Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation creates new membership category just for kids

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation‘s Elk Country Visitor Center in Missoula has long been a family go-to spot. It’s open year-round, making it a sure thing in any kind of weather. It’s kid-friendly, with interactive exhibits that keep even very young children engaged. And it’s free – if you don’t let yourself get suckered by your kids in the gift shop.

But membership with RMEF has been more the domain of adults – until now. The Foundation just announced that it is launching a new, child-friendly membership category. It’s $20 for an annual youth membership, making it the most wallet-friendly category as well.

Here’s the press release from RMEF in full:

RMEF Launches Youth Membership

MISSOULA, Mont. – In an effort to better promote and protect the present and future of conservation, a love of the outdoors and hunting, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation initiated a new youth membership category.

“We remain committed to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat, and our hunting heritage. And who holds the keys to that future if not our sons and daughters and grandchildren?” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “As far as gifts go, this membership ranks right up there with your first rifle or bow. It will attract, engage and help young hunter-conservationists fall to love with elk, the places they live and the challenge of hunting them.”

The new RMEF Youth Membership costs $20 per year and is designed for girls and boys age 17 and under. It will offer six digital issues of Bugle magazine, e-newsletters, an RMEF hat, a membership card, member discounts and decals. Members will also have access to social media sites specifically designed for them that include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a blog to share their photos and videos. There will also be online contests for outdoor gear and other interactive activities.

Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, RMEF invested in tomorrow’s future by reaching thousands of youth through the sponsorship of quality programs like the National Archery in the Schools Program, 4-H Shooting Sports, state hunter education courses, the Boy Scouts of America, the Future Farmers of America and scores of hunting, shooting, archery, fishing and other outdoor-related camps and programs.

In 2013 alone, RMEF promoted and sponsored more than 200 youth activities and programs across the country and introduced thousands of young and novice shooters to safe, responsible and enjoyable firearm use at nearly 60 SAFE Challenge (Shooting Access for Everyone) events.

“Right now, we’re busy passing on our hopes and dreams and the things we love most to our youth,” said Allen. “Before we know it, though, we’ll be passing on the reins to this next generation of hunters and conservationists. We need to make sure their ranks are strong.”

RMEF welcomes Remington as the first sponsor of the youth membership category.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that protected or enhanced habitat on more than 6.3 million acres—an area larger than Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks combined. RMEF also is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. RMEF members, partners and volunteers, working together as Team Elk, are making a difference all across elk country. Join us at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

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Kids and guns at school in the news

We all remember the recent incident – it was just after Thanksgiving – in which a Columbia Falls teen faced suspension for bringing her hunting rifle to school in the trunk of her car.

Columbia Falls High School student Demari DeReu, upon learning that the school was conducting a “sweep” through the parking lot, volunteered the information that she had stored the rifle in the trunk following a Thanksgiving weekend hunting trip. She was suspended, but allowed to return to school following a open hearing before the board of trustees.

Then, in Great Falls, a C.M. Russell High School student was suspended for bringing a gun to school. It too was stored in the teenager’s car, but in this case it was found following a report of an off-campus “altercation.” Following a closed-door hearing, the student was expelled.

Now, in the most recent case that I’m aware of, two eighth-graders in Florence have been suspended over a BB gun found at Florence-Carlton Middle School. One of the boys brought the plastic Airsoft to school in his backpack, apparently intending to move it from his grandmother’s house back to his own house. The second boy found the unloaded toy gun in the other boy’s backpack at the end of the day.

Their full punishment is yet to be determined, but was arrived at in a close-door hearing that decided the boys will not be expelled.

I wonder if stuff like this happens as often in other states.

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Another punishment suggested for Columbia Falls student who brought a gun to school

Yesterday’s expulsion hearing for the Columbia Falls High School student who was suspended for bringing a gun to school resulted in a unanimous vote by the board of trustees to allow Demari DeReu to return to school immediately – and even make up the school work she missed.

According to earlier reports, what happened was that DeReu left her rifle in the trunk of her car following a Thanksgiving Day weekend hunting trip and forgot about it – until, that is, school authorities announced they would be conducting a sweep of the parking lot.

DeReu immediately told school officials about the hunting rifle in the back of her car – and was immediately suspended.

In the weeks since she has been the recipient of a flood of community support, with most people urging the board of trustees to limit her punishment to “time served.” Some have even gone further, saying that Montana schools need to overhaul policies with regard to guns on school grounds, given that we live in a place with a strong gun/hunting culture.

This morning I received a letter to the editor from a Libby resident who feels DeReu’s parents need to follow up the school board’s decision with some punishment of their own:

I have followed the brouhaha over Demari DeReu, the 16-year-old Columbia Falls High School student who “unwittingly” brought an unloaded hunting rifle to school in the trunk of her car.

I’m surprised at what has not been said, namely, that any hunter who “forgets” that she has a weapon in the trunk of her car is too irresponsible to own a weapon in the first place.

DeReu’s parents should exercise their parental responsibility and take away her weapon(s) and revoke her hunting privileges. She has proven that she does not deserve them.

The writer doesn’t say for how long the 16-year-old’s hunting privileges should be revoked. Surely not permanently.

A lot of heated public commentary has centered on the school’s response to this incident. Should the parents’ response be under scrutiny, too?

– MM

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Opinions abound on the case of a Columbia Falls High School student who brought a gun to school

Honesty earns you major points in my household. My daughter knows that no matter how bad the offense, not being truthful about it will only make it worse – and honesty will always make it better.

We also try not to have arbitrary rules in our home. If there’s a rule, it’s only because breaking it would hurt someone or something. So when a rule gets broken – as all rules do – we focus on how to repair whatever damage has been done. We focus on how to make it right again.

A 16-year-old named Demari DeReu broke a rule shortly after Thanksgiving when she brought a gun to Columbia Falls High School. By all accounts, she had forgotten the hunting rifle was still in the trunk of her car after a weekend of hunting. Then school administrators announced they would be doing a sweep of the parking lot, and DeReu stepped forward right away to tell them about the gun.

DeReu, an honor student, was immediately suspended, and will face an expulsion hearing this coming Monday night.

Various news media and individuals in Montana are weighing in on whether expulsion is warranted or school officials went too far in enforcing “zero tolerance” rules on weapons at school. Read the Helena Indepedent Record’s take on it here. The Daily Interlake in the Flathead also has an opinion on this subject and federal gun regulations in a more general sense.

Most of the comments I’ve read seem to back these opinions that DeReu should not be punished further for what was essentially an honest mistake that didn’t cause any harm to anyone. And DeReu’s honesty, you’ll note, is a key factor.

The question on my mind now is whether other students will see DeReu’s experience as a reason not to be forthcoming with authority figures when they slip up. I hope not. I hope they are able to see how much worse things could have turned out for DeReu had she not told school officials about the gun and they had found it anyway. Had that been the case, she probably would not be getting the strong community support she is getting now – support which may be a factor in her favor at the expulsion hearing.

– MM

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These ‘extreme huntresses’ are also moms

Confession: When I get a moment to myself – when my daughter is with her dad or playing at a friend’s house and I am not occupied by work or our pets or other chores – I usually use that time to sleep.

Yet I read a lot about other moms who use that time to pursue their passions. They sew. They cook. They hunt.

Two Missoulian stories in today’s paper provide a fascinating look at the two Montana women – moms – competing in “Primal Adventures,” including a glimpse at how they make time to pursue their passion for hunting.

Here, for instance, is how Angie Haas-Tennison does it:

Today, the couple is married with a 4-year-old daughter, Quinn, who on her birthday received a pink .22 and looks forward to joining Mom on hunting excursions when she’s of age, and an 18-month-old son, Trent.

And while they still maintain a healthy level of competition, the husband-and-wife duo rarely hunts together. Part of the reason is purely logistical – someone has to stay home and watch the kids while the other puts in long weekends trekking through the woods. But a bigger contributing factor is that neither bride nor groom is willing to back down when he or she knows best.

“It can get ugly,” Haas-Tennison laughs.

Amy Hanneman, on the other hand, does it differently:

While she often hunts with some girlfriends, Amy said she also likes to head out alone or with her whole family in tow. In addition to Robert, that includes 5-year-old Connor, 3-year-old Caleb and Colter, who’s almost 2.

“We’ve really made it a family hobby,” she said. “When we were in eastern Montana last, we hiked in together, and the kids helped quarter the meat. Then we each put a kid on our shoulders and hiked out.”

Robert also shoots hunting videos for broadcast. One of his recent favorites is of Amy, 8 1/2 months pregnant, belly-crawling into shooting position.

“She had two backpacks – one on her chest and one on her waist, to support her belly,” he said. “We filmed the whole thing.”

The boys also help Mom train by going for rides in her front-end backpacks when she climbs Mount Sentinel. Other days, she runs six miles.

That’s downright inspiring, don’t you think? Their dedication to their sport is paying off, too – both are top 10 finalists in the Extreme Huntress competition. To help them win, vote for them on the “Primal Adventures” website at www.tahoefilms.com.

– MM

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Missoulian reporter takes kids ‘armed camping’

Photo by ROB CHANEY/Missoulian

Photo by ROB CHANEY/Missoulian

Missoulian outdoors and environment reporter Rob Chaney wanted to  instill in his son a love of Montana’s hunting tradition. I won’t spoil the ending of his story – which includes checklists, poker, sunrises and even a reference to Kanye West – by revealing here whether he did or not. Just read it for yourself.

– MM

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Kiddos get a head start on deer-hunting this year

Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Photo by MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Today marked the launch of Montana’s first youth-only hunting season directly preceding the regular deer and elk season.

The youth-only season is two days only: today and tomorrow. In a happy coincidence, these are the same days on which Missoula County Public Schools and other school districts across the state have determined there should be no school. They are being used as teacher education days instead, with many teachers heading to the two-day convention in Helena.

They won’t be bagging big bull elk like the Roe brothers, however. Montana’s youth season is deer-only.

Whether they bring down a huge deer or no deer at all, let’s wish them all safe, happy hunting this season!

– MM

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There’s hunting season, and then there’s hunting with kids

KURT WILSON/Missoulian

KURT WILSON/Missoulian

This is the front-page photo that accompanied today’s story about protests outside the federal courthouse in Missoula, where U.S. District Judge Don Molloy heard arguments for and against wolf hunts on Monday.

Hunting is big-time stuff in Montana, for sure. It’s part of the community fabric, the culture here. My husband hunts and fishes, and this summer he started teaching our daughter to fish. He’s eager to start taking her along on hunting trips next.

Over the years, I’ve seen some mighty young kids out on hunting expeditions with their families. Some I thought were probably too young, but assumed their parents knew better than I if they were truly ready.

Trouble is, I’m don’t hunt, so I’m not sure I would recognize the signs of readiness in my own daughter. Her father seems a bit puzzled as to what to look for, too. Does anyone know of any good resources we could turn to for help figuring it out?

– Missoula Mom

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