TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation
Perry M. Seitzinger
Hometown: Cloverdale, Indiana
Occupation: Consulting forester
Conservation credentials: Chairman of the Indiana chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society. Educates landowners about how to use Farm Bill programs to achieve their wildlife goals on private forested lands.
Perry Seitzinger might never have become a hunter, forester, or conservationist had it not been for his father’s curiosity as a teenager—he joined a friend for a small game hunt, without a firearm or tag, and eventually dove into the sport as a way to bond with Perry and his brother. (There’s a lesson here: It’s always worth taking someone else along!) Now, Seitzinger is an active leader of the Ruffed Grouse Society in his state and a vocal advocate for overturning outdated ideas about responsible forest management.
Here is his story.
As a young man, my father tagged along with his best friend Perry on a pheasant and rabbit hunt in northern Indiana. He didn’t carry a gun, but it made an impression on him. It wasn’t until his early 30s that he met a friend through church who was interested in upland hunting and bird dogs. Dad was looking for a new hobby and a way to spend quality time with us, his sons.
It turns out that Dad’s decision to take up upland hunting was the defining moment that molded not only my pursuits as a young man, but also my life’s work as a hunter and conservationist.
Every year in October I spend a week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my closest friends to chase the king of upland birds, the ruffed grouse, and the quirky little American woodcock. No other outdoor pursuit can replace the time I have spent with family, friends, and beloved bird dogs in the stunning beauty of the north woods in the Ottawa National Forest. This is a fine example of how wilderness, natural beauty, quality outdoors experiences, and intensive natural resource management aren’t mutually exclusive.
I had my best adventure afield in 2006, when I visited a college friend and fellow forester who lived in southeast Alaska on Prince of Wales Island. My goal for the trip was a DIY spot-and-stalk black bear hunt. Surprisingly, I was successful within the first hour of the hunt, but I learned far more from what came after.
I spent the remainder of my time diving into the local culture, touring the island, fishing, and setting crab pots. The vast, wild beauty of southeast Alaska can’t be put into words. The biggest impression that I took away from this experience was how many people I met there who were passionate about conservation, because their very existence was woven into the local management of their natural resources.
Conservation defines my life. Everything that I pursue is rooted in forest conservation. I realize that without boots-on-the-ground forest management and the decisive conservation efforts of those who came before me, the life I have chosen would not be possible.
The biggest conservation challenge in the central hardwoods region is the lack of forest age and class diversity on both public and private lands. Diverse, healthy forests that we have all come to love, and many of the critters that inhabit them, will no longer exist without sufficient disturbance at the landscape level. Responsible timber harvesting is actually the best conservation tool we have at our disposal for creating and maintaining diverse wildlife habitat and healthy forests.
I have a sentimental nature, and that drives my true passion of sharing outdoor experiences with others. In order for future generations to have the same experiences that I hold dear to my heart, I realize I have to give of myself to conservation.
Our forests and native plant communities, and the wildlife species that depend on them, are not static. Without the hand of man, it cannot be expected that our wild places will be the same tomorrow as they are today. It is my hope that by leaving a legacy of conservation behind, I can leave the same outdoor experiences I have been blessed with to my son and others that come after me.
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