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A herd of elk on MPG Ranch.

MPG Ranch hosted two Montana Wounded Warriors on elk hunts this past January. Kevin Martin and Brandon LaRoque each harvested a cow elk during a late elk hunt in hunting district 204. Both hunters are Iraq War veterans who were wounded while serving in the Army.

Montana Wounded Warriors is based in northwest Montana. The organization serves as a conduit between private landowners offering hunting and fishing opportunities and Montana military veterans who have at least 30% disability as a result of combat service in Iraq or Afghanistan wars.

Kevin and Brandon came to MPG Ranch through a volunteer effort led by U.S. Marine veteran Jake Jourdonnais. Jake worked with Montana Wounded Warriors and MPG Ranch staff to locate hunt candidates living in the Bitterroot Valley and schedule the elk hunts on MPG Ranch.

Wounded Warrior Volunteer, Jake Jourdonnais (left), with Wounded Warrior Hunter, Kevin Martin, after a successful stalk on MPG Ranch, January 9, 2020.

These veterans hunted the ranch a week apart and harvested elk in the same area, a small grass-covered opening just below Baldy Mountain. MPG Ranch staff now refer to this landmark as Veteran’s Park.

MPG Ranch’s hunting program involves over 80 hunters each year. MPG Ranch’s annual hunter roster includes a literal cross-section of the hunting public. Most of these hunters have no official ties to the ranch staff or the ranch owner. MPG hunt coordinators chaperone most elk hunters on the ranch. These public hunters harvest about 60 antlerless elk each year.

Kevin and Brandon helped MPG Ranch manage an elk herd that is over population objective. Both hunters experienced the satisfaction and exertion of hunting, field dressing, and packing an elk off the mountain.

Wounded Warrior Hunter, Brandon LaRoque, with his cow elk harvested on January 16, 2020 on MPG Ranch (Photo: Jake Jourdonnais).

The elk hunt is a small measure of thanks to these two fellas. Better yet, it’s an honor to be able to look them in the eye and tell them how grateful we are that they made it back to Montana to enjoy another elk season.

Elk move toward timber on MPG Ranch, January, 2020.

About the Author

Craig Jourdonnais

Craig graduated with a B.S. in wildlife management in 1982 and completed his M.S. degree in Range Management in 1985 from the University of Montana School of Forestry. Craig worked seasonal wildlife tech positions with U.S. Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks during his college career. Craig completed his Master’s research using prescribed fire and cattle grazing on a rough fescue winter range to improve elk forage conditions on the Sun River Wildlife Management Area. Results from this research are published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Craig spent the next 33 years working for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He spent one year on the East Front Grizzly Project, 3 years as a state game warden, 15 years as a statewide wildlife video production specialist and his remaining tenure as the area wildlife biologist in the Gallatin, Madison and Bitterroot Valleys.

Craig works as a youth hunt coordinator and big game researcher for MPG Ranch. Craig spends his time away from MPG Ranch with his family hunting, fishing, floating and hiking. He is a competitive swimmer and coaches U.S. Masters swimming, teaches big game management for One Montana’s Montana Hunter Advancement Program, and serves as Big Game Committee Chairman for the Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association.

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