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G&F News Digest: Fatal Grizzly Attack, World-Record Bass, 'Hoot-Owl' Restrictions

A regular look at recent news and notes in the outdoors world.

G&F News Digest: Fatal Grizzly Attack, World-Record Bass, 'Hoot-Owl' Restrictions

The International Game Fish Association recently certified this 12-pound largemouth as the new IGFA women’s 12-pound line class world record. Angler Lea Anne Powell landed the fish on Feb. 28, 2023, at O.H. Ivie Lake in West Texas while fishing with Capt. Dalton Smith. (Photo courtesy of IGFA)

It's hot in many parts of the nation as summer hits its peak, but the days are starting to get shorter and fall hunting seasons are now barely more than a month away for dove hunters in many parts of the nation.

Here's a late-July look at news and notes in the outdoors world.

Woman Killed by Grizzly near Yellowstone

West Yellowstone, Montana. is considered the heart and soul of the trout fly-fishing world by many, lying just west of the wild and rugged terrain of Yellowstone National Park. It's also the site of the latest fatal bear attack where a woman was found dead on Saturday, July 22, 2023, after an encounter with a grizzly bear just west of the park.

A statement from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on Monday, July 24, 2023 indicated that game wardens were notified of a deceased woman on the Buttermilk Trail near West Yellowstone around 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. Upon arriving, FWP wardens and bear specialists, along with other staff from various agencies, found that the woman had wounds consistent with a bear attack. There were tracks from an adult grizzly and at least one cub near the site, but officials did not see any bears from the ground, bears from a dispatched aircraft, or any signs of bear activity near a day bed or animal carcass.

FWP officials said the hiker was believed to be alone during the fatal encounter and that no bear spray or firearms were found at the scene. Shortly thereafter, the Custer Gallatin National Forest implemented an emergency closure of the area as a safety precaution and that closure will remain in place from July 22 through Aug. 25. FWP bear specialists and game wardens notified residents and visitors nearby of the bear activity and the U.S. Forest Service closure.

While the attack over the weekend is the first fatal grizzly attack in the U.S. this year, the attack is actually the second fatal bear attack in a little more than a month. In late June, 66-year-old Steven Jackson was mauled to death by a black bear near Prescott, Ariz., as he camped on property he was building a home.

West Texas Lake Lands IGFA World Record Bass

West Texas' O.H. Ivie Lake is no stranger to big largemouths and big bass news in the past two years with not one, but two 17-plus-pound fish being caught in a 12-month period.

Now add a new International Game Fish Association  women's 12-pound line-class world record to the O.H. Ivie news clip file after angler Lea Anne Powell's 12-pound bass was recently certified as a record. Powell's catch, while falling one-pound short of admission into the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's ShareLunker Legacy Class division, still breaks the IGFA mark after it was landed on Feb. 28, 2023, as the angler fished with Capt. Dalton Smith. Caught with a white fluke on a jig head, the fish broke the previous IGFA women's line class record by nearly three pounds, according to IGFA.

If Smith's name seems familiar, it should because he made his own history at O.H. Ivie on Groundhog Day this year while landing a 14.76-pound bass at the lake that was ShareLunker Legacy Lunker #636 in TPWD's long-running trophy fish breeding donation program. Just prior to the SL program's donation season window opening up on Jan. 1, 2023, Smith also caught two 14-pound largemouths on Dec. 30, 2022, fish that weighed 14.27 and 14.69 pounds respectively.

World Cutdown Call Contest at Delta Waterfowl EXPO

World Cutdown Duck Calling Championship
The second annual Delta Waterfowl Duck Hunters EXPO will host the World Cutdown Duck Calling Championship this Saturday, July 29, 2023 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Ark. Byron Womack is the defending champion in the event.

When most duck hunters think of world duck-calling titles, they think of Thanksgiving weekend in Stuttgart, Ark. This weekend, however, in the summertime heat of downtown Little Rock, the July 28-30  Delta Waterfowl Duck Hunters EXPO will host the World Cutdown Duck Calling Championship at 12 p.m. on July 29 at the Statehouse Convention Center in Arkansas’ capitol city. Sponsored by Mack’s Prairie Wings and Drake Waterfowl, renowned champion callers Jim Ronquest and Heath Vanlandingham are producing the event.

Ronquest, the VP of Development for Drake Waterfowl Systems and once the longtime co-host of Sportsman Channel’s RNT-V duck hunting television program, is a big fan of the cutdown call. For those unfamiliar with the call, think RNT’s Mondo, which is a specially modified style of duck call long-favored by hunters in Arkansas and Illinois.

“On behalf of the World Cutdown Duck Calling Championship, LLC, we look forward to being a part of this year’s Delta Waterfowl Duck Hunters Expo,” Ronquest said. “Last year’s event was a rousing success and this year’s will only be better.” According to a Delta Waterfowl press release, the classic Arkansas style duck call was introduced in 1904 by Philip Olt of Pekin, Illinois. Later on in the 1950s and 1960s, duck hunters started individually modifying the call, which allowed them to customize the volume and pitch.


These modified Olt calls—called “cutdowns” by many including Ronquest—were especially successful in the flooded timber of eastern Arkansas and along the Illinois River. Because of that, their popularity among hunters eventually led to commercial production by major duck call manufacturers, including Rich-n-Tone where Ronquest once worked and won the 2006 World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest using an RNT call.

With Byron Womack serving as the cutdown event’s defending champion, Delta Waterfowl estimates that 40 or more callers will take the Delta EXPO stage this year to compete for a first prize payout of at least $1,000, a shotgun, a Drake Waterfowl gear package, and the prestigious world cutdown title. The conservation group also notes that cash prizes will be paid to the top three finishers, with prizes awarded to the top five places.

Federal Duck Stamps on Sale

Speaking of ducks and duck callers, last month at the Bass Pro Shops Pyramid store location in Memphis, Tenn. the 2023-24 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp went on sale for the upcoming year.

Commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp, this year's stamp features a painting of three tundra swans and is painted by Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn. Chosen last September from 187 submissions, it's the sixth time that Hautman has seen one of his paintings chosen for the program.

The stamps are available for purchase online, at numerous post offices nationwide, at some National Wildlife Refuge offices, and at sporting goods retailers.

Raising millions of dollars for wildlife habitat conservation and acquisition and lease of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge system, the stamp is required of waterfowl hunters as part of their annual license package. Since the program began in 1934, more than 6 million acres of wetlands habitat on NWR lands has been conserved thanks to sales totaling more than $1.2 billion dollars. Also on sale at select locations is the 2023-24 Junior Duck Stamp, which raises funds to support youth conservation education. This year's Junior Duck Stamp is a hooded merganser painting by 15-year old Mila Linyue Tong of Virginia.

Trouble Brewing on Montana's Flathead River

With river conditions at or near historic lows for late July, officials with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are urging anglers to try and reduce stress on local cold-water fish.

With growing concern for the state's wild trout populations in the North, Middle and South Forks of the Flathead River, the mainstem of the Flathead River upstream of the Old Steel Bridge in Evergreen, the Swan River, and the Thompson River, biologists are monitoring the situation closely and could request restrictions and/or full closure if conditions don't improve.

FWP says that the Flathead River basin is experiencing severe drought conditions due to below-average winter snowpack, early runoff, and above-average hot, dry summer conditions. Flows in the North, South, and Middle forks of the Flathead River are roughly one-third of average for this time of year and water temperatures are already hitting stressful levels for trout, particularly westslope cutthroat and protected bull trout.

With more late summer warmth ahead, biologists could implement “hoot owl” fishing restrictions on these streams as has already been done in other sections of rivers across the state, including parts of the Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Jefferson, Lower Madison, and Sun rivers. According to the agency news release, hoot owl restrictions "prohibit fishing between 2 p.m. and midnight on drought-impacted streams until conditions improve. If conditions on some waters continue to deteriorate, full fishing closures could be implemented."

To help cold-water fish during this summer stress period, FWP advises anglers to limit fishing to morning hours when water temps are the coolest and fish are the least stressed; by landing the fish as quickly as possible; by keeping the fish in the water as much as possible; by limiting or avoiding taking photos altogether; by using artificial lures and flies with single barbless hooks and removing the hook gently (single-pointed hooks are required in portions of the Flathead drainage); and by letting the fish recover adequately so it can swim away.

To keep up-to-date on closures and restrictions, please visit the FWP web page dedicated to such information or call the Region 1 office at (406) 752-5501.

Short Casts

Capt. Monty Hawkins has been named the recipient of the 2023 Maryland Sport Fisheries Achievement Award by the Maryland Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission. Based out of Ocean City, Md., the longtime charter captain was instrumental in forming the Ocean City Reef Foundation a quarter century ago, is a volunteer with the Coastal Conservation Association, and is a member and chairman of the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative...North Carolina's recreational flounder fishermen are facing a shorter season this year thanks to increasing scarcity in the flatfish stocks off the Tar Heel State's Atlantic coastline. This year, according to the Star News Online news site, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will open the recreational flounder season at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2023 and close the season at midnight on Sept. 29 with a limit of one fish per season (hook/line and gigging), with the flounder having to measure at least 15 inches in length. Overfishing on the commercial side, increased angling pressure from a burgeoning population, and even climate change are all cited as culprits in the decreased flounder stocks. Hopes are that the flounder stocks will rebound with the restrictions put into place last year through the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3 that called for a 72% reduction in southern flounder harvest in the state.

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