Let Natives have a PC bison hunt
Originally published February 2006 for Jackson Hole Weekly
By Daryl L. Hunter

A Greater Yellowstone Bison Grazing below the Grand Tetons

Locking horns, bull bison having it out!

Montana, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's office is planning on changing how bison that wander out of Yellowstone are managed. In recent weeks, 600 plus bison have been rounded up and nearly all of them will be sent to slaughter but some will be sent to a quarantined research facility in Corwin Springs MT.

State and federal officials say the hazing, capture and slaughter of bison is part of the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) approved in 2000 intended to maintain a viable wild bison population in Yellowstone, The plan is designed to reduce the risk of transmitting brucellosis, a disease that can cause abortions, from bison to nearby livestock.

Bull bison in a field of dandylions
An agreement with Church Universal and Triumphant to open up thousands of acres that abuts Yellowstone for bison range was approved in 1999 but the deal hasn't been consummated, as it requires $13 million to be given to the church. Gov. Schweitzer's chief policy adviser Hal Harper said that this should become a priority.

The herd was estimated at about 4,900 last year and according to the IBMP, when the population of the animals reaches more than 3,000, the plan calls for slaughter of bison that wander out of the park without being tested for brucellosis

North Valley Food Bank in Whitefish and other food banks are the recipients of the bison meat of Yellowstone harvest. Predictably some groups, such as The Buffalo Field Campaign, have questioned the ethics of killing bison once they pass park boundaries but Montana's food banks like the one in Whitefish are happy to reap the bounty of Yellowstone's prolific bison herds.

This year Montana had its first bison hunt in 15 years; the hunt came off with few problems, especially when compared to the hunts of the 1980s, which were plagued by protests, arrests and widespread publicity. Bison advocates have criticized the hunt because livestock regulators have a big say in it and they assert it doesn't include enough territory for a "fair-chase" hunt. The hunters conducted themselves respectfully and those opposed to the hunt surprisingly did the same.

Bison at hotsprings in Yellowstone.
State politicians of both parties say they want to see the hunt get bigger next year. The hunt had to start small so reaction from the national media and interest groups could be gauged. It is a shame that environmental partisans and the news media often stand in the way of sane common sense solutions to problems.

As is everything "Yellowstone", there is no magic bullet for the bison over population problem in the Yellowstone region. A consensus on such a divisive issue as a national park animal by interests as diverse as the cattleman's association and the Buffalo Field Campaign is a logistical impossibility but let me float an idea.

The earliest Americans crossed the Arctic Ocean from Asia to North America during the Ice Age around 11,000 B.C. to 9,000 B.C. They walked across the land bridge and slowly migrated south establishing our earliest cultures. Anthropologists insist that these endemic Americans hunted bison in the Yellowstone region to survive.

Bison ranging on the grasslands below the peaks
Considering this, wouldn't it be a great opportunity and learning experience for all to institute an anthropologically correct bison hunt for the aboriginal people of the Yellowstone region to be conducted as they were in the 1700's. Imagine, the Griswold's family vacation to Yellowstone while watching for moose, elk, and grizzly bear they happen upon a real live native American bison hunt, what an anthropology lessen and photo opportunity that would be.

Native Americans hunting a species that was nearly extinct 150 years ago, now so numerous that they have to be killed in a politically correct way. What could be more politically correct than natives exercising a part of their culture that has been practiced for 12,000 years.

The advantages are numerous, Native Americans gain an opportunity to practice their historical culture, tourists get to experience a real time anthropology lesson, If the bison hunts were established after the elk rut it could attract many more visitors to the park during a slow season, and the 3000 bison target could be achieved without divisive capture and slaughters, and boundary stakeout hunts. And who could argue that Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres aren't enough territory for a "fair-chase" hunt.


Related article based on article above updated 2012
An Indian Buffalo Hunt for Yellowstone

One brisk fall morning before sunrise I set off from my camp outside Gardiner Montana to photograph elk at Swan Flats in Yellowstone National Park. Up before th coffee shops opened I was swizzling my second can of iced Starbucks Double Shot while Ian Tyson's "The Gift" blared from my speakers as I enjoyed the predawn glow on the Hoodoos south of Mammoth as I wound my way up the mountain.

Eagerly anticipating a great day of wildlife photography, upon cresting the hill at Golden Gate just past Rustic Falls, to my surprise I saw three tepees pitched east of the road along Glen Creek. As I surveyed the scene for photo opps I noticed up ahead, crossing the road, a band of Indians, horseback, in buckskins, packing quivers of arrows and carrying spears. Cool, this must be a movie set but where is the film crew.

I hurried down to the nearest turnout so I could photograph them as they moved trough Swan Flats as the light crept down the face of Electric Peak to the west. As I was setting up my tripod, to my delight and surprise the indians broke into a gallop chasing a small herd of bison who moments before were peacefully grazing but now were running for their lives.............................................................................Rest Of Story

Bison - Images by Daryl Hunter

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