On Oct. 25, a large herd of elk was fired upon by approximately 100 hunters near White Sulphur Springs. Many from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and hunters around the state are calling the situation unethical, said FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon.
"This is really one of those places where the line between doing what's legal and doing what's ethical, is really troubling," said Lemon. "It's one of the main commandments of 'Hunter Ed' is to know your target, and what's beyond, before you fire. When you're shooting at a herd of elk, that's, that's hardly ever possible. The other -- one of the other commandments of 'Hunter Ed' is to take good ethical shots. A lot of times when you have herds of elk running back and forth, hunters are going to be shooting -- have to be shooting at moving animals -- which isn't, frequently is not a high percentage shot and results in wounding. So while it might be legal, and it's truly not ethical."
Lemon told MTN that the online rumors that surfaced shortly after, claiming 30 to 40 elk went to waste, were not true. Lemon said only one elk went unclaimed, and two were confiscated due to hunting violations. All three of those elk went to a food bank. Lemon also noted the majority of the response that he's seen to the event was similar to FWP observation of the situation.
"We've been seeing a lot of frustration, people venting their frustration on social media in response to this. We're just as frustrated with the ethics violations and compromising as everybody else is. Unethical actions by hunters, in a circumstance like this, gives hunting as an activity, a real black eye."
Lemon was not at the incident but said those who were on the scene told Lemon what they saw was unnerving.
"It was really troubling, you know, really disappointing to witness and to be around. That it felt kind of dangerous to have people -- because not only were hunters firing at elk that were running around -- there's some, there was inevitably circumstances where they were shooting towards other vehicles or other people, and that's just not safe," said Lemon. "It was an unsettling circumstance, is what I was told, very unsettling."
Lemon told MTN this isn't the first instance of a situation like this in Montana, and they hope that hunters will take a look at a situation like this and be able to learn from it.
"The easiest solution is to, for the is for the community of hunters, to promote, and really reinforce ethical hunting, that's the straightest line," said Lemon. "Men and women and kids that are out in the field in blaze orange this time of year would look at a circumstance like this, or hear of a circumstance like this, and see the ethical problems that everybody, everybody else sees. This isn't -- this circumstance and this story isn't representative of the hunting culture in Montana, I don't believe."
Six hunters were cited for violations during the incident. The violations ranged from shooting from the road, failure to properly validate a license, and using a license from another district. The violations that FWP gave out are misdemeanors that carry penalties of a fine no more than $1,000 and if convicted, hunters can lose their license for up to two years.