In the past 10 to 15 years, wild life has become quite an expensive nuisance to the ranchers around the Wood Mountain area. The deer and the elk have become so numerous that many attitudes toward them are changing. Let me explain.
My father, Leonard Anderson, an early rancher, acquired some grazing land near the Montana border. Dad liked wild animals and to help protect the deer, he in cooperation with the provincial government, made a game preserve out of several sections. This was then an area where the deer and the antelope were safe. Over the years, this area did give the animals some protection and helped them to increase in numbers. As a boy, I was proud of Dad having sympathy and protection for the animals. Dad was not much for hunting and his feeling for nature seemed to be passed down to his seven sons. There was not one of the seven boys who turned out to be a real ardent hunter, although I believe we were all broad minded enough to know that the animals, just like the livestock, had to be controlled and we cooperated with the government and the hunters in allowing hunting on certain areas of our ranch.
As I grew up, I noted that the deer population increased and they would be in the oat fields as well as in the prairie pastures. Then the deer started to increase quite rapidly. Right now one can drive any direction and count hundreds in a 10-mile drive. The antelope have also come north from the Montana-Saskatchewan border and are now living in the farming area all year round. For many years, the elk stopped in an area south and east of Wood Mountain. They increased to where herds of more than one hundred could be easily found. The deer were and could be costly in the feed stack, but the elk are much worse.
A few years ago, the Provincial government helped the ranchers build some very good expensive feed yards to protect the feed stacks. It was a good plan and many ranchers took advantage of the program. The government has also opened up the hunting on the elk. I am sure these two policies will help a great deal.
On Christmas Day nearly 100 elk were counted less than one mile from Lloyd’s feed ground. What the future holds for these elk, deer, and antelope remains to be seen. Due to the cold weather and the lack of feed, the deer come in too and stay overnight in some of our towns and villages. Some little deer have been found dead. The elk are feeding on feed stacks if they can get in and because they are the size of a yearling steer or heifer, they must be eating up a lot of the winter grazing.
We also have some moose in our area. As a young boy growing up, I can remember how excited we were when we saw a white tail or a mule deer. My girls used to say “Oh Dad, don’t go hunting.” My Serbian sheep herder told me one time, “Boss, don’t you hunt. Leave the deer and the antelope for the poor people.”
My Grandma, Lula Price, was born in the Dakota Territory in the pioneer days. She had an old saying which went like this “When one wakes on a February morn, have half your taters and half you corn.” This meant for the family to have groceries and feed for the livestock. It is still a good idea, but today we have telephones, roads and many stores for daily shopping. Lloyd has plenty of feed except that he does get range pellets in from Regina. Over at the Big Muddy, Ryan has plenty of bales. I may have to get a few more and we both get pellets out of Weyburn.
The weather has been very cold and stormy for two months and we have had to feed heavy without much good weather for cattle grazing. We have some good winter range if we could get a February thaw. But, who knows, almost everyday we see truck loads of hay going by on the highway. Some go east and some go west. The story I hear about the price is that hay is now up to $120 per ton and that quite a lot of it is going to Montana. A neighbor of ours was just down to Glasgow, Montana and a big rancher down there said he had already used up his April feed.
I have been to two feeder cattle sales and saw light yearling steers sell for over $1.20 per pound. This is certainly better that the December price and the good cows are back up to 40 cents per pound live weight. Livestock markets do remain tough but just maybe there might be light at the end of the tunnel after five years of losses due to BSE. The Rolling Hills feedlot east of Scout Lake is now in operation. This is good news.
The little hamlet of Glentworth has been a very busy place this winter. The activity is centered on the hockey, skating and curling, the bowling lanes, the 55 club, the store, the hall, the municipal office, the hotel, the Credit Union and the centralized school. Let me explain.
In 1972, the municipality of Waverley took advantage of a work and wages program and built a hockey and skating rink with artificial ice. Today there are nine hockey teams playing at this rink (Waverley Sports Gardens) and a figure skating club. The curling club is also part of the complex. The curling bonspiel just finished with about 26 entries. Cards are played at the 55 club three times a week and bowling takes place three or four times a week. Some of the hockey teams that come here are from Fox Valley, Maple Creek, Gull Lake, Frontier, Swift Current, La Fleche and Gravelbourg. Every time there is a game, the lunch counter operates. Lloyd’s son, Chay, is on the Midget team. Some of the players on the team are from Hodgeville, Mankota, McCord, Fir Mountain, Rockglen and Assiniboia. For two years, the girl’s teams won a first or second in provincial playoffs. This community won’t be closed for several more years.
Lloyd is the manager of one hockey team. He has lots of feed and good equipment and also a very capable wife or he would not get it all done. Last night, Chay’s team won over Central Butte. It was a very good game-three to two. On Monday night, they will play Coronach and after that Fox Valley.
If we do not get a thaw by March first, I will be buying more feed. I have very good grass and we are waiting for a Chinook to come in. My birthday is on March first and over the years we have always had a good enough Chinook to melt.
Boyd Anderson is a mostly retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.