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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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”

 

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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….