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December 18, 2009

Kermit Roosevelt’s Reflections on Hunting with T.R.

Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy, sits under a tree during his expedition with his father down the River of Doubt in 1913. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Kermit Roosevelt’s Reflections on Hunting with T.R. In 1920, a year after Roosevelt’s death, Kermit, his son and boon companion during the great African safari of 1909-1910, published an account of his own hunting adventures. In addition to tales about the twosome’s African adventure, his book includes stories about hunting in the American Southwest for sheep, New Brunswick for moose and South Dakota – along with T.R.’s friend Sherriff Seth Bullock, of Deadwood fame – for prairie chickens. The Happy Hunting Grounds is a slim volume, only 100 pages in length, yet it is reminiscent of his famous father’s writings. It remains in print and is available from Barnes & Noble Books.

In Jennifer Ham’s introduction, you’ll find a quote from T.R. that speaks to the heart and soul of many hunters. “I am fond of politics, but fonder still of a little big-game hunting,” he wrote.

I would suggest that Roosevelt ought to have written “a great deal of big-game hunting”! For few of us can imagine a year-long safari in Africa, not to mention his many excursions out West and to Canada in pursuit of big game.

Kermit was only 19 years old when he accompanied his father to Africa and barely 30 when he penned his own book, but by then he understood the allure of hunting and expressed it well when he wrote, “We get three sorts and periods of enjoyment out of a hunting trip. The first is when the plans are being discussed and the outfit assembled; this is the pleasure of anticipation. The second is the enjoyment of the actual trip itself; and the third is the pleasure of retrospection when we sit around a blazing fire and talk over the incidents and adventures of the trip.” Who among us would argue with those words?

Kermit obviously idolized and loved his father, writing of T.R., “He was a natural champion of the cause of every man, and not only in his books would he carefully give credit where it was due, but he would endeavor to bring about recognition through outside channels.”

The Happy Hunting Grounds is filled with personal nuggets and observations about growing up and hunting with Theodore Roosevelt. I enjoyed it and trust you will, as well.

One Response to “Kermit Roosevelt’s Reflections on Hunting with T.R.”

  1. Robert Wright

    I believe while Teddy announced he was going on African Hinting Safari, the Smithsonian ask him to proved animals for display since there wasn’t any physical taxidermy of African animals for the public to view.

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December 14, 2009

Alan Wentz, Ph.D.

Alan Wentz, Ph.D. is the senior group manager for conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited. Wentz is also a member of the TRCP board of directors where he uses his conservation biology background to help guide the decisions of the Partnership.

Q: How did you get into hunting and fishing?

My father was determined to introduce both my brother and me to firearms and hunting even though, after being in WWII, he hunted very little. He started that introduction when I was 8 years old and continued to mentor us in firearms use and on a few hunting trips each year until he felt we were safe to send off alone – at about age 14! For most of my early years, my grandfather took me hunting often for all kinds of small game, and he taught me much about finding game. My father was a dedicated fisherman, and he took us fishing on lakes and rivers all over Ohio and Michigan, with regular trips to the northern lakes of Ontario. When I learned that a neighbor was a trapper, I begged him to teach me how, and he did that. I probably learned more about natural history and the animals themselves from trapping and one of my part-time jobs with a fur buyer than anything else I did.

Q: What led you to your career in conservation?

Fishing, trapping, hunting and learning as much as I could about fish and wildlife as a teenager did that. As far back as I can remember, I admired the local game protector, savored my trips to the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area (Ohio Division of Wildlife), immersed myself in the outdoor literature of the day (Fur-Fish-Game magazine in particular), and deeply studied the writings of one Theodore Roosevelt. I worked at a local Boy Scout camp for many summers and became a naturalist with a broad interest in all things outdoors. All of those experiences taught me that there were people who make their living in conservation, and I could think of no higher calling. By the time I got to college, I had no other goal in life than to work in conservation full time, and I have been lucky enough to do that. Several professors and faculty colleagues at the various universities I attended were critical to the direction I have taken over the years.

Q: How did you get involved with the TRCP?

Like many other TRCP board members, I found it hard to resist that “talking to” by [TRCP co-founder] Jim Range. Jim had a way of asking that was more like telling you this was how it was going to happen. I was among the people who met with Jim as the TRCP was being formulated and had more than a few late-night discussions with him and other TRCP leaders about creating such an organization. And while I was surprised to be asked to join the board, I felt a strong obligation to help see the organization develop and grow.

Q: What do you think the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen are today?

Habitat and access are the two things sportsmen must address, and the sooner the better. Habitat is No. 1, since without habitat, access is meaningless.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of the TRCP?

I hope the TRCP can continue to pull together the sportsmen-based community to accomplish what we must for habitat conservation and the future of hunting and fishing. We all have to stand together on the basic issues of protecting, conserving and better managing the habitat base that all fish, wildlife and people depend on.


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November 14, 2009

James Earl Kennamer Ph.D.

James Earl Kennamer Ph.D. serves as the chief conservation officer of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Kennamer has spent nearly three decades at the helm of the NWTF’s conservation programs department. Before coming to the NWTF, Kennamer was a tenured professor of wildlife biology at Auburn University. In 2006, Kennamer was awarded the highly coveted Henry S. Mosby award at the ninth National Wild Turkey Symposium; in 2005, he was honored with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Distinguished Service Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina chapter of The Wildlife Society; and in 2004, he received special recognition from the U.S. Forest Service. In 1997, he received the C.W. Watson Award, the highest honor to be bestowed by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society and Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society for Distinguished Service in Wildlife Research and Administration. Also in 1997, he received the President’s Award from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Q: How did you get into hunting and fishing?

My father took me on a dove hunt when I was 6 years old. That was soon after he returned from World War II. My father was the extension fish and wildlife specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service from 1946 until 1974, so I grew up with a great appreciation for our natural resources.

Q: What led you to a career in conservation?

In 1954, when I was 12, my father took me turkey hunting at the Ft. Benning Military Reservation. I really appreciated the beauty of watching the turkey strutting back and forth, thanks to the respect and love of nature my father had instilled in me. I walked away from that memorable hunt knowing I wanted a career that provided me with the opportunity to work with wild turkeys. It’s not often that a 12 year old is able to say with certainty what they feel they are called to do in life and then carry it through. I was fortunate enough to recognize my passion and then chart a course that would allow me to realize my dream. During the nearly 30 years I’ve worked at the National Wild Turkey Federation, I’ve not only been able to help restore wild turkey populations across North America but I’ve also helped forge partnerships between hunters and wildlife agencies, corporations and conservation groups and advocate conservation issues that are important to the NWTF’s dedicated volunteers and members. My son Lee also realized he wanted a career working with wildlife and followed my and my father’s path by earning a degree in wildlife from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. I’m proud to have a third generation of wildlife biologists in my family. But I’m mainly honored to have passed on a love and respect for the outdoors to my children and grandchildren.

Q: How did you get involved with the TRCP?

I met Tom Franklin when he was the policy director at The Wildlife Society. Since then, I’ve had opportunities to work with Tom and others on issues that would benefit conservation, the TRCP and the NWTF. Working together on these issues forged lasting relationships, and I have a great amount of respect for Tom and all he has accomplished in his career.

Q: What do you think the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen are today?

Sportsmen are facing many significant challenges today, but one of the most important is our need to preserve our hunting heritage. If we don’t instill the love of hunting and conservation in our children and grandchildren and introduce new people to the outdoors, there will be no hunters and conservationists to care for our natural resources in the future. The NWTF works through its JAKES, Women in the Outdoors and Wheelin’ Sportsmen outreach programs to introduce youth, women and people with disabilities to outdoor activities. Another challenge hunters face is finding land to hunt. Studies have shown that the No. 1 reason hunters give up their sport is because they don’t have access to hunting land. Since we know that hunters were the first and are the most dedicated conservationists, we must work to protect hunter access to public lands as well as focus on ways in which we can address the declining base of hunters through promotion and hunter retention. The NWTF’s More Places to Hunt initiative is one way we are working to help hunters find land to hunt. The economy also has presented some significant challenges, but the new Farm Bill, plus energy development and climate change legislation, will create opportunities for conservation organizations to complete some great projects that will benefit wildlife and our natural resources.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of the TRCP?

I hope the TRCP will continue to partner with organizations in the conservation community to conserve our natural resources and protect our hunting heritage for future generations.


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October 18, 2009

Better Than You Found It

"How grateful I once was to arrive at a cabin on a cold, wet night and find a good stack of dry wood left behind by some thoughtful user who’d come before me." Cabin in the Gallatin National Forest. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine who loves to spend as much time as he can in big, wild country hiking, fishing and hunting. Like most of us, he is a person of modest means. That’s not an impediment to his fulfilling his desire for adventure, however, because he lives surrounded by the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. In addition to nearly limitless places to camp, the Gallatin offers the public the opportunity to rent 24 different Forest Service cabins, located in wonderful settings, for $20-$30 per night. Most cabins sleep between four and eight people. You do the math!

During our conversation, which was sprinkled with stories of grizzly bears, good trout streams, big bull elk and a cougar sighting, he reminded me of a phenomenon I’ve witnessed – and even participated in – but never gave much thought to until he mentioned it, in a tone invoking pride and even reverence.

“Forest Service cabins and fire lookouts are invariably clean as a whistle when you arrive to use them,” he said. “That’s really something, because no Forest Service staff is assigned to clean them on any kind of regular basis. Keeping the cabins clean is the responsibility of the last people who used them. In my experience, most people try and leave them even cleaner and in better shape than they were in when they arrived. There’s a kind of an unwritten rule among users: You leave them better than you found them.”

I know he’s right about this, because I have swept and mopped a cabin floor, even when it was already clean. I’ve left a spare can of coffee for the next visitors, repaired a broken hinge, and made sure the wood box is overflowing with kindling and dry wood, all the time remembering how grateful I once was to arrive at a cabin on a cold, wet night and find a good stack of dry wood left behind by some thoughtful user who’d come before me. These cabins and lookouts aren’t just somebody else’s property, you see; they belong to me and my family and to you and your family and to a great many other people and their families. Along with this ownership comes a sense of value and pride – and just as important, the realization that someday my grandchild or yours may want to use them. I have a vested interest in them and the forests where they’re located, and so do millions of others. They’re part of the legacy that I was left and that I hope to leave to future generations. Like almost all who use them, I want to leave them better than I found them in the hopes that the next user-owners will do the same.

I believe Teddy Roosevelt had just such thoughts in mind when he set aside our great public land’s estate, realizing that in a democracy their ownership … by the people … would be the safest and best way to assure their future and continued well-being.


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September 14, 2009

Christopher Merritt

“My introduction to the outdoors is not your normal, ‘raised in the country, went hunting with my dad, lived near a dam’ type of story,” says Christopher Merritt, general manager for Beretta USA and TRCP board member. Instead, Merritt developed his love of the outdoors through his professional career in the clothing industry.

“I was introduced to conservation and its impact while I was working for Orvis,” says Merritt. “My first impression was that hunting, fishing and conservation were for rich guys who wanted to make sure ‘their’ hunting and fishing spots were kept pristine and forget about the average guy. I have found this to be false in the past 11 years in the outdoor industry.”

Merritt joined the TRCP board of directors in 2007 and has been active in supporting both the TRCP and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance both personally and through his work at Beretta.

“Supporting the TRCP is my way of ensuring that every person who wants to hunt and fish has access to do just that,” says Merritt. “Whether it’s through the USA or through the TRCP’s hard work done at the federal level to ensure that there are funds available for states to provide access to anyone who wants to enjoy them, I couldn’t be happier with the TRCP’s results.”

Through his career in the outdoor industry, Merritt has become an avid fly fisherman and bird hunter. His outdoors experience also has inspired him to advocate for better access programs and an increase in hunter education.

“If there is no place for the average person to go, who is not a landowner, then Beretta and the entire outdoor industry is not going to be in business for much longer,” says Merritt. “If we miss one generation from understanding our sporting heritage, we will no longer need to worry about access. We have to continually pave the way for people to have the right of access to hunt and fish not just in parts of our country but throughout the United States. One of my favorite stories that Jim Range, the TRCP’s former chairman and co-founder, told me was about how people formed lifelong friendships with each other through the simple act of kindness of a landowner allowing a sportsmen to hunt or fish on his land and the respect that is shown by the sportsmen to that property. It’s like asking your neighbor for a cup of sugar and, next thing you know, you’re both eating a great piece of pie.”



Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

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