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'Bullets are flying, and I’m ducking': Beattie Gulch bison hunt raises safety concerns for nearby residents

Beattie Gulch sits between Yellowstone National Park and residential areas near Gardiner
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Posted at 5:13 PM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-16 19:13:06-05

Concerns of safety and hunting ethics have been raised by landowners and homeowners that live in the Beattie Gulch area near Gardiner.

Beattie Gulch is a piece of land nestled between Yellowstone National Park, residential homes and property, and public roads where an annual bison hunt takes place.

The hunt at Beattie Gulch is a mixture of multiple tribes as well as Montana hunters.

“There’s been days that I come out of this house and they’re shooting right there, and I’ve been scared—I’m frightened,” Sandy Monville said.

Monville is a wildlife photographer and volunteer with Yellowstone Voices, an organization aimed to preserve and protect the wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park. Monville describes the bison hunt at Beattie Gulch as a slaughter.

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Sandy Monville, Yellowstone Voices

“This is wrong, this is on my road that I travel every day, are you kidding me?” Monville said, “These are Yellowstone bison.”

Monville says hunters haze animals to where they can shoot and that she’s seen hunters shoot off the road, which she says is dangerous.

“Bullets are flying, and I’m ducking,” Monville said.

Monville has lived in the area for about two years and said she recently met Bonnie Lynn, a board member for Yellowstone Voices.

Lynn has been at the forefront of the Beattie Gulch bison issue for about a decade and notes that she’s not against hunting—but asks what a hunt entails.

“There’s no fair chase with habituated animals, and certainly this is not safe, nor is it ethical,” Lynn said.

“I went to hammer it in and bullets were flying,” Lynn said. “Three bullets were shot from the Beattie Gulch parking lot and one killed a bison from me, maybe 10 feet away, 12 feet away.”

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Bonnie Lynn, Yellowstone Voices

Lynn says that was illegal because hunters shot toward her home.

This coming after the news of a Tribal bison hunter shot in the area north of Yellowstone National Park back in January, according to the Montana Free Press. Government officials confirmed that the hunter was accidentally shot in connection with the bison hunt. The hunter was not severely injured.

“Beattie Gulch has gotten to be a pretty hot topic,” Stephanie Gillin said.

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Gillin has worked for 21 years as a Tribal wildlife biologist and recently moved to the position of Information and Education Program Manager for the Natural Resources Department of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

Gillin and CSKT attorney John Harrison say that when it comes to any hunt, safety is paramount, emphasizing that for groups heading to hunt, organization, spacing, and timing are key.

“This year it’s been much different, tribal members there have had much more opportunity. The idea at Beattie is that it can work if we all accept that have space and time. Space between hunters, and the timing when you’re hunting and who’s up there,” Harrison said.

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Harrison says this year there has been an early migration and that the CSKT hunt is typically done with their bison hunt at Beattie Gulch on Jan. 31. Harrison also notes that CSKT has not harvested any bison at Beattie Gulch in the last two years.

Gillin notes that bison has become the protein of choice for many Tribal members, with plenty of hunters saving room in their freezer for their harvested bison. She goes on to note the importance of getting the bison meat back into their diet.

“We have this strong connection with (bison), they provided a lot for us. Especially, talking about these cold winter months, with hides and meat, and everything was used from the animal” Gillin said. “They helped our ancestors survive.”

Gillin says that hunters wishing to hunt bison go through a class prior to harvesting. Game wardens are always present with hunters, and those hunting must check in with the wardens in the morning.