’s DNR staff recommendation was praised by representatives of the
Wisconsin Conservation Congress Bear Committee, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters
Association and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation prior to the board’s vote.

In the past, the DNR monitored the bear population by using the age of bears
that are killed, permit success rates, agricultural and nuisance complaints,
and visitations at bear bait stations.

The study by University of Wisconsin graduate student Dave MacFarland with
guidance from Timothy van Deelen, Ph.D., was more detailed.

"We believed there were more bears than we were being told. We were
skeptical about the DNR doing anything about it," said Bob Welch,
representing the Bear Hunters Association. "We are very happy about the
way this came out, and very pleased how the department adopted the study."

CWD Cases Hold Steady In S.D., Neb.
Numbers released this week by the game agencies in South Dakota and Nebraska
indicate that evidence of the fatal brain ailment known as chronic wasting
disease (CWD) appears to remain regionally contained and does not appear to be
increasing in frequency in the two Great Plains states.

Biologists with the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department report
finding 27 cases of CWD in 2,052 elk, whitetail, and mule deer tested between
July 1 to January 20, compared to 19 out of 2,558 tests made in 2007.

And in Nebraska, the state Game and Parks Commission reports that 22 deer
tested positive out of the 4,900 screened during the November firearms season.
Officials there say the results indicate there has been no significant
expansion of the disease in western Nebraska.

Nebraska wildlife disease specialist Bruce Trindle said the prevalence of
CWD in deer tested over the past three years has been less than 1 percent.

Quote Of The Week
"Like a largemouth bass or a brown trout, a wild duck is too valuable a
creature to take just one time — but that’s the way we have to do it. Much as
you’d like to, you cannot release this light-yet-heavy, this
common-though-exceedingly-rare, this simple-but-complex creature of the wild
yonder we know as a duck."
-Jim Spencer,
"Why You’re a Duck Hunter"
“Arkansas Wildlife,” Winter 1997

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear
in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the
outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at

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