December 27, 2016

What We Bagged in 2016

Here’s to another year of chasing critters, filling freezers, and spending days afield with the family, friends, and pups that we cherish

With the new year quickly approaching, it’s time to reflect. The past 12 months were a mixed bag on the conservation policy front—with some exciting wins and a fair share of disappointments—but our staff still managed to get out and enjoy our hunting and fishing heritage.

Here are some of the stories and memories from 2016 that make all of the hard work worth it.

Ed Arnett, senior scientist

This year marks the 14th hunting season for my chocolate Lab, Sage, pictured here with one of my other Labs, Roux, and a limit of Nebraska pheasants—taken on publicly accessible private lands through Nebraska’s Walk-in Hunting Program. These days, Sage can only go on what I call my “high-grade hunts”—short walks in really good-looking habitat that more often than not produces some birds. On this day, Sage put up a rooster from its bed and made about a 60-yard retrieve after I dropped the bird on the second shot.

 

Chris Macaluso, Center for Marine Fisheries director

Over Thanksgiving week, I had the chance to take my four-year-old son, Hank, and my dad, Joe, fishing over in the marshes and canals east of New Orleans. Hank had been asking me to take him to catch a redfish for months and we finally got the chance. We caught speckled trout all day and finally, at our last stop, I hooked this 25-pound red. Hank got to help me fight it and he jumped up and down when we landed the fish. He couldn’t get over the fact that we had just caught a fish almost as big as him. This instantly became my favorite fishing trip of all time.

 

 

Nick Dobric, Wyoming field representative

This year, I helped two of my buddies each get their first elk—a rewarding experience for all of us. Then, after an amazing archery season chasing bugling elk but never getting a shot, I was fortunate to find an elk on my first morning out with a rifle. The first evening after backpacking into some wild country, I glassed a herd dropping over a pass and into my drainage. At first light the following morning, I was up on the ridge where I expected them to be and started hearing some bugles. Then I watched a cow pop out of the trees, and a big six-by-six shortly followed. I never had a good shot so I was just about to go put a stalk on him when this smaller bull popped out and started grazing broadside, and well within my range. I couldn’t pass him up.

 

Ed Tamson, Florida field representative

Yes, Florida water quality and Everglades restoration are ongoing challenges. Yet in spite of these stressors, it’s still possible to catch some backcountry red fish and snook. It’s a great motivator!

 

Kevin Farron, Western field associate

With a cow elk and a few limits of blue grouse in the freezer, my first fall in Montana has been rewarding. But more often than not, my reward for a day spent hunting is nothing more than a tired puppy. On this single-digit December day, Leo and I tried our luck for pheasants, something we’ve never hunted, and we were skunked. With the near-endless miles of Montana public lands to hide in, we had to tip our hats to the birds for avoiding us that day. But we’ll be back.

 

 

Steve Kline, director of government relations

Earlier this month I had a successful end-of-year reunion, about four minutes from our staff retreat location this past summer, with Chris Macaluso (who works from Louisiana) and former TRCP’er Cyrus Baird.

 

Joel Webster, Center for Western Lands director

Another great elk season on America’s public lands. Conditions were tough, but our party hunted hard and managed to pack four bulls and three bucks into our Montana hunting camp. The freezers are full.

 

 

 

 

 

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November 22, 2016

15 Reasons to Raise a Glass on Turkey Day

A Thanksgiving toast to the important things: family, friends, and the healing power of days afield

We tend to write about what sportsmen stand to lose—public lands access, healthy streams, sage grouse habitat, and more. But, in honor of Thanksgiving, we want to focus on appreciating what we have. And there’s a lot to be thankful for.

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“I’m thankful for wild places that inspire and humble me, even when the deer are scarce.” –Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO, TRCP

 “I’m thankful for every opportunity to spend time outdoors with family and friends. Whether you’re new to the sport or very experienced, the natural world is inspiring. And around the holidays it’s the best place to reconnect with the people you love.” —David Perkins, vice chairman, The Orvis Company

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“Why we fish? The look of curiosity and wonder on the face of your nephew when he scores his first catch! What to be thankful for? On your next visit he asks, ‘Uncle Geoff, will you take me fishing again?’” –Geoff Mullins, chief operating officer, TRCP

“I’m thankful for the state and federal biologists who recover and manage America’s rich wildlife and habitats so I can watch sandhill cranes circle overhead by the thousands on their way south, or spy a mountain goat billy on a ridgetop above while scanning for elk below, or hear wood thrushes and wood ducks while waiting for a turkey to walk by.” —Mike Leahy, public lands conservation and sportsmen’s policy, National Wildlife Federation

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“I’m thankful for crappy weather, pouring rain, and November storms rolling in off the North Pacific. Those rains beckon wild winter steelhead. Riding those storms are ducks and geese. I’m a Washingtonian; there are few things I love more than gearing up and stepping into the elements.” —Chase Gunnell, Conservation Northwest

“I’m thankful for the work I get to do in Washington, DC, ensuring wildlife professionals can continue to sustain wildlife resources and their habitats for the benefit of the American people.  I’m also thankful for the quick escapes from the political scene to the surrounding landscape — hiking, kayaking, and hunting in the rivers and forests nearby — so I can remain connected to the resources we work so hard to conserve on the Hill.” —Keith Norris, director of government affairs and partnerships, The Wildlife Society

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“The week before Thanksgiving, we managed to pack four bulls and three bucks into our Montana hunting camp. The freezers are full, and it was a good time with family and friends. I’m thankful for the opportunity to recharge—and I’m ready to tackle what’s to come.” —Joel Webster, Western lands director, TRCP

“In this polarized climate, let’s be thankful for the binding power of turkey. Now’s the time for gathering with friends and loved ones, whether at the table or outside — both environments can be potent equalizers.” —Geoff Mueller, senior editor, The Drake Magazine

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“I’m thankful for public access, which allows me to build incredible memories with my family, friends, and dogs. I’m grateful that access is an important initiative locally and nationally—I appreciate all of the folks that are fighting to keep it!” –Diane Bristol, senior director of employee and community engagement, Simms Fishing

“I am thankful that I live in a country and state that puts the protection of natural resources and wild places as a high priority. I am thankful that my kids have been raised in an area that is beautiful and abundant with wildlife. I am thankful to be a witness to the efforts of sportsmen and other” —Scott Laird, Montana field representative, TRCP

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“I’m grateful to be married to a man who loves to fish as much as I do and doesn’t mind when catch more than he does. I’m also grateful for public access to float, healthy rivers, and wild steelhead.” —Mia Sheppard, Oregon field representative, TRCP

“I’m thankful for the friends and teachers, often one and the same, that have shared their knowledge and love of fly-fishing with me. It’s through their good humor, contagious love of the sport and the complete thrill in finally hitting trout on wet and dry flies this year that have made even the coldest, toughest days on the river all the better.” —Christy Plumer, chief conservation officer, TRCP

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“I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to have a father who taught me and my brother to hunt and fish. I can’t imagine my life without those pursuits, which have ultimately become my profession. My son is due to be born around Thanksgiving this year and I can’t wait to pass our family outdoor traditions on to him.” –Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO, National Deer Alliance

“I am very thankful that my wife and daughter support my efforts to save the Everglades and remind me not to get skin cancer!” —Ed Tamson, Florida field representative, TRCP

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“I am grateful for the all mentors who encouraged me, took me afield, and made the hunting and fishing sports accessible through their patience and commitment. Their lessons are with me every time I set foot on a range, in a river, or on the first rung of a ladder stand, and every shot I’ve made or fish I’ve landed since has been a product of their generosity.” —Kristyn Brady, director of communications, TRCP

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“It’s easy to forget the big things when we are wrapped up in modern day society, but nature has a way of grounding us and prioritizing things. We are born to be outside and I am immensely grateful to get to watch the sun rise while standing knee deep in the river, or getting a first glimpse of a big adipose on a steelhead as it quietly wakes in front of me, and I am especially thankful to watch my baby boy’s face light up, the same way mine does, as he gently touches a fish before we release it.” —Russell Miller, Marketing Manager, Sage/Redington/Rio

Rob Thornberry

October 18, 2016

A Private-Land Pronghorn Hunt Built on Stewardship, Trust, and a Budding Bromance

Getting permission to hunt private lands can be a win-win situation for you and a conservation-minded landowner

The walk to a private landowner’s door to ask permission to hunt on his ground is always a quiet one. Today’s is no different, except for the crunch of gravel under my hunting boots. I fidget with my keys as I rehearse my opening line.

“Hello, sir. Can I have a minute to ask for permission to hunt on your property?”

I don’t get to the door. Craig Bare is sitting on a deck, enjoying drinks with company. His smile is friendly, his hands calloused. I botch the introduction, racing through my speech like a nervous teen asking for a date.

At its core, asking for permission like this is very intrusive. You are interrupting a person at their home—in my case, somehow, always during a meal—and asking to use their roads, gates, and crops. You offer little in return unless they’re charging a trespass fee. From their perspective, at best, you are an early-morning or late-night commotion in their quiet part of the world. At worst, you are the prospect of open gates, litter, and boorish behavior.

Their reception can easily be warm or hostile, especially if the landowner has been ill-treated in the past. Fortunately, on this windy September afternoon, Bare is all smiles. He said he is celebrating fall, Idaho style: well dressed and in the wind.

I’ve been hunting for pronghorn with a muzzleloader west of Idaho’s Mud Lake. I hold a unique tag, available to keep pronghorn from taking up residence on alfalfa fields that abut a 900-square-mile property owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), so I’m restricted to traditional weaponry only. The vast majority of the site is closed to hunting, giving elk, mule deer, and pronghorns a massive desert sanctuary, outside of which trophy-size animals can be found—so can conflicts between wildlife and landowners.

I ask Bare if I can cross his land and set myself up where the ever-skittish antelope leave the DOE property to feed in his green field. He not only gives permission but starts outlining the pronghorn routes he knows of and his neighbor’s boundaries. I meet three landowners during my hunt and all have the same basic instruction: Don’t clean the animals in the fields, park out of the way of heavy equipment, and if you have any problem with my neighbors, tell ’em I sent you.

Bare’s warm reception is especially encouraging because pronghorn have plagued Mud Lake farmers for decades. The relationship got so bad that in the late 1980s, agriculture interests lobbied the state legislature to overrule the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s management plans and started a massive effort to trim antelope numbers.

Cooler heads ultimately prevailed. Fish and Game increased harvest limits and designed hunts, like mine, to keep pronghorns at bay. Programs to compensate landowners for crop losses were also bolstered. And the site expanded its trespass rules for hunters, allowing sportsmen to hunt just within the site’s boundaries.

Bare knows the history well, but he doesn’t see hunters—or antelope—as a problem. I thank him for the warm welcome and the access. “We want the same things,” he says as we prepare to part. “We want Idaho to stay Idaho.”

That night’s hunt is nearly perfect, except for the fact that the largest buck stays out of range. The chance is ultimately spoiled by my impatience. But I head back to the truck with the reassurance that hunters have powerful allies as we look to protect our heritage for decades to come. That is, perhaps, just as important as all the public land access in the world.

Later, my friend Jim Hardy teased me about my budding bromance with the farmer. All jokes aside, I am glad I mustered the courage to ask a favor of a private landowner. It could have ended poorly, but that day’s interaction was perfect. I made a friend and represented the best of hunters and anglers.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

SCRAPE TOGETHER A FEW BUCKS FOR CONSERVATION

Without the efforts of hunters and anglers, whitetails wouldn’t be a part of the modern American landscape. But we can’t stop there. Support our work to represent all sportsmen in Washington.

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