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Elk in the badlands

Behind the Badge

The Most Important Part of the Hunt

District Game Warden Zane Manhart

Labor Day weekend in the badlands has now become one of the busiest times of year for a game warden.

With elk and archery deer seasons opening at the same time, there seems to be no shortage of hunters using the National Grasslands.

Last year I was out patrolling when I received a phone call from a concerned sportsman.

He asked me if it was legal to retrieve game with ATVs while on the National Grasslands.

I explained to him that no ATVs are allowed off trail.

He told me that he had just talked to some people who had said that they were going to use ATVs to pick up some elk they had killed.

He said that he had encountered these people near the radio tower south of Medora.

I drove to the radio tower but only found an unoccupied truck.

Deputy John Tczap of the Billings County Sheriff’s Office was out patrolling and met with me by the tower.

I told Deputy Tczap about the call I had received, and he told me that he would keep an eye out for ATVs in the area.

A short time later, I came across two pickups, and one of them had an ATV on a trailer.

It looked like a second ATV had been unloaded.

I stopped and met with a man and a woman, and the man told me that his wife and another hunter had killed two cow elk around 7:30 that morning and a friend of theirs had driven an ATV onto the grasslands to pick up the elk.

I looked up the hunters in the Game and Fish licensing records and found that both had been issued antlerless elk licenses for Unit E3.

The area that these hunters were in was Unit E4.

Deputy Tczap and Warden Clayton Edstrom came to my location, and we watched the ATV driving across the grasslands.

There was one person riding the ATV and three people walking.

Eventually, two of the people walked back toward the radio tower and two stayed with the ATV.

Deputy Tczap went back to the radio tower to wait for the people walking.

After a while we received word that the ATV had broken down.

It was very hot that day, 96 degrees, and it was now well into the afternoon.

I became concerned about the people out there with the elk.

After Deputy Tczap returned with the hunters who walked to the radio tower, he went to Medora and came back with a side-by-side.

Warden Edstrom, Deputy Tczap and I then rode out to assist the two people with the elk.

Both were starting to dehydrate and neither of them were feeling very well.

We gave them water and helped them with the elk which still had the hides on but had been split in half.

They had been trying to drag them out in a calf sled, but the sled was broken.

We cleaned the air filter on the ATV and loaded both elk onto it.

The woman rode out with us, while the man road out on the ATV.

We got back to the vehicles around 4:30 in the afternoon.

The man who had been driving the ATV started feeling sick, and we called for an ambulance.

He was transported to the hospital in Dickinson.

I couldn’t help but feel bad for him because he was just there helping his friends.

The two elk hunters were each cited for hunting elk in the wrong unit.

Both pled guilty and paid fines as well as restitution.

They were also subject to charges from the U.S. Forest Service.

A short time before Christmas I was able to stop by the house of the man who had made the original call.

I let him know his call was appreciated and gave him a check from the Report All Poachers program.

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