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Julia Peebles

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posted in: General

January 5, 2017

Ending 2016 with a Bang—Literally

A holiday mixed-bag hunt results in the proud harvest of a first deer and some much-needed inspiration

Back in December, when our lawmakers were ultimately unable to pass many critical provisions for sportsmen and wildlife that have seen bipartisan support in multiple congresses, I was disheartened about the future for hunting and fishing. As a government relations representative for the TRCP, I sit in many meetings with Congressional staff, advocating for policy that would improve sportsmen’s access, fund essential restoration projects, and support the outdoor industry economy. With lots of highs and lows in the final weeks of the year, I was relieved to get in the car and drive far away from the D.C. politics for the holidays and venture into the great outdoors.

Julia and her husband, Hunter, wait for Belle to fetch a dead chukar. Image courtesy of Julia Peebles.

It only took a few days in the woods of Tennessee and Missouri with a pretty special Christmas gift—a Ruger .243 from my in-laws—to rekindle my spirit for the work we do. I think you’ll see why.

First, we settled into “base camp”—a cabin my father-in-law built with his own two hands outside Only, Tenn.—and geared up to hunt chukars. These were pen-raised birds my father brought down from a hunting preserve in Indiana—it’s rare to find wild chukars and quail in the region due to the decline in ground cover habitat these birds need to survive.

I grew up hunting upland birds, and quickly settled into a rhythm with my English setter, Belle, as she followed the scent of chukars. We ended the hunt with six out of eight chukars that were ready to be plucked and eaten for our New Year’s Eve dinner.

Later that afternoon, I changed into my camo and quickly switched out my shotgun for my new rifle to sit in a deer stand until sunset. I sat only two crop fields away from where we’d spent the morning with the bird dogs, and though no deer appeared, it occurred to me how fortunate I was to have this special place all to myself.

The next morning, my husband, Hunter, his father, Paul, and my dad, Mike, drove about three hours to private land near Hornersville, Mo., where Paul shares the lease with 12 buddies to have access to excellent waterfowl hunting and keep costs down. It’s pretty typical for this region. The majority of cars on the road with us were from out of state and loaded down with trailers. Many local hotels were full of out-of-town cars, too. It was easy to see that duck hunting was the draw that kept these local businesses humming at this time of year.

Julia’s first whitetail will provide about 30 pounds of venison for the winter. Image courtesy of Julia Peebles.

Once we reached our destination, we walked to the middle of a flooded rice field in our waders and climbed into a dugout ditch. This was technically my first time in a duck blind. I’d only ever hid in the brush along the river before. After four hours, we didn’t get any ducks into shooting range, but we made plenty of jokes while we waited.

Back at the cabin, on the last day of 2016, I woke up early to make my way to a deer stand that Paul had picked out for me. It was raining and foggy, and I climbed up in the box stand a bit later than I’d planned, burrowing into my oversized clothes to keep warm. Growing frustrated with the lack of deer, I propped up my legs and leaned back to play Sudoku on my phone, allowing an hour to pass. I finally texted Paul to say that I’d head back to base camp within 15 minutes. At three minutes before eight o’clock, I sat up to gather my things and was surprised to see three does feeding on turnip greens in the field below. I slowly got into shooting position. One of the whitetails heard me and began trotting away, but I had my eye on another larger doe. I clicked the safety off, aimed for the heart, and BANG, the doe jumped, and then fell 10 yards away. The adrenaline set in and my hands were shaking uncontrollably to the point where I could barely text Paul to come help me field dress my very first deer.

It was the perfect end to my year—being at ease scanning for chukars, sitting in my first duck blind, and packing up 30 pounds of venison harvested from my first doe. These experiences reminded me how fortunate I am to have access to private lands where I can hunt three different critters in one weekend, and family alongside me to enjoy these traditions. Hunting over the holidays revitalized my passion for the issues we fight for here at TRCP and made a lot of the policies I read and think about much more personal to me.

As for the chukars we lost and the ducks we never saw, there’s always next season. Stories like mine need to be told to Congressional staff. I’m taking my refreshed state-of-mind into 2017 and the 115th Congress, where I plan to make sure our decision-makers understand the value of our days afield.

 

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posted in: General

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

December 15, 2016

TRCP Adds Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation as 50th Partner

Coalition’s growth in past year gives hunters and anglers a stronger voice in Washington

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation announced their formal partnership today, bringing the conservation organization’s growing coalition up to 50 partner groups. The new relationship will hopefully lead to greater collaboration on marine fisheries issues in the Everglades and coastal communities across the U.S.

“After partnering on several projects with the TRCP in the past, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is honored to officially become a member of this great consortium,” says Greg Jacoski, executive director of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. “The TRCP works with some of the top conservation organizations in the country, and we are looking forward to working together for effective management of our natural resources.”

Image courtesy of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

Since July 2015, the Archery Trade Association, Wild Sheep Foundation, National Deer Alliance, Student Conservation Association, and National Wildlife Federation also became TRCP partners.

“We’re excited about our growth and enhanced ability to convene like-minded groups, provide value to all our partners, and present a united front with lawmakers who are ultimately responsible for America’s conservation legacy,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “We’re all working to educate decision-makers and the public in order to advance positive solutions for fish and wildlife habitat, sportsmen’s access, and outdoor recreation businesses. At TRCP, we like to say that when sportsmen unite, sportsmen win, and hunters and anglers can feel confident that they have a strong, focused community working for them in Washington.”

Partnership does not necessarily imply that these groups participate in all of the TRCP’s work, but organization leaders meet biannually to identify areas of consensus, coordinate work towards shared priorities, and establish plans for action to benefit fish and wildlife. Partners engage more frequently in smaller working groups to organize around specific policy outcomes. Here is the full list of partner organizations.

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A Bucket List ‘Bout Empty in the Cowboy State

Ambassador Earl DeGroot exemplifies the lure of public lands in Wyoming

TRCP’s Ambassador program calls on sportsmen-conservationists to help advance our goals by offering local volunteer support. These #PublicLandsProud hometown heroes are not willing to sit idly by as the wild places we love are lost. They know there’s more to our sports than just hunting, fishing, and going home.

Meet Earl DeGroot, our volunteer ambassador in Wyoming. The promise of public lands inspired DeGroot to move to Wyoming some 32 years ago, so it’s no surprise that he’s ready to stand up to threats against them now. DeGroot is a man of action and an experienced asset for conservation. We talked to our latest ambassador recruit about the threats to public lands and what everyday sportsmen can do to help.

A beautiful bighorn taken in the Absarokas. Image courtesy of Earl DeGroot.

TRCP: What’s your earliest memory in the outdoors and how do you spend your time outside these days?

DeGroot: My earliest memories are of shooting ground squirrels (gophers) with my father and my uncle on my grandfather’s farm in North Dakota. I did this quite often from ages ten to 14.  I don’t know why, but that experience got me hooked on hunting and the outdoors. I loved staying at the farm and usually stayed there when I wasn’t in school back in the city where my parents lived.

Thirty-two years ago, I moved to Wyoming to be near an abundance of public land. These days, you will find me enjoying our federal lands for hunting, camping, hiking, snowmobiling, ATVing, snapping photos of wildlife. One of my favorite pastimes is exploring the millions of acres of federal land in Wyoming and Colorado. This year 2016 was extra special for me. I call it “the trifecta year.” I shot my first black bear in June. In September, I cashed in 21 preference points to go on a successful guided Wyoming sheep hunt. And in October, I accompanied my wife on a successful Colorado elk hunt that cost her 26 preference points. It was a banner year!

TRCP: What got you interested in TRCP and the work we do? How do you see yourself helping TRCP achieve our conservation mission?

DeGroot: The federal land transfer issue is a top priority for me. Being a decades-long Republican, I feel betrayed by the GOP for passing a resolution to transfer federal lands to the states. Having worked for and with Wyoming’s state government for 30 years (now retired), I am convinced that the state cannot afford to manage millions of additional acres of public land—they would need to extensively develop lands or sell some/most of them.

At this point, many of Wyoming’s elected officials have not responded to public opposition to transfer. Opposition is often dismissed as fringe group resistance from radical environmental groups, perhaps from out-of-state. To show there is strong grassroots, in-state opposition, a small group of us started a Facebook page entitled “Wyoming Sportsmen for Federal Lands”. The page has grown beyond expectations, currently to 3,500 followers, and has captured the attention of elected officials. One of the goals is to build so much public resistance to transfer that no politician would dare to introduce transfer legislation in the state of Wyoming. That maybe a lofty goal, but I believe we are headed in that direction. I look forward to assisting TRCP with their fight against federal land transfer in any way I might be of assistance.

TRCP: How can everyday sportsmen make a difference for fish and wildlife? Why is it so important?

DeGroot: If federal lands were to be transferred to the states, or privatized, there would be a hugely negative impact on wildlife populations and hunting and fishing access. At the current time, much of the western United States enjoys relatively unrestricted big game migration routes. Extensive development or privatization would make it difficult for big game to travel back and forth from summer range to winter range. Population numbers would almost certainly decline. This is just one example of the negative impact of federal land transfer.

While everyday sportsmen are important in the fight against transfer, their support alone is not enough. We must go beyond sportsmen and get the support of the voting public. Often times, outdoor organization focus too much on their membership which is a small portion of the voting public. They need to cast a wider net, and reach out to the general public.

TRCP: What has been your most memorable hunt?

DeGroot: My most memorable hunt was my spring 2016 black bear hunt. Starting a number of years ago, I began to see more black bear sign in my elk hunting area in southeast Wyoming. I even caught glimpses of a few bears while bow hunting. I have shot many elk, deer, and antelope, but I had never shot a black bear—I hadn’t even seen very many. So, my wife and I began baiting bears in both spring and fall. Baiting is legal in Wyoming and, in fact, it’s an important management tool, but it surprised us how much work it was. Much of the media portrays baiting as too easy and unfair. Our experience was anything but. It was a lot of work sometimes involving snowshoes and sleds, as we made numerous 250 mile round trips to tend baits and check trail cameras.

Last spring we were excited to see we had at least 10 bears on camera, but many of them came during the night when we couldn’t hunt. But we waited, sitting in a blind near the bait, which allowed us a clear short-range shot and provided plenty of time to ensure there were no cubs with the bear. After much time invested, I finally connected with an eleven year old black bear (as later determined by tooth analysis) early on the morning of June 5. Because of the level of difficulty, because it was entirely DIY, because we had to figure it all out ourselves, because it was on public land, and because bears are such an elusive animal, I consider this to be one of my most memorable and rewarding hunts. It was a very rewarding experience!

TRCP’s Wyoming ambassador with his 2016 public lands black bear. Image courtesy of Earl DeGroot.

TRCP: What’s still on your bucket list?

DeGroot: At age 68, most of my hunt bucket list has been accomplished. I now look forward to simply enjoying OUR federal lands.

TRCP: What’s your favorite Theodore Roosevelt quote?

DeGroot: “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin you country of its beauty, its riches, or its romance.”

To find out more about the TRCP Ambassador program, please contact TRCP’s deputy director of Western lands, Coby Tigert, at CTigert@trcp.org or 208-681-8011.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

December 13, 2016

Congress Fails Sportsmen on Many Conservation Priorities in Final Hours

Everglades restoration can begin, but provisions to improve fish habitat, wetlands health, and access to hunting and fishing get left behind again

Today, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act awaits the president’s signature, the final step needed to authorize $1.9 billion in restoration projects to help reverse longstanding habitat and water quality issues in South Florida, while moving water south. This should be celebrated as a major win for anglers, guides, and other local businesses that rely on healthy fish habitat.

Image courtesy of Jesse Michael Nix/Flickr.

But in almost every other way, lawmakers overpromised and under delivered on the pending legislation important to hunters and anglers in the 114th Congress. Bipartisan support for provisions that would improve fish habitat, wetlands health, and public access across the country as part of a larger energy modernization bill brought the Sportsmen’s Act closer to the finish line than ever before. But it was not enough to finally do right by America’s sportsmen after attempts in three consecutive Congresses.

“For six years, or longer, we’ve needed this policy support for the very infrastructure of conservation and access, which keeps rural America in business during hunting and fishing season,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We owe a debt of thanks to senators who voted 97-0 to move conservation forward with the energy bill, but sportsmen and women should be angry and frustrated that good things like this can’t get done in the end.”

While major opportunities were lost by failing to authorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, and Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act—a critical conservation tool for Western lands—there was also a disappointing last-minute addition to the water projects bill that would weaken protections for salmon and other fish.

“We are deeply disappointed that language was added to the bill that diverts water away from fisheries that are already struggling, puts wild salmon in jeopardy of extinction, and targets other sportfish for eradication,” says Scott Gudes, vice president of government affairs with the American Sportfishing Association. “Senators Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, and all the Northwest U.S. senators, are to be commended for their efforts to defeat this last-minute water grab, which redirects water to agriculture and undercuts environmental protection for fisheries. Unfortunately its passage creates a significant threat to fishing communities, anglers, and the sportfishing industry in the state.”

The TRCP opposed the drought provision airdropped into final negotiations and was supportive of a provision to promote use of natural infrastructure, like wetlands, reefs, and dunes.

Image courtesy of Jennifer Hall/USFWS.

In a major defensive victory, language that would have undercut sage grouse conservation was removed from the final conference report of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed last week. And a continuing resolution passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning will keep the government funded through April 28, 2016 at decent levels for conservation. But additional threats to protections for sage grouse, headwater streams, and BLM backcountry lands could be yet to come in the new Congress, with the possibility of cuts, riders, and budget reconciliations.

Follow along with the TRCP in 2017, as we work to highlight the relevance of hunters and anglers to their elected officials in Washington and advance conservation in America.

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