Jim Posewitz is a conservation hero and not just in Montana. He received the National Wildlife Federation "Conservationist of the Year" award in 2015. Jim came to MSU to play football and graduated with a degree in wildlife management. After nearly 40 years of good service, he retired as Director of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks in 1993 to create Orion: The Hunter’s Institute.
In 1994 he published Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethics and Tradition of Hunting. It is quite a small book, a four by six-inch format and only 112 pages, but is filled with large ideas about hunting and conservation. Although we no longer hunt, Jim's philosophy is important to Ramona and I. We nurture fish and wildlife habitats and share it with deserving others, in which Beyond Fair Chase describes further.
Ramona and I love living on our Gallatin Valley ranch. It's in the northern reaches of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, just an hour north of the Park boundary. I bought this ill-kept, broken down ranch nearly 50 years ago, just after becoming a professor at MSU. Ramona and I have been restoring and improving it for over 40 years. It's our heaven and we appreciate its blessings.
The ranch produces six tons of alfalfa per acre under center pivot irrigation secured with 1866 water rights. We have good grazing for horses, lambs and steers and provide excellent habitat for deer and elk. A small spring creek links six cold-water ponds that produce 20+inch Rainbow, Cutthroat, and Brown trout. Responsible liberty, sustainable ecology, and modest prosperity reign here.
Twenty years ago we decided to place all but 30 acres of the land in an agricultural and wildlife conservation easement with Gallatin Valley Land Trust. In cooperation with the landowners, GVLT monitors all of its easements. It also offers advice to the owners and occasional provides volunteers for special projects such as helping clean up the destructive work of busy beavers.
Last week Lucas Cain, a GVLT Stewardship Manager, and I spent a morning touring our place. I explained a ranch road change we are making to reduce erosion and improve access. We also discussed why our new center pivots made it ecologically and economically advantageous to move two of the three building sites, each two acres, on the conserved land.
We saw a great many trout and a dozen whitetail and mule deer. The elk have been in our alfalfa but they move in herds and none were here that day. Yes, we carefully permit limited hunting by people we know, like and trust.
We don't charge for hunting access. Two reasons for this: We have no problem more money would solve and rationing by prices would constrain our discretion on who could carry weapons on our property.
Even if I had no calendar I'd still know when October arrived. How? By the number of people who inquired about hunting. While hunting on our place is allocated for this season, next year I'll require those who hunt here to read a few pages from Jim Posewitz's book, Beyond Fair Chase. Here is an excerpt.
Can purchase on Amazon for $5.95
Private Land(Pages 43-46)
It is important to develop a positive attitude toward landowners based on respecting them as individuals. Just as ethical hunting is based on appreciating and respecting wildlife, ethical behavior on private land starts with appreciating and respecting the landowner.
When dealing with private landowners, keep in mind they are individuals. Just as you are different from other hunters, each landowner is a one-of-a-kind person. If a landowner allows you to hunt, that does not mean it is okay to cross onto the neighbor’s place. If one landowner chooses to say no, that doesn’t mean the next one shares that view. The key to getting along is getting to know them as individuals.
Thinking about landowners begins with the realization that, if there is wildlife on the property, it is because the landowner provides suitable habitat. At times wildlife does move onto land that is being managed for other purposes, but most landowners have wildlife on their property because they want it there. This means they provide for it, care about it, and consider its welfare in land management. Showing respect for these personal feelings is extremely important.
Plan your trip so you approach the landowners under reasonable circumstances. Contact them at reasonable times, preferable well in advance of the chosen hunting day. Let these people see you, it will help them decide if they can trust you. If you plan to hunt with a companion, bring that person along or tell the landowners the exact nature of your hunting party. Let them know you are interested in them and in being of service if you can help. Learn how to accept “no” graciously; there is always another day. The goal is to make a friend, not just find a place to spend the day. An off-season remembrance, even if you can only afford a card, lets the person know you care. You are going to be one of many people asking to hunt; give the landowner a reason to like you.
Like firearm and bow safety, there are rules to follow to help get along with private landowners:
Ask the landowner where he wants you to hunt, and what areas to avoid. Park your car where he tells you and leave it there.
Respect the land as if it were your own - the golden rule works.
Leave gates as you find them. If you have a concern over an open gate, ask landowner before you leave.
Hunt away from livestock and buildings.
Stay out of fields of unharvested crops.
If hunting with a dog, keep it under control.
Thank the landowner when you are leaving, offer to share what you may have taken, and tell him of things you saw that may be of concern or interest.
Talk to the landowner before each hunting trip, particularly if you plan to bring someone new along.
Remember, landowners are people just like everybody else. They have good days and bad; they have problems of their own. If you can be a positive part of their life, you will have mastered the art of human relations, and of finding good places to hunt.
Budgets are good tests of sincerity. Those willing to allocate an hour of time and $5.95 for Beyond Fair Chase deserve the opportunity to be considered eligible to hunt on Ramona and I’s land. If you’re not willing to buy and read the book, please don’t ask. We like to share and don’t like to say no.