Last fall, when Patricia Adams of Lewistown drew an either sex elk tag in Elk Hunting District 410 (which has become a go-to district for elk hunters) she knew the opportunity would require a little hunter’s luck, a little research, and a little persistence.
Today, she will quickly tell you the experience and lifelong memories were well worth the effort. The experience has also made her an advocate for an equal access program managed by the BLM and another managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP).
Patricia has two artificial hips and has battled rheumatoid arthritis for a number of years.
Combined, these complications make most outdoor activities seem a little uphill, but that has never deterred her. When she learned she had been lucky enough to draw one of the coveted elk tags she knew her opportunity would hinge on access to good elk habitat.
That’s where the research began. Patricia soon learned about two programs that could help her with her hunt. One was the MFWP’s Permit to Hunt From a Vehicle Program and the other was BLM’s Equal Access Program.
Both programs are designed to provide hunters with disabilities with reasonable vehicle access for recreational experiences.
Patricia and her husband Peter, who would accompany her on each hunt, contacted the MFWP about getting a permit to hunt from a vehicle. The permit requires the permit holder to be accompanied by a companion, to display orange placards (provided by MFWP) on his or her vehicle, and to abide by other MFWP rules while hunting. The program does not allow permit holders or their companions to drive off roads, to use private roads without landowner permission, to bring others along to hunt or to assume that all roads (state, federal or private) are accessible to the permit holder.
Patricia and Peter then contacted the BLM’s Lewistown Field Office about obtaining a travel permit through our Equal Access Program. This permit allowed Patricia and Peter to drive a vehicle on existing, seasonally closed roads in a specific area -- in this case, the Chain Buttes Block Management Area. The BLM travel permit is non-transferrable, requires the holder to abide by all other agency regulations, and establishes criteria for using roads in wet weather conditions.
The applications for both permits were brief and easy to complete. With permits in hand, Patricia was ready start her elk hunting adventure.
Patricia and Peter were persistent and made multiple hunting trips to the Chain Buttes area. The equal access program worked great and they both enjoyed the opportunity to see so much country and wildlife. They were courteous of other hunters and their hunting from a vehicle did not disturb anyone else they are aware of.
On about the sixth trip, Patricia spotted a fine young bull on a timbered hillside where she could get a shot. When the bull collapsed she was able to leave the truck and hustle up the hillside to tag her first elk. “I guess the adrenalin helped push me up that hill! Later, I had to sit down and scoot my way back down the hill to the truck,” she offered with a smile.
Patricia thoroughly enjoyed her hunting opportunities and feels it’s important for others with similar physical challenges to learn about the equal access programs offered by the BLM and MFWP.
“I’ll be applying for elk permits on a regular basis now that I’ve learned about these programs,” Patricia added.