Guest Blogger Lindsey Elliott

February 26, 2019

Redefining Hunting Success When You Come Home Empty-Handed

After taking two bucks in two years, a fledgling hunter gets her first taste of how frustrating an un-filled tag can be—and comes out of a tough season more committed than ever 

It was Day Four of mule deer season, and I was sick of soggy sandwiches and protein bars. Opening weekend optimism had long since faded, and tagging out was beginning to feel impossible. The deer were spooked, and the patterns we observed when we were scouting were long gone.

I could glass up into the draws of aspens far beyond and find herds of elk, mountain goats, coyotes, and even muley bucks off in the distance, but I was too far away for a shot. October storms had pushed them back up into the high, protected meadows again—I knew where to look, but each day I seemed to be far from the right position.

I’d started the season more prepared than ever. I finally had all the gear I needed, I’d spent months scouting my unit, and I could glass any aspect and find animals. And yet, even with such careful preparation and dedication, the mountains had a different plan for me this year.

I’ve learned so much since my first big game season in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah three years ago. While still relying heavily on mentors, my awareness of all the little details that make a hunt successful had expanded. I’d learned enough to begin feeling comfortable venturing off on my own, finding animals, initiating stalks, and picking my spots.

Photo by Jay Beyer

The landscape was more alive than ever with the story of mule deer—in their tracks, through the weather patterns, and in the surrounding narrative of the ecosystem. I felt so close to them every day.

But last fall I spent nine consecutive days in the high mountains, and it was the first time I’d returned home on closing day emptyhanded.

My unfilled tag felt like an interruption to my momentum. Knowing how much I’d relied on the meat from my last two deer, I wondered if I’d be sad during every visit to the grocery store. Would the deli section trigger thoughts of what I should have done differently out there? I started to get really hard on myself—harder than I ever had when I was first starting out.

We hear courageous stories of beginners and live on inspiration from seasoned experts. But what about the role we occupy in between? This is the time when we learn the most from our mistakes, endure harsh self-criticism and doubt, and often lose momentum.

When we have our minds fixed on a new objective, everything is exciting. There is an essential naivety in the newness that keeps us from being completely aware of what it will actually take to be successful.

I’ve found this to be true not only for hunting, but also in business ventures, relationships, and any goal that requires us to learn something new. People often think that taking the leap is the hardest part. But it’s once you get past that point that you learn what you’re really up against.

Photo by Will Saunders

The goals I have for myself—as a hunter and an entrepreneur—have required boldness, but also digging in during moments of sheer exhaustion and self-doubt. I’ve learned that beginning is actually pretty easy, but what comes next takes endurance, maintenance, and constant recommitment.

I’m in the same place with my business, Wylder Goods, as I am in my hunting experience—several years in and aware that there’s still a very long road ahead to success and mastery. The allure of the new objective has worn off, and I’m painfully aware of the skills I lack, yet still driven to accomplish what I’ve set out to do.

I look across the plateau I’ve reached, and I can make out the horizon of where I want to be, even if I’m far from it.

It could be that my unfilled tag is just what I needed to make me even more of a hunter than I was before.

This past mule deer season taught me that I have to find my pace in the long game. I am actually capable of feeling self-doubt and a sense of progress at the same time, and I’m learning what it takes to source endurance every day.

Each morning, I have to wake up and think, ‘Today is the day,’ no matter what beating came before. Next season, I’ll scout even more, put in for additional tags, take new risks, and ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again. Perhaps, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

It could be that my unfilled tag is just what I needed to make me even more of a hunter than I was before.

 

Lindsey Elliott is the co-founder and CEO of Wylder Goods, a B-corp that sells goods for the modern outdoorswoman. Follow her @lindsey.a.elliott, @wyldergoods, and on the Wylder blog. Read more about Lindsey in our Q&A.

 

Top photo courtesy of Jay Beyer.

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Redefining Hunting Success When You Come Home Empty-Handed

After taking two bucks in two years, a fledgling hunter gets her first taste of how frustrating an un-filled tag can be—and comes out of a tough season more committed than ever 

It was Day Four of mule deer season, and I was sick of soggy sandwiches and protein bars. Opening weekend optimism had long since faded, and tagging out was beginning to feel impossible. The deer were spooked, and the patterns we observed when we were scouting were long gone.

I could glass up into the draws of aspens far beyond and find herds of elk, mountain goats, coyotes, and even muley bucks off in the distance, but I was too far away for a shot. October storms had pushed them back up into the high, protected meadows again—I knew where to look, but each day I seemed to be far from the right position.

I’d started the season more prepared than ever. I finally had all the gear I needed, I’d spent months scouting my unit, and I could glass any aspect and find animals. And yet, even with such careful preparation and dedication, the mountains had a different plan for me this year.

I’ve learned so much since my first big game season in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah three years ago. While still relying heavily on mentors, my awareness of all the little details that make a hunt successful had expanded. I’d learned enough to begin feeling comfortable venturing off on my own, finding animals, initiating stalks, and picking my spots.

Photo by Jay Beyer

The landscape was more alive than ever with the story of mule deer—in their tracks, through the weather patterns, and in the surrounding narrative of the ecosystem. I felt so close to them every day.

But last fall I spent nine consecutive days in the high mountains, and it was the first time I’d returned home on closing day emptyhanded.

My unfilled tag felt like an interruption to my momentum. Knowing how much I’d relied on the meat from my last two deer, I wondered if I’d be sad during every visit to the grocery store. Would the deli section trigger thoughts of what I should have done differently out there? I started to get really hard on myself—harder than I ever had when I was first starting out.

We hear courageous stories of beginners and live on inspiration from seasoned experts. But what about the role we occupy in between? This is the time when we learn the most from our mistakes, endure harsh self-criticism and doubt, and often lose momentum.

When we have our minds fixed on a new objective, everything is exciting. There is an essential naivety in the newness that keeps us from being completely aware of what it will actually take to be successful.

I’ve found this to be true not only for hunting, but also in business ventures, relationships, and any goal that requires us to learn something new. People often think that taking the leap is the hardest part. But it’s once you get past that point that you learn what you’re really up against.

Photo by Will Saunders

The goals I have for myself—as a hunter and an entrepreneur—have required boldness, but also digging in during moments of sheer exhaustion and self-doubt. I’ve learned that beginning is actually pretty easy, but what comes next takes endurance, maintenance, and constant recommitment.

I’m in the same place with my business, Wylder Goods, as I am in my hunting experience—several years in and aware that there’s still a very long road ahead to success and mastery. The allure of the new objective has worn off, and I’m painfully aware of the skills I lack, yet still driven to accomplish what I’ve set out to do.

I look across the plateau I’ve reached, and I can make out the horizon of where I want to be, even if I’m far from it.

It could be that my unfilled tag is just what I needed to make me even more of a hunter than I was before.

This past mule deer season taught me that I have to find my pace in the long game. I am actually capable of feeling self-doubt and a sense of progress at the same time, and I’m learning what it takes to source endurance every day.

Each morning, I have to wake up and think, ‘Today is the day,’ no matter what beating came before. Next season, I’ll scout even more, put in for additional tags, take new risks, and ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again. Perhaps, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

It could be that my unfilled tag is just what I needed to make me even more of a hunter than I was before.

 

Lindsey Elliott is the co-founder and CEO of Wylder Goods, a B-corp that sells goods for the modern outdoorswoman. Follow her @lindsey.a.elliott, @wyldergoods, and on the Wylder blog. Read more about Lindsey in our Q&A.

 

Top photo courtesy of Jay Beyer.

Marnee Banks

February 12, 2019

Senate Passes Legislation with Historic Win for Public Lands

Bipartisan legislation would permanently reauthorize LWCF and support outdoor economy

Leading conservation organizations and hunting and fishing groups are celebrating Senate passage of a critical public lands bill, which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and support other important conservation programs.

43 groups recently called on the Senate to vote on the bipartisan legislation (S.47) that was negotiated by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) last Congress.

“Today’s vote sends a strong message that we can find consensus in our support for our public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has united sportsmen and women, businesses, and conservationists, because we all know how important it is to the future of public lands access. We urge the House to build upon this momentum and work together to pass legislation that permanently reauthorizes LWCF and strengthens our outdoor recreation economy.”

“Today’s vote is a big step toward ending the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued America’s best conservation program,” said Kameran Onley, director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy. “The overwhelming vote in favor of reauthorization reflects the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s long track record of success and broad support from lawmakers, landowners, conservation organizations and state and local officials.”

“We thank the Senate for prioritizing wildlife and conservation at the beginning of the new Congress with the passage of S. 47,” said Howard K. Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “This measure includes several of our top legislative priorities including the WILD Act which reauthorizes Partners for Fish and Wildlife and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Both LWCF and Partners for Fish and wildlife have been critical to our ability to promote mission and create hunter access and opportunity. We appreciate the Senate’s hard work and look forward to getting it to the President’s desk as soon as possible. ”

“It’s a new year in the U.S. Senate and we finally have a living, breathing and bipartisan public lands package, which will preserve thousands of acres of land for outdoor recreation, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, help get more kids outside and much more to support our nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs of Outdoor Industry Association. “We applaud the tireless efforts of many in Congress, the outdoor industry and Americans who value the outdoors for their efforts to move this package across the finish line. While we aren’t done yet, we are close, and urge the House of Representatives to act quickly to pass the public lands package and fund America’s outdoors.”

“For decades, LWCF has been the go-to tool to implement public lands conservation and facilitate access to outdoor recreation in this country,” said Jared Mott, conservation director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “Permanently reauthorizing this incredibly successful program is a critical step in the ongoing effort to protect our public lands. We commend the Senate for the passage of S. 47 and thank Chairman Murkowski for prioritizing this important public lands package so early in the 116th Congress. We look forward to working with the House of Representatives and all of our partners to get a bill permanently reauthorizing LWCF to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”

“What’s more all-American than our public lands and waters? Today’s vote by the Senate represents progress for the public lands sportsmen and women and others who have advocated for exactly this outcome – and shows the broad-based support popular programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund have generated both with lawmakers and citizens alike,” said Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The House of Representatives should take notice and follow the Senate’s lead by expediting the passage of this results-oriented package of bills to the president’s desk.”

“The Senate’s overwhelming support for the Natural Resources Management Act once again proves that conservation and outdoor recreation are bipartisan, commonsense issues,” said Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of Government Relations and Legal Affairs of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This critical legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a measure that will responsibly enhance access to recreational fishing on our nation’s public lands and waters – and we thank Senators Lisa Murkowski, Maria Cantwell, and Joe Manchin for championing this effort and call on the U.S. House to immediately pick up, pass, and send this bill to President Trump.”

“As hunters and committed conservationists, falconers depend on the raptors we employ, the prey species they pursue, and the public lands needed to enjoy our unique hunting heritage,” said Sheldon Nicolle, president of the North American Falconers Association. “The North American Falconers Association applauds the Senate on the passage of this historical step forward for public lands and conservation.”

“AFFTA has long stood by access to, and the conservation, restoration, and protection of, our public lands and waters,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “We applaud the Senate’s bipartisan support of the lands package, including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which are so critical to our industry. This is a great day for our nation’s public lands and waters. We urge the House to take up the bill quickly and follow the Senate’s lead.”

The group’s letter to the Senate can be found HERE.

 

Photo courtesy of National Park Service’s Megan Richotte.

Marnee Banks

February 8, 2019

TRCP Named One of America’s Top Charities

Leading non-profit evaluator gives TRCP highest 4-star award for sixth year in a row.

Charity Navigator has placed the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in the top 8 percent of U.S. charities for its “strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.”

This marks the sixth consecutive year that TRCP has received the coveted 4-star rating.

“This award demonstrates TRCP’s strong commitment to our members, donors, and partners,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “America’s sportsmen and women trust us to advocate on their behalf, and we will always work hard for them and hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Charity Navigator is the largest charity evaluator in America tasked with assessing the financial health, accountability, and transparency of more than 8,000 charities. Since 2002, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating.

“This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets TRCP apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness, ” wrote Michael Thatcher, president of Charity Navigator.

TRCP has also earned a Platinum ranking from GuideStar and the top accreditation from the Better Business Bureau.

 

Photo by Stephen Baker/BLM Oregon.

Reflections on Roosevelt’s Country

A visit to Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch in the Fall of 2018 inspires a young mule deer hunter

Hunting season is here in my home state of Montana, and I’m headed east to look for mule deer. My dog in the backseat, my Weatherby .308 in its case, and my pack at the ready.

Opening the atlas for a quick survey of my route, a splash of green against the white only a few hundred miles ahead grabs me. Theodore Roosevelt National Park beckons from just over the North Dakota state line, right on the edge of the map. I decide hunting can wait for an afternoon. History beckons.

The further east I get, the more the flat dreariness of winter-come-early sets in. The clear, dry roads become two lines edged in white, and the moody sky envelops much of the distant horizon. I’m one of only two cars when I roll into the parking lot at the visitor’s center.

Belongings and Bulletholes

The park sits on 70,446 acres that include parcels from Roosevelt’s original cattle ranches. And although the name itself has gone through a few iterations, no national park is more closely associated with a single individual.

Cottonwoods and red willows follow the Little Missouri River’s snaking path through the otherwise broken, sage-brushed landscape. Weather shrouds the tumbling edges of the park, clouds hugging the muted tones of this northern ground.

On display at the park’s headquarters are belongings and words from our twenty-sixth president. For the most part, they illuminate the mundane aspects of his life rather than the mythical. His cabin is preserved on ground, small and humble. There’s a note written to his brother. Photographs of T.R. and his friends. And a full tribute to his passion for birding, including a snowy owl he taxidermied himself. His essence fills the room. He becomes human here.

But it’s the bullet-holed shirt in the glass case that catches my imagination.

You likely know the story: In the course of Roosevelt’s failed bid for the presidency in 1912, a would-be assassin shot him before a scheduled address in Milwaukee. Fifty pages of notes stuffed into the candidate’s breast pocket slowed the bullet before it entered his chest, where it would stay for the rest of his life. Still, Roosevelt took the stage. Announcing that he had just been shot, he quipped that he probably wouldn’t talk long. He then carried on for 84 minutes.

This is a man who knew how to create a mythology.

In contrast to the ethereal nature of the Roosevelt lore is the tangibility of the public land beneath my boots, land that once held the footprints of the man himself. It stands as a powerful totem for the miles upon miles of public land that I’ve taken in as a hiker, backpacker, hunter, and angler. The reality of it makes its way into words as I continue into the park itself: T.R.’s life molded stories that still resonate in our cultural memory, but he also created a physical continuity of place for those, as he famously declared, still in the “womb of time.”

This is the same land where Roosevelt grieved the deaths of his mother and his wife, who both passed on the same day in 1884. In his mourning, he found solace among this wild and broken country. He then saw his own sense of loss reflected in the waning numbers of bison and other wildlife vanishing from the plains. With the strength he drew from the land, he derived a sense of purpose infused with hope.

This land beneath my boots became the fertile ground for the seeds of a national conservation ethic.

A Test of Wills in the Sagebrush

Back into the cold, with daylight quickly fading. Small snow flurries land on my eyelashes and shoulders. In the distance my searching eyes catch three big bull elk, animals reintroduced to this country, now thriving. The humped silhouettes of Roosevelt’s beloved bison graze on far hills. A bounding whitetail deer disappears into the cottonwoods, white flag waving. And then I pull around a corner to face a tank of a mule deer buck walking the edge of the road.

His head is low to the ground, and his behavior is strange. As the car moves closer, another set of tines below him grows visible. I can hear the deer grunting at each other. The smaller buck pins his ears and averts his gaze, submissive. The big guy drops down the hill, circling around until they’re head on. Antlers lock for one moment. Then, the bucks crash into each other with every amount of muscle in their powerful bodies. Pummeled backwards through the sage, the little buck is outmatched. He escapes with a poke in the butt and a chase along the hilly horizon.

The drama of this high-stakes encounter seems befitting of this place—T.R. himself was fond of an old-fashioned test of wills—and all the more-so because the mule deer so perfectly embodies the sagebrush country that shaped Roosevelt’s life.

It’s also a reminder that the rut is on and I’m planning to hunt in the morning, so I best get back on the road.

History, Hunting, and a Heavy Pack

To public land I go.

The days that follow take me to a wilderness study area, BLM land, and a national wildlife refuge. Each step in the rugged breaks country is another gift from Roosevelt’s generous legacy. I barely see a thing before spotting my buck from over a mile away on Montana state land.

I walk that mile through the sagebrush slowly and intentionally. I set up within a hundred yards, prone in the cold, wet dirt. I have the wind. And I study him thoroughly. He’s everything I love in a mule deer. Thick-bodied, wildly unibrowed, and handsome. Crowned like a king.

There are only a few days left in the season, and I promised myself I’d take the first ethical shot on an animal that presented the opportunity. I wait for what seems like an eternity for him to turn broadside, but in my heart I’m telling him to run and to run far and fast. With five minutes of shooting light to spare, he steps to the side. My heart isn’t ready, but the hunter within flips to fire and pulls the trigger. The hit is solid, well-placed. I chamber another round, but there’s no need. I put down my rifle, my heart breaks, I cradle my head in my hands.

Later, kneeling beside him, I notch the date into my tag: November 20, 2018. I roll the tag, tape it onto his leg, and begin to quarter him out.

Roosevelt’s glorious heritage is now mine to hold. I take it all in. My mule deer’s coat is thick, healthy, buoyant to the touch. He smells deeply sweet, a concentrated musk of sage and this arid earth beneath us. He made a life on habitat protected for his sake. The ground that sustained him will soon sustain me.

“I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of today unless he has some knowledge of—a little more than a slight knowledge, some feeling for and of—the history of the world of the past,” Roosevelt said.

And this knowledge is what brings me out of my initial grief and back to the sinew and muscle in front of me, to the sky going navy above me, and to the sagebrush sea before me. This is what brings me back to the privilege of being here—two hands on a deer and two feet on public ground.

The passage of time has seen the roots of our public lands heritage grow deeper. Roosevelt’s country has no doubt changed over the years, yet it remains intact. Still, the conservation ethic that he upheld and turned into a physical reality for all Americans remains imperiled to this day. It, too, takes a bullet in the chest and stands tall, time and time again.

As I quarter my deer, slowly, deliberately, I know that the great central task of upholding this public land inheritance and passing it along to those who come after me is a hell of a thing to take on. The weight of this uncertain future is heavy, and it rests on the shoulders of anyone who seeks to leave this place better than we found it.

I finish quartering my deer and fill my pack to overflowing. I tighten the straps on my shoulders, braced for the work ahead.

 

Nicole Qualtieri is the hunting and fishing editor for GearJunkie.com and a freelance creative. She’s an outdoorswoman, a public lands advocate, and an amateur gourmand. When the weather warms up, you’ll find her astride her little brown horse with a border collie in tow, high in the Montana hills.

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