I grew up in the 1940s in central Wisconsin – a time and place devoid of any appreciable fish and wildlife resources. There were no deer, streams were polluted and the Great Lakes fishery had just collapsed. Boy Scouts led me to an early education about living and being outdoors, and something in that experience made me want to become engaged further in the natural world. In high school, I joined a fly-fishing club and found teachers who engaged me on my environmental interests. One suggested I attend Montana State University. I was offered a scholarship there, and so I headed West … and I’ve only been back once.
Your book, “Rifle in Hand: How Wild America Was Saved,” explores the role of hunters in the conservation of American wildlife. What message do you hope readers will take from this book?
I hope the book gets hunters and anglers back in step with the American conservation movement. We should be inspired by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell. T.R. had an epiphany after killing one of the last remaining American buffalo – an event that spurred the creation of the conservation movement. [Read more about T.R.’s response to the extinction of the American buffalo in Roosevelt Reflections.] T.R. realized that we were a nation without a conservation ethic, and he worked to change that, setting aside more than 230 million acres of wilderness.
How did you first hear about the TRCP?
I was involved with the organization when it was in the early stages and was called the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance. I used to write the “Rough Rider” manuals.
What is one of the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?
The most dangerous threat is the return of aristocratic notions of who gets to hunt. Wildlife should be seen as a resource to be managed for the benefit of all the people.
What do you enjoy doing outdoors?
Oh, I do it all.