Category Archives: Conservation

Calling


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?

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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.

896

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

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.

Talking Points for the hunter

In my youth, I would engage in arguments or justify my actions in ways that lack maturity and understanding. I would regurgitate things that I had observed others use to defend their actions and/or decisions. I would just take these arguments as truths, because it is what I had heard, from folks who may have been older than me, or seemed to have more in common with me than other folks. In the hunting realm, I am seeing this on a daily basis. Resistance to so many different notions and ideas that go against the grain or what we have heard from others that we may look up to, or that we hold in high regard. Look, there is nothing wrong with looking up to those who took the time to teach or mentor you. I get it, we put those individuals on a pedestal. It’s a common occurrence.  But its starting to hurt us as a user group, way more than help us. Allow me to expand on the “truth” we have been told and we use to justify our actions in taking the life of an animal.

Hanging out in a stand of Chamaecrista fasciculata, commonly known as partridge pea on some state-owned game land. This plant is utilized by many game species and has been rarer on the landscape.

“If we do not hunt, the wildlife will populate at an unstable rate and then spread disease and die off. So, we help by keeping them in check.” This justification has played itself out. The examples of where this is legitimate is few and very far between. In fact, there are very few cases where overpopulation to the extent of disease is a thing. If it was, why are certain areas sterilizing deer to reduce the herd? Wouldn’t they rather just “Let nature take its course”? And rid themselves of the deer infestation with the mythical die off from the disease that allegedly is looming out there? The entire discussion is flawed and not one that is shared by many hunters, or biologist. I recognize that there are areas where this is a thing, (Connecticut, NJ, etc…), but not as widespread as one would believe after scouring social media. And it really is not a good conversation piece for those who do not hunt, or are opposed to hunting.

According to a  2011 National Survey  by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 6% of the nation participate in hunting, and the largest majority that hunts were the 45-54 age class. 6 % of the nation is now estimated to be around 5% now. The contributor to that decline covers a few variables, with people “aging” out, lack of access for hunters, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and so on. Why does that matter? Because on the other end of the spectrum sits an estimated 5% who are severely opposed to hunting. And the 90% that is in between are being suited hard by those who oppose. We see it in the mis-information of land management. We see it in the advertisements and “documentaries”. And we also see it when a decision is made that is less than admirable for hunters. So why does this matter? Because many know that hunting is in fact a privilege.

So what am I saying? I am saying that we need to get away from the close-minded, finger-pointing, name-calling, middle finger in the air attitudes that cause the division. I am not bashing certain campaigns on social media over hunters (primarily huntresses/female hunters) being bullied. But we need to be bigger and rise above. We have many examples on how to do that. Engaging in the old banter and holding “the line” of mis-information and ignorance is harming us on so many levels. I am all for voicing opinions, or sticking to your beliefs. I have a blog. And anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t shy away. However, I have been able to keep my mouth shut and my ears open in my older age. Voices like Shane Mahoney, Randy Newberg, Steven Rinella, Kip Adams, Lindsay Thomas, Craig Harper, and others are where we as hunters need to gather information to have actual intellectual conversations. We need to recognize where someone is coming from and then, in a respectful way, present our views on why we do what we do.

Unless you live under a rock, or just hate social interaction with fellow hunters, Steven Rinellas “Meat Eater” is a show that has done so many things to change the negative image of a hunter. Another excellent resource from Rinella and company is The MeatEater Podcast that comes out on a weekly basis. One of my all-time favorite podcast from Meat Eater is Episode 53, where they discuss the 5 talking points that we as hunters generally use and their overall effectiveness. To listen to the discussion (its pretty sweet and very informative) click the link above to give it a listen. They also discuss Pittman-Robertson, Dingle-Johnson, and other contributing factors to conservation in our country. They ranked them in order of effectiveness based off of the study, but instead of delving into each point, I am gonna go with my big 3. I am probably going to be way off of how they are categorized in the podcast, but I will go with what my thoughts are on the conversations we have.

Elk Scat found on some recently acquired gamelands. This is a testament to what we as hunters accomplish through conservation.

 

 

1.) We care so much about the resource and being ethical that we follow rules and guidelines while buying license and taking classes to be certified to pursue game. Many folks who do not participate in the pursuit of wild animals realize what all goes into being legal. In NC, after a certain birthdate, you have to take Hunters Safety. If you buy a license as a non-resident you must have your Hunters Safety Certification. We follow ethical pursuit of the game out of respect for the animal. Some folks take it a step further and restrict the equipment they use, or the age of the animal they are after.

2.) We pay an excise tax from Pittman-Robertson. The tax came from a time when we had NOTHING and we opted to take the burden on. It’s no secret the US was in bad shape in the 1930’s. even with all the financial burdens, even with the lack of food, jobs, etc… a group of folks told FDR they would bear the burden of restoring wildlife and wild places by placing a tax on themselves. Our predecessors asked for a tax on themselves to restore what had been wrecked…. Let that sink in. How many of you just jump at the idea of additional taxes? We went to war in 1776 for a 2% increase on tea. Our conversation forefathers had an 11% tax to restore wildlife and habitat degradation. In 1999 other user groups were asked to do the same through the Conservation Reinvestment Act. Introduced on February 10, 1999 the CRA would have a tax on other outdoor equipment similar to the Pittman-Robertson or Dangle-Johnson. The bill passed the House on May 11, 2000 and went to the Senate. It died there due to groups claiming that their users “paid too many taxes already”. Others had the opportunity and chose not to.

This is an older Elk rub on some gamelands in NC. This is the first one that I have seen with my own eyes in my own state. Hunters brought this species back. Hunters made the habitat available. Whats not to love?

3.) We use the meat harvested to sustain ourselves and our families. The meals provided are the healthiest forms of protein we can harvest. And for those who do not enjoy the taste of wild game (weirdos) there are many food banks who will take that meat and give it to those in need. Many conservation organizations, hunter organizations and farmer groups work together to provide for the less fortunate in their communities. Our primal call as hunters is to be a provider.

In closing, I would like for you to read and take to heart the words of renowned conservationist and one of my heroes Shane Mahoney.   “Wildlife and wild places no longer exist by accident or without the intervention of those that truly and deeply care.” This is a talking point. This is what is constantly left out of the discussion.

Get in the Arena.

My Letter to my Representative on Public Lands

*** This is an edit, the original was typed on my iPhone and contained spelling and grammatical issues that are beyond embarrassing***

 

 

Senator Tillis, Senator Burr, Congressman Meadows,

Gentlemen, I have only had the pleasure to meeting one of you, but I have been at places to hear all of you speak. I know I do not have to talk about your charge for the jobs you ran for. I am hoping that you listen to the constituents that elected you to our representative republic. And even the ones who may not have voted for you. Right or wrong, you got the gig. You are our voices in Washington. And today, I have something that I must say and hope is heard.

Congressman Meadows can tell you that I am one who will not shy away about my opinion. His office and inbox probably has my number and addresses marked. But I think the congressman would tell you that I am not acting from a place of biased emotion or opinion. When Congressman Meadows was elected into office it was at the beginning of the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest Plan Revision. That’s how I met him. I set an appointment and met with him to discuss lack of management, wildlife habitat and fuel load on our NF system in WNC.

Since the plan revision process started I have been blessed with 2 sons, and had 2 job changes. A 3 year process has turned into a 5 year cluster. The frustration stems from conservation versus preservation. It’s a tricky situation and emotions run high. Many of us disagree on how to manage the land. Some think wildlife habitat is a back door land grab for timber. Some think the pursuit of wildlife is barbaric. It is frustrating to say the least, but it is a disagreement I consider myself lucky to have. I differ in views of many of the forest users but I am beyond united with them on one front; our access to public land. They may not like a clearcut, may think fire is evil and they probably don’t like me. And I am cool with that. I want to have these discussions, I want to have these disagreements. It’s truly American.

Im sure you are all students of Teddy Roosevelt. A man of your own party who started the public lands. He envisioned lands for multiple use, a place for anyone to utilize and enjoy Gods creation. The strides he made for conservation of our natural resources and wildlife are second to none. I am beyond indebted to him and others from his time. I will not launch into a history lesson as you have undoubtedly already received from various individuals.  Public land ownership is, in my opinion, one of the most truly unique and amazing things about our nation. The ultimate disdain for tyranny is that there is no ruler, and there is no warden who watches the “Kings deer”. My sons are a part of a conglemorate of fellow citizens who own 640 million acres that are held to be managed by different agencies. As a young man who grew up with no family who owned land or the means to access private land, this resonates to the depths of my being.

The issues of public land management are complex, there is no denying that. It requires utilization of science while also being restricted by legislation and then public input/comments.  It’s tough, frustrating and makes those of us who live in the vicinity of federally managed land feel left out of the process. I know what that feels like. The feeling of being labeled as some “Hillbilly” who just wants to shoot the woods down, by an individual who vacations here is one we have been dealing with for a while. The lack of regard for sound science based management due to public misconception and legislation has driven many of us to wish for a drastic change.

But that change is not reflected in H.R. 621. H.R. 621 is, in my opinion, a result of disdain for responsibility and duty. Instead of looking at what is needed and how we accomplish this, someone listened to a snake-oil salesman and jumped to the “Let’s sale it” conclusion. When the going got tough the answer was “Let’s not find a solution, let’s just get rid of the problem.” Or, at least what has been deemed a problem. The ownership of the land is not a problem. Sure, its cumbersome and just another thing the budget needs to address. But, its my land. It’s my neighbors land. It’s your land. But most importantly, it’s my children’s and their childrens’ land. And I cannot go with something that limits their pursuit of happiness.

I ask that you gentlemen utilize the expertise of countless women and men across our nation to address the concerns we have on public land. I’m just a blue collar that works in the public sector. I don’t have a lobbyist up there. Those like me don’t have lobbyist up there. We know there is a lot of money pushing this. I don’t believe the price they are offering is worth failing our obligations to future generations.

Gentlemen, I’m just another constituent that your represent in our representative republic. This is my opinion and my thought. Please think before you act and I urge you to not cast any vote for H.R. 621.

 

Remington 200

View from the Knob

A few months ago a very good friend of mine asked me to sit down and speak with a young lady from Remington Country about Conservation. See, we always hear that word. But what is it? How can we see it? How can we measure it? Is there a litmus?

When I went, I thought it was just for an interview where I would sit and answer questions and give back ground on conservation in our area and issues within it. I never dreamed I would be interviewed and filmed. This video is linked below and I will be adding it to my “About Me’, but it is Remington’s video. As with any deal like this, I spoke about alot, but only a little made it. And for my QDMA folks, you may not have made the video and little slide show, but I hope you like the shirt and the hat.

Remington 200 Video scroll down until you see the title “Conservation”

 

What I learned from the great Spear debacle….

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you know all about the Bowmar vs. Under Armour hunt deal. For those of you who have not read or heard or seen anything about it, feel free to google it. I am sure there are plenty of other articles/blogs and what not about it. This isn’t one of them. That being said, I hate that this is going on. I am sure there were errors in judgement on both sides, and both sides regret certain actions. But, the Bowmars will be alright (have you seen Sarah? And pretty sure Josh can throw trees after he up roots them) and Under Armour will still be selling gear and sending money to conservation. But there are 2 common themes that we can talk about from this; 1.) Anti-hunters and how we actually can deal with them and 2.) the public perception of hunters matters.

Continue reading What I learned from the great Spear debacle….