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Big Hearts Beat Winter 2023

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HELENA, MT— Montana Outfitters and Guides Association is proud to announce its generous donation of a fully outfitted youth deer hunt to be awarded to one of the ten winners of the Governor’s Annual Youth Hunting Story Contest. This guided hunting experience includes lodging and meals for one youth hunter and one non-hunting adult. The donated hunt will take place during the two-day Montana Youth 2024 hunting season.

“Montana Outfitters and Guides is thrilled to contribute to Governor Gianforte’s Annual Youth Hunting Story Contest and looks forward to playing a role in fostering a new generation of responsible and passionate outdoor enthusiasts,” said Mac Minard, MOGA Executive Director. “Everyone loves a good hunting story and this contest will hopefully launch a lifetime of good stories.”

“Hunting is a proud tradition in Montana that will be carried on by the next generation,” Gov. Gianforte said. “The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association recognizes that, and we’re thrilled they’ve generously joined the contest as a prize partner.”

To enter the contest, hunters must submit a story of no more than 500 words and a photo from their 2023 hunt. Hunters must be a Montana resident and a licensed hunter or apprentice hunter between the ages of 10-17. Eligible entries include the harvest of any legal game, furbearer animals, or birds in Montana. The deadline to enter the contest is Monday, November 27, 2023. The governor will select 10 hunters, five aged 10-13 and five aged 14-17, and announce the winners in mid-December. Winners will be invited to the Capitol to celebrate with the governor and receive their prizes in January of the new year.




 November 21, 2023

NASHVILLE, TN – Tomahawk Charitable Solutions (TCS), an organization dedicated to supporting the Special Operations Forces, Military, and Law Enforcement communities and their families, proudly unveiled its latest partnership at an event in Nashville last week. TCS announced that Montana-based Big Hearts Under the Big Sky (Big Hearts) has been designated as a national partner.

Since its inception in 2017, Tomahawk has worked as a zero overhead address the immediate and enduring needs of our nation’s heroes and their families. Through events held throughout the year, TCS raises money to provide funding support for a number of carefully selected organizations. Each organization is vetted and must report yearly to show how charitable funds are being utilized. 

In the presentation announcing the Big Hearts partnership, TCS said they had seen first-hand the life-changing impact a Big Hearts trip can have on the families who have participated in the program. Nestled in Helena, Montana, Big Hearts operates as a program under the Montana Outfitter & Guides Association, offering fully outfitted trips to military service members and other individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to our nation. What sets Big Hearts apart is its unwavering commitment to the family experience, partnering exclusively with qualified and licensed outfitters and guides throughout Montana to serve individuals and their families. To date, Big Hearts, supported by MOGA member outfitters, has provided countless donated trips, all at no cost to the recipients.

Mac Minard, the Executive Director of Big Hearts, expressed gratitude for being chosen by Tomahawk Charitable Solutions. “We recognize that service to our country, particularly in times of war, exacts an immense toll on the soldier’s family. The Big Hearts program serves as a pathway back to the life they sacrificed so much to protect and preserve,” said Minard. “This new partnership enables us to extend our reach, uniting more families in the spirit of shared adventure, healing, and the creation of enduring memories against the backdrop of Montana’s rugged landscape.”





Hunters and outfitters say bills improve elk management and build trust
Montana hunters, outfitters, and policymakers are celebrating a package of six bipartisan elk management and hunting-themed bills that have advanced through the Montana legislature’s general transmittal deadline. 
The package of legislation was rolled out by the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and Montana Outfitters and Guides Association during the “Elk Camp at the Capitol’ event in early January.  The package has been described as the first legislative agreement to bring the outfitting and hunting communities together since the 2007 legislature.
Representatives from the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and Montana Outfitters and Guides Association say their package will collectively improve wildlife management, reduce non-resident hunter pressure, improve incentives for landowners to enroll in state-sponsored access programs to help resolve problematic concentrations of wildlife, and create more trust between landowners, outfitters, and hunters.
The bills that advanced through the general transmittal deadline are sponsored by a group of bipartisan lawmakers and have the support of the Governor’s office.  
During a press conference last week, Governor Gianforte recognized the collaborative efforts of the groups involved, stating, “Diverse groups are coming together like never before around this common mission. I want to particularly note the work that the Montana Outfitters and Guides is doing in conjunction with the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition. Together, they put forward a package of bills for sportsmen, outfitters and landowners…I say this often, but we have far more in common as Montanans than divides us. Common ground is always there if we are willing to look for it and work to achieve it.”
“These bills represent small but important steps forward to rebuild trust between hunters, outfitters, and landowners, and just as importantly, to broaden the management toolbox for elk and other species of wildlife,” said Kathy Hadley of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition. “Not every organization gets everything they want with this kind of work, but that’s the nature of collaboration, and we think it sets us up to find more common ground in the future.” 
“We really want to thank the Governor’s office and the legislators who encouraged us early on to identify areas of consensus they could realistically advance to improve the future of elk management,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.  “These policy agreements are now advancing through the legislature with minimal conflict thanks to the work our respective organizations put in and thanks to lawmakers in both parties who are championing the results. This is a tremendous example of what can happen when diverse interests agree to sit down and find areas of common ground.”
A summary of individual bills is found below: 
Improve enrollment in Block Management.  SB 58, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hinebauch (R-Wibaux), will increase the annual Block Management payment cap for enrollees to $50,000. Prior to the legislative session there was broad agreement for this concept, which was ultimately endorsed by the Private Land/Public Wildlife council. 
Limit non-resident deer licenses to reduce hunter pressure. SB 281, sponsored by Sen. Pat Flowers (D-Belgrade), would reduce the sale of nonresident deer B tags to alleviate crowding on accessible lands.  The bill would instruct FWP to sell no more than two B8 antlerless deer licenses to non-residents who draw a big game combination license or nonresident deer combination license, and only allow one antlerless license to be held by other NR hunters. 
Improve access to GIS data for hunters. HB2, the state’s primary budget bill, sponsored by Rep. Llew Jones (R-Conrad) sets aside funding for a new FWP employee to improve the acquisition and distribution of public access data for use by the state and GPS-based mapping companies.   The position will ensure all landowner access agreements, the status of open/closed roads, navigable streams, and other pertinent access information is updated and available as cadastral information.  The position will improve the FWP Hunt Planner tool and collaborate with GPS companies. 
Improve hunter education. HB 243, sponsored by Rep. Marylin Marler (D-Missoula), would make an in-person field day with firearm safety training a requirement of FWP’s online hunter safety and education course.  This legislation was amended in committee to provide FWP additional time to comply with this requirement. 
Establish non-resident preference pool: HB 635, sponsored by Josh Kassmier (R-Fort Benton), would establish a non-resident landowner preference pool to encourage landowners to hunt their own deeded lands, incentivize them to enroll in state sponsored public access programs, and reduce hunting pressure on other publicly accessible lands. The bill would set aside up to 15% of B-10 combo licenses for non-resident landowners and family members to hunt deeded lands if they own 2,500 acres or more. The bill incentivizes public access in limited-entry districts where landowners must still apply for and receive a permit. Interested landowners will be able to purchase an additional bonus point for permit applications if they are enrolled in a state-sponsored access program.
Reform 454 access program: HB 596, sponsored by Denley Loge (R-St. Regis), would modify the 454 program to make it a more effective and equitable tool for managing problematic concentrations of elk on private lands.  The bill would create a new prescription for a “like” opportunity between the first tag holder and the first hunter selected for the 454 agreements. This bill would also give the commission more authority to negotiate and prioritize applications that offer additional public elk hunting, above the minimum 3:1 ratio.

Advertise Your Business with a Banner Ad on the
MOGA Website

MOGA Banner Ad Exchange Program allows members to promote their business and start receiving traffic by simply a joining the MOGA Banner Ad program. By placing an advertising banner on the MOGA website, you are encouraging visitors to your website in a very cost-effective way.

Our new system designates four areas on the MOGA website for randomly-rotating ad banners. A click on your banner provides our viewers with a direct link to your products and services, or company website, while also providing brand or service name attention. It is FREE for MOGA Members, cheap for Non-MOGA Members, reliable and effective Advertising!

This is a terrific and efficient way to advertise MONTANA BACK COUNTRY ADVENTURES or FALL HUNT SPECIALS and COW ELK HUNTS!!

(read more…)

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky Banquet – a packed house

A evening of fellowship, celebration and active bidding with a sold-out crowd, the Big Hearts banquet was something we should all take a moment to be proud of. The mission of the organization is alive and thriving in its 15th year. 

Former Montana Attorney General Tim Fox mc’d the evening, where former trip recipients Jason and Alex Allman and Matt Duker spoke through tears about what the experience meant to them and their families. 

Last Saturday night we celebrated 15 years of service and recommitted ourselves to the Mission of Big Hearts under the Big Sky in the future” said Mac Minard, MOGA’s Executive Director.

Through the generosity of many sponsors, donors and Banquet attendees, fundraising goals were shattered.  During the event, an announcement was made that Big Hearts had received a commitment from an anonymous donor to match all funds raised that evening.  Thank you for attending the Big Hearts Banquet and Auction. 

See you at next year’s banquet and auction on January 13, 2024 at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Helena Colonial.




January 24, 2023

Hunters and Outfitters Unite at ‘Elk Camp at the Capitol’
Roll out legislative agreement to improve relationships and wildlife management

More than one hundred hunters and outfitters participated in “Elk Camp at the Capitol’ on Tuesday at the Helena Capitol building.

The event was hosted by the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition to facilitate conversations between hunters and lawmakers active in the 68th Montana Legislature. Speakers at the event, including Governor Greg Gianforte, reinforced the need for unity and collaboration between hunters, landowners, and outfitters to help resolve contentious wildlife policy debates.

“Hunting and our outdoor heritage are part of who we are as Montanans,” Governor Greg Gianforte said. “Coming to the table together, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition have found common ground and built broad consensus among hunters, landowners, and outfitters. We look forward to working with them closely this session.”

“This is about working together to set the stage for new directions and further the conversation about elk and wildlife management in Montana,” said George Bettas, of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition, who emceed the event.

During the event, the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association shared a consensus package of legislation they say represents the first legislative agreement to bring the outfitting and hunting community together since the 2007 Legislature.

The legislative package includes reforms to landowner preferences and the 454 program, strengthens trespass and hunter harassment rules, provides some limits to non-resident hunting tags to reduce pressure on public lands, improves hunter education, and doubles Block Management payments.

They say the agreements are part of ongoing conversations to find common ground and improve relationships between hunters, landowners, and outfitters.

“Managing Montana’s elk population is a complex challenge,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, “Realistic solutions require diverse interests working together to identify areas of consensus and advocating for policies that will shape the future of elk management. We are honored to be working with the Coalition and leading conservation groups in the state on these policy agreements.”

Participants at Elk Camp also discussed the need to establish a permanent trust account that would dramatically expand the pace and scale of stewardship and restoration treatments across the State.

Although the idea has not yet been introduced as legislation, Senator Jeff Wellborn, R-Dillon, says the proposed ‘Montana Legacy Trust’ deserves a fair shot at a hearing because it’s an investment in rural Montana.

“At the end of the 2021 session, I asked for people to bring solutions forward that unite, rather than divide,” said Wellborn. “The elk coalition has spent the better part of a year bringing the affected interests together. I’ll help whoever it is that carries this legislation.”


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