Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Andi Bourne

Successful opener on the Game Range


Photo provided

Austin Bernstrauch with Maggie Duran who is proudly holding the elk antler she found on the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area Game Range opening day of shed hunting, Friday, May 15.

SEELEY LAKE – "I looked up and she held up this giant elk shed," said Austin Bernstrauch who was out antler hunting on the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area Game Range for the opener Friday, May 15 with his girlfriend Maggie Duran. "It was a good find. I was very proud of her."

While this year's antler hunting opener on the Game Range had over 500 vehicles and more than 1,000 people participate opening day, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Wildlife Biologist Scott Eggeman said everything went really well. Eggeman felt the turnout was so high because it was on a Friday and more people aren't working.

"We didn't have any issues. It went fairly smooth considering the number of people we had," said Eggeman who added that people were pretty good about spreading out to maintain social distancing. "People were really nice and appreciative. It was one of the better openers I've been a part of."

Duran and Bernstrauch went out last year for the opener but they didn't' find anything. This year they went in a few hours after the gates opened at 12 p.m. with Bernstrauch's sister Elizabeth Wink and her three boys Payton, Jessie and Dominick.

The first place they wanted to go was packed so they headed up a little further. They parked at a gate and hiked in about a mile. They were only out for about 45 minutes before Duran found the six-point.

"I just so happened to be looking over to my right side and it was sitting right in the grass about 10-15 feet right off the road," said Duran. "Austin walked right past it."

The Wink brothers were very excited.

"Their eyes got huge," said Bernstrauch who was pumped. "They were like "whooo, can I hold it?'"

They did a 100-200 yard grid search in the area for the match but didn't find it. They are excited to go back again and search some more.

This was the first time Duran has found a bull elk shed. Bernstrauch estimated that it scored around 125 and weighed more than 10 pounds. He figured that the bull could have been a 240-class bull, if the other side was similar.

Duran looks forward to displaying her first elk shed on the wall.


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