New York Mets First Baseman Pete Alonso has a passion for hunting, fishing, and giving back.
You may know Pete Alonso as the two-time Home Run Derby Champion, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, and the first basemen for the New York Mets, but did you know he was named the July 2023 Most Valuable Philanthropist by MLB’s Players Trust and has been a staunch supporter of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership since his rookie season in 2019?
MLB’s Players Trust recognizes players whose efforts have made a positive impact on the causes and communities personal to them. Over the course of the regular season, the Players Trust bestows three Most Valuable Philanthropist (MVP) awards to celebrate those who have demonstrated a giving spirit and positive social impact beyond the baseball field. Pete Alonso was recognized in July 2023 with the MVP award for his tireless work with the Alonso Foundation and for supporting causes he cares about – such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Off the field, Alonso is a lifelong hunter and angler. Fishing in his home waters of Tampa Bay and hunting throughout the country have clearly made a mark on Alonso. This is evident through his charitable work and his advocacy for conservation issues important to the sporting community. Alonso has long supported the conservation work of the TRCP by hosting a fishing trip in Tampa that has been auctioned off at the annual TRCP Capital Conservation Award Dinner, and his zeal for the outdoors has been frequently highlighted in the press, through an appearance on a special episode of MeatEater, hunting mule deer in Colorado with host, and TRCP Board member, Steve Rinella, and his work with TRCP partner, Captains for Clean Water.
Given his altruistic spirit and passion for conservation, it is no surprise that Alonso has partnered with TRCP for the 2023 Fall Sweepstakes, offering everyone the chance to win an expense-paid trip for 2 to Tampa, FL to fish with Pete.
Paper Trailswas filmed nearly a year ago, but the memories are still fresh for Mason
With a Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt as a backdrop, Paper Trails and its characters, including Mason, uncover the challenges hunters and other outdoor recreationists face when accessing and navigating their public lands and describe what’s being done to improve that access.
TRCP: With hunting season around the corner, we have to ask—did you draw another pronghorn tag this year? Mason: I didn’t, but two of my kids drew the same tag I had last year. So we’re excited to get back out there this season!
TRCP: The buck you took last year was great, and from the film it looked like you put in some serious work to find access. Can you talk about some of the challenges that arise when navigating public access in areas with mixed public-private ownership? Mason: The biggest challenge is just to make sure you don’t trespass and cause frustrations for local landowners. I study maps and apps intently to ensure I know where to go and where not to go. Even with studying maps, though, there is nothing like ground-truthing. Sometimes access looks easy on a map, but then you get there, and the road on the map either doesn’t exist or isn’t a public road. It can be very frustrating, but very rewarding when you do it right and respect all landowners in the area.
We saw a lot of pronghorn and discovered new areas to access that I couldn’t in the past thanks to a walk-in program.
TRCP: What were your expectations going into the hunt? Mason: I had hunted this area in the past, but it had been a while. My expectations were to see a few pronghorn on land I could hunt and then make the most of limited opportunities. Thankfully, though, we saw a lot of pronghorn and discovered new areas to access that I couldn’t in the past thanks to a walk-in program administered by the Wyoming Game & Fish and private landowners.
TRCP: Your buck didn’t take a step after the shot—what rifle and cartridge were you shooting? Mason: I was using a Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter rifle in 6.5 PRC with a 143 grain ELD-X bullet from Hornady in their Precision Hunter line of ammunition. It definitely did the job quickly and cleanly. It was actually the first animal harvested with that new rifle, which was pretty cool for this film. That round is amazingly flat-shooting and accurate.
TRCP: What was uncovered during the research and filming of Paper Trails that surprised you the most? Mason: The sheer volume of records that are managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state county offices, etc. It truly was dumbfounding when we were in the Forest Service’s Missoula office, as well as the passion and attention to detail of their personnel like Will Pedde. They see it as their life’s work and are very dedicated to managing all of those records.
TRCP: How will you use the knowledge you gained from that hunt this season? Mason: I plan to impress upon our audience at Eastmans’, as well as my children, on just how precious our access is to public land and how we all need to do our best to be good stewards on public and private lands to ensure we are able to have that access in the future.
TRCP: What’s your #1 tip for hunting pronghorn? Mason: Don’t act sneaky! Hahaha…it seems the sneakier I try to act, the more I scare them off. I’ve discovered that if you act too interested in them, they’ll turn tail and be in the next county before you know it. Have patience and have fun. Pronghorn hunting is such a fun way to spend time with family and friends, so don’t take yourself too seriously when you’re out there.
TRCP: What made pronghorn the perfect hunt to highlight the challenges and opportunities of public access? Mason: Pronghorn live in some of the most checkerboarded landscapes out West. To be successful year in and year out, it is imperative to hunt similar areas as often as possible and do your homework on public land access well in advance of the hunt itself. Pronghorn hunting is often a challenge to the public land hunter, which makes them the perfect species to highlight access opportunities.
TRCP: What are some of the tools you use to help identify and navigate public access? Mason: Obviously onX has changed the game and made us all more intuitive hunters. I’m also a map geek and love pouring over maps, using a compass, and studying topography and landscape features to not only navigate public access, but also to understand where animals can predictably be out on the landscape, no matter what state I’m in.
TRCP: What advice about access would you give to hunters heading to a new area to hunt this season? Mason: Start your research early, talk to game and fish officials, land management agencies, other hunters on forums, friends and family that have hunted that same area and/or that same species in the past, and just soak it all in. Life is a series of data points on a graph. Data points form clusters, and the clusters tell a story. It takes time, and each experience helps you have fun and be successful in the next opportunity. That goes for all things in life…not just hunting. I’m always gleaning information from everything and everyone around me in my day-to-day life.
Volunteers Make an Impact on New Mexico Private Lands Conservation
The Impact Outdoors NM projects will benefit wildlife, habitat, hunters, and a ranching operation.
In early August,I joined a group of volunteers with Impact Outdoors New Mexico on behalf of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership to help complete three projects on a local landowner’s property near Santa Rosa, New Mexico.The projects benefited wildlife, hunters, and theranching operation.
Impact Outdoors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to impacting communities through education, conservation, and meaningful outdoor opportunities like hunting and fishing. By fostering strong relationships and community, for both veterans and youth, Impact Outdoors builds a cadre of strong volunteers who possess a deep passion for the outdoors. Through Impact Outdoors, many of the youth and veterans volunteer their time to assist with habitat restoration on public and private lands.
Private landowners play instrumental roles for conservation, ensuring that public and private working lands are conserved and managed correctlybenefits us all. Thanks to a great working relationship with a landowner near Santa Rose, NM, volunteers with Impact Outdoors had already been able to help restore wetlands, fence off riparian zones to protect cattle from over grazing and restore native grasses, and install water valves to ensure water gets to the appropriate locations on the property. Due to these past efforts, the leopard frog, which is listed as a species of conservation concern in New Mexico, has returned to the property.
The Hermit Peak and Calf Canyon Fire in 2022 burned northwest in the headwaters of the Pecos River and was the largest fire in New Mexico State history. This property is irrigated with water from the Pecos River. After the fire the region received large amounts of rain causing a carbon kill off in the river. Due to the quick actions of the landowner and Impact Outdoors NM they were able to keep the carbon out of the restored wetlands and maintain an intact macroinvertebrate source to reestablish in the Pecos River.
In a continuation of this important conservation work, I joined about 30 volunteers from Impact Outdoors NM as they set about tackling three new projects in coordination with the landowner. We installed a catwalk over a ditch headgate to ensure the landowners safety when changing water allocations for irrigation and providing water to the wetlands. We built a fully accessible duck blind that will accommodate a track chair and allow it to fully turn around. Lastly, we built a ramp and pully system that allows a layout boat to be launched into the wetlands allowing a hunter using a wheelchair to hunt waterfowl from the water with a volunteer from Impact Outdoors beside them in the water in waders.
The event was a great success and the completion of the three projects helped prepare the way for youth and veterans to have a quality location to hunt turkeys and waterfowl as well as fish this fall.
An unfortunate discovery resulted in the author’s conservation passion
I didn’t grow up in a hunting or fishing family. However, like most kids in Montana, I spent a lot of time outdoors rock climbing, camping, floating rivers, and skiing. My mom bought me my first fishing rod and tackle box—Tweedy Bird themed, of course—which I took to Flathead Lake to catch perch in the sailboat marina while my dad cursed at the old rusty motor that never seemed to start. I tried fly fishing, and it quickly became an obsession of mine. But I never thought I would become a hunter.
In college, I spent a lot of time at my boyfriend’s house. There, his roommates frequently made nachos, steaks, burgers, lasagna, and other amazing meals from the game meat they hunted. While it was apparent that the romantic relationship wasn’t going to last, I had fallen in love with the taste of elk, mule deer, and pronghorn, and knew I needed to become a self-sufficient hunter.
After taking hunter education, I didn’t really know the next step. No one in my family or friend group donned an orange vest and headed to the mountains looking for deer. Fortunately, I was able to join the University of Montana’s Backcountry Hunters & Anglers collegiate club, which opened up so many opportunities. I attended a Hunting for Sustainability course at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, where we learned about hunting ethics, techniques, and my favorite part: how to prepare different dishes with game meat.
Through the BHA Club, I also met Mike McTee, a researcher at the MPG Ranch in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, who came and presented on the impacts of lead from spent ammunition on non-target wildlife species. I was still so new to hunting that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the concept, but fast forward a year and it would hit home.
The following hunting season I joined a family friend on a moose hunt, a once-in-a-lifetime tag for him. After two days of only spotting cow/calf pairs, he decided it was time to take a break from moose and try to help me fill my deer tag.
We drove to a Block Management Area—a great cooperative program between private landowners and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks that provides landowners compensation for offering free public hunting access to private land. After hunting up and down several drainages, we had yet to see an animal. Not even a coyote slunk through the draws. We decided to head back to the truck and try a different spot, but as we crested a coulee, a golden eagle suddenly appeared in the sagebrush in front of us.
Surprisingly, the huge raptor didn’t fly away. We could tell the eagle was alert but could also see something was wrong. The talons were clenched, and wings drooped forward. The bird was in trouble, and while I’m not a biologist, I knew enough to understand that this eagle would not survive if we left it there. Assuming the bird had been electrocuted by the power lines above us, I found the number for Wild Skies Raptor Center and called the wildlife rescue organization.
The founder, Brooke Tanner, answered the phone and instructed us on how to capture the bird and bring it safely to her center. We grabbed one of our hunting coats and slowly approached the bird. It made a feeble attempt to wobble away, then froze as we tossed the coat over the frail body. The eagle was so weak it didn’t fight back or even jostle was we scooped it up and drove to the house to place it in a dog kennel for safe transport to the rehabbers. I had never seen an eagle up close like that before, let alone held one.
After delivering the eagle to Brooke, she called me a few hours later to explain that the eagle was suffering from lead poisoning.
“Lead poisoning!?” I exclaimed. “Eagles aren’t licking lead paint off old barns!”
Brooke then reminded me of what Mike McTee had said a year prior—when a hunter shoots an animal with a lead bullet, that bullet shatters into hundreds of tiny fragments. Those fragments end up in gut piles that scavengers, like golden eagles, take as a free meal. Like me, eagles enjoy the bounty of a successful harvest, however when eagles eat gut piles seasoned with lead fragments, the poison can result in a plethora of issues, including weakness, clenched talons, muscle wasting, blindness, and death.
I was floored. I had a lead bullet chambered when I found the eagle.
Brooke also explained to me that there are alternatives to lead bullets that I should investigate. I quickly found that copper bullets don’t fragment like lead, perform at a high-level, and leave a clean gut pile for scavengers. For me, this was a no-brainer transition.
Unfortunately, the golden eagle died two days later. The raptor was too far gone when we arrived to survive chelation, the treatment used on lead-poisoned birds.
This experience led me to my current profession. I’m now the Program Director for a Wyoming-based educational initiative, Sporting Lead-Free. Our mission is to encourage the voluntary use of lead-free ammunition and fishing tackle in the field and promote the conservation ethics of our sporting communities.
As hunters, we have the responsibility not only to the animals we harvest in the field, but to what happens beyond the bullet. Making the voluntary choice to switch to lead-free ammunition when we harvest our game will not only help non-target wildlife like eagles, but also removes one more point of attack on hunting.
Visit www.sportingleadfree.org to learn more about who we are, what we do, and find resources to help you switch to sporting lead free.
The conservation community needs to lean into mentorship.
Recently, I had the opportunity to engage with the mentorship cohort of Next 100 Colorado while on a conservation tour in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Inspired by the 100thanniversary of the National Park Service, the Next 100 Colorado focuses on workforce diversity across conservation and outdoor recreation, ensuring equitable access for all people, and using the outdoors to tellaccurate, complex, uplifting and healing stories about Colorado lands. The mentorship cohorts are intended to provide community for underrepresented individuals in conservation as well as guidance for mentees who are within the first five years of their conservation career.The conservation trip took place on July 18-19 and consisted of five mentees and four mentors (or members) of Next 100 Colorado.
On this trip both mentors and mentees were able to learn about the complexity and history of Spanish and Mexican land grants as well as private land conservation in Southern Colorado. On a ranch tour we were able to see conservation at a landscape level as the ranch was taking significant efforts to reduce fuel loads across the semi-desert shrubland to the montane forest ecosystems. This would help ensure that the next fire on the landscape isn’t catastrophic but rather beneficial. Fire has evolved with these ecosystems and during our tourwe learned how indigenous tribes utilized fire to maintain healthy forests and create quality hunting areas for themselves. We ended the trip by visiting and camping at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which was a first for many of the participants.
The experience was tremendous. It fostered camaraderie and community amongst the group as we broke bread together, learned about new people, and shared new experiences as a team. Together, we learned that a key to making any camping trip successful is being familiar with the tent you are bringing, and if you are setting it up for the first time, try to do it in the daylight hours. We overcame this obstacle together and left with the valuable lesson that there is nothing worse than setting up a tent for the first time in the dark.
While reflecting on this trip, I have spent time thinking of all the mentors and influential individuals who chose to share their time and talents to help shape me and my journey. Those who guided me range from family members to teachers and coaches to coworkers. I can personally attest that conservation needs to lean into mentorship as it is a powerful tool for passing on knowledge, skills, and experience.As demographics shift in the U.S. it is important that our conservation community engage and provide mentorship to underserved communities so that future generations know the importance of protecting our natural resources now and for future generations to come. Currently Hispanic and Latino children make up 50% of the U.S. population 18 years old and younger andwe need to be intentional in how we connect with them.
Hunting and angling mentorship is important for introducing new people to the sport and our conservation ethos.It teaches the necessary safety and ethical practices while helping develop a lifelong passion for the outdoors. National R3 programs (Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation) exist to increase participation in hunting, shooting sports, and fishing and have a strong focus on mentorship. To date, many states and organizations have implemented similar mentoring programs to help grow the hunting community as well.
Two additional organizations that have leaned into mentorship are the Minority Outdoor Alliance and Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever. Together, they are engaging new and diverse audiences to build a multicultural upland hunting community. The Learn to Hunt experience is designed to provide opportunities for novice minority hunters to form strong authentic bonds in the field and around the campfire. Theseevents provide knowledge, skills, and an introduction to hunting through education and interaction with instructors in a controlled setting. The desired outcome is that participants gain the confidence and support they need to further pursue their outdoor interests and stay connected well after the event.
As conservationists, let’s keep leaning into the mentorship challenge and extend the olive branch to our kids, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and greater community just as our mentors did for us. I encourage you all to participate in your state wildlife agency’s mentorship programs or take a mentorship pledge like I did this year with Pheasants Forever.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
CHEERS TO CONSERVATION
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.