Kristyn Brady

April 18, 2019

How I Got to Hunt Elk with My Conservation Idol, Steven Rinella

A smart auction bid put Brian Duncan out in the field with the MeatEater host for a dream hunt

If you listen to the MeatEater podcast or watch Steven Rinella’s show, you probably feel like you know him and his whole crew. But you’d be forgiven for feeling a little pressure if he was watching you line up on a bull. Brian Duncan gives us a taste of what it was like to bid for and win a truly unique Colorado elk hunt that brought him face to face with his conservation idol and a hunter’s hunter.

Here’s his story.

I couldn’t believe it when I won—I didn’t think I had a chance at having the highest bid, but before you knew it, I was on the trip of a lifetime with Steven Rinella. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to in the hunting and fishing world, and the information he puts out there really inspired me to get into conservation over the years.

But the last thing I wanted to be was a goofy fan, so there were some jitters about meeting and hanging out with him and Janis Putelis. In the weeks leading up to the hunt, I kept thinking, Am I going to miss or do something stupid in front of them? But those feelings went away quickly once we arrived—not only were they fantastic and welcoming, but there was little to no time to be nervous.

Together with my nephew Jon and some friends, we touched down in Denver and drove up to the ranch, where we immediately sighted in our rifles—we were hunting within hours of being on the ground. Our buddies went fishing with folks from the TRCP, while I went with Steve and Janis guided Jon.

Little did we know that this hunt would start slow and have a fairly dramatic conclusion.

At first, Steve and I were just trying to establish a pattern of behavior for this group of elk that liked to hang in a meadow. They seemed to know exactly when it was about to be legal shooting light, because they’d filter into the timber so we didn’t have a shot. It was a cat-and-mouse game to set up in the right spot with enough light left.

I was getting antsy as the days passed and I felt like I only had a few chances left. But things started heating up on our last afternoon: They’d been bugling at us all day, and I was getting excited thinking, This is finally going to happen.

But then, suddenly, we heard a shot—my nephew Jon had gotten his bull. I was excited for him, but knew I’d be disappointed if it had spooked the elk on their way to my field.

Still, they came streaming into the meadow, and we were in position. There were only a few minutes of legal shooting light left. Steve was pointing out a bull and I was trying to find it in my binos and scope, but ultimately I thought it was just too dark to risk having a near miss.

We celebrated Jon’s success that night and it would not have been a loss if we left it at that. In the evenings, Chef Andy Radzialowski prepared the most incredible meals, and the topics of discussion over dinner and coffee ranged from hunting and conservation to literature and politics. That was almost the best part, spending time with so many smart, funny, conservation-minded people and just telling stories.

Like I said, it was almost the best part.

There was a one-hour window of opportunity the next morning before everyone had to leave to make their flights, and Steve asked me if I wanted to go for it one more time. So, we got up even earlier and headed back out to the meadow.

This time, we went all the way around back to where the elk had been exiting into the timber the day before, and just minutes after legal shooting light, there was a bull right out in front of me. It was a nice 5×6 (would have been a 6×6 if one of his tines wasn’t broken off) and it was bugling its head off with a bunch of cows around him. I fired, perhaps a little rushed, and he spun around, but my second shot took him down right away.

They’re always such impressive animals, even if this wasn’t the biggest bull in the world. I already have a full shoulder mount at home, so I plan to have this bull euro mounted for the main wall in my lake house. The real trophy is what’s in my freezer—and every time I share that meat with family or friends, I get to tell the incredible story.

3 Responses to “How I Got to Hunt Elk with My Conservation Idol, Steven Rinella”

  1. Ty Haight

    Hey Steve I can in no way afford to bid on a hunt like this but if you ever find yourself (and crew) in sapphire Village MT (about 10 miles south of Utica MT or 40 miles SW of Lewistown Mt) stop by for some back strap and beer!! You and the crew are welcome at my fire anytime.

    Ty Haight (there’s some pretty fair public hunting ground around there too)

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Kristyn Brady

April 11, 2019

Where Public Lands and Waters Heal Unseen Wounds

An organization that provides all-expenses-paid flyfishing trips to combat veterans ensures that participants go home with so much more than campfire stories

With the inspiring success of organizations like Project Healing Waters and Casting for Recovery, many sportsmen and women are aware of the emotional and physical healing power of the outdoors. But when Dan Cook, formerly a financial executive, set out to establish Rivers of Recovery in 2009, he wanted to prove that the act of fly fishing—not to mention the camaraderie of bringing veterans together in remote and beautiful places—actually made a biological impact on returning military service members.

“They analyzed urine and saliva samples from the program participants before, during, and in the 6, 9, and 12 months after a fishing trip,” says Amy Simon, who started out as a Rivers of Recovery volunteer before running the organization with Cook and eventually stepping into the executive director position in charge of all operations and program curriculum. “The tests showed lower cortisol levels after fishing, and the participants reported sleeping better, having lower stress, and, in some cases, going off medications they’d relied on for their mental health. Dan really wanted to go beyond starting an organization and actually prove we were making a difference.”

Thirty veterans took part in their first trip out of Dutch John, Utah, and these days the organization runs programs in eight different states, touching countless lives in the process. Over time, they discovered that building an experience within an existing community of local veterans was very beneficial, compared to flying a group out to Utah. This way, relationships could be built and maintained after the trip, and supportive local businesses, fishing guides, yoga instructors, and other volunteers remained in the participants’ community as resources.

“We found we could leave behind a footprint of support,” says Simon.

She was also instrumental in launching RoR’s first trips exclusively for female veterans, who may be dealing with entirely different issues than men when they return home. In the October 2017 issue of DUN Magazine, U.S. Army veteran Monica Shoneff explained, “A lot of female vets get out of the military and jump back into caring for a family. Self-care becomes a low priority. Where men can focus on themselves, we get lost.”

Now an RoR volunteer, Shoneff estimates that 95 percent of the women combat veterans she’s met have experienced sexual trauma during their military careers, leaving many to deal with anxiety, depression, and high rates of PTSD.

So, how does an all-expenses-paid flyfishing excursion help? “You have to focus on what you’re doing,” she tells DUN. “It takes away from time to ruminate and think about past events or worry about the future.” Simon adds that the activities on the water and in camp start to generate trust, bring vets out of their guarded stance, and open lines of communication. “By the time you leave, you feel like you’re part of a family,” she says.

In many cases, none of this would be possible without public lands, says Simon, so conservation and the healing power of the outdoors go hand in hand. “If those resources were not available, we would not be able to succeed,” she says. “How can you not want to take care of these places that give so much to someone like a wounded veteran?”

Another active volunteer and RoR Board member, Jim Mayol, says he sees public lands issues differently now that he’s witnessed the transformation of program participants. “I see them before the trip, after, and in social settings, and there’s no doubt that the outdoors has had an impact on their healing,” he says. “It’s a no-brainer for me to advocate for these places now, where I may not have given it a lot of thought before.”

To learn more about Rivers of Recovery and how you can get involved, visit riversofrecovery.org.

To support public lands access that makes all of our hunting and fishing opportunities possible, take action to call for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

 

All photos courtesy of Rivers of Recovery.

Randall Williams

March 21, 2019

New Interior Order Supports Recreational Access to Public Lands

Modernized BLM priorities for land disposal and exchange will benefit hunting and fishing access

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today directed the BLM to prioritize public access in decisions regarding the disposal and exchange of BLM public lands.

Bernhardt signed Secretarial Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in Bureau of Land Management Land Disposals and Exchanges, to help ensure that BLM public lands, no matter how small, remain in public hands if they are highly valued for outdoor recreation access.

“Sportsmen and women across the West will benefit from this Interior Department action to sustain and enhance recreational access to BLM public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “In some places, there are small parcels of BLM land that serve as the only means of nearby access to hunting and fishing or as the only access points to adjoining public lands managed by other agencies. The Secretarial Order will ensure that key parcels are valued for this recreational access and help keep these lands in the public’s hands.”

“We are glad to see that recreational public access was identified as a top priority for the BLM when they make land disposal and exchange decisions,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We believe this decision will bring great benefits for hunters by sustaining access and opportunity on federally owned lands. We thank the agency for their stakeholder outreach leading up to this announcement and for taking sportsmen and women’s interests to heart.”

For the past 40 years, the BLM has been required to identify small tracts of land available for sale or disposal. Until today, this frequently included public lands that offer important recreational access. As a result, the BLM has been identifying for disposal remote, yet high-value, public land parcels, including tracts in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ famed big game hunting Region 7 and at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.

Today’s guidance means that the agency now must consider public access when determining the value of these isolated parcels of public lands. Further, in the event that a disposal or exchange might affect public access, the order provides additional direction to help retain that public access or makeup for any losses of access through an associated acquisition.

“We express our sincere thanks to the Department of Interior for unequivocally recognizing the value of hunting and other recreational access when making crucial decisions regarding ownership of our federal lands,” said Brent Rudolph, director of conservation policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “The conservationists that make use of these lands benefit greatly, and their activities in turn support the management of our natural resources and financial health of many rural communities.”

A recent study led by the digital mapping company onX and TRCP found that 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West are inaccessible to the public without permission from private landowners. Small, isolated parcels of BLM land often provide the only means of access to larger parcels managed by states or other federal agencies that would otherwise be similarly “landlocked.” Because of today’s directive, the BLM must now weigh such potential implications in any decision regarding the disposal or exchange of these types of parcels.

“GPS technology has revolutionized the way that Americans use their public lands, making it easier than ever before for the average outdoor enthusiast to identify and access smaller, out-of-the-way parcels,” said onX founder Eric Siegfried. “As a result, there’s been a growing awareness in recent years that landlocked or inaccessible public lands represent lost hunting and fishing opportunities for the American people. We applaud the Department of the Interior for reaffirming the importance of public land access, and for taking this step to ensure that all Americans can take advantage of the incredible experiences offered by our nation’s public lands.”

“Access is one of the most significant priorities for hunters and anglers and a real concern for new sportsmen and women in particular,” said John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our public lands and waters provide access to all regardless of stature. We thank the administration for their leadership and foresight in elevating consideration for lands that not only support fish and wildlife habitat but provide access and opportunities to ensure that our outdoor traditions endure.”

See the TRCP’s fact sheet on BLM public lands identified for disposal.

 

Photo: Jeff Clark/BLM

Marnee Banks

March 12, 2019

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Future Is Secure

Sportsmen and women celebrate this watershed moment for conservation and outdoor economy

Today, President Trump signed bipartisan legislation permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s best tool for increasing access to public lands and supporting fish and wildlife habitat.

“From elk habitat in the Rockies to trout fisheries in the Delaware River Basin, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided public access to our nation’s best hunting and fishing spots,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The passage of this legislation proves that conservation is above partisan politics and that by working together we can leave a lasting legacy for the next generation of sportsmen and women. We now call on Congress to fully fund LWCF, sending resources to every corner of the country to benefit hunters and anglers.”

The legislation requires that 3 percent of LWCF funding be used to establish and retain access to public lands. This could help unlock some of the 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West that are landlocked by private lands with no permanent legal access.

The public lands package also contains more than 100 local and regional public lands bills that benefit sportsmen and women. It reauthorizes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, a conservation grant program in which dollars are typically matched three times over at the local level to benefit waterfowl and wetlands. Another provision reauthorizes the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a critical initiative to assist private landowners who want to voluntarily restore habitat on their lands.

Leading up to the passage of this legislation, TRCP organized thousands of individual sportsmen and women to contact their elected representatives urging reauthorization of the LWCF. Now, the TRCP will rally hunters and anglers to contact their congressional delegation and support fully funding LWCF at $900 million annually.

Click here to send a message to your elected officials supporting full funding for LWCF.

Kristyn Brady

February 26, 2019

House Sends Historic Public Lands Package to President’s Desk

Sportsmen and women celebrate permanent authorization of LWCF and investments in public lands, wildlife habitat, and the outdoor recreation economy

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed S. 47, a historic package of legislation including permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, in a major milestone for public lands access, habitat conservation, and the outdoor recreation economy. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk.

“This vote marks a turning point for public lands in America, as our elected officials have shown their support for LWCF’s enduring legacy,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We no longer need to worry about kicking the can down the road as our best tool for unlocking inaccessible public lands remains in limbo. House lawmakers should be congratulated on seizing this bipartisan momentum for conservation, and Congress should continue to pursue full funding for LWCF as a next step. We look forward to working with public land agencies to unleash the many benefits of this legislation in support of the outdoor recreation economy.”

Comprised of more than 100 locally and regionally specific public lands bills, the package contains defining wins for sportsmen and women. Aside from providing long term certainty for LWCF, one of the most popular public lands programs of the past 50 years, the legislation also requires that 3 percent of LWCF funding be used to unlock isolated and inaccessible public lands. TRCP’s recent study with onX showed that 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West are landlocked by private lands, with no permanent legal access.

The legislation would also reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, a conservation grant program in which dollars are typically matched three times over at the local level to benefit waterfowl and wetlands. Another provision would reauthorize the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a critical initiative to assist private landowners who want to voluntarily restore habitat on their lands.

More than 40 hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations signed a letter to House leadership last week urging lawmakers to prioritize and pass this important legislation. And thousands of individual sportsmen and women signed TRCP’s action alert triggering e-mail messages to their elected representatives.

These voices from across the hunting and fishing community are celebrating today’s vote:

“We’re one step closer to ensuring that our nation’s proud legacy of protecting our public lands and waters becomes permanent,” says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “Our industry is grateful for the bipartisan leadership in both the House and Senate and their determined, vital commitment to ensuring that this uniquely American hallmark will benefit each and every one of us for generations to come.”

“For too long, LWCF has been stuck in a cycle of uncertainty that limited its potential. Today’s vote changes that. This is an extraordinary victory for conservation in the United States,” says Mark R. Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “As one of the country’s most effective conservation programs, LWCF has helped protect national parks, expand trails and playing fields, and preserve important landscapes for over half a century. By using the revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling, LWCF invests in lands and waters at no cost to the American taxpayer, so it should be no surprise that a strong majority wants to continue this win-win for people and conservation. Regardless of party, nature unites us all. Ultimately, LWCF is about preserving the best of America by protecting our lands and waters, our wildlife and ways of life. The overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the House and Senate to renew LWCF reflect our nation’s longstanding commitment to conservation, ensuring future generations will benefit from LWCF. We are grateful for LWCF’s champions in the House and Senate, all of whom have worked hard to achieve permanent reauthorization, and we look forward to the president signing this measure into law.”

“Today we celebrate a victory for our public lands and watersone that never would have happened without the hard work and commitment of hunters and anglers and without the willingness of our elected officials to heed the will of the people,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “We look forward to President Trump signing this critical package of bills into law.”

“By permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Congress has recognized what sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts have always known: LWCF is America’s most proven method for putting public lands conservation on the ground and facilitating access to outdoor recreation,” says Jared Mott, conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America. “We look forward to President Trump quickly signing this important legislation and permanently protecting Americans’ access to their public lands and opportunities for outdoor recreation.”

“The House’s approval of the National Resources Management Act – following the Senate’s overwhelming vote earlier this month – is the latest reminder that conserving our public lands and waterways is an issue that unites us,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We thank Representative Raúl Grijalva, Representative Rob Bishop, and House leadership for swiftly picking up the baton and passing this important legislation, and we now call on President Trump to promptly sign the bill into law.”

“Public lands bring Americans together, and that’s why Republicans and Democrats in the House voted overwhelmingly today for a bill that ensures the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be around for our kids and grandkids,” says Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Today’s historic vote, following a 92-8 vote in the Senate, means that more people can have access to hiking trails, city parks and wild landscapes. Americans expect their public officials to work together, and today’s vote to give more people access to public lands is something we can all celebrate.”

“We know there is a lot going on across the country right now, but everyone should pause for a few moments and take in what is happening with our nation’s public lands,” says Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association. “We are set to preserve nearly a million acres of land for protection and outdoor recreation, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and help our young people enjoy the outdoors more, among many other thingschanging the trajectory of public land protection and advocacy for the next generation for the better. We are thankful for the tireless hours many key senators and representatives, public lands advocates, and American citizens put in to get this across the finish line. And, while it certainly is not solely responsible for all of the support and ‘yes’ votes, OIA’s work over the years to quantify the contribution of the outdoor recreation economy$887 billion per year and over 7.6 million jobshad a helping hand in bridging some of the partisan divide in Washington and getting this once-in-a-decade public lands package done.”

 

Top photo by USFWS Midwest Region.

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The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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