Roll up your sleeves

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” 
– Teddy Roosevelt

The mountain was steep. Pictures do not do this country justice. I was tired. My legs hurt. I was contemplating giving up and going home. The photographer in this picture would tell the trail “goodbye” at the end of this day. We were spent. Second wind was on its 7th leg during this picture.

People are tough. Dealing with people is even worse. If you look at the constant bickering on social media, the news and pretty much everywhere; folks are the worse. Especially those that disagree with us and even more so those that are adamantly opposed to our core beliefs. Right?

Back of this, my wife and I were having dinner with some friends at their home. While we were eating the topic came up of “dealing with people”, as with any topic, opinions were voiced. My friend is a pastor, hes one of my pastors, and one of the finest folks I know. I was voicing my concern over certain folks and their behavior and he said something that shook me and caused me to reflect. He said “Its easy for folks to sit on the sidelines and judge or hate. Its hard to roll up your sleeves and jump in with folks and show them Christ love.” I left that evening and that statement, that truth, was on my mind that evening and the following few days. The conviction I felt was one that there is no guessing or evaluating what it means; you know exactly how you are to respond. And it is not easy. Remotely.

See, I have always been what some may deem as “mouthy” or “unable to keep my opinion to myself” or “confrontational”. I guess sub-consciously I thought this was how I made my name? How I showed that I was someone to be reckoned with? Don’t know. All I do know, is that I have done way more damage than good with it. I have ostracized folks, belittled those I don’t agree with and ultimately driven a wedge between myself and others. And here’s the thing; its not just with folks who disagree with hunting. Its not just with folks who disagree with me on conservation issues and topics such as forestry and sustainable silvicultural practices. Its with folks who also hunt, also fish, also care. My abrasiveness and the need to be “right” has cost so much, that I have no way to measure it. I can assume what that cost came to, and I honestly think I am underestimating it. The truth is, there are a lot of road blocks and stumbling blocks that I have experienced, and the overwhelming majority is self-induced.

It is easy to sit and disagree. I am a Carolina fan. I LOVE bashing Duke University in any way shape or form. It is fun, and the argument could be made that it is also “divine”. Seriously though, bashing a sports team is a stretch from what I am attempting to address, but the concept and example are easy to see. How much fun is it to hate on SEC Football teams? Its a somewhat uniting and develops a sense of belonging with folks who think and act like you. Its natural, and I get it. I am overly guilty of it. “Its easy for folks to sit on the sideline and judge and hate”, changes things if we added “fun and” right before “easy”…

Over the past few months I have been wrestling with working with or dealing with folks that I am against, or they are against me.. I would find myself finding ways to justify not liking them and not pursuing engaging with them at all. But then I kept hearing the statement Johnathan made at dinner that night. It’s hard to roll up your sleeves. It’s hard to get in there.  But, I had fine examples of how to do this. How to make it work. How to get in, regardless of how difficult something may be, or that people will be opposed to me and my ideas. There were and still are many folks who have poured into me and taken the time to show me what that lookalike. One of the finest men I have ever known, does it quite a bit. The gentlemens name is David. He represents hunters, anglers and wildlife enthusiast with many folks who would love nothing more than hunting to cease to exist, as well as many other facets of our life. After one meeting I attended with David, I left very frustrated as we were yet again disregarded and looked over when it came time for us to talk in these little break out groups. David listened to me and when I said “I don’t know David. Why do we keep doing this? No one listens, and if you make a suggestion they do not agree with, they accuse you of all sorts off stuff.” he responded with “That table we just left has a lot of seats. We will not agree on everything.. But they have a seat and so do we. Its on us if something goes wrong. We have just as much right to that seat as they do. If we don’t advocate for wildlife and those of us who pursue them, who will?” I chalked that up as a “that’s his opinion, that’s what he wants to do, not mine” David continues to stay the course. He also continued to pour in and model what I needed to see and how I needed to be. Eventually I saw the errors in my ignorance and starting stepping in the footsteps he and others laid out. I often wonder how much further we would be on some of our stuff if I hadn’t been so headstrong? Not in the sense of my opinion being something to sway many things, but how I portrayed myself and how that reflected to others?

I then began to look at examples in the Bible of how to put rolling up our sleeves into action. I don’t know if you are a believer, but I am here to tell you; If you want to look at examples of getting amongst it and working with others, that’s a fine place to start. It’s actually the best place to start. Been easy if the Man from Galilee just sat with others and judged. Been easy to condemn and disenfranchise and elevate Himself in the circles of folks who knew the Scripture like he did. But He didn’t. He rolled up His sleeves, in the ultimate way. And how do I honor Him by sitting on the sidelines ridiculing and keeping barriers? I don’t.  

Glad I didn’t give up. Glad we stayed the course. Our first archery elk hunt on public land. 

So, I am working on and will continue to work on keeping my sleeves rolled up. That means I’ll keep going to the table. Ill do my best to be the change I wish to see. I’ll do my absolute best to sit and hear your views and thoughts. I’ll do my part to have discourse and discussion in order to figure out the best way to take care of our resource.. Are we going to agree on everything? Negative. Do I expect you to do as I do on the issues? No. Does that mean we cannot have discourse and discussion? No. How else are we going to address or fix anything if we just stay in our own echo chambers?

It is my belief that if I want anything to change, or my views to be represented, or my voice to be heard; it is on me to make that happen. The only way to do that, is rolling up my sleeves and sitting at the table. It is going to be hard, it is going to be tough, it is going to feel like more defeats than victories. It is probably not going to get any recognition. It is probably going to be disregarded by many of the talking heads. It will probably alienate you politically. But, my hope is it will make it better for those that follow. To the vast majority of folks who have shown me this, I appreciate it.

I know this will probably be viewed as some form of concession or some crazy Xennial rant. And that’s ok. Maybe it is odd and weird and different. And it will be viewed as a “koomxbya, feel good, everybody get along” spill.Thats cool, you can think that all day. A vast majority of the US population still thinks that a political party has their best interest in mind….. so I’m in good company.

Get in the Arena, and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


The above image is of my friend Roxanne, her brother and their late father. Their father was a devout outdoorsman who instilled in them a love for Creation. I started this blog/article/rambling 2 years ago. Roxanne looked it over for me and discussed her father and his impact on her. As the following will show, I lost my father 13 years ago. Roxanne also lost her father. I was honored to have her look over this and even more so that she allowed me to show a picture from her childhood. Parents, your kids are watching.

When I first started this piece (in October of 2016) I had it titled “What’s your why?” This morning, my gut said that wouldn’t do. I also revisited this piece over and over. I don’t know the “requirements” on blog length versus article length and so on. So, reckon this is it. Enjoy. Tyler

For anything we do in life, we gotta have a why, or a “calling”-our motivation. Sometimes, we say what it is; sometimes we act like we don’t have a calling, and, perhaps sometimes, we just hide it. Your personal why applies to all the components of your life — no matter what it is. This includes: your passions, your interest, your work, your family, the list goes on.

My why for this website/blog/whatever else comes of this is multi-layered. The largest majority is that I feel my calling on this Earth is to take care and protect Gods creation and all that it entails. The other side is to help, in any way, to provide things for my sons that were not accessible to me. Obviously, the other reasons are: I love to hunt, I am obsessed with archery, I love being outside, I love watching the natural world and I love the meat. As you can tell, my reasons are pretty straightforward  nothing too wild.

My why for my hunting and conservation obsession is a bit involved; strap in folks because this may be a “hum dinger” as they say. Growing up, our family didn’t have much. In fact, I felt selfish asking for certain things, as all my siblings did. But I asked for stuff to hunt with. And I know that it broke my parents heart telling me that I would have to wait. Contrary to popular belief, if you didn’t have granddaddy’s gun, it did not matter how much public land that allowed hunting was outside your door. Guns cost money, as does the ammunition, and we were limited on it. I do not begrudge or regret growing up that way. I think it helped with the drive that myself and my siblings all exhibit. And, it also showed us to be grateful.

Since I didn’t have the stuff to go hunting, reading all the stories about the founding fathers and other notable historic figures hunting may have been rough on some folks. But it gave me a goal, something to aim for. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett were my heroes until I hit middle school and was engulfed in tales of Teddy Roosevelt, reading the works of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Brian Jacques (I apologize for the nerd out) and others. My mind stayed focused and obsessed with hunting and just being outside. In the woods, I pretended I was taking a bison with TR, or grinning down a “bar” with Davy Crockett. I loved the outdoors and all its bounties, even just as a spectator.

This love for the land and the wild inhabitants led me to constantly do whatever I could to be outside. My dad and uncle spoke to me about the importance of how we interacted with the landscape. They also taught me how we utilize the land. My dad worked a few odd jobs here and there when he wasn’t at one of his three fulltime gigs. I would accompany him on many of them since a lot of the handyman work pertained to being outside. We would clean up yards, take down falling and/or fallen trees, landscape, demo and anything else that was needed. 

I remember being with my dad at a dairy. I remember we were helping with some real basic carpentry, nothing too involved. I remember seeing a white car pull up and an individual hop out with a clipboard and a pair of hiking boots that looked ask if they had just come off the shelf. The man had an air about him that just made me want to keep an eye on him, kind of like a politician. Then he preceded to talk down to the dairy farmer, telling him that he would place slurry ponds on the areas of the map that were indicated and nowhere else; otherwise he would be in violation of the new .0200 laws that had come out to address confined animal operations. The farmer looked it over and voiced the concern over his neighbors having to see and smell the slurry since it was on the property line and closest to the road. He offered to put it further away on his property in an area that was away from his neighbors. The gentleman in the new hiking boots began to chastise the farmer. The farmer stood his ground. I then remember hearing a phrase that would become a standard from that day on “You dumb backwoods hillbillies” (he used other spirited language) from a government official. Shortly there after, the dairy closed. In fact, where I live, at one time there were 35 dairies. There were 35 different places for folks to go and earn an honest dollar. Now there are two. And more houses dot the landscape. Since that day in 1996, I knew something in me had changed and would never be the same again.

As I grew up and stared high school, trout fishing was obtainable. I took some funds I had earned from some odd jobs and bought a few poles and tackle. I would hit the fishing holes when I could get a ride from friends or my parents. I was very blessed to be in an area with trout waters all over. And I loved getting out there. I remember wading a stretch that was deemed wild trout waters and coming upon a plethora of mud. The mud was washing in from a spot where a bulldozer had just pushed on through. The rains and terrain had forced that soil down into these waters and the increase of sediment ruined the fishing. I waded back to the main branch where my buddies, and all around them was the sediment. We set on the bank and just stared to see how long it would be before it washed. It didn’t stop. We went home, came back, still silty. Come to find out, the individual who drove the bulldozer was clearing land for a homesite. The county it was in, required very little permitting or permission, and depending on your last name, even that didn’t matter. I found myself in a weird spot. I went to the same place that the dairy debacle had gone to. 

Around this same time, another thing happened. I turned 16. In NC, you have to be 18 to buy a rifle, 21 for a handgun, but for a pellet rifle, you just had to be 16. After I got my license, I drove my 1988 handmedown Subaru to Wal-Mart and laid $50.00 on the counter for the Grizzly. I can’t remember who made it, but it was camouflage and a pump. And I wore the springs out of it. I got my Hunters Safety class done, and bought my license. Squirrels and rabbits were the primary targets, and I went all over creation for them. The woods behind my parents transitioned from a place of spectating, to a place where I began participating. And the fire had a little lighter fluid dumped on it. I would meet with some buddies, and we would plink through the woods, down to the trout stream and enjoy nature.

Shortly there after, my former brotherinlaw gave me a New Englands Firearms Single-Shot 20 gauge. That fire has a little diesel thrown on it. My pursuits went to more small games and some migratory birds and then turkeys. I became obsessed with turkeys. I remember the first time I heard a gobble in the morning. The world sounded like it was coming apart; my heart hit my throat like a right hook, and I never looked back. It took a lot of trial and error due to the fact and my buddies and I were primarily in the same boat regarding knowledge on turkeys. 

My dad was not a hunter. He enjoyed pheasant hunting where they lived in Iowa and Missouri, but that was about it. So I did not have any hunting mentors at that point in my life. So, naturally, I was not exactly a good hunter — and certainly not one who made good decisions. In fact, you would not want me as a spokesman for the pursuit at that age. I may or may not have viewed some regulations as guidelines. All the choices I made where mine and mine alone, even the ones that I felt where not right. But, it would have been nice to have someone, or some resource, to show me the way that didn’t cost a subscription.

After high school I went and worked multiple jobs, and learned the harsh realities of living 100 percent on your own. My brother was moving to Georgia to live with my sister and her husband so he could be with her and our niece while my former brother-in-law was deployed. Georgia offered the Hope Scholarship. Little brother was(and still is) smart. Seemed like a good plan. He moved down to southern Georgia, right at the Florida line. The outdoor opportunities were everywhere down there, and I gave him all my camouflage, camp stuff, fishing poles, tackle, a few knives and my pellet gun. I kept the 20 gauge; maybe I thought I would get to slide out into the woods. I was wrong. Unfortunately, that 20 gauge didn’t last much past that point. One evening, a person, whom I thought was a friend, broke in to my apartment. He decided to throw a party. My guns (the 20 gauge and a Marlin 22 I had just bought) where stolen, as well as my roommates stuff. So I went from having the ability to chase game back to square one. The loss of the 20 gauge weighed heavier on me than I wanted to admit. I took my first turkey with that gun, my first dove with that gun, missed my first deer with that gun. It was tough.

During this time I was working for my then-future fatherin-laws company at nights and working for my buddy’s stair business during the day. I fished a lot, did some other things that I wish I didn’t, but primarily stayed where I was. I was miserable going to work and hated working non-stop and feeling like I was not going to get ahead. I knew that I did not want to spend my time hating work and barely getting by. I saw what it had done to my parents and how it affected their health and demeanor. But. I trudged on for a while like this. Then, on Christmas Eve in 2005, everything changed. My father died of a massive heart attack. He was 51. I had spoke with him the night before and was actually going to see him that evening. Life is short, folks;love on people, and chase your dreams. After this, I knew that I needed to do something else. So, I applied to a couple of schools and was accepted to a private college near home.

I started out there and discovered the pains of student loans. I also discovered why a private college is private and how a diverse amount of majors is pretty sweet. At that school, I essentially had three different majors to choose from. I opted to transfer to Western Carolina University (WNC). I had 36 credit hours and only 9 transferred in. Since I needed at least 12, that meant I had to spend a year at community colleges. At this time, I was working for a utility company as a helper. I loved the part of being outside, but I really enjoyed working with the crew listening to their stories of hunts they went on and had planned. One gentlemen, Joe, had hunted all over creation it had seemed. I would leave some days resisting the urge to call Joe and ask about hunts on Nantahala he had done. 

My then-fiancé, now-wife, Britney, knew that I just wanted to hunt. So, she asked me what is the one thing you really want that would get you back in the woods. I told her a 12gauge shotgun because at that time, I could hunt everything in NC with it. I chalked it up as a question and nothing more. That following Spring I started at WCU. I was undeclared and really wanted to get into the school of music. To save myself some embarrassment, we can just leave that there. I was not accepted into the school of music and had no idea what I wanted to do. So I went fishing with Brit and my buddy Ian on the Tuckaseegee and remembered Britney saying that we needed to run into town. Ian drove us to Wal-Mart. I got out of the truck with Brit and we walked inside. I did my usual and told her that I would be back at sporting goods. She smiled and went to customer service. Ian and I perused around the aisles and then we popped out at the desk at sporting goods where Brit and a manager stood. He had a Remington 870 12 gauge with a 3″ receiver and black walnut stock. I was wondering what was going on and turned to ask Ian if he knew. He was horse laughing and Brit said “Happy Valentines Day. The manager walked us out with my new shotgun. In that moment, I could have cried. I do not think she realized what that meant to me. I had nothing, was trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, had missed hunting so bad and was doing everything I could to get the funds back up to get back in the game. And she worked her tail off and bought me a shotgun. It might sound very redneck to folks who don’t understand, but to me, it might as well have been a brand new car, a house on the lake, or the keys to the Biltmore.

With a new shotgun and two weeks left of squirrel season, I took to the woods. The third shot from that gun put a gray squirrel in my back pouch. I felt revitalized; the fire that had dwindled had some embers glowing. Then two months after that, those embers started roasting. The King of Spring had arrived. I chased thunder chickens all over Jackson County. Never connected, but I loved every minute of it. I was excited to be able to pursue game again and started back into obsessing about the animals I wanted to go after. 

Before school ended that semester, I had to declare a major. I spent a few days in some counselors office where we talked about everything under the sun. I took test and quizzes, personality evaluations and anything else that is supposedly the matrix to help someone decide their future in the realm of higher academia. I had every major offered in the UNC Public School System as the “number 1 option” throughout all the tests. That poor counselor was about at her wits end. So the last day I was supposed to go see her, she asked me to just talk. We talked about everything there was to talk about. She took a few notes and smiled every time I mentioned fishing. She didn’t smile, but she made a note every time I mentioned hunting. She remained silent as I responded to her questions and then she asked,“Outside of your fathers passing, are there any other events that stick out?” Obviously at this time, the only thing that resonated with me was his passing and the passing of others in my life. But my mind went back to the dairy. For whatever reason I spoke about it, and then I talked about the stream I was fishing all those years ago that got covered in sediment. She smiled and asked, “Have you ever heard about GeoSciences and natural resources, Mr. Ross?” And then it all came together. I walked out of that office having declared a NRCM Major.

The following semester, I started my major classes. I met a bunch of fellow hunters and anglers, and we hung out quite a bit. Our professor had deemed us the “biggest bunch of flunkies” he had ever seen. One of us is a doctor, two of us work public sector with our degrees and others are scattered about the U.S.fighting the good fight for conservation. We may not have been the brightest bunch, but let the record show, we where the best bunch of flunkies.

One evening after class, I went with Brit to my buddy Charlie’s house off campus for dinner. When I pulled up Charlie was shooting a bow on his porch. I then did something that I think my wife may regret, I asked to shoot the bow, and Charlie obliged. Two hours later, I went in for dinner. The fire had become an inferno. I bought that Jennings Carbon Extreme XLR from Charlie and shot it until the limbs cracked. I then “upgraded” to a Hoyt Magnatec XT2000. Two of my best friends that I grew up with took me under their wings. Jordan took me to my first Pro shop and we spent hours flinging arrows. When he was home, I’d bug him with question after question; and I still do. I was a bow hunting fool within the year. And the habitat and characteristics of the whitetail had started to eat away at me. It has plagued my entire being; it’s a thing of beauty. It has now blossomed into so much more.

Throughout my career at Western, I had times where my faith was not put into question, but more reaffirmed. You see, in the pursuit of science, there are many of us who find that what theories and laws prove just keep pointing back to an intelligent design. To me, it reaffirms my belief in God. There were times when Christians viewed science as evil, and times where science looked at Christians as a group of ignorant nut jobs. I felt a conviction when I started the pursuit of my degree, one that stays with me.

After I graduated, I did the time until I finally got an interview for a gig that required my degree. I was given the position, and it has led to an awesome career, meeting some great people from around the nation. Around that time I also welcomed my first child, a son, to this Earth. Three years later, his brother joined us. They would rather be outside, than anywhere else. They may have been bitten by the bug as well.

So, you are probably like “Wow, this dude rambles more than the Allman Brothers (#seewhatIdidthere)” and you would be right. But my calling comes from all those experiences. My calling came from that I always wanted to and my heroes of my youth held our Earth and the pursuit of wild game in the highest of respect. My calling comes from that I did not have the guidance I needed as a young sportsmen, and I want to assist someone who is in a similar situation or just needs a mentoring. My calling comes from my love of the thunder of a gobble, I live for the grunt in the crisp air, and for the fight on the line. My calling comes from the fact a stick and string resonates to the core of my being in a primal sense that connects me to my ancestors. My comes from that I want to be the one who provided my family with the most organic protein on this Earth. My calling is derived from the fact I do not believe that science shows us to stay way and “let it go natural”; that in many scenarios we must do our part to repair what we have neglected. My calling comes from the fact I am a dumb hillbilly who cares more about the land and its resources than the media would leave you to believe. I believe it is my calling by the good Lord above to protect our natural resources and preach the message of environmental stewardship. I cannot wait for the day to teach my grandchildren, and I need to be ready to make them not only better hunters and stewards, but better people. All of this, and then some.

Whats yours?

Universal Sound

By Tyler Ross

” I focus on my breathin’ and the universal sound
I let it take me over from the toenails to the crown
Of the body that I’m in till they put me in the ground
And I return to the chorus of the universal sound….

I’ve been up on the mountain
And I’ve seen His wondrous grace
I’ve sat there on a barstool and I’ve looked him in the face
He seemed a little haggard, but it did not slow him down
He was hummin’ to the neon of the universal sound…”

Every year at this time, it seems there is something spiritual happening. From migrations with butterflies and birds to the start of the bugling of the Elk, to the first glimpse of a leaf beginning its journey back to the ground. Its something that I long for and want to hold on to every single year.

As I write this, I am reflecting on what all I have been privileged to experience and see over the past few weeks. See, for my job I have to do some training’s and then some more training’s and then even more. Its “gubment” life and is what it is. A few weeks ago I went through a technical training that focused on Soil Health. The science that we have observed shows us the benefits of viewing the soil as a functioning ecosystem and how when we focus on it, how well it sustains the new life of plants and other biota that we as humans rely on. A really cool thing to learn about and even cooler to see implemented. Ill nerd out on Soil Health later.

But the training that I had that shook me the most was about how we work with other communities and user groups with my job and my federal counterparts work. The training I went with was focusing on the Native Tribes and their people here in our country. I was privileged to meet some awesome folks who are tribal members of different tribes across our nation, as the facilitated and instructed the class. From their history to their culture to their stories I was hooked. But the part that I could not get enough of was when they spoke of their faith. See, we have such a odd view on that in the world we live in. Faith has been perverted and twisted into a bad word and viewed as oppressive by a large majority of the population. But with the people and communities I learned about last week, it is a part of their day to day and even hour to hour. I wont delve into many of their beliefs because it is a privilege that is given by each tribes elders on what can be shared to folks outside of the community. Not in a “us vs them” or “outsider” sense, but more of a respect of the integrity of their people.

One thing I will talk about is how many of the tribes speak of Creator and the charge that was given to them for how they interact on the landscape and with each other. Its primal and a feeling that you feel to your core. The feeling that you get when you look at a creek bottom after the leaves have fallen and the deer trails are popping. The feeling you get when you are on a ridge looking over Creation. The feeling you get when you hear a turkey fire off with a gobble that shakes not only the hills, but your being. The feeling that starts stirring and keeping us up at night, or causing us to stare out the window as we begin to prepare to participate. That feeling comes from the same place and may even be the same thing as when you are with the one you love. Hear your childs first laugh, and even their first cry. The feeling you get when you are with your tribe and your people. The feeling I felt when I watched a Godly woman raise her hands in joy while tears streamed down her face praising God for the good news of a premature baby being alive and well. The same feeling one gets when they have to let a love one pass and think of the times with them. I cant help but think it is a primal connection we all share.

That same feeling is currently pulsing from my heart through my fingertips as I write this. See, in a few hours, I will climb into the back seat of a Suburban and head West with 3 of my best friends; 3 of my brothers. We started the planning for this awhile ago and as the day draws near to where it is actually about to happen, that primal feeling of love, anticipation, excitement, some anxiety and some others is radiating throughout me. I cant contain my excitement. I cant relinquish my nerves. I am getting ready to go and interact on the Creators handiwork. Its time. Its happening across the land. Man, I wish I could bottle this up.

As we head out, I cant help but think if those who came before and those who will follow behind. I hope those that follow keep this flame burning. I also hope that I can honor those who came before. The best way I know to honor an icon and innovator from our community that just passed is to do my part to make sure that 4 Kuiu Icon Pro 5200s are hauling Elk out of a canyon. Rest easy Mr. Hairston.

I hope you all have a great start to your season and have the time and ability to light that flame in someone else.

The 21st Century Conservationist Approach

By: Chad A. Rischar

Let’s go ahead and air out a singular issue that effects the 21st century conservation approach, the public is a fickle mistress. Working forward, we must accept that the public is hell-bent on recreational public outrage, most notably when the keyboard is involved. Let’s set aside the “fickle” aspect and come to terms with what appears to be constant reality- conservation values are often viewed in a negative perspective. Conservation values are quite subjective, so I’ll qualify my definition for the record. Conservation, as it relates to this post, is grounded in wanderlust, an educated framework of desired future outcome, and simply a mindset of a multi-generational vision of quality fish and wildlife habitat. If you didn’t experience wanderlust at a young age, I invite you to make room in your soul and schedule for the next chance to experience waderlust- if only for a weekend. Conservation is what you endow to achieve and the general plight to realize success for generations in the womb of time. Conservation should be considered a long-term approach to land stewardship, natural resource management, and equitable sustainability.

Conservation is just as simple as voting. Those that participate in the process are ultimately engaged in the final results. Sorting through random issues of politics often results in a sour palate. Such the same with conservation practices and values. The struggle is quite real and palatable. Let’s collectively overcome those hurdles, and move forward with an individualized approach to 21st century conservation values. Conservation is bi-partisan and should be accepted as an economic gain. No shortage of GDP and eco-tourism data to support the commentary. The economic value of the outdoor industry is a substantial and sustainable source of our gross domestic product. Don’t just take it from me, research the value of the outdoor industry from sources such as the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

Why is conservation viewed in a seemingly negative light? It’s quite frustrating because it should be a copper grounded for folks engaged in the outdoor lifestyle. Not just hunting and angling, but stargazing, mountain biking, backpacking, and anyone who simply enjoys the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. If you enjoy vistas of glacier till mountains, longleaf pine flatwoods, or water scoured creeks- this concept of conservation resonates. I invite you to become engaged in the conservation movement and thread your personal needle of success. The majority of folks I spend time with enjoy their time in the field viewing natural landscapes, pursuing fish and game, recreational fitness challenges, and simply unwinding from the daily grind.

Education and awareness is undoubtedly the initial plunge to success. Choose a pathway of conservation wisely and a corridor that suits your personality. Research local non-governmental organizations, national conservation groups, and everything inside the pie of engagement. Set a personal goal to be a more informed and participate organizations that you believe add value to your thread and nodes of conservation. Consider stepping outside your comfort zone a touch and perhaps realize that you’ll dial in on your tribe of like-minded folks. If you’re not making an effort to conserve future access and outdoor opportunities, you’re basking in the principle of neutrality. We must all allocate the time and resources to progress the mutual gain of conservation values. If our society wishes to enjoy the pleasures of public lands and access to the capacity we do today, we must be proactive and vocalize our resounding message of conservation.

Self education and a focused awareness of conservation are valuable approaches to engaging with conservation values. Several noteworthy congressional acts are important to be aware of, especially as it relates to context of funding sources in the firearm, hunting, and angling sphere. The following congressional acts are commonly viewed as “ use knows”. The Land and Water Conservation Fund established by Congress in 1964 is a powerful program that provides substantial funding opportunities both locally and nationwide. The Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 is an 11% excise tax on firearms, archery equipment, and ammunition. The taxes generated are directed from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the Secretary of the Interior and apportioned to States on a formula basis for paying up to 75 percent of the cost approved projects. The extensive list of successful projects and immense funding to support hunting, firearm safety courses, and land acquisition projects, etc. is vast and impressive. If the aquatic lifestyle resonates with your lifestyle, the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 provides Federal aid to the States for management and restoration of fish having “material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and/or fresh waters of the United States.” In addition, amendments to the Act provide funds to the states for aquatic education, wetlands restoration, boat safety and clean vessel sanitation devices (pumpouts), and a nontrailerable boat program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Law Digest website maintains a digital and searchable catalogue for relatable Federal laws and acts.

Define and determine your conservation approach and spread the good word. I invite you to conduct your own research and become aware of national, state, and local policies that may affect your conservation values- both positively and negatively. Be mindful that supporting what you determine to be valuable conservation-relaated issues can often result in a more powerful outcome that recreational public outrage through social media outlets.


I went on a run this morning. Nothing too crazy. Not a lot of miles done (3.4 miles) in a pretty sweet little town here in WNC called Weaverville. I grew up here and even though I didn’t have a Weaverville address for a long time, it’s part of my greater neighborhood, and was instrumental in the path I have found myself on.

As some of you may know, I have been participating in the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Hike to Hunt in addition to a training regime to prepare myself for my first western hunt on public land in the West (I know, fitness…. I promise you will be alright reading about it) in Idaho for elk this September. I have been primarily hiking weighted as well as doing some running on occasion. The primary point being that I do this on lands that are held in the public trust. I have logged miles on Pisgah and Nantahala, and State owned game lands and parks. This morning when I was stretching I checked my mileage for the challenge. I was at 97.35 miles. This run was going to get my 100 miles. In anticipation of that, I went to Weaverville and to Lake Louise.

I grew up going to Lake Louise for birthday parties, walking down to it while visiting my Papaw John and Aunt Rose, to wet a line on a lazy summer day, and also to get ready for a Yellowstone Backpacking Trip in my youth. If there was a GPS tracker that followed my upbringing, Lake Louise would be a frequent stop. A most recent treasured memory of mine that occurred on this little body of water happened last summer. We went to a birthday party celebrating a friend of ours youngest, and while we were there, we got to take the kids fishing. 5 kids ripping lips on some little bream and pan fish is one of the greatest things to witness. My best friend since the first grade helped my oldest bring in about 5 fish in a 10 minute time span. When it came time to cut the cake, we had to drag the kids away. The words to describe what I felt while watching that escape me. If I had the vocabulary of an accomplished author and editor, I think they would still allude the experience.

The Lake was a donation in 1936 from Louise Moore Hornady and her husband, to the town of Weaverville. The donation of land for public use is, in my opinion, one of the most selfless acts we can witness. When I get to the other side, I look forward to thanking Louise for her gift to WNC.

Another really cool thing about Lake Louise is the park that goes around it. Built in the early 1980s, this park has been a place for tons of swinging competitions, kid races, faster-down-the-slide tournaments, young love, heart breaks, celebrations and I am pretty sure it is heavily revered by the senior waterfowl feeding aficionado’s of the Southeast. But what’s really spectacular about this park is how it came to fruition. See, this park was not the product of some crazy tax by the county or town on the tax base. This park was not part of some referendum or bond. This park was made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, also known as the LWCF. I won’t delve into the history of the program but will yield to much smarter folks than I. This info can be found here from the good folks at the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Currently, there is a non-partisan (see, it’s a thing, that can happen) bill out to permanently reauthorize the LWCF sponsored by Maria Cantwell out of Washington and Richard Burr from my state, North Carolina. Currently S-896 has only been read twice and has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I urge folks to contact their senators and other federally elected folks and ask them to fast track addressing the re authorization on LWCF, which is due to expire on September 30, 2018. Here is a list of projects from RMEF that were supported by LWCF.

If you do not have the time or the words to reach out to your elected folks, I encourage you to go here and use BHAs’ form, or edit it to your liking, to reach out to your representatives.

As always, get in the arena

Backcountry Strutter… Part 2

Part 1 can be found here

I had bought my hammock the evening before at Wal-Mart, which was Mistake #2 .  We set up our hammocks up aways from the fire ring and started laying out the plans for the morning. Brandon talked about how it might be difficult to get up and get back to the spot we heard them fly up at. I laid down and put my fleece blanket over me. Mistakes 3 and 4  are together right here. I brought a fleece blanket, not a sleeping bag. Because I “didn’t wanna burn up” and guess what? I didn’t! I froze! It was 37 degrees that night with a nice crisp wind. And to add to it, I didn’t have any form of insulation between my back and the ground. Just the hammock. I laid on the hammock with nothing underneath me.

I tossed and turned and then got up to put ALL my clothes on. And then a lone whippoorwill noticed me. It decided I needed company, and began to talk to me. He had some buddies come over as well. It was 2 am and I was shivering and listening to a chorus of Whippoorwills as I tried to sleep. It did not work. After fighting it, I decided my wake up time would be at about 4 am. Sun still had some time to come up, heck, Brandon and Johnathan still had an hour so before they wanted to be up for breakfast. So I just walked around. I wasn’t happy. I was freezing. I had a newly found hatred for nocturnal songbirds.

Brandon woke up soon after, because I was tromping around. Johnathan got up when he aimed to and we had a quick breakfast and I believe some coffee. We got our packs and gear and guns and started up to the spot. Not gonna lie, I was not in great spirits. I wanted to go home and sleep. I already assumed this hunt was going to be horrible. Mistake 5, I assumed.

Upon arriving to the edge where we had “pinned” some birds, we got a few things out and started waiting on some of the woods to wake up. We agreed to a 15 minute window between calls if nothing was gobbling. We then went silent as the tomb. On private land, we probably would not have been as cautious or quiet. We knew what to expect there, however on this part of Pisgah, we had no idea what to expect. Sun came up. Nothing. Johnathan let out some light yelps. Nothing. I did a bit of a fly down and we roughed up the grass behind us. Nothing. Brandon started yelping. Nothing. We then went to my favorite move. Before I tell you the move I want to lay something out. We had done every hen call and action you ever hear. We yelped, did some cackling, a kee-kee run, ruffled leaves, all of it. Yelped while another yelped and another just kept doing occasional clucks. It was the 3rd week of the season. This was public land. I opted for a Hail Mary. I told Brandon to start yelping and I pulled out my favorite call. It is a walnut Down-N-Dirty Outdoors Haint Gobble call. When Brandon started his second cadence of yelps, I thundered over him with a gobble. He started into his 3rd and I hammered the call again. Across the far distance we heard a lonely gobble, Im talking every bit of 200 yards or more on the other side of a huge draw with lots of timber. I started to look to Brandon when I heard another gobble that came from right at our camp. All 3 of our eyes lit up and we took off running towards camp. While we were running I told Brandon and Johnathan to set up while I threw some decoys out on a logging road.** I know, not smart to use decoys on public land. I know, some of you view decoys as cheating. Come here and hunt. Ill guide you. Then tell me about how unfair it is, or unsafe** Johnathan and Brandon set up along the bank and I put the ole trusty Funky Chicken and 2 hens out on the logging road and got back behind them. The bird gobbled again and I told them I would get further behind them in the case he hung up at when he saw the decoys. Maybe I would be far enough behind them that he would come in closer.

I called and the bird fired back one more time and then he stopped talking. Brandon and I texted back and forth and after about 45 minutes I got the “We are going to go look at the last place we heard him” I responded that I was going to hunt back near where we started that morning out. I eased back and found a spot where I assumed (refer to Mistake 5) I could see and be fairly concealed. After about 10 minutes I let out a yelp. I waited and was about to grab my slate when I heard that Thunder we all chase. He had to be in the 125-175 yard range and I answered with a gobble while yelping on my slate (slate was on the ground, one hand running the slate, the other working the Haint. Its tough, but a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then). I hadn’t even got the call out of my mouth when he gobbled at 70 yards and I started to look in his direction. My shotgun had been resting across my midsection down to my toes and was nowhere near being ready to rock. Only thing I had in my favor was that it was aimed in the general direction the bird just gobbled in. I grabbed and started easing up when I saw the tip of his fan, coming up the hill. The tail dropped and his head crested the hill, staring right at the tree I was at the base of, and probably right at me. He started to do the head bob that anyone who has chased these birds knows all too well; he was about to putt and take off.

The second I recognized  that he was wise to my presence, I went into a zone. It seemed time slowed for him and gave me just a hair more speed. I remember getting the bead on his head. I assumed (#5) 55-60 yards. I punched the trigger, didn’t squeeze. I could see him then I couldn’t. He disappeared from sight and I jumped up. While I was getting up and looking I heard “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” and watched as he started gaining altitude. I didn’t even think of my gun, I didn’t even think of giving it a pump and drawing up on him. My heart sank as he hit about 30 feet off the ground. I assumed ( yep, #5 again) that I had just hit him bad, if I even hit him and that he was flying off. Then, he started a rapid uncontrolled descent as only one wing seemed to be working. He hit the ground about 90 yards from where I stood in a tree line. My heart bolted back into my chest and a primal surge pulsed threw  my body as I hit my knees and started giving thanks! I had just killed a bird on Pisgah! I assumed (#5) he was down and began to bow my head. As I was closing my eyes I noticed a black blob limping up the hillside from the treeline to some big timber. That joker was running with one wing flapping in the wind! That sucker had about 90 yards on me and I started sprinting!

In most seasons, you have to have a plug in your shotgun. I keep a plug in mine, so I only had 3 shells. One had been spent already, so I had 2 left. I got to what I assumed to be 35 yards (#5) from the gobbler and fired. He never stopped. I ran and got right at 15 yards and let that Remington sing out and rolled him.

Where he took his last breath

I walked up prepared to use the 870 as a club in the case he was still with it. As I sat there reflecting, I became aware of a buzzing from my pocket and grabbed my cell phone. “You alright?” ” Yea man, I got one!” “Awesome! did you miss or something? We thought you were under attack or something.” “Ha. Close. Ill meet you guys where we roosted those birds” I hung up and called my buddy Jordan. He answered and I told him all about the hunt. We laughed and I still couldn’t believe it. Had to call Daniel and my wife as well. I took the turkey and my vest and shotgun and set them at the spot I told Brandon to meet me at and started back to get my shells. When I started heading back, I saw that I incorrectly assumed at the vantage of the spot I chose to sit at. That bird had all sorts of cover coming from the bottom of that hill. I didn’t realize how much it dipped off. I walked to my 3rd shell and picked it up and passed by where the bird was when I missed with the second shot. I stepped it off to where the 2nd shell was and saw that I was off by about 10 yards on that shot…. I guessed 35 and he was dead at 45. I walked back to the tree I sat at and walked off to where I found feathers. Lets just say, it was in that moment I realized why I didn’t kill that bird with his first shot. When you are shooting a bird while assuming it is about 55 yards off, when it is actually 70 yards off… it isn’t going to go how you planned. Assuming, it will get ya.

Pisgah Bird before we headed out.

Brandon and Johnathan arrived and the high fives and back pats commenced while I laid everything out about the tale to them. We started hiking back to camp to break it down and stopped and grabbed my decoys. Johnathan carried the bird a little ways and then Brandon switched back to it. Between the 2 of them we determined the bird was probably in the 18-19 pound range and his beard was just short of 8″. His spurs had just started to turn at 7/8″. He was a two year old bird, by no means the biggest or oldest I have been blessed to kill, but he was my first bird on NF land. Getting him out was a bit of a chore as my pack is not conducive to game recovery. I had to call and get his number before I could start cutting on him so we strapped him to my back and I gained a new appreciation for awkward pack outs.

A little string and some prayer.

Remember how I had been freezing? Well, I put on a lot of clothes, and a lot of warm ones at that. In the picture above I am wearing fleece lined pants, a t-shirt with a cold gear base layer, than my sweatshirt. I had been wearing a jacket and some pants base layers prior to the harvest, but took them off and put them in my pack after walking around to get my shells. I had no other pants and no other shirts with me. I took off what I could and started the trek out… Spring time here the temps swing pretty good. I got up that morning in the 30s and hiked out in the high 50s/low 60s. Needless to say, it was a hot one.

Had my wool socks pulled down and my pants pulled up while we headed out. Unbearably hot.

When we got to the parking lot, I remembered I had jeans and a t-shirt in Brandons 4Runner. The “parking lot” here was the end of an old dirt road with a turn around and a spot to pull off the road. We all started loading up and changing while I knelt down and called in the bird. With my knife waiting patiently I scribbled the letters down as Johnathan and Brandon changed. After writing down my confirmation number I exclaimed “Alright, time to cut this sucker.” Johnathan laughed and Brandon smiled, but the couple who were hiking on the AT and happened out of the woods at that moment gasped. They walked on a burly man with a beard half naked, with another man in mid change and a flunky on his knees with a knife about to cut into a turkey. We all smiled and the husband looked nervous as he asked the proximity of a town off the AT that a lot of hikers frequent. I think he then tried to make some small talk about the turkey, but the look transfixed to the face of his wife is what held our attention. She looked from Johnathan to Brandon to my knife to the turkey. I almost committed Mistake #5 again before she spoke up and said “Thats a good bird” with a smile on her face. I put the knife down and started putting my tag and license up as they went on their way. After they were gone we started cleaning the bird and found a few BBs in the breast. A very few. But that wing that was broke bore the brunt of the Winchester XR Long Beard. Broke in 2 places, one from the shot and the other from the fall. After getting the breast out and the legs off, we wrapped the rest of the bird up and headed out. I looked back to the woods we had just left and heard Brandon say “See you next year”. Truer words have never been spoken.

Get out amongst it folks. Its no elk hunt in the great vast wilderness of the West. But it is a freaking good time. Follow it up with some fishing and you have a great weekend for the spring. Look forward to hearing from calla bout any turkey adventures this spring!

Also, don’t assume, practice yardage, think for warmth…




Backcountry Strutter

My buddy Brandon walking in for our first backcountry turkey hunt last April on Pisgah NF

Since the turkey podcast and articles are popping up, I figured I would share a turkey hunt from last April that occurred on public land here in WNC. Enjoy!

I am very fortunate to work with some cool folks across NC, but even more so for working with one of my good friends Brandon. He and I grew up together in church and back packed Yellowstone when were in highschool. The tale of how we ended up working together is pretty swell as well, but that is for another time.

At our annual meeting for work, we struck up conversation with one of our colleagues from another county, Jonathan. We started taking about some past hunts and Jonathan started reminiscing on his days at the greatest university in the world in Cullowhee, NC (GO CATS!!) and how he missed the trout fishing and the mountains in general. He started talking to us about some stories from his time at Western and how bad he just wanted to get back up there. Brandon offered up the idea of a weekend of backpacking, turkey hunting and fly fishing. All of us agreed that it sounded like a great idea. After the meeting ended and we all went back to our respective field offices, we told Jonathan that we would figure out a spot if he would let us know a date. He has 2 boys that are in their early teens/tweens and that would be a busy time of year for them.

Finding a spot wasn’t too shabby for me and Brandon. We work in a county with 50,000 + of Pisgah NF, and knew the hot spots in other counties for trout. But we were skeptical about birds on federally managed land. Not a lot of edge on the lands here, and even less ESH (Early Successional Habitat) which would make a tough hunt, even tougher. We finally settled on a spot and left one day after work to go scout where we were going. Found some deer sign, saw a few squirrels nest and no turkey sign. I think we found a feather, but cannot remember. It was a speed trip and our optimism was very minimal. But, we called Jonathan and let him know the where, as he relayed to us the when.

The day arrived and I brought in my Remington 870 12 gauge and hunting pack, newly acquired hammock, fleece blanket and other stuff for our hunt. Checked our food, water and phones and started in. We walked through some awesome deer bedding and sign as we went to the spot we had decided on through some e-scouting.

Heading in.

Total hike in didn’t take too awful long and we started getting camp set up. As we walked in, a rare thing happened; a grouse drummed the whole time. We actually bumped it a few times, but it stayed around us and drummed throughout the day. Jonathan had about a 3 hour commute, so Brandon and I did some exploring and scouting to see what we could see. After checking out our surroundings and getting dome rocks so we could build a fire ring, it occurred ot me that I needed to send Jonathan something so that he could find us. Mistake 1, I sent him our coordinates as a pin through Apple Maps. Close to us was a very large burn/salvage cut that was in approximately its 5th year of regeneration. Now, in the Southern Apps, that is thicker than a bamboo patch and one of the primary species that grows back is greenbrier. Other species that are around during this time are raspberry, blackberry and the invasive we all know and hate, multiflora rose. All this stickiness goodness was growing on that hill, and guess what? The pin I sent Jonathan was located directly at the top of this hill.

After about an hour after sending the pin, I heard clanking of pots bouncing on a pack like someone was walking down the trail. I let out a whistle and the sound didn’t stop. I whistled again and the clanking stopped and I assumed Jonathan had heard us and was headed our way. Brandon and I started building a fire ring and messing around the campsite and about another 45 minutes went by. Still no Jonathan. I walked up the hill to where I had reception and called Jonathan. He answered and sounded like he had just invaded Normandy on his own. Brandon set out up the trail hollering for him and Jonathan started making his way back down.

To do justice to what the next scene is, I must describe Jonathan. Brandon and I are of medium height and build fluctuating on the scales in the 155-165 region at about 5’9″. We have an athletic build with a little loving around the waste from our appreciation of certain red meats and craft beer. Jonathan shares those appreciations, but he has a different build. Jonathan exceeds 6′ and weighs about 200lbs or more. The amount of body fat on his body is directly proportionate to the amount of honest politicians in this world; maybe 3%. For fun, Jonathan picks up boulders in his yards and moves them around. Boulders people, flipping boulders. He follows a fairly strict work out regiment and is a freaking beast. He keeps his head shaved and has a fairly majestic beard that is reminiscent of a Tolkien novel. Generally has a very pleasure disposition, and his only fear is me. I joke, but seriously, he would never back talk me….

Brandon found Jonathan, or rather Jonathan found him. I heard Brandon give a little shout as Jonathan popped out. When they walked up, I could tell why. Jonathan had followed my pin to the top of the thickness. He was dripping in sweat, he was covered in scratches and he had just gained 500+ feet in elevation over a 1/2 mile. Brandon’s word to describe Jonathan popping out of the regeneration were along the lines of “All of a sudden I saw these 2 huge eyes and Jonathan appeared and he was covered in scratches, had some blood, dripping sweat and he wasn’t smiling. His beard and eyes were possibly the scariest thing I have ever encountered in the woods.” I could speculate that was very accurate. Lord knows I would have no desire to have that walk up on me!

After he called his wife and told her that he was safe he just looked like he had been “raped by a honey badger” we set up hammocks and started out to see fi we could roost one. We walked a bit from camp and came close to a clearing and let out a few yelps. Nothing. We waited and laid up against a bank as the sun sank over the horizon. The beauty of these mountains is indescribable, my attempt to compliment the Makers handiwork would fall short and most assuredly be blasphemous to the beauty of the landscape. I was snapped out of my trance by the sounds of wings beating. I gave a soft yelp and looked in the direction of the wings. We had found where the hens were roosting.

As we headed back to our camp, I spoke with Brandon and Jonathan about how we would get on those birds in the morning. I rambled on and on and was quieted only when Brandon gave me my Ramen Noodles. We sat there and told tales as the fire was glowing and the flames were adding to the story in a language we couldn’t speak fluently, but somehow we understood.





What Are You?

The following is a piece by my dear friend Sean Clarkson. Recently, I started a Facebook group called “Talkin’ Conservation”. The following is a post that I hope to immortalize through this website as well as the FB group. Feel free to look us up. – Tyler


What are you?

When someone asks that question in the context of conservation and our pursuit heritage, how do you answer that question? Among all the challenges we, as conservationists and sportsmen/women, face how you answer that question is perhaps the greatest of them all.

One of the most ancient paradigms in warfare and in social politics is captured by the Roman maxim “Dīvide et Imperā”; “Divide and Conquer”. Sun Tzu, Phillip of Macedon, Caesar, Napoleon; one can trace throughout history the effectiveness of this maxim in defeating and ruling their opponents. The opposition is identified, divisions identified or created within them, exploited, and victory then is assured. We see examples of it around us today in geopolitics, in social politics, and in sports. It is undeniably effective. And we, conservationists and especially “sportsmen/women”, have divided ourselves. The single act that those who oppose conservation and our heritage need most to accomplish has been done for them by us, willingly and unwittingly. We are no longer “conservationists”, or “sportsmen/women”, and not even merely “hunters” or “anglers”. We are “deer hunters”, “sheep hunters”, “elk hunters”, “turkey hunters”, “duck hunters”, “bear hunters”, “bowhunters” (made even worse by the “traditional bowhunter” vs “compound bowhunter”, etc., divide). We are “bass anglers”, “trout anglers”, “flyfishers”, “saltwater anglers”. We are “public land/water” hunters and anglers. We are “mountain hunters”, and “swamp hunters”; “dog hunters”, “still hunters”, “tree stand hunters”, “spot-and-stalk hunters”; “solo hunters” and “team hunters”; “meat hunters” and “trophy hunters”. The same goes for anglers. We divide ourselves on every tool, and habitat, and species, and facet or factor we can find. We’ve broken ourselves out into these camps, and we’re extremely proud of our separateness to the point of aggressiveness to and defensiveness against all other camps. This goes well beyond the championing of our totem species with magazines and banquets, apparel and bumper stickers; it goes into fighting among ourselves for special seasons, regulations, legislation, management and allocation of resources, and anything else we can possibly pull into “our camp” to the detriment of the “others”. If you don’t believe me, please attend the next meeting of your state’s legislative committees overseeing game management, or simply pick up any number of glossy magazines in your local book dealer. Or, just peruse social media. You’ll quickly find that we, as what used to be known as conservationists and sportsmen/women, are now locked in “battle” not against any groups or organizations that seek to diminish conservation or our heritage but among ourselves.

Teddy Roosevelt knew that we, as sportsmen and women, inherited and hold in trust for those still in the womb of time our most ancient human legacy of pursuit and of the demand of conservation. And yet, today, we are closer than we have ever been to losing it all. Yes, we still do amazing work for game and non-game species. Yes, we still collectively put hundreds of millions of dollars into conservation and on-the-ground, in-the-water every year. Yes, we still have our abilities to do these things. For now. Every year there are less and less of us. Every year, we lose a little bit more of our heritage and of management of habitat and resources in places like California, New Jersey, British Columbia, and across the globe. And, I can assure you that this happens wherever you are as well. Each of those loses, both in numbers and on specific issues, brings us one step closer to losing it all. Rome was not built in a day, nor did it fall in a day, but “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Luke 11:24-25). Instead of standing against each of these loses, together, we turn inwardly to our own camp and write it off as the problem of one of those “other” camps. Instead of looking at the decreases across our combined ranks, we worry only about whether we have what we consider “enough” within our own camp. When trapping is attacked, where are the turkey hunters? When the use of hounds is attacked, where are the sheep hunters? When the numbers of license sales fall 2 MILLION over the course of a half dozen years, are we all collectively working to figure out why and reverse the trend, or are we looking within our own camp and talking about how many of “us” there are? Did not Martin Niemöller warn us sufficiently about this?

Yes, we must police our own ranks. Yes, we must figure out how to better present ourselves and our heritage. Yes, we must once again take control of the conversation about the management of our resources, wresting this away from the equally misguided preservationists who seek to lock everything away and the destructionists who seek to extract maximum short-term gain at the expense of posterity. Yes, we must do all manner of things to improve what we do and how we do it, for the heritage we hold in trust and for the conservation of the species that we love beyond our limited ability to express. Yes, these things are true, and so many more.

Yet, we are going to lose the chance to do any of these things because we have divided ourselves so effectively that we no longer even see other sportsmen/women as our own. Instead of our prideful independence as “____ hunters” and “_____ anglers”, we need to recognize our dependence on all those “other” groups and realize that the only divisions between us are created by us for the benefit of none of us. We’re all conservationists and sportsmen/women, and that is who and what we should be first and last, for our heritage of pursuit and for our legacy of conservation. Can we once again simply be a “hunter”, an “angler”; a “conservationist”, a “sportsman/woman” instead of some needless faction within? I say that we can, and in the words of Benjamin Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

To the question of “what am I?”, I answer “I am a hunter; I am an angler; I am a conservationist; I am a sportsman.” What say you? – Sean Clarkson

Sean Clarkson is a devoted father of two daughters, and husband to an incredible woman. A native Virginian with roots several centuries deep in that red clay, Sean is an avid outdoorsman pursuing whatever is in season by whatever means he can. A career conservationist with more degrees than necessary, he would most want to share a campfire with Aldo Leopold, Fred Bear, Teddy Roosevelt, John Colter, Harry Selby, Derzu Uzala, and whomever was first across the Bering Sea land bridge.

5 ways to Honor our Conservation Heritage


Davidson River Transylvania County NC

It is a weird time isn’t it? Last night the government shut down again. A dude who didnt pay his fees and was acquitted of charges is being paraded as a hero of civil liberties and private property rights. But there are some constants that we should all know by now; folks in office are still pointing fingers every which way but at themselves, and people still turn into keyboard warriors over fixed blade versus mechanical. What a time to be alive.

With all this going on, its easy for us to slip into the mud slinging and flag waving in the “us vs them” scenario that is found in almost every single issue. For example, Cliven Bundy is on tour across the country starting in Montana today. As well all know Mr. Bundy and others held up at a Wildlife Refuge (that is yours) in protest of “Federal seizure of land” and other atrocities he claims have happened due to federal oversight. He ran the flag up of “us vs them” facing off with the federal land managers. Which is his right (to protest, not take over our land), and the rights of those who joined him. However, he did so with half truths and flat out lies. If you have not heard the facts about public land ownership, particularly in the federal realm, there is loads of information out there. Factually accurate sources like Randy Newbergs Hunt Talk Radio where he covers the laws and history of the lands and statehood of Western states. Randy is a model for how we as conservationist should act. He recognizes that in order to honor our heritage of being the most devout conservationist on this Earth, we are called to be efficient and honest.

How do you and I do this?

1.) Be knowledgeable – In today’s age of technology there is so much information at our fingertips. Google is an excellent tool. Online forums are also excellent ways to gain knowledge. But, they also have one major flaw; a lot of the information is derived from emotion and opinions. There are keyboard warriors all over and armchair biologist just waiting to rage out on the keys. I myself, am guilty of this. Probably still am.* But, if the issue is based on a practice or requirements of a species or anything along those lines, I put a “scholar.” in front of Google. This resource sends you to a plethora of peer-reviewed articles based on scientific research. Now, some require a subscription and what not, but abstracts can hit a lot of the study. Also, if it was performed at certain USDA Research Stations, the article in its entirety is available. Language can be somewhat complex, but I hope emojis and the acronyming of everything has not won out yet. Also, if it is a bill, there is generally a way to find it written out. This is a spot where folks lose their minds. This is a place for speculation and emotion and crazy assumptions. Some may be well founded. Some, not so much. Read, discuss, research, discuss some more.

2.) Let emotion fuel the desire to find the facts- One of the coolest things about those of us who participate on the landscape is that we are so emotionally charged and invested into the resources. From clean air and clean water and protecting soil to providing wildlife habitat, we are at the fore front. And it is something that swells me up with pride watching folks come together to do our part for that which we love. But dont let that emotion get out of control. Use it to grasp a better understanding of an issue, but above all, to find the facts. In my career and my personal volunteering on conservation measures I have seen folks come from a place of emotion and speculation.  Their heart was in the right place, but they did not come from a place of facts. Their credibility has eroded. They created divisions that are still not mended and have slowed down progress on many fronts. We owe it to our predecessors and those who come behind us to come from a place of facts. Facts matter.

3.) Be respectful- Dont be that guy/gal. When I say that I am referring the guy/gal who starts the personal attacks in person or on the keyboard (a lot of that lately) and completely regresses to some schoolyard punk. You can have a civil discussion with folks. If they change their tone and raise their voice or they begin the personal attacks, its best to just acknowledge the point you are making and take the high road. Even if they deserve a good cussing or beating.

4.) Leave the party line out of it- This times a million. If you still think that either party cares about you as a hunter, as a conservationist, as an individual; I would argue you have had blinders on your whole life. The left primarily hates the 2nd amendment and is not as friendly to hunters as one would think. The right wants to transfer your land and limits conservation work and agencies abilities to function. They do not care about you. I am sorry if this hurts. But it is true. Recently, I was having a beer with some folks and one of the gentlemen made the statement “Hunters dont vote for folks who value public lands”. Instead of responding with a quirk about the 2nd amendment or constitutional amendments to protect hunting and fishing, I pondered on it for a while. Here is the truth of the matter; we need public lands to hunt and we need someone to protect our ability to do so (in every way). A candidate who does that may exist, but some folks also claim they have seen Bigfoot. Or we could just get Mr. Rinella to start a new version of the Bull Moose party….

5.) GET IN THE ARENA!!!!-  (this times a trillion)I am often fascinated by the comments I see in forums and groups on post about broadheads, which truck, measure my buck, QDM vs. TDM vs. Traditional. They hit the thousands in some venues. In those same groups though, I have seen (and made) post that are more about issues in the conservation and policy realm. Issues that directly impact your ability to pursue game. Public meetings, calls to actions and so on. It may hit 50 comments, very, very rarely have I seen any with 100 or more comments. Now, there are forums that are created just for these discussions, and they are great resources. However, not too many folks participate or are a part of these forums or groups. It hurts us all to not be involved, to not be engaged, to not USE YOUR VOICE! I hate going to meetings. I love being at home with my family. But, because of them I go to the meeting. Not saying I do not enjoy meeting and talking with fellow conservationist, I do, but I want to be home or in the woods. They may be an inconvenience, but it is a privilege to participate. If I do not go and speak on behalf of my sons, who will? If we look at what our predecessors endured, it is our DUTY.

With all of these points, try and think about what message it does for hunting and fishing. There are less and less of us. We need to recruit and retain. How are we going to add to our numbers and appeal to those who do not hunt if we engage in the same style of rhetoric as those we oppose?

Join a NGO like the RMEF, BHA, QDMA, NWTF or so on. Go to a meeting. Ask a question. Reach out to folks you see who are getting out there. If we do not do this, our future is looking pretty bleak and dismal.

Get in the Arena.

*I recently did this in a discussion (this morning) on the TRCP Facebook page. Had to go make a note in an edit. I made an assumption. But, I corrected it after learning I was wrong. Part of it