TRCP’s Jared Romero reminisces on fall hunting camp and the power of community and shared experiences.
This fall I was lucky enough to be a part of three different hunting camps spanning Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico. The camps transcended hunting. Relationships were forged through powerful shared experiences with diverse groups on awe inspiring landscapes. Put simply, each camp was unique, but a common bond of community and conservation was ever present.
In Oregon, TRCP staff, members of the Owyhee Sportsmen, Durrell Smith from The Sporting Life Notebook, and Sav Sankaran from The Orvis Company, connected to hunt Chukar for a couple of days in the stunning landscapes of the Owyhee Canyonlands. For many of us, this was our first Chukar hunt and it did not disappoint. This was truly a unique hunting camp. Our group ranged in age from 2 to 60 and were accompanied by dog breeds of all kinds. Many in our party drove across the country. The hunting was great, but to be honest, I think the Owyhee Canyonlands stole the show. The amazing viewscapes and colors in Oregon’s high desert were captivating (and often made it hard to watch for a dog on point!). After just a few days of exploring this seemingly endless canyon country, I understand why the Owyhee Sportsmen coalition is working so hard to ensure this region is protected for future generations.
The second hunting camp was a personal trip with a close friend to do some elk hunting in a special place in Colorado where I used to hunt with my grandfather. The trip almost didn’t happen, but we were able to squeeze in a couple of days between balancing young kids and work trips. We put in several hard miles, found several beds, and got close enough to smell elk, but harvesting a bull just wasn’t in the cards for us this year. The ability to slow down, unplug, and reconnect with an old friend was well worth the trip.
The third hunting camp was with Matt Monjaras and Impact Outdoors New Mexico. It was an opportunity to join several Veterans in the field for two days of waterfowl hunting. This particular hunt and experience is one that I will always chase in the hopes of replicating. Connecting with these Veterans for two days was fantastic. Together, we constructed blinds, limited out on ducks, harvested a few geese, and forged strong interpersonal bonds in a special place. I’ll never forget crossing the reservoir in a boat, two or three people at a time, to set up our blinds and layouts in dense fog. It was a special and memorable experience.
Each of these camps was very different and yet very similar. They all started with high energy and early mornings. They each ended with the sharing of stories around a fire, often late into the night. Each experience reinforced my belief that we need to share with the public that hunting is much more than harvesting an animal, it is about community and shared experiences. It is about building new relationships reflecting on those who taught us how to hunt, and reconnecting with important people in our lives.
On the second day in New Mexico, I woke up at 3am to a Veteran blasting Luke Bryan’s song “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day.” This song that will always remind me of those men and an experience I will forever try to recreate! I am looking forward to the next hunting camp and fire I get to share, knowing that my community will continue to grow alongside my adventures afield.
The MAPWaters Act would improve recreation on federal waterways by investing in modern technology to provide anglers, hunters, boaters, and other water users the information they need to safely and legally access and utilize public waters administered by federal agencies.
The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Representative Blake Moore (R-Utah) and cosponsored by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).
“The MAPWaters Act will give Americans the confidence they need to partake in water-based recreation opportunities by directing federal agencies to clarify the complex rules of public waterways into accessible data in geospatial form,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This common-sense legislation will help recreationists stay safe and legal while enjoying the great outdoors.”
The MAPWaters Act builds on the success of the recent MAPLand Act by directing federal agencies to digitize water and fishing access and recreational use information on federal waterways and to make those resources readily available to the public. Federal waterways include any portion of a body of water managed, or partially managed, by one or more of the following federal agencies: the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service.
This newly digitized public information would include:
• Status information on which waterways are open or closed to entry or watercraft, including watercraft inspection or decontamination requirements.
• The areas of waterways with restrictions on motorized propulsion, horsepower, or gasoline fuel.
• Types of watercraft that are restricted on each area of a waterway, including the permissibility of canoes, rafts, motorboats, airboats, oversnow vehicles on frozen bodies of water, etc.
• The location and geographic boundaries of fishing restrictions on recreational and commercial fishing, including full or partial closures, no-take zones, and fishing restrictions within or surrounding marine protected areas.
• Fishing restrictions concerning specific types of equipment or bait, such as restrictions on the use of barbed hooks or live bait and requirements with respect to catch and release.
Much of this information is housed in agency documents and difficult for the public to discover and access. For example, in the Code of Federal Regulations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service includes 42 pages worth of National Wildlife Refuge specific recreation rules, many of which are tied to waterway navigation, use, and fishing.
The clarity and accessibility of regulations for both the public and the agencies entrusted to manage these waters will result in more Americans confidently accessing and enjoying their public waters.
“Knowing where to go fishing and what you can do when you get there is basic information all anglers need for a successful day on the water,” said Lindsay Slater, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. “The MAPWaters Act will standardize and simplify information for anglers to access and use waters managed by federal agencies, including decontamination requirements to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. We look forward to this bill becoming law and helping to better inform anglers who fish on public waters.”
“The MAPWaters Act will make spatial information on fishing and boating regulations more accessible, ensuring anglers can stay up-to-date with changing rules and restrictions,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “By standardizing and digitizing information on federal waterways, MAPWaters will provide improved information on fishing piers, boat ramps, and access points, helping America’s 54.5 million anglers find new fishing spots. We thank Representatives Moore, Panetta, Fulcher, and Dingell for their leadership on this bill.”
“Access to water is just as important to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists as access to land,” said Laura Orvidas, CEO of onX. “Yet, regulations regarding water access are even more complex. Having water access information and regulations publicly available in a digital format is critical for communicating intended water use for responsible access and protecting aquatic species and their habitats. Through the MAPWaters Act, we can help empower the outdoor community to not only enjoy our nation’s vast waterways, but also recreate responsibly.”
“Improved national mapping data from federal agencies about watercraft restrictions and fishing regulations will help outdoor enthusiasts, anglers, and other water users discover and access new recreational opportunities,” said Zachary Pope, founder of TroutRoutes, a fishing focused navigation application. “For the benefit of millions of American anglers, we support this bill and encourage Congress to advance the MAPWaters Act into law.”
Cultivating Community and Inclusivity at Learn to Hunt Colorado
This is a guest blog from Durrell Smith, the founder of the Minority Outdoor Alliance. Through his organization, Durrell hopes to create pipelines for individuals from underrepresented communities to advance in the outdoor industry and become leaders in conservation policy.
This was the second time I have had the opportunity to facilitate an event aimed at elevating the wisdom of 10 mentors and 10 participants through the continued cultivation of inclusivity and a healthier outside experience. Over the course of a few days, both mentors and participants shared their various paradigms in the hopes of creating a much more engaged and diverse community of upland bird hunters.
Each year, I learn something new – and it’s not only about the participants. We all come to share our stories, the adversity we may have faced, and to question the challenges we’ve have faced in the field while striving to become better, and more experienced, upland hunters.
The goal of the event was two-fold: educate both those participants seeking to take a step forward in their upland hunting experience and those who want to learn more, while simultaneously cultivating a deeper and more meaningful relationship between the mentors and the participants in the hopes of creating a community that will stand the test of time. What was most revealing to me, was the paradigm shared by our participants and the reinforcement of what I already knew about the mentors – in particular, my dear friends Jared Romero and Dominic Lucero.
I’m always excited to meet back up with Dominic Lucero in Colorado. He is the founder of Colorado Treks, a non-profit organization that works to inspire life-changing confidence in youth, families, and communities of Colorado through cultural experiences and outdoor education.
Dominic brought a great deal of wisdom and knowledge from the indigenous and Chicano communities to the event. Much of what Dominic focuses on, and what really speaks to my heart, is the idea that nature is medicine. It is healing and reviving.
Dominic is someone who not only inspires me but challenges me to think deeper about the healing within myself and the possibilities of healing through the outdoors. From that perspective, and setting aside from the experience that I’ve acquired over the last 7 1/2 years in the uplands, I often ask myself two questions: what am I presenting to our community of diverse individuals? Am I complimenting nature’s medicine with my own prescription, and does that prescription fit, and work, for diverse and varied individuals?
Building upon that, Dominic challenged us to think about the ways in which the indigenous peoples of Mexican and Chicano heritage relate and add to the story of the upland hunter. I’m always moved by Dominic’s words, his inspiration, and his personal stories. Dominic spends time investing in a family atmosphere, and he has continued to earn the trust of so many. There’s nothing pretentious about a day in the field with Dominic, and I know personally that his mentorship speaks volumes to those who may have felt trauma or experienced a lack of access, and how they may have prevented one’s ability to truly experience all the opportunities available outside. His role as a mentor was impactful for all in attendance.
During the event, I also spent a great deal of time with someone I would consider a brother, a friend, and an inspiration. Someone who creates opportunities, not for himself, but for others, and someone who spends a great deal of time working to understand the necessity of diversity in the outdoors and communicating the message of conservation through access, programming opportunities, and story. I’ve known Jared Romero, director of strategic partnerships at the TRCP, for three years, and I have never had a chance to really dive deep into the story that connects him to the uplands. This event changed that.
Spending a day in the field together chasing truckers behind pointing labs and German shorthaired pointers was all that was needed to illuminate his own past. Jared, and our day afield, changed my perception of what I thought an upland hunter might look like – particularly in the grouse woods. Jared reminisced on stories of hunting with his grandfather, chasing blue grouse in the various landscapes of Colorado. He reflected by noting, “Blue grouse hunting is how I cut my teeth as a young hunter. I had some of my first successes hunting. It’s an experience I’ll always remember with my family and grandpa.”
Jared’s message stuck with me. As someone of African American descent seeking to change the paradigm in the narrative of what’s possible in the uplands space, I still had not pictured a man of Hispanic heritage also decoding the complexity of the grouse woods. That is what events like this are for: to continue coloring a new slate and story within the landscape of the hunting community. As a mentor, Jared’s perspectives, experiences, and openness benefitted both participants and mentors alike.
Additionally, the tremendous contributions of the South Metro Chapter of Pheasants Forever were significant, and I would like to include a special thank you to Dean, Kaleigh, and the chapter membership. Simon, another member of Hispanic heritage, also recontextualized everything that I thought about who spends time chasing grouse. What also struck me was the humility that Simon exuded when talking about the many years he spent looking for others like us and this peer group in the outdoors. It is humbling to know that so many people have spent large amounts of time looking for what this event aimed to create: a diverse and empowered community of individuals that love upland, birds, bird dogs, and the habitat that we seek to conserve.
The first day, we spent some classroom time going over the basics of firearms, learning conservation history, habitat, and the great work that all of our partnering organizations are doing collectively to continue this great American story. After the classroom sessions, we took our participants outside for a great time – learning how to approach bird dogs in a safe, yet efficient manner, and for practice on the clays course to ensure safe and effective shots. There were lots of successes, many misses, and a whole heap of smiles. We had a great time breaking clays and building confidence.
The second day, we spent in the field at Valhalla with pointing labs, German shorthaired pointers, and an emboldened, confident group of participants seeking to tell a story of their own. What I should note is the incredible amount of consideration given to the dogs when shots didn’t always present as safe, and the respect given to the dogs for their work teaching our new participants. I wonder if next year we might even include the dog names on the mentor list, because at the end of the day, it seemed that we all learned more from the dogs than we ever could in a classroom.
The event was powerful and there is so much more I could share, but in closing, I would encourage you to learn more about these opportunities, to reach out to our mentors and our participants. It will help you better understand this experience in their context and from their paradigm. Doing so would better inform us all of how powerful the outdoors and the upland experience can be when we all come together in the name of conservation, education, and diversity.
I want to say thank you to our partners from Pheasants and Quail Forever, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Colorado Treks.
Read more about TRCP’s commitment to community and inclusivity below:
TRCP Applauds Passage of the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act
The bipartisan legislation that passed Congress this week would help more Americans build confidence in the great outdoors and safeguard hunting and angling traditions.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act (HR 5110) in a 424-1 vote on Tuesday September 26, 2023. The Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent the next day. The bill has now gone to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to clarify that the prohibition of use of federal education funds for certain weapons training does not apply to extracurricular programs such as archery, hunting, and other shooting sports.
This summer the U.S. Department of Education indicated that as a result of changes made in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which passed in 2022, schools with hunting, archery, and other outdoor education programs may not be eligible to receive certain federal funds. This would negatively impact millions of students who participate in archery programs, hunter education classes, wilderness and outdoor classes, and school sponsored target shooting teams. The Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act seeks to restore funding and clarify that students may have access to educational programs and activities such as archery and hunting safety education.
“We applaud Representatives Green and Peltola, and Senators Tester and Murkowski for developing and passing a bipartisan solution to this issue. Restoring federal funding for hunter education, archery in the schools, and other outdoor programs will help more Americans build confidence to venture into the great outdoors,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “With overwhelming bipartisan support, we urge President Biden to sign this important bill into law without delay.”
President Biden’s signature would ensure that these programs remain available in schools across the nation and help safeguard the future of our hunting and angling traditions.
Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to the future of hunting and fishing here
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.
On the field, Pete Alonso hits home runs with the best of them, but his passion and support for guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish is a homerun for conservation.
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.