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Spring 2020 issue Backcountry Journal

Bring My Ashes Here: the story of three generation's backcountry retreat. The spring 2020 issue of Backcountry Journal has this amazing story, conservation news from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, hunting and fishing tips and more!

Bring My Ashes Here: the story of three generation's backcountry retreat. The spring 2020 issue of Backcountry Journal has this amazing story, conservation news from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, hunting and fishing tips and more!

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BRING MY ASHES HERE: PAGE 54

BACKCOUNTRY

JOURNAL

The Magazine of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers SPRING 2020

PLUS: CONSERVATION HERO

TONY SCHOONEN, NEW ENGLAND

BACKCOUNTRY, THE OZARKS, MORELS

WITH HANK SHAW, PYRAMID LAKE,

E-BIKES AND MORE!


2 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


WE

THE PEOPLE!

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Spencer Shaver, Land and Lukas Leaf stand for the

Boundary Waters in Washington, D.C.

I couldn’t be more excited about the coming year.

We have arrived. Many of you have heard me say we punch

above our weight class, which is absolutely true.

How do we do it? We the people! This world is run by those

who show up, and we have the most dedicated volunteers and

members on the planet. Last year alone you all put in upwards

of 50,000 hours of volunteer time and sent 108,955 messages to

elected leaders (more than doubling our total from 2018). You

made phone calls, spoke up at meetings, cleaned up your public

lands and continued to bring the masses into our fold. At 40,000

plus members strong our voice continues to grow louder. BHA

staff has the all-important job of providing the megaphone to

make your voices even more robust. I couldn’t be prouder of our

collective team.

In February BHA was asked to testify in front of a House

Natural Resources subcommittee on behalf of H.R. 5598, the

Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention

Act, sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota and Rep.

Francis Rooney of Florida. The strongly bipartisan H.R. 5598

would prevent copper-nickel mining development on 234,328

acres of public lands upstream of the Boundary Waters Canoe

Area Wilderness watershed, located in northeastern Minnesota.

Some places are just too important to risk. Many of you recognize

this. More than 5,000 of you have taken action via the BHA

website in support of conserving the Boundary Waters. If you

haven’t taken action yet … do it now!

When I traveled to D.C. to testify before Congress, I received

messages from BHA members and supporters all across the

continent. Thank you, one and all, for the encouragement. I

felt a deep responsibility to represent not just our membership –

including the 1,600-plus BHA members who live in Minnesota

– but also sportsmen and women everywhere, as well as the

fish, fowl and wildlife who rely on our advocacy. Lukas Leaf

and Spencer Shaver, both active BHA members who work for

Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, did an amazing job briefing

me in advance of the hearing. Our D.C.-based government

relations manager, Julia Peebles, grilled me with tough questions.

In true backcountry fashion, we were overprepared.

As I was called upon to give my testimony my heart raced. Rep.

Paul Gosar of Arizona, ranking member of the subcommittee, was

particularly aggressive. From his elevated seat, he looked ready to

pounce. Buoyed by the support of so many of you, I delivered

my prepared remarks. After all the speakers testified, Rep. Alan

Lowenthal of California, chair of the subcommittee, gave each

of us an opportunity to expand on anything we had heard or

wanted to add. When it came my turn, I made it clear that our

longstanding chapter in Minnesota is directly responsible for our

involvement in the Boundary Waters. You all have worked on

defending this special place now for over a decade. My role was

not to provide a top-down mandate; rather it was to elevate your

voices on the ground – and to help protect a place special to all

inside and outside of the great state of Minnesota. In my heart of

hearts, I hope I represented you all well.

One other memorable moment from my trip to Washington,

D.C., did not happen in a committee hearing room or meeting

with high-level administration staffers. It unfolded in the basement

of the Dirksen Senate Office Building at the hands of one of our

members, Kevin. Rabbit in red sauce. Fine china and mismatched

cutlery. This is the second time that Kevin has shared his bounty

with me while I’ve been visiting D.C. I ate mostly with my hands

and did my best not to spill anything on myself. The food was

delicious, but what I loved most was the flowing conversation.

This is what BHA members do! We share – not only in the

blood sport that is conservation advocacy but also in experiences

in the field and, ultimately, over delicious vittles. Kevin, I can’t

thank you enough for providing a much needed oasis from the

craziness that is D.C.

I’m confident that our family will continue to grow. Together

we will continue to forge deep relationships around campfires.

Together we will continue to reach new heights and evolve. Our

core will remain the same. We will always be the voice for our

wild public lands, waters and wildlife, and we will always be an

organization for the people, by the people.

We have much more to do together across North America. I

look forward to seeing many of you June 4-6 at BHA’s North

American Rendezvous for the best conservation gathering on the

planet. Most of all, I look forward to seeing you on the trail.

Onward and upward,

Land Tawney

President and CEO

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 3


4 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 5


THE VOICE FOR OUR WILD

PUBLIC LANDS, WATERS AND

WILDLIFE

Photo by Jeremiah Watt

Ryan Busse (Montana) Chairman

J.R. Young (California) Vice Chairman

Jeffrey Jones (Alabama) Treasurer

Ted Koch (Idaho) Secretary

Ben Bulis (Montana)

NORTH AMERICAN BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Ryan Callaghan (Montana)

Bill Hanlon (British Columbia)

Hilary Hutcheson (Montana)

Heather Kelly (Alaska)

STAFF

Tom McGraw (Michigan)

T. Edward Nickens (North Carolina)

Ben O’Brien (Montana)

Michael Beagle (Oregon) President Emeritus

Land Tawney, President and CEO

Aliah Adams Knopff, Alberta Public Lands Coordinator

Grant Alban, Development Coordinator

Tim Brass, State Policy and Field Operations Director

Walker Conyngham, Communications Coordinator

Trey Curtiss, R3 Coordinator

Katie DeLorenzo, Southwest Chapter Coordinator

Kevin Farron, Montana Chapter Coordinator

Caitlin Frisbie, Operations Associate and Assistant to the President

John Gale, Conservation Director

Chris Hennessey, Regional Manager

Ace Hess, High Divide and Idaho Chapter Coordinator

Josh Kaywood, Southeast and North Carolina Chapter Coordinator

Frankie McBurney Olson, Operations Director

Katie McKalip, Communications Director

Jason Meekhof, Upper Great Lakes Chapter Coordinator

Rob Parkins, Public Access Coordinator

Julia Peebles, Government Relations Manager

Jesse Salsberry, Northwest Chapter Coordinator and Video Production Assistant

Kylie Schumacher, Collegiate Club Coordinator

Ryan Silcox, Membership Coordinator

Dylan Snyder, Operations Assistant

Ty Stubblefield, Chapter Coordinator and New Chapter Development

Brien Webster, Program Manager and Colorado and Wyoming Chapter Coordinator

Zack Williams, Backcountry Journal Editor

Rob Yagid, Digital Media Coordinator

Interns: Kincaid Jones, Trenton Kriz, James Lindbloom, Craig Martynn, Atlas

McKinley, Scott Moore, Tyler Turco

Contributors in this Issue

Moriah Boggess, Tim Brass, Dan Crockett, Cory DeStein, Corey Ellis, Holly Heyser,

Brenton Lammers, Charlie Levesque, Harly McAllister, Fisher Neal, Joe O’Brien,

Brian O’Keefe, Rob Parkins, Christine Peterson, Andrew Posewitz, Don Rank, Wendi

Rank, Hank Shaw, Emily Stone, David Sumner, Brandyn Thorsen, Garrett Titus,

Wade Truong, Garrett VeneKlasen, Craig Watson, Jeremiah Watt, Victor Yvellez

On the cover: Somewhere near Mt. Shasta, California. Photo by Jeremiah Watt

Journal Submissions: williams@backcountryhunters.org

Advertising and Partnership Inquiries: grant@backcountryhunters.org

General Inquiries: admin@backcountryhunters.org

(406) 926-1908

P.O. Box 9257, Missoula, MT 59807

www.backcountryhunters.org

BHA HEADQUARTERS

P.O. Box 9257, Missoula, MT 59807

www.backcountryhunters.org

admin@backcountryhunters.org

(406) 926-1908

Backcountry Journal is the quarterly membership publication of Backcountry

Hunters & Anglers, a North American conservation nonprofit 501(c)(3) with

chapters in 45 states and the District of Columbia, two Canadian provinces

and one Canadian territory. Become part of the voice for our wild public

lands, waters and wildlife. Join us at backcountryhunters.org.

All rights reserved. Content may not be reproduced in any manner without the

consent of the publisher.

Published March 2020. Volume XV, Issue II

JOIN THE CONVERSATION


TRANQUILITY

in the Ozarks

BY GARRETT TITUS

The crisp turquoise spring water ripples across the front of my

canoe, with the gentle strokes of my paddle and the soothing

melody of stirring songbirds the only sounds as I traverse downstream.

Steam is coming from the water like a fire that has almost

burned itself out, while the sunlight pierces through the sycamores,

providing me a clearer path through the rapids and root

wads. The river bluffs rise high above on either side almost as if to

point my eyes to the heavens. The cliffs, though not long-lived,

are magnificent, and I take maybe a moment too long enjoying

the serenity of my view. I am trapped in the moment, almost unable

to continue, until a distant gobble yanks me back to reality.

The Eleven Point River stretches over 40 miles in Missouri and

is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which also includes

the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. This paradise of public

land, which consists of classic karst topography with limestone

cliffs, deciduous forest and caves – over 175 miles of river in

south-central Missouri – is all protected by the ONSR. Although

managed by the National Park Service, this area is open to hunting

and fishing. Additionally, the rolling hills of the Ozarks provide

stunning vistas, fall foliage, rafting, camping and are home to

some of the largest freshwater springs in the United States. That’s

all why I chose to hunt here. It’s hard, it’s fair and it’s isolated.

With my canoe parked safely above the rapids, I first grab my

fishing rod and casually toss a Rebel shallow diving crawdad. I do

this a few times trying to entice a local rainbow trout to become

dinner. Unsuccessful in my attempts, I strap on my turkey vest,

grab my grandfather’s single-shot 12 gauge from the canoe and

attempt to cross the creek that appeared to be an easy obstacle on

my map. This proves to be much more difficult than anticipated;

it’s a half mile hike before I can even attempt to cross the nebulous

water. I start the climb up the bank and crawl into hills of

YOUR BACKCOUNTRY

the Irish Wilderness. The cliffs make climbing up from the river

difficult, but curiosity and excitement drive me farther into Missouri’s

largest wilderness area. After a few hours of calling, I am

reminded that no matter how hard I try, I will never be as good

as the real thing.

A long hike down a ravine, a five-mile float and a few casts later,

a rainbow trout finds a cozy home over the brilliant glow of the

fire. A consequence of my urban residence for the past four years,

I have to be reminded of how the starlight can focus my thoughts

on reflection. A lonely whippoorwill assures me that I am not

alone in basking under the pale moonlight.

I’m not an early riser. After a 4:45 alarm was silenced by deafening

rain, I go after the infamous 10 o’clock gobble. With heavy

rains in the forecast and unknowingly floating past my designated

camp the afternoon before, I could be in for adventure. Yet another

trek into the hills leaves me with a few minutes of excitement –

a tom decides to mimic the storm and let loose a thunderous roar

from underneath me – and yet still an empty stomach. I am again

humbled by the instincts of such a wary bird, the wily Ozark tom

deciding he wants to see tomorrow’s sunrise more than he wants

to come looking for love.

On the hike down off the ridge, the skies open up. With over a

two-mile float to the car, not everyone would have a smile on their

face. As my clothes gain water weight, and I find myself taking

on the job of human bilge pump, scooping water from my canoe

with a water bottle I cut in half, a wave of happiness overcomes

me.

BHA member Garrett Titus grew up in the heart of Missouri but

now follows his outdoor passions in western Montana.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 7


EASY DOESN’T

ENJOY A GOOD FIGHT

PROFESSIONAL KAYAK ANGLER HOWIE STRECH DOESN’T BACK DOWN

FROM THE SHIFTING CURRENTS AND PUNISHING WINDS OF THE PACIFIC.

8 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Email your Backcountry Bounty submissions to williams@

backcountryhunters.org or share your photos with us by using

#backcountryhuntersandanglers on social media!

BACKCOUNTRY BOUNTY

Hunter: Shon Waery, BHA member Species: whitetail State: Minnesota

Method: bow Distance from nearest road: 1 mile Transportation: foot

Hunter: Eric Nuse, BHA member Species: snowshoe hare State: Vermont

Method: shotgun Distance from nearest road: one mile Transportation: foot

Anglers: Cole and Carter Fauskee, BHA members Species: cutthroat State: Wyoming Method: spin

and fly Distance from nearest road: four miles Transportation: horseback

Hunter: Tanner Dallas, BHA member Species:

rainbow trout State: Oklahoma Method: spin

Distance from nearest road: one mile Transportation: foot

Hunter: Isaiah and Josh Hindman, BHA members

Species: ducks State: Oregon Method: shotgun

Distance from nearest road: one mile Transportation: foot

Hunter: Liz Bradley, BHA Member Species: pronghorn State:

Montana Method: rifle Distance from nearest road:

four miles Transportation: foot

Hunter: Gerald Mauriello, Jr., New Jersey Co-Chair Species:

turkey State: New Jersey Method: shotgun Distance from

nearest road: one mile Transportation: foot

Hunter: Shannon Scott, BHA Life Member Species: elk State:

Nevada Method: rifle Distance from nearest road:

four miles Transportation: foot

3

Angler: Colin Nelson, Texas BHA

Secretary Species: speckled trout State:

Texas Method: spin Distance from nearest

road: three miles Transportation: foot

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 9


BACKCOUNTRY

JOURNAL

The Magazine of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Spring 2020

Volume XV, Issue II

Features

Bring My Ashes Here 54

By David Sumner

Hooked on the River 58

By Emily Stone

Transcending Waters 62

By Michael Stepp

On the Brink 66

By Victor Yvellez

Worth the Wait 68

By Christine Peterson

Always Show Up, Never Give Up 71

By Dan Crockett

10 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Departments

President’s Message 3

Your Backcountry

Tranquility in the Ozarks 7

Backcountry Bounty 9

BHA Headquarters News 12

Faces of BHA

Sabrina Schuler, Boise, Idaho 15

Kids’ Corner

Conservation Crossword! 17

Field to Table

Butter Curry Turkey 20

Rendezvous

See You There 22

Beyond Fair Chase

Considering the Ethics of Trophy Hunting 25

Public Land Owner

Breaking Down Barriers 28

E-Bikes and the Backcountry 30

Instructional

Morel Hunting 101 32

Spring Steelheading in the Great Lakes 35

Chapter News 38

In Depth: The Pennsylvania Chapter’s Huge Win on Sunday Hunting 44

In Depth: New Mexico Chapter Battles for Public Stream Access 48

College Clubs

Opinion

Backcountry on a Budget 50

Backcountry Doesn’t Only Mean Public Land 78

End of the Line

Reactivated 83

SPRING Pyramid 2020 Lake, BACKCOUNTRY Nevada. Photo by JOURNAL Brenton Lammers | 11


HEADQUARTERS NEWS

2019 PUBLIC WATERS

PHOTO CONTEST

Photo by Jeremiah Watt

2020 VISION

For almost a year BHA has been working to develop

a three-year strategic plan, our 2020 Vision, to guide us

through the end of 2022. This process started at Rendezvous

last year with the North American board and included

input from our members through the membership

survey, feedback from chapters and insights from staff.

It ultimately was approved during the February North

American board meeting. Thank you to all who participated.

Some highlights include aspirational goals of growing

membership to 100,000, chapters in all 50 states, provinces

and territories, and a $1 million endowment. The 2020

vision also highlights building an infrastructure to support

our chapters and volunteer leaders, expanding our collegiate

club and Hunting for Sustainability programs, and

continuing to emphasize finding common ground with

those outside of our hunting and fishing world. … We are

all Public Land Owners. We look forward to working with

our volunteer leadership, members and staff to accomplish

our 2020 Vision!

AWARD NOMINATIONS

The winners of the 2019 Public Waters Photo Contest have been announced!

1st Place: Cole Bergman – Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (shown above)

2nd Place: Steve Reimer, Wisconsin

3rd Place: Joseph Magnelli, California

Honorable Mentions: Mike Clingan, Nancy Anderson Porter

Find the other winning images at backcountryhunters.org

RECENT EPISODES OF BHA’S

PODCAST AND BLAST

Wildlife Migration Corridors and the Future of Western Wildlife

Host Hal Herring interviews Dan Prenzlow, director of Colorado

Parks and Wildlife, Jessica Myklebust of Colorado Department of

Transportation, and Luke Schafer, wildlife warrior of the West Slope

from Conservation Colorado, about problem-solving for wildlife and

human beings on an epic scale and building a future where we all can

thrive.

Do you know a modern-day Roosevelt, Carson or Leopold?

We are accepting nominations for our 2020 awards

to be presented at Rendezvous. Visit www.backcountryhunters.org/awards_2020

for more information and to

make your nominations. Deadline for nominations is

March 31, 2020.

Christine Peterson, Wyoming Outdoor Journalist and Adventurer

Wyoming native and star outdoor reporter, Christine Peterson talks

with Hal about the deadlines, the adventures, the stress and the love

of newspapers and reporting – and her decision to leave it behind after

the birth of her daughter Miriam, to take up freelancing full time and

own the freedom to focus on a new life as an outdoor mother and

writer.

BHA’s Podcast & Blast, sponsored by Sitka, is released twice per month

on alternating Tuesdays.

You can find BHA’s Podcast & Blast on the following: iTunes, Stitcher,

Podbean and at backcountryhunters.org/bha_podcast

12 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


BHA HEADQUARTERS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Did you love a particular article? Or disagree with

something we published? Let us know your thoughts about

Backcountry Journal.

READER TIPS

Do you have a unique tip for dressing out a duck? Or

starting a fire in wet conditions? Or another tip for the

backcountry? Send us your brief (1-4 sentence) tips for the

field or water to share with other BHA members.

WHAT DOES BACKCOUNTRY MEAN TO YOU?

For this new segment, send us a stunning, high resolution

(4+ MBs) photo of one of your favorite backcountry spots,

whether it’s a Western mountain wilderness, an Eastern

forest or a Southern swamp. And then answer in 1-3

sentences: What does backcountry mean to you?

By submitting photos and writing to Backcountry Journal,

you grant BHA permission to use those materials in Backcountry

Journal, in emails, on the BHA website and on social

media. All journal submissions should be sent to williams@

backcountryhunters.org

CALL FOR MISSING JOURNALS

Old-school BHAers, BHA

headquarters is missing three

of the original Backcountry

Journal issues, which are

needed for the complete

set. We would love to have

these in our library. If you

happen to have a copy of

any of the following three

issues, please email williams@

backcountryhunters.org.

We will send you a thankyou

surprise! Missing issues:

Winter 2006-2007, Fall 2012,

Winter 2013.

The very first issue of Backcountry

Journal, stapled together in founding

chairman Mike Beagle’s basement –

summer 2005.

BOUNDARY WATERS

PROTECTION BILL INTRODUCED

In January, sportsmen and women across the continent

voiced their loud support for the introduction of the

Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution

Prevention Act (H.R. 5598), bipartisan legislation that

would withdraw mineral development and defend this

incredible place from pollution. The mine proposed

just a quarter-mile south of the BWCA – where all

water flows north – could catalyze a steep decline in the

quality of fish and wildlife and the world-class hunting

and fishing opportunities in America’s most-visited

wilderness area.

In February, BHA President and CEO Land Tawney

testified in front of the U.S. House Natural Resources

Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources in

support of this legislation. Please join BHA in voicing

your support for the BWCA by contacting your

representatives and asking them to cosponsor this bill.

Packrafting through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Photo by Jeremiah Watt.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 13


14 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


SABRINA SCHULER

BOISE, IDAHO Vice President of Boise State BHA Collegiate Club

FACES OF BHA

WHAT ATTRACTED

YOU TO BHA?

When I first heard about

BHA, I lived in Indiana

– where I am originally from – and the state

did not have a chapter yet. My significant other,

Hunter Johnstone, and I both decided to become

members. We were both studying wildlife biology

and forestry, and once we graduated, made it

our goal to go west and work in Idaho with our

conservation degrees. Once there, we both became

more involved with BHA and learned more about

the missions and ideas, and instantly were drawn

to the message: keep public lands in public hands.

Since then, I have been donating money when I

can, volunteering my time and helping out the

collegiate club at Boise State University.

WHY ARE

PUBLIC LANDS

IMPORTANT TO

YOU?

North America is

unique in that people from

around the continent –

and the world – can come

to vast, open landscapes

and enjoy wandering around on public land,

which many other countries lack; it is our duty

to protect these precious resources so that they

can be enjoyed and used by future generations.

Personally, public lands are my getaway after long

days in buildings – an outlet for fresh air, peaceful

silence and great happiness. Realizing how valuable

these public spaces are to me – richness of wildlife,

habitat health and diversity, foraging opportunities

and much more – encourages me to appreciate and

protect what should not be taken for granted.

WHAT IS YOUR Currently, a perfect

PERFECT DAY IN day would be a gentle

THE OUTDOORS? yet adventurous hike

with my old pooch,

Polar. Starting at a trailhead in an isolated wilderness

Left: Cooking whitetail steaks and vegetables on a fire near Mt. Borah, Idaho

Middle: Deploying a wolf research camera in the Clearwater NF while working for IDFG

Right: Mushroom hunting after the Craig Mountain Stewardship Event with the Idaho chapter

mid-June, my pup and I would wander

for hours, allowing him to sniff to his

heart’s content. He would trot a little

ahead of me, looking back often to

see if his pack – me – was following,

and eventually we would end up at a

subalpine lake. He’d lay his body down

for a rest while I got out my fishing rod

and cast a few times, hoping to hook

a trout or two. Lunchtime would be

coming around, and we’d eventually sit

down for a snack together, me letting

him have little nibbles of my food, of

course. Lastly, we would hike out, me

giving him a reassuring pet and a kiss

on the forehead as he waited patiently

by the door of the vehicle.

HOW DO YOUR SCHOOL AND

CAREER ASPIRATIONS TIE

INTO YOUR WORK WITH THE

BHA COLLEGIATE PROGRAM?

I dual majored in wildlife biology and

forestry, investigated many career paths

upon graduation – wildlife research,

wildland/prescribed fire management,

population monitoring, etc. – and

decided to combine all my interests by

studying restoration ecology. Presently, I

am a graduate student at BSU examining

soil properties in the sagebrush steppe

pre- and post-fire to further understand

restoration practices. My work with

various projects as well as my experience

in school ties greatly into the natural

resources work of BHA. Stewardship,

land management and wildlife are my

areas of professional expertise, which

blends well with the work of the BHA

collegiate clubs.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR

STUDENTS AND OTHER

YOUNG ADULTS TO GET

INVOLVED IN PUBLIC LANDS

CONSERVATION?

Personally, I have noticed a trend in

younger generations diverging from

engaging in the natural world, having

stronger connections to advances in

technology or other societal aspects of

life. I grew up in this type of household

as well, but I found value in exploring

the outdoors and absorbing myself in

asking questions and literally digging

for answers sometimes. I have learned a

great deal and found personal happiness

fixating myself on conserving public

lands. Without healthy ecosystems,

there is no economy, and there is no

delicate balance to maintain, enhance

and restore these precious public lands

for the enjoyment and health of future

generations.

Learn more about the BHA collegiate

club program at backcountryhunters.org/

collegiate_program

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 15



CONSERVATION CROSSWORD

KIDS’ KIDS’ CORNER

19 20

1 17

2 18

3

4 5

15 16 21

Across

2. deer that lives in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico

4. largest Great Lake

6. “man’s best friend”

8. __________ model of wildlife conservation

9. 1.5-million-acre wetlands preserve in Florida

13. also known as wapiti

14. ocean on the east coast of North America

15. nickname for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

18. united States national bird

19. Land and ____ Conservation Fund

21. first chief of the U.S. Forest Service: Gifford ______

22. species of salamander: ___ puppy

22

6 7 23

8

9 10 11 12

Down

1. salmon that turns bright red when spawning

3. male moose

5. state where Backcountry Hunters & Anglers was formed around a campfire

7. Canada’s national bird: Canada _____

10. animal whose paw appears in BHA logo

11. father of wildlife conservation: _________ Leopold

12. guns should always be pointed in a ______ direction

16. host of the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Podcast & Blast: _____ Herring

17. farthest north BHA chapter

19. most prevalent big game animal in North America

20. male turkey

23. most popular freshwater gamefish in North America

14

13

Answers can be found at backcountryhunters.org/crossword

Winners from our winter 2020 issue’s coloring contest!

1st Place:

Gabriel Langenhan

8 years old

Washington

Runner-up:

Athena Blanco

9 years old

Idaho

Honorable Mentions can be found at backcountryhunters.org/2020_coloring_contest_results.

Thanks to all who participated!

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 17


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FIELD TO TABLE

butter curry

Turkey

20 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Butter Curry Turkey

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1-6 hours depending on meat preparation

Ingredients:

1-2 lb wild turkey meat*

2 medium onions, sliced

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 inches ginger, roughly chopped

1 ½ tbsp garam masala

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp fenugreek

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 cinnamon stick

1 qt crushed tomatoes

¼ cup labneh**

4 tbsp butter, divided

*This dish can be made with turkey breasts or thighs/legs.

Grill, smoke or roast the breasts, and cut into one-inch cubes.

Or, braise the legs/thighs in stock separately until tender.

**Labneh is an incredibly rich, creamy and slightly tart

strained yogurt that I’ve been using lately instead of Greek

yogurt or sour cream in recipes. It’s delicious on its own and

worth seeking out in your local Middle-Eastern market, but

it is not strictly necessary for this recipe. Feel free to substitute

plain yogurt or sour cream if that is what you have on hand.

BY WADE TRUONG

Wild turkey holds a special place in my heart and kitchen.

Each time I take a bag out, I’m reminded of the deafening sound

of the gobbler, so close that it felt like it was breathing down

my neck. I’m also reminded of all the mornings, when no matter

what I tried, the tom went the other way.

Everything about turkey hunting in the spring is special. Each

morning, the woods get thicker, livelier, and the days get longer

and warmer. It’s like going through the fall season in reverse. A

unique time of the year to be in the woods, with the added bonus

of bringing home some of the best wild game meat available.

This curry comes together quickly yet has layers of depth. The

spices and tartness of the tomatoes are savory and bright, while

the labneh and butter give the dish a satisfying creamy richness. It

tastes exotic and homey at the same time, it’s rich and tart, it has

everything you could ask for, just like turkey hunting.

Instructions:

Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in two tablespoons of butter until fragrant and the onions begin to turn translucent. Add

tomatoes and all the spices except the cinnamon stick. Simmer for around 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, adding a little stock

or water if necessary, then remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.

Transfer the sauce into a blender and puree. When it is mostly smooth, return to the pan, and add the cinnamon stick. Allow it to

simmer for a few more minutes, and add water if necessary to bring the sauce to the right consistency. If your sauce is too thin, allow

it to reduce. Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the labneh or yogurt, stirring until incorporated. Lastly, add the turkey

and allow it to warm in the sauce before serving.

Serve with naan, basmati rice, sliced hot peppers and some extra labneh.

BHA member Wade Truong is a lifelong Virginian and self-taught chef and hunter. His work has been featured in the New York Times and

Garden & Gun. His passion for cooking and sharing food is the foundation of his obsession with the outdoors and the resources they provide.

He believes that the more we participate with our environment, the more we understand that we need to protect it.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 21


RENDEZVOUS

SEE YOU THERE

BY WENDI RANK

I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t even go outside.

I’m at Rendezvous 2019.

Back home, our friends think “Rendezvous” is a romantic rendezvous

with my husband.

They don’t understand I’m meeting up with my husband at

Rendezvous because he thinks it’s romantic.

I’m not sure I even understand.

I arrive slathered in SPF 50 and still feel my lips burn, curling

and sizzling like breakfast bacon in the Boise sun. In a scene evocative

of any romance novel, I reunite with my beloved amongst

camouflage, compound bows, fixed knives and duck calls.

My wayward husband hands me a beer and ushers me into

the MeatEater podcast, which is basically the hunter’s version of

Champagne and roses.

Out of 1400 people at the podcast, I’m almost definitely the

lone non-outdoorsman. I’m like Where’s Waldo Goes To Rendezvous.

After MeatEater, every BHA member in Boise heads to a bar.

An indoor bar. I feel like maybe the outdoorsmen of BHA are

trying to make me feel welcome by hosting all events of this particular

evening inside.

Drinking at the bar, I get into a conversation with Land Tawney.

We bond because we both had parents that went to college

when we were children. We also bond over our mutual disbelief

that someone like me is at Rendezvous.

When I say “we bond” I mean that I have an amazing experience

talking to BHA’s CEO, and Land has a bizarre experience being

trapped in a conversation with the lone life member of BHA

who doesn’t go outside.

After a few hours in the bar, I try to fulfill the expectations back

home and make this Rendezvous truly amorous. After all, a man

doesn’t take his wife to a MeatEater podcast if he’s not hoping for

a little action later, am I right?

I am not right. I stand in our hotel room alone and contemplate

the stupidity of leaving my pajamas at home. If my hunter

can leave me for a cold, middle of the night escapade through

the woods in search of some white tail, he’ll leave me for a warm,

boozy room to discuss whitetail.

On Saturday morning, my hunter is up and out before I’m ever

conscious because hunters are always up and out before anyone is

conscious. It’s basically a federal law. Part of Pittman-Robertson,

I think.

Later, my husband texts me to come touch a snake. He knows

I’m herpetophobic so I figure he means his snake.

It’s not what he means.

It’s a real snake.

It’s the only snake I’ll touch for 36 hours.

After the rattler, I try unsuccessfully to tear my hunter away

from Rendezvous. Instead, I shop for pajamas because – let’s be

honest – the only guy in Boise who has seen me naked at this

point is my hotel’s masseuse.

Later, my hunter and I try to reconnect in the plaza. He’s wearing

a baseball cap. Plaid button-down. Khakis. They’re the BHA

dress code. Now he’s Waldo, in a sea of Waldos, just as impossible

to spot.

How did I get here? Married to a hunter? Hanging out at Rendezvous?

I’m never going to be an outdoorsman. Dark forests

are terrifying places. Has any BHA member besides me seen The

Blair Witch Project? Friday the 13th? Deliverance? I even read an

article once about people murdered by a drifter on the Appalachian

Trail, near our hunting cabin. You guys should maybe read

that article too.

Still, my herpetophobia and agoraphobia prove no match for

BHA. Rendezvous is like coffee with a shot of Baileys – you feel

warm, relaxed, gooey. Optimistic about the world and the people

in it.

That feeling carries me home. I try to hang on to it. I try reading

A Sand County Almanac. A few Jim Harrison novels.

Nope. I’m still pretty sure the Blair Witch is waiting for me in

the murky woods. And James Harrison is Khan’s pseudonym in

the Star Trek universe. Did Khan pen Legends of the Fall?!

That probably just got me banned from Rendezvous 2020.

I can live the BHA mission without actually going outside

though, right? Can I conserve from my sofa? Own public land

while under my roof? There’s one way to know for sure.

Let me come to Rendezvous 2020.

I promise to give Sand County another chance. I promise to

cool it with the Star Trek references.

I even promise to leave Land Tawney alone.

So, see you there?

BHA life member Wendi Rank is an indoors enthusiast from Pennsylvania.

She spends her free time patiently waiting for her husband

to return from hunting. Her writing has been published in Nursing

and the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.

22 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


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CONSIDERING THE ETHICS OF

TROPHY HUNTING

PART ONE

BY COREY ELLIS AND HARLEY MCALLISTER

The first challenge in considering the ethics of trophy hunting

is defining the term “trophy hunting.” Our aim in this writing is

to lay a framework for discussing the merits of the subject by first

categorizing the various types of trophy hunting into three groups

and then getting to the meat of the issue in a subsequent column.

There is nothing less at stake than the image of hunting when we

discuss this issue. Research conducted by Responsive Management

found that support for hunting for meat is 85 percent, but when

the public was asked about trophy hunting, support dropped to 28

percent! As a community, hunters need to be prepared to defend

or criticize trophy hunting when appropriate to properly represent

the community as a whole. But first, “trophy hunting” can mean

different things to different people. ...

What we are defining here as “type one” trophy hunting is familiar

to most readers of this publication and is defined by the act of

hunting for the largest bucks, bulls, rams, etc. that one is able to

practically find. In some instances, this may just mean holding out

for a 3 x 3 instead of a “forky.” What’s important to notice is that

the hunter is harvesting a more mature animal for one reason or

another, and in this type of hunting, the term “trophy” can still have

a wide range of definitions: Is a 30-inch mule deer a trophy, or does

it have to score the Boone & Crockett minimum? More likely, each

of us has our own definition of what makes a trophy. Depending

on the hunter, the season, the tag, the genetics, etc., a trophy could

be anywhere from a three-plus-year-old animal to the largest buck

on the mountain or an animal that qualifies for entry into a record

book. But, what is critical in considering the ethics of this endeavor

is that the animal is being pursued legally, the meat is being utilized,

and the pursuit is defined primarily as passing up smaller specimens

in order to harvest a more mature animal with the goal of increasing

the challenge and, therefore, the reward and experience of the hunter.

However, a hunter could legally and sustainably trophy hunt an

animal purely for bragging rights or other “wrong reasons” creating

a situation that is ethically questionable. Although minor ethical

challenges remain in type one trophy hunting, the nature of this

hunting is always legal, ecologically sustainable and so personal that

its merits will likely only ever be settled at the individual level.

Type two trophy hunting is the idea of killing something solely

for its head, hide and bragging rights, with little to no consideration

for the meat. In some cases, this definition would include acts that

would actually be defined as poaching. However, some type two

trophy hunting involves predators where there is no human use of

the meat, but it is legal and even encouraged in many places. The

BEYOND FAIR CHASE

killing of antlered or horned animals just for head or hide is uncommon,

but each year there are reports of deer and elk carcasses

found with heads removed and the rest of the animal left to waste.

Although this is clearly poaching and not hunting, the concern is

that a large portion of the general public believes that this type of

activity represents hunting in general. Many people who are unfamiliar

with legal hunting mistakenly believe that hunting involves

the unregulated shooting of animals just to mount the horns or take

a selfie. Because this type of hunting/poaching does not respect the

inherent value of wildlife or its conservation, most would agree that

this is neither an ethical pursuit nor fair to call this hunting.

Type three trophy hunting is the one most often portrayed in the

media today and is also the most difficult for us, as members of the

hunting community, to sort out ethically. This is characterized by

hunters often traveling great distances, going to high fence shooting

preserves and/or paying large sums of money to hunt “exotic”

species. We are probably most familiar with African hunts for the

“Big 5” or plains game, but this could also include various sheep

and goat species in Asia, or brown bears in Alaska and polar bears

in Canada. In these cases, the meat is usually consumed, but often

not by the hunter. In some cases, the meat is considered inedible

(typically with carnivores), so the direct link to hunting for sustenance

is lost. Instead, what the hunter may be seeking is adventure,

or the experience of a different and potentially dangerous type of

game and some level of bragging rights. Unlike type two hunting,

this type of hunting is legal, but there are also similarities to the

type two that are perhaps uncomfortable, and certainly nuanced.

One key difference is that type three typically has a strong conservation

element, via hunter’s dollars, that is lacking in the second.

In the public eye, the jury is still very much out as to the ethics of

this style of hunting, although there is a good argument to be made

that the strong opinions on the matter also reflect a distinct lack of

understanding of the manner in which these hunts are conducted.

Because of the nuance and difficulty in type three trophy hunting,

our following column will primarily focus on this clouded issue.

We should all be asking ourselves what makes trophy hunting

ethical or unethical. Does the meat have to be consumed by humans?

If it’s legal does it mean it’s ethical? Do the ends justify the

means, or conversely, do the means justify the ends? In the next

installment we will look more closely at types two and three in order

to keep the conversation going.

Corey Ellis lives in western Montana where he spends his time avoiding

work, exploring public lands and rivers, and advocating for wild

places and wildlife. He serves on the board of directors for Orion-The

Hunter’s Institute and is a life member of BHA.

BHA member Harley McAllister works as a project manager but is

most alive when he is outdoors, especially with his eight kids. He and his

wife Abby write guide books to the national parks directed at families

with children. A hunter his whole life, he has been a board member

with Orion for two years.

This department is brought to you by Orion - The Hunter’s Institute,

a nonprofit and BHA partner dedicated to advancing hunting

ethics and wildlife conservation. To discuss this article and others,

go to backcountryhunters.org/fair_chase

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 25


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SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 27


PUBLIC LAND OWNER

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS

Apprentice licenses may be the key to recruitment

BY FISHER NEAL

It’s old news that hunter numbers are falling, and the revenue

implications have wildlife agencies across the country scrambling

to turn the tide before it’s too late. An important change being

made to combat this is the introduction of apprentice licenses

and hunting mentorships, which allow a person to purchase a license

and hunt without taking hunter education so long as they’re

accompanied by a licensed and legally responsible mentor in the

field. Some states have had to fight fierce opposition to pass the

exemption into law, usually on the claim that it’s unsafe, and several

remain with either no apprentice option or a seemingly arbitrarily

limited option.

I know from firsthand experience that hunting mentorship

works. In 2014 I started a guide service offering lessons and outfitted

hunts on public land to beginners in and around New York

City. I got my SEO dialed in and for the next three seasons fielded

regular emails that almost always went roughly like this:

Client: “Dude! I just found your website! I have always wanted

to try this! Can we go next weekend?”

Me: “Actually you have to take hunter education, which isn’t

available right now, but you can take it in the spring and we can

go next fall!”

Client: (Radio Silence.)

When the apprentice license became available in New Jersey in

2017, a radical shift took place. Not only was I able to say “yes”

to everyone who wanted to go; my main source of revenue turned

out to be returning customers. Clients returned to hunt with me

repeatedly as apprentices, and many took the hunter education

course and began hunting on their own. The opportunity to experience

hunting was all they needed to cross the threshold from

interest into action, and soon they were hooked.

I remember vividly the lesson of “barriers to entry” during my

college economics class. What’s become abundantly clear to me

through these guiding experiences is that barriers to entry are the

problem with hunter recruitment – not the tired notion that everyone

moved to the cities and therefore were no longer interested

in hunting. Yes, more people live in cities now, but it’s not their

lack of desire that is the problem; it’s the fact that the logistics

and the pace of society have changed, and the hunting world has

been too slow to keep up. City people crave nature because they

so rarely get to be in it. And, they will go to great lengths and

expense to acquire quality meat that’s lived a respectable life, but

they have big barriers to entry when it comes to proximity to land,

space to store equipment, parking a vehicle, and even the legality

of owning firearms.

28 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Photos courtesy of Fisher Neal

to remove most of the barriers, few have the time and foresight to

take a hunter education course months in advance of the season.

Most people spend their spring and summer busy with their lives

and only think of trying out hunting in the fall and winter when

they know the season is happening. Inspiration comes, then they

hit a wall and forget about it.

By allowing new hunters the opportunity to try out hunting

under a mentor before taking hunter education, we are taking a

critical step in the direction of preserving our heritage and our

model of participation-based conservation. According to Families

Afield, more than a million people have bought apprentice licenses,

and a majority end up taking hunter education and buying

again. If we want this momentum to grow, states need to remove

as many barriers to entry as possible.

College students in every state should be able to buy licenses at

resident prices. Arbitrary rules like Sunday hunting bans should

be phased out. Hunting licenses should be able to be purchased

online and printed at home. Most importantly, every state should

have a version of the apprentice license. What better way for

someone to learn about hunting than one on one from an experienced

mentor? If states can learn from this success and do more

to ease barriers to entry, the futures of our great tradition and our

wildlife are bright.

They also encounter a great scarcity of hunter education courses.

In all of New York City, there is only one class offered on a

regular basis, and it’s way out in the Bronx and always full! There

are thousands and thousands of people in the city who would love

the chance to try hunting, but the barriers to entry are so high

that they never give it a try. Even for people who have the money

BHA member Fisher Neal is a professional actor trained at the

famed Yale School of Drama and the owner of Learn to Hunt NYC,

which offers lessons and fully outfitted hunting trips for deer, turkey

and small game on public land in northern New Jersey.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 29


PUBLIC LAND OWNER

E-BIKES and the Backcountry

BY TIM BRASS

I’m not one to pass up a shot on an elk. My hunting buddies all

give me a hard time about “ruining a great bow hunt” prematurely,

as I tend shoot the first legal elk within comfortable range. I

would argue my approach has been dictated by the fact that I’ve

largely been limited to hunting Colorado’s increasingly crowded

over-the-counter archery units for the past nine years, where if

you have an interest in putting meat in the freezer, it’s best to take

the shot when you get it.

But this year was different. Nine years of over-the-counter elk

hunting had yielded enough preference points to draw a tag in a

“trophy unit” with a near 50:50 bull to cow ratio and 80 percent

of the unit in public ownership. I figured, heck, when in Rome

it’d be worth testing my self-restraint to go after a big guy along

with my friends who had drawn the same tag.

We gave it our all and had opportunities to shoot bulls nearly

every day of the season, though the big guys had eluded us. The

last week of the season I met up with a friend who had found a

concentration of elk like he had never seen before – bulls bugling

all day long. They were hiding out five to eight miles from camp,

just off a dirt bike trail. We had found the elk motherlode, but

it was a haul, and the better way to access it would be with the

assistance of a dirt bike, e-bike or mountain bike.

So, we loaded up a mountain bike and a borrowed e-bike, and

the next morning biked to within a mile of the elk. With packs

loaded to the gills for an overnight trip, and plenty of pedaling still

required, it wasn’t exactly an easy uphill climb, but the thought

of riding a pack of meat back down on wheels eased a bit of my

hesitation to let an arrow fly.

We were down to the last few days of the season, and I was

needed back home, so it was time to fill the freezer. A perfect

calling setup brought a smaller 5 x 5 within 20 yards – too good

to pass up. I let the arrow fly, and he tipped over within sight. Six

miles deep, our fingers were crossed that our experimental e-bike

packout would work out as hoped. And, oh did it! The packout

was a downhill roll and, where pedaling was involved, the e-assist

kicking in made it perhaps wrongly easy. I lapped three of the four

bags of meat out with daylight to spare, using the turbo e-assist on

the uphill and riding the load downhill with relative ease.

A former mountain biker myself, the ride reminded me of

the joys of cruising downhill on a single track – a joy that I had

not experienced in years. Time for me to grab a new bike and

rediscover old ways? Not exactly. In recent years, I’ve found myself

more often pushing back on a seemingly relentless push by some

in the mountain bike community for more trail development

everywhere.

A growing breadth of scientific evidence is showing that

recreational disturbance from mountain bikes and other uses

is having a significant negative impact on elk populations in

30 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Colorado. Wildlife biologists are sounding alarm bells as wildlife

habitat on our public lands is increasingly being fragmented by

both sanctioned and illegal user-created trails – in some cases

leading to population level declines.

WE SIMPLY CANNOT STAND BY

AS INDUSTRY GROUPS PREVAIL

IN GUTTING THE SCIENCE AND

VOICE OF THE PUBLIC FROM

SUCH IMPORTANT PUBLIC LAND

MANAGEMENT DECISIONS.

In this case, the e-bike provided for a quiet approach on an open

motorized trail, where an early morning ride on a dirt bike would

have likely disturbed the elk, as well as nearby hunters. It was the

perfect place for an e-bike to be used – a place where, up until this

summer, our federal land managers had consistently agreed these

motorized bicycles should stay – on designated motorized routes.

BHA publicly agreed with this interpretation soon after it was

clarified in 2016. Then in August 2018, in response to intel that

the Trump administration may reverse course and open nonmotorized

mountain bike routes to e-bikes carte blanche, BHA

join the National Wildlife Federation in delivering a letter clearly

outlining our concerns that such a move could have on wildlife

habitat and traditional non-motorized hunting and fishing

opportunities.

Unfortunately, growing pressure from the booming e-bike

industry led Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, with

Secretarial Order 3376, to direct the U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service

to unilaterally reclassify electronic motorized bicycles as “exempt”

from motorized travel restrictions and facilitate e-bike use on

existing mountain bike trails, while also stating that “e-bikes shall

be allowed where other types of bicycles are allowed.” Subsequent

agency guidance resulting from S.O. 3376 affirmed, “As the BLM

works to fully implement SO 3376, District or Field managers

should use the exclusion to the definition of off-road vehicle

(OHV) at 43 CFR 8340.0-5(a)(3) to authorize the use of Class I,

II and III 1 e-bikes where ever bicycles are allowed, provided they

are operated in the pedal assist mode.”

Implementation of decisions to allow e-bikes on nonmotorized

routes have recently faced legal challenges, whereby

the authority of our federal land management agencies to bypass

a scientific review and public input process, as required by the

National Environmental Policy Act, is being contested. E-bikes

most certainly can have a place on our public lands. The ultimate

question is: Where are they appropriate? Hunters, anglers and

wildlife conservationists should have a say in where new motorized

uses are proposed. We simply cannot stand by as industry groups

prevail in gutting the science and voice of the public from such

important public land management decisions.

The industry’s outsized influence on this decision has not gone

1 Class 1 e-bikes engage only when the rider is pedaling and have a top

speed of 20 mph; Class 2 e-bikes engage with a throttle and have a top

speed of 20 mph; Class 3 e-bikes engage when pedaled and have a top

speed of 28 mph.

unnoticed. In December, the Interior Department’s “E-bike

Partner and Agency Group” was officially shut down after it was

determined that a series of closed door meetings with e-bike

industry lobbyists leading up to the issuance of S.O 3376 were

illegal as they violated the public notice requirements of the

Federal Advisory Committee Act.

While the legality of top-down e-bike travel management

mandates will likely be debated for years to come, e-bikes will

continue to gain popularity. Whether they’re used as an alternative

to commute to work or to pack out an elk on a motorized route,

their popularity is sure to continue to explode. It’s on all of us to

help ensure future uses are planned responsibly – with wildlife

and traditional recreational uses in mind.

BHA encourages members to actively engage in future

decisions regarding motorized use on public lands by active

participation with your local chapter and in public comment

periods for the resource management plans and travel

management plans that delineate trail and land use decisions.

Tim Brass is BHA’s state policy & field operations director and lives

in Longmont, Colorado, with his wife Megan and their 4-year-old

daughter, Linden.

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SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 31


INSTRUCTIONAL

Photo by Hank Shaw

MOREL

HUNTING 101

BY HANK SHAW

All hail the mighty morel! Arguably the most popular target of

American foragers, and definitely the most popular mushroom in

North America, the various morchella species exist in every state

of the United States and most provinces of Canada.

There are reasons they are so popular: Morels are very easy to

identify, are often plentiful and they give the outdoors-inclined

something to do after hunting season and before fishing gets hot

later in spring.

Morels are also delicious. Fried is the most popular method,

and everyone’s breading or batter is different. Frying is so common

that some parts of the country refer to morels as “land fish,”

because you basically cook them like a fish fry.

That said, morels are also the darling of chefs all over the world.

They are pretty to look at (especially sliced crosswise into rings),

meaty and add needed depth when you are relying on lighter,

springtime ingredients like ramps, fiddleheads and new spring

greens.

The main note of caution is that morels absolutely must be

cooked to be safe to eat. Morels, and especially their cousins the

false morels (some of which are edible), contain a hydrazine,

which happens to be one ingredient in jet fuel: not good eats.

Eat raw morels and you will get sick. But, as you might imagine

with a substance in jet fuel, hydrazine is volatile and cooks off.

So. How to find them? Morels associate with different species

of trees in different places. You have to know what the indicators

are where you live.

1

Identification

Morels are easy to identify, which is why they are so

popular. I always tell people that a true morel is basically

a honeycomb on a hollow stick. Remember that, and you are in

good shape. All sorts of variations occur with different species and

even individuals within the same species, but that general guideline

always holds true.

That said, there are also false morels. Most common are the true

falsies, which look more like a brain on a stick. They are often a

warm, inviting milk-chocolate to reddish brown, where morels

are typically black, blonde or gray. Some falsies are edible, but let’s

leave that for another day.

The other false morel is more controversial. These are the “halffree”

or verpa morels. They look similar to real morels, but the

honeycomb part is only attached at the top. Many people eat

these, and I have, but some do get sick from half-free morels. For

those who do report getting sick, it’s basically worshipping at the

porcelain altar as opposed to a hospital trip.

2

Timing

Spring to summer. There are two more morel

look-similars, the helvellas and the stinkhorns, which

occur in winter and summer, respectively, and are, for the most

part, not good eats.

Your time is spring. The keys are afternoons around 70°F and

32 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Photos by Holly Heyser

nights not colder than 40°F. Morels need rain, so drought conditions

are bad.

Keep in mind that this temperature range can be as early as

March for say, North Florida, and as late as August for the Yukon

– or at altitude.

One more tip: Morels grow slowly, so if you have them on private

land, wait until they are fully grown, which can take a week.

3

Location

This is the hardest part. Morel species always associate with a

particular tree or group of trees: elms in the East, apple trees and

cottonwoods in the Midwest, beech in some places, conifers in

the West.

The easiest way to find morels is to go west, from the Rockies to

the Sierra Nevada and Cascades, and look for a place that burned

down the previous year, or even two or three years ago. Morels

appear in huge abundances after Western burns.

The trade-off is that burn morels are a one, two or three-year

deal, for the most part. (Exceptions exist to that.) Eastern and

Midwestern morels will pop up every year in the same place. The

West has these “naturals” too, but they are less common.

Find the right trees at the right temperature and you are on

your way. Mark your spots well and come back to them.

4

Gathering and Cooking

Once you find morels, slice them off at the base. This keeps

your basket or bag clean. Use a basket or paper bag, never plastic,

as the morels will sweat and rot quickly. To keep morels fresh for

a week or more, lay them on paper towels in a large, lidded plastic

bin in the fridge. Change the paper towels if they get soaked. For

longer storage, dehydrate them. When fully dried, put them in a

jar with one of those silica packets to suck out excess moisture.

They’ll keep for years this way.

The best cooking methods are the aforementioned frying, sautéing,

stewing or braising. You need to cook them all the way

through. One pro tip: Add just a pinch of caraway seed to the

mushrooms as they are cooking – it brings out the morel flavor

even more.

Hank Shaw is a member of BHA and is the author of four wild

game cookbooks and the award-winning website Hunter Angler Gardener

Cook. He lives near Sacramento, California.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 33


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INSTRUCTIONAL

Photo by Craig Watson

Spring Steelheading

in the Great Lakes

BY BRANDYN THORSEN

The rivers of the Great Lakes region offer an incredible opportunity to fish for large spring steelhead – a pinnacle gamefish – on

public water. Warming temperatures slowly thaw winter’s hold of ice and snow, bringing barren trees to bud and rousting fauna

from their winter sleep. During this wonderful transition from frozen to flourish, when we can experience spring steelheading at its

finest, we often encounter a wide variety of weather. Thus was born the phrase, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes.”

Understanding these inconsistencies and adjusting to their effects is the key to successful spring steelheading.

1UNDERSTANDING THE WEATHER

Water temperature is the key to fish migration from the Great Lakes and into the rivers. When water temperatures climb

toward the upper 30s, it triggers fish to enter from the lakes. As temps rise above 40 degrees, steelhead will begin to spawn in

shallow gravel areas, with increasing spawning activity as water temperatures continue to climb. In general, spring-fed streams will

warm more quickly than larger tailwaters. Watersheds that maintain a large snowpack will be slower to warm, as snowmelt leaks into

these systems, keeping them cooler. Lastly, water that is more stained, as we often get with rain and runoff in the spring, will warm

faster than gin-clear water, as it absorbs more heat. The USGS Waterdata website or one of a host of smartphone apps are great tools

for monitoring both water temperature as well as flow levels. All of these factors drive when river systems receive fish, how quickly they

navigate upriver to spawn and their behavior.

2

LOCATION

Water temperatures and timing of the run also dictate where in the system fish are most likely to be concentrated and the

type of water anglers should target when fishing for spring steelhead. Early in the season, when temperatures are lowest, seek

out deeper, slow moving runs often found in the lower to middle sections of the river. These four to 10 feet deep runs provide safe areas

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 35


for the fish to hold without expending their much-needed energy

resources for spawning. As water temperature increases, fish migrate

their way upriver toward spawning grounds. When the density of

fish population within the system increases, target fish in the middle

and upper sections of the river, still in deeper runs. During this

time, fish are staging in close proximity to gravel, waiting for the

right conditions to begin spawning. By the peak of the season, a

majority of steelhead have entered the river and have made their way

to the upper sections, which contain the most spawning habitat.

Fish are actively spawning on redds within sight throughout peagravel

sections, reproducing the next year-class of fish. During this

time, target transition water for active fish and avoid the spawning

gravel. Transition water is any area within the immediate vicinity of

active spawning gravel, where it is deep enough that you can’t see

the bottom. Steelhead in these locations are not actively spawning.

Instead, they are often gorging on eggs from spawning fish. As an

added bonus, you can catch a lot of resident trout in these same

locations where they are enjoying easy, calorie-packed meals of

steelhead eggs. When the season starts to wind down in May, it’s

time to shift focus to target more resident trout as it becomes more

difficult to find active fish that aren’t spawning.

3

Photos courtesy of Brandyn Thorsen

EQUIPMENT

Anglers can achieve success using both fly fishing methods and traditional

gear. When fly fishing, a 7-weight to 8-weight rod from nine to 13 feet will be

more than adequate. Gear anglers should look to use medium light rods in the

same length range with reel capacities of a minimum of 150 yards. Techniques

for catching steelhead are vast and very greatly among differing angler groups and

their preferences. In the spring, regardless of your preferred delivery – fly fishing

or traditional gear – the most popular methods for catching steelhead in the Great

Lakes are float fishing with bobbers or bottom bouncing.

Float fishing consists of suspending weight and an offering (flies, roe, beads)

near the bottom, suspended by a bobber or strike indicator. Floating fly lines, or

monofilament in the 10- to 14-pound range for gear anglers, are essential to keep

the line on top of the water from the bobber to the rod. When float fishing, choose

a bobber that meets the criteria for the type of river being fished. Deeper, higher

volume rivers require more weight to get the offering near the bottom efficiently and therefore require a larger bobber in the range of

15 to 20 grams. Smaller, lower volume rivers require less weight and smaller bobbers in the range of four to 11 grams. Fluorocarbon

leaders in the six- to 10-pound range are preferred to cut through the water column and maintain low visibility to fish. This style of

fishing is very appealing to the visual angler. The concept is very similar to fishing for panfish with spring bobbers in a lake as a kid,

only on a moving body of water. When the bobber goes under, set the hook!

Bottom bouncing or drift fishing utilizes weight to drift an offering along the bottom of the river. For traditional gear, a similar setup

to float fishing is most effective – 10- to 14-pound monofilament main line, with a 6- to10-pound fluorocarbon leader. Fly anglers,

however, opt to use monofilament shooting lines in lieu of floating fly lines for this method, allowing a direct connection from fly rod

to offering and the ability to sense when fish strike. Significantly less weight is needed for bottom bouncing compared to float fishing.

The goal when drifting through a run is to feel contact with the bottom every three to four seconds. Too much weight results in getting

hung up on the bottom and too little weight leaves your offering too high in the water column, resulting in missed fish. A cast slightly

upstream allows time for the offering to sink to the bottom. Follow the bait through the run with the rod tip, feeling the occasional tick

along the bottom. Maintaining proper line control by eliminating slack is the key to feeling the bite. Bottom drifting is a very effective

method when done correctly because the offering stays in the strike zone throughout the duration of the drift.

BHA member Brandyn Thorsen lives in West Michigan with his wife and two kids, where he owns and operates Silver Seekers Guide Service.

36 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020



38 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020

Chapter News & Updates


CHAPTER NEWS

ALASKA

• Southeast Alaska BHA members spoke out against the Forest Service’s

plans to revoke the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest, and

Juneau members met up for a pint night following the comment period.

• Likewise, in Anchorage, BHA co-hosted an event with Trout Unlimited

that focused on generating comments on the Tongass.

ALBERTA

• We received a grant from the Cabela’s Canada Outdoor Fund, which

will help the chapter develop and deliver backcountry hunting and fishing

educational material.

• A positive decision was received regarding the Castle Mountain Ski

Resort expansion – the province has required additional environmental

assessment. BHA’s advocacy and comments played a critical role in

acheiving this decision.

• Planning for boots-on-the-ground conservation projects is underway

with a focus on the Eastern Slopes.

ARIZONA

• Legislation is a key piece of what AZ BHA works on throughout the

year, and this year’s legislative session will need the same diligent focus

and wherewithal to deter bad policy and encourage good policy that

makes its way to the state Senate or House floor.

• The Tonto National Forest has a draft land management plan that they

are working on with public and partnership input that will help direct

the future of the forest for years to come. AZ BHA is reviewing this plan

and will offer support and suggestions where needed.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

• BC BHA saw rapid growth across the province, reaching their ambitious

goal of 1,000 members by January 2020.

• Regions all over the province held successful pint night events that included

speakers on topics including mountain caribou, deer, caping,

land use management and wolverines.

• Showings of the Public Land Owner Film Fest are being scheduled all

over the province for 2020.

• Volunteers are stepping up in Regions 3 and 5 to get regional tables

started.

CALIFORNIA

• The chapter hosted a Hunting & Fishing for Sustainability weekend-long

course in Kernville with over 30 new hunters and anglers taking

to the field.

• We’re currently planning a Beer, Deer & Gear event that will be held in

Sacramento this coming May. You can sell used or excess gear to others,

and we’ll have a particular focus on new hunters and anglers who are

just gearing up for the first time.

• Our events, policy, and Communications committees held their inaugural

meetings and began work on a wide range of issues central to

achieving our goals for 2020.

CAPITAL REGION

• The Capital Region board assembled and hammered out goals and strategic

plans for furthering the mission and vision of BHA in the District,

Maryland and Virginia!

• Attended the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival, gaining members

and foraging new relationships with fly anglers from around the East

Coast.

• Added new board members to our chapter board with hopes of creating

a unified voice for sportsmen and women in the DMV.

COLLEGIATE PROGRAM

• BHA welcomed six new college clubs: St. Michael’s College (VT),

Mississippi State University (MS), Northern Arizona University

(AZ), Holland (MI), University of British Columbia Okanagan

(BC) and Auburn University (AL).

• The clubs got off to a busy start in the spring semester holding

events in their communities: Western Colorado University held a

chili cookoff, Utah State University hosted a Fly Fishing Film Tour,

and the St. Michael’s club hosted a Learn to Ice Fish event targeted

at students and kids.

• Gonzaga University and the University of Nevada Reno helped host

BHA’s Public Grouse Film Tour.

COLORADO

• We appointed five new Chapter Leadership Team members: Colorado

Parks and Wildlife State Trust Lands Liaison Liz Rose, Southeast Group

Membership Recruitment Coordinator Kyle Vistuba, Southeast Group

Sponsorship and Media Coordinator Drew Trujillo, Central Rockies

Group Assistant Regional Director Elena Reynolds, Central West Slope

Group Assistant Regional Director Leslie Kaminski.

• The Western Colorado University club was recognized as College Club

of the Month for October 2019.

IDAHO

• Two dozen Idaho chapter leaders recently met to formulate 2020 chapter

goals, fundraising priorities and expand our board leadership.

• Our college clubs at the University of Idaho and BSU are both planning

fun conservation-oriented projects to engage local students and are always

needing more involvement.

• Myriad opportunities exist for new volunteers this spring for those

wanting to help our chapter with stewardship, events, policy and communication

committees.

ILLINOIS

• Helped mentor new hunters in partnership with the Illinois Learn to

Hunt program with a whitetail hunting class and pheasant hunting.

• Engaged with the angling community and spread the word about public

lands and waters at the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance Early Show and the

Illinois Deer Classic in March.

• Looking forward to 2020 with plans to engage in efforts related to

chronic wasting disease, public access and opportunity in Illinois, R3

and other issues affecting our public lands, waters and wildlife.

• Have grown to nearly 600 active members in the state.

INDIANA

• The Indiana chapter finished up a busy 2019 with boots-on-the-ground

public lands work, new partnerships and fellowship at pint nights.

• We are working with White Pine Wilderness Academy to establish a

partnership to advance conservation education and to introduce Hoosiers

to hunting and fishing.

• Indiana continues to be vigilant as the general assembly goes into session

in early 2020. Several conservation bills are being considered and

the chapter is ensuring that the voices of public land owners are heard.

• The Indiana chapter held a public lands workday at J. E. Roush Lake

FWA installing the wood duck boxes we constructed this past fall.

IOWA

• Hosted archery deer and small game mentored hunts as a collaboration

with board member Rachel Vanderwerff’s Edible Outdoors and the

Iowa DNR.

• Established several sub-committees and delegated board members to

spearhead each committee alongside other BHA members to promote

greater participation in the chapter, spread the BHA message and gain

new BHA members.

• Board members gathered in Allamakee County at the heart of the Iowa

Driftless Area for a special rifle antlerless-only season aimed at preventing

the further spread of CWD in the northeast part of the state.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 39


KANSAS

• In November, Kansas Board Chair Kurt Ratzlaff attended the Kansas

Ringneck Classic in Colby, which included a panel discussion that John

Gale, BHA conservation director, was a part of.

• In January, we attended the Monster Buck Classic in Topeka, where we

engaged new members, discussed the BHA mission and talked with various

stakeholders about public lands and access issues.

• In February, we attended a meeting organized by the city of Hays to discuss

potential future public access and management of the 7,000-acre R9

Ranch, located south of Kinsley in Edwards County.

KENTUCKY

• KY BHA members did our second public lands work day, along with a

biologist, stocking a remote mountain stream in eastern Kentucky.

• A few KY BHA members did an adult mentored hunt at Taylorsville

WMA through KDFWR’s Field to Fork event.

• On opening day of modern gun deer season, KY BHA members helped a

biologist collect deer brain samples for CWD testing.

• In December, KY BHA partnered with the League of Kentucky Sportsmen

to host an annual sportsmen Christmas get together along with

Wildlife Women, TU, RMEF and Kentucky Traditional Bowhunters.

MICHIGAN

• The Michigan Chapter of BHA is looking for more volunteers to represent

communities from all around the state. We have a big year ahead

of us, and we are going to be relying heavily on our volunteers to meet

our goals and expectations for 2020 and beyond! If you would like to be

involved more, please send an email with a little about yourself, where

you’re from and what type of volunteer work you are most interested in

to: michigan@backcountryhunters.org. Thank you for making 2019 our

best year yet!

MINNESOTA

• MN BHA celebrated the introduction of H.R. 5598, the Boundary Waters

Protection and Pollution Prevention Act. Please contact your representatives

and urge them to support this bill.

• MN BHA, along with Land Tawney and HQ staff, joined Pheasants Forever

in the first ever Public Lands Pavilion at the 16th Annual Pheasant

Fest to announce that BHA and PF would be purchasing the first land in

BHA history here in Minnesota and opening it to public access!

• MN BHA will be hosting an Earth Day cleanup in April, led by UMN

club president Kyle Hildebrandt. Please follow our social media channels

and emails for more info on this and other upcoming events!

MISSOURI

• The Missouri chapter is coordinating with the Arkansas and Oklahoma

chapters to host a Tri-State Black Bear Bash in Bentonville, Arkansas,

featuring Clay Newcomb and others on March 28.

• St. Louis County council has approved managed archery deer hunts in

county parks starting in 2020. Visit Missouri Department of Conservation

for details on how to apply for hunts.

• The Missouri chapter will be holding their annual storytelling event on

April 9 in St. Louis. Come out and listen to some amazing stories by

BHA President and CEO Land Tawney and many others! Visit the BHA

events web page for details!

MONTANA

• MT BHA weighed in on a dangerous precedent of allowing high-horsepower

hovercrafts on stretches of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers.

Commissioners listened and denied the request. We also generated significant

opposition to a proposed land exchange in the Crazy Mountains.

• We donated $1,000 to a reward fund, which was set up to seek information

leading to the conviction of an elk poacher, who has since been

arrested.

• MT BHA raised nearly $6,000 during a Public Land Owner Film Fest at

Kalispell’s Sportsman Ski Haus.

NEVADA

• The chapter has been engaged in the Washoe County and Clark County

land bills.

• We brought on Lowland Knives and Anderson’s Outdoors as state corporate

sponsors and thank them for their support!

• Membership in our state surpassed 500 members late last year.

NEW ENGLAND

• In New Hampshire, the New England chapter partnered with the Monadnock

Conservancy to celebrate the protection of the Cunningham

Pond Conservation Area in Peterborough.

• Vermont BHAers rallied to oppose the sale of 1600-acre Proctor Town

Forest, protecting public access to streams on the property and access

through the parcel to the abutting Green Mountain NF.

• Chapter leaders in New Hampshire submitted a statement to the Municipal

& County House Committee opposing H.B. 1115. This bill, if

passed, would increase the firearms buffer from 300 feet to 900 feet for

non-residential buildings.

NEW JERSEY

• The chapter tackled its first sports show and pressed the flesh with many

hunters and anglers at the Garden State Outdoor Sports Show in Edison

in January.

• Garden State BHA members hit the sand and surf at Long Beach Island

State Park in November to fish for striped bass and a beach cleanup.

• Planning for growth in 2020, the chapter is teeing up a series of events

aimed at introducing folks to BHA and driving membership.

NEW MEXICO

• Our chapter is now over 500 members strong as we begin 2020.

• The chapter launched Access Watch positions to monitor potential road

closures and other access issues at the county level. These new positions

enable us to make sure sportsmen and women are considered when these

closures appear on county commission agendas.

• Members are excited to work alongside the USFS in replacing old fencing

with antelope friendly fencing in the Kiowa National Grasslands this

spring. For information on how you can volunteer please contact us at

newmexico@backcountryhunters.org.

NEW YORK

• Helped the Northeast Wilderness Trust open previously inaccessible land

to recreation and assisted the Quality Deer Management Association

with their Capital Region Hunter Education and Field to Fork Weekend.

• Collaborated with the Catskill Chapter of Trout Unlimited for the Tie

One On event hosted at Westkill Brewing and worked with the Adirondack

Center for Loon Conservation building line recycling containers at

public fishing accesses.

• Welcomed our regional event coordinators and policy team contributors,

and tabled at the Syracuse Sportsmen’s show and others.

NORTH CAROLINA

• Our second annual Trashy Squirrel Hunt 2020 was a smashing success!

Teams from across NC got out and got after it, earning points for trash,

tails, new hunters and new members. Can’t wait for next year!

• BHA showed up in strong numbers to public hearings regarding Sunday

Hunting restrictions and advocated passionately and respectfully for their

right to hunt their public land on Sundays in NC.

• The NC chapter is working with a handful of conservation orgs and the

state fish and game agency in a Trout Angler Access Working Group, organized

to address dwindling access to our public mountain trout waters.

NORTH DAKOTA

• Held our annual chapter planning meeting in January.

• ND BHA is looking for someone in eastern North Dakota to step up

in leadership and better represent out eastern ND Members. Email the

chapter at northdakota@backcountryhunters.org for details.

40 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


CHAPTER NEWS

• Facilitated a new 3D archery shoot at Huff Hills Ski resort in cooperation

with the Nishu Bowmen of Bismarck, ND.

OHIO

• Held a full day planning session to lay out the 2020 strategy.

• Increasing our presence and building a community through pint nights,

fly tying, Filson events, Deer and Turkey Expo, Columbus Fishing Expo

and the Public Grouse Film Tour.

OKLAHOMA

• The Tri-State Black Bear Bash is Saturday, March 28, at the Benton County

Quail Barn in Bentonville, Arkansas, and co-hosted by the Oklahoma,

Arkansas and Missouri chapters.

• Hosted a meetup at Lake Arcadia, where we enjoyed a campfire and shared

wild game harvests from Oklahoma.

• The legislative session is expected to be another very active session with

our wildlife department on the defensive. Our chapter continues to fight

to preserve our hunting heritage and public lands and waters.

• We are kicking off spring with a visit from Land Tawney, with him taking

part in a spring turkey hunt and storytellers event April 7.

OREGON

• Oregon BHA’s ambassador team has been invaluable to issues and efforts

throughout the state.

• Ambassador Scott Peckman is working with the USFS and ODFW to

help stop illegal road usage in the Blue Mountains.

• Ambassador Katelyn Lambert became a Salmon Trout Enhancement Program

instructor in the SW region of the state.

• Ambassador Karl Findling, in the central region, is working with Oregon

Hunters Association to secure grant money to help the Malheur chapter of

Pheasants Forever conduct habitat restoration for upland birds.

PENNSYLVANIA

• BHA PA celebrated the passing of Senate Bill 147, which will allow for

three days of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania. (See page 44 for more!)

• BHA PA unveiled their BHA vs. CWD Challenge to encourage members

to harvest deer in Disease Management Areas and have those animals

tested to determine the spread and prevalence of CWD in Pennsylvania.

• BHA PA unveiled the Take Two Campaign, which is a call for current

members to take two new or reactivated hunters and mentor them by

taking them hunting or out for a hunting-related activity.

SOUTH DAKOTA

• Held the Public Grouse Film Tour in February in Rapid City.

• SD BHA will be hosting the Terry Peak Total Archery Challenge After-Party

June 27.

• Watch the state social media pages for spring lake and trail cleanup events

in your area.

SOUTHEAST

• Several states within the Southeast chapter have begun hosting small game

hunts in order to engage members, recruit new hunters and encourage

public land stewardship through trash cleanups.

• Upon the urging of BHA and other sportsmen groups, Florida’s FWC

elected to include hunting as a viable option and tool for long-term bear

management in Florida.

• The Mississippi State University collegiate club has been officially recognized

and is building momentum going into 2020.

TENNESSEE

• TN BHA launched its education and awareness campaign, #TN-

BHAvsCWD, to help mitigate the impacts of chronic wasting disease and

provide wildlife biologists and resource managers critical harvest data.

• The Tellico River and its tributaries in Cherokee NF are cleaner after a

cleanup organized by the chapter and Tellico Outfitters. Big hauls of trash

removed included a mattress, an old TV and an air conditioner.

• A questionnaire regarding public land issues and policies was composed by

the chapter and disseminated to state politicians to better understand their

stance and bring forward key issues.

TEXAS

• Our 2nd annual spring public lands work day targeted a multitude of state

and federal properties, all of which allow some form of public hunting or

angling.

• Marissa Boughner joined the board as our new events and fundraising

chair, setting us up for our most action-packed and successful year yet.

• Texas officially kicked off its adult mentored hunting program in collaboration

with the Texas Youth Hunting Program for a wild hog hunt in

February.

UTAH

• In September the USU club won the public land pack out and the Utah

chapter was named chapter of the month.

• Our chair, Josh Lenart, represented Utah BHA on a mule deer advisory

committee.

• The chapter wrote a letter of support to the Forest Service for a travel

plan to limit the use of OHVs in high use areas with illegal OHV issues

in southern Idaho.

• Our Christmas party and board elections were held in December and included

a wild game potluck. We’re excited about the dynamic board we

will have for 2020 with representation in all regions of the state.

WASHINGTON

• With financial help from our chapter, Conservation Northwest and

local Mule Deer Foundation chapters installed the Janis Bridge Wildlife

Undercrossing.

• The chapter donated funds to the Wild Steelhead Coalition for the

“Grande Ronde Steelhead Access Parcel.”

• There are multiple volunteer events currently being planned; the dates and

specifics will be released as we roll into spring. Stay tuned by following

the Washington chapter on Facebook, Instagram and through our chapter

web page.

WISCONSIN

• WI BHA kicked off 2020 with a wild game potluck at Ojibwa Bowhunters

in New Berlin and followed it up with a gear swap/pint night at Delta

Beer Lab in Madison.

• The WI BHA Board met to prepare for 2020, discuss policy priorities

such as the Railroad Trespass Law and the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship

fund reauthorization, the addition of new WI BHA-led Learn to Hunt

Programs and public land habitat work days.

• The WI BHA board is actively seeking volunteers looking to bring BHA

to their local communities. If you are interested please email WI BHA at

wisconsin@backcountryhunters.org.

WYOMING

• Had two BHA members report the illegal construction of roads across

state, Forest Service and BLM land in the Laramie Range that led to the

prosecution of the offender and nearly $50,000 in fines.

• Supported the Teton County Wildlife Crossing SPET election.

• Added Pete Kassab as a regional director and Tom Chambers as a field

representative to the Wyoming Regional Leadership Team.

• Hosted CWD workshops in Laramie and Jackson.

YUKON

Yukon BHA is busy with:

• Planning our annual general meeting.

• Engaging with Yukon Government on moose management tools.

• Ramping up our social media presence.

Find a more detailed writeup of your chapter’s news along with events and updates by regularly visiting www.backcountryhunters.org/chapters

or contacting them at [your state/province/territory/region]@backcountryhunters.org (e.g. newengland@backcountryhunters.org)


42 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Every Adventure Has Its Rewards

@FatTire

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 43


CHAPTER NEWS

In Depth:

The Pennsylvania

Chapter’s Huge Win on

Sunday Hunting

BY DON RANK

Despite routinely boasting some of the largest numbers

of hunters in the United States, Pennsylvania is one of the few

remaining states that either restricts or completely bans hunting

on Sundays. On Nov. 27, 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom

Wolf signed Senate Bill 147 into law allowing for three Sundays

to be open to hunting. Those three days represent a major victory

for hunters in the Keystone State.

Sunday hunting restrictions remain in place in 11 states. For

example, Maryland allows it by county, while South Carolina

limits Sunday hunting to private land. Three states have the most

severe restrictions or complete bans: Maine, Massachusetts and

Pennsylvania.

These laws don’t just impact personal freedoms; they have a

larger effect on the hunting community, wildlife funding and the

economy as a whole. A study of lapsed hunters in Pennsylvania

showed that lack of time to hunt is a major influence in lost license

sales. Those lost hunters not only threaten the future of hunting;

those unpurchased licenses also decrease the funds available for

wildlife management. Additionally, a study conducted by the

National Shooting Sports Foundation indicated that lifting

the ban would result in the creation of over 8,193 jobs and

$245,630,435 in wages.

History

In the 1800s, Pennsylvania sought to protect wildlife

populations as they plummeted. By 1873, the forerunner of

modern game laws were adopted. Along with such measures as

the banning of punt guns for waterfowl and increased protections

for passenger pigeons, Sundays became forbidden to hunters. Five

years later fishing on Sunday was also made illegal; that ban would

stay in place until 1937.

Blue laws (a law prohibiting certain activities, such as shopping,

on a Sunday) were not new to Pennsylvania. Many had been in

place since William Penn founded the colony; the 1800s simply

saw the blue laws extended to hunting. Over the years exceptions

have been made for crows, foxes and coyotes. But with this long

history, it is not hard to imagine why three Sundays are such a

big deal. For historical perspective, when the ban first took place

Ulysses S. Grant was the president of the United States.

Opposition

The main opponent of Sunday hunting is the Pennsylvania

Farm Bureau. Its leadership has cited fear of trespassing, disdain

for gunfire on Sundays and the need for a day of rest for farmers

and game animals as their rationale for continuing the Sunday

ban. Being that agriculture is such big business in Pennsylvania,

the bureau holds sway with many politicians. Ironically, many

farmers complain of crop damage from deer and would like to

reduce their numbers.

Some hikers have also supported the ban for fear of encountering

hunters on the trail and the ever-important day of rest for the

animals. The most organized campaign originated from the

Keystone Trails Association. It is interesting to note that despite

the stated fear of being in the woods with hunters, many of the

group’s organized hikes are scheduled on Saturdays while hunting

is open. One KTA life member, however, did pen two opinion

44 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Photos courtesy of Pennsylvania BHA member John Conte III

pieces in support of Sunday hunting both before and after the

passage of S.B. 147.

What may be the most surprising voice against lifting the

ban came from Pennsylvania’s hunters. As recently as five years

ago the numbers were 50/50 at best on this issue. But over the

past two years the tide has turned. Initially, it seemed that only

younger hunters sought to overturn the prohibition. For the most

part, those of retirement age steadfastly held to the rule, stating a

wish to hold onto tradition and fears of overhunting. But those

attitudes have changed. I believe for many of the older hunters it

started with the desire to go afield with grandchildren. And for

those unable to go into the woods alone, they felt the effects of

societal demands that working age hunters already face. While

manning the BHA booth at the 2018 Great American Outdoor

Show we were approached by parents with young children as

well as retirees who voiced support for the cause. Our platform

brought many new members to BHA.

Moving the Needle

Sunday hunting was named a top priority by Pennsylvania

chapter chairman, Nate Fronk, when the present board took

office in January 2018. The rest of the board unanimously agreed.

At that point we began to study the issue and develop a plan.

Being a relatively new chapter – we were still writing our bylaws

– we could not have put together the infrastructure to act without

the efforts of BHA Regional Manager Chris Hennessey. Our

statement on Sunday hunting was one of our first official position

statements.

In a stroke of luck, a meeting of like-minded groups was

scheduled in March of that year at the Pennsylvania Game

Commission headquarters. Hunters United for Sunday Hunting,

a grassroots organization formed in 2011, renewed the fight under

the guidance of Executive Director Harold Daub. Pennsylvania

BHA spoke at the meeting and added our name to other groups

working towards changing the law, including PA Federation

of Sportsmen & Conservationists, QDMA, TRCP, United

Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, NWTF and others. The list grew as

the campaign continued. At this point, Sunday hunting became a

coordinated effort on multiple fronts.

Despite being a relatively new and unknown entity in the state,

BHA brought some unique strengths to the fight; BHA has a

social media presence that was not shared by other groups at the

time. This coupled with a membership that seeks engagement

and is eager to take action helped amplify our voice. Another

useful vessel were podcasts, which helped us bring our message

to a wider audience. Early on, Todd Waldron, of New York BHA,

hosted the Pennsylvania officers on his podcast. And later, Hal

Herring brought the issue to light on the BHA Podcast & Blast.

Discussing Sunday hunting on these podcasts proved invaluable

to educate and motivate our members.

A few months later, our chapter also began working with a

sportsmen’s summit originally put together by Dave Kinney,

of Trout Unlimited, and a host of other Pennsylvania-based

organizations. Among other priorities, Sunday hunting was

put forward. The group organized trips to visit the state capitol

and bring our message to legislators. Many legislators did not

have a familiarity either with hunting or with this particular

issue. We were able to both advocate for the issue and educate

those legislators. One of our most successful endeavors was a

congressional breakfast with the members of the Game and

Fisheries Committee.

Getting a Bill

Multiple bills in the past have had the intention of overturning

the ban in Pennsylvania, none of which ever made it out of

committee. Sen. Dan Laughlin was the prime sponsor of S.B.

147, and when he became majority chair of the Senate Game

and Fisheries Committee, there was finally a legislator who could

champion the bill and move it forward. As an accommodation to

the Farm Bureau, the bill also included tougher trespassing laws.

As it moved through the legislature, the bill was further altered to

include only three Sundays as opposed to all Sundays.

At each step of the way action alerts were sent and our members

responded. Legislators heard our voices. Despite some very

powerful opposition, we were able to help move the bill through

the Senate and House and finally to the governor’s desk.

While S.B. 147 has been a hard-won battle in Pennsylvania,

our work is far from complete. In every state that has moved

to allow Sunday hunting, change has come incrementally. New

York allowed three days in 1996 and expanded to all Sundays

within five years. Ohio trialed Sunday hunting for three years

then removed the ban altogether. Delaware started with one day

and recently added all Sundays during deer season. The claim

of damage to wildlife populations has not been substantiated in

any state that has moved to lift these blue laws. Our end goal

is to give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to

regulate hunting seven days a week as we feel our wildlife is best

served when decisions are made by wildlife professionals. The

Pennsylvania chapter will continue to champion this cause until

that day arrives.

Don Rank is the secretary for the Pennsylvania BHA chapter. He

is a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, where he’s been hunting for the

past 35 years, with the exception of Sundays.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 45


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SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 47


CHAPTER NEWS

In Depth:

New Mexico Chapter

Battles for Public

Stream Access

Photo by Garrett VeneKlasen

BY ROB PARKINS

BHA members, other sportsmen’s groups including New

Mexico Wildlife Federation and American Whitewater,

lawmakers and outdoor industry businesses recently used their

collective voice in an effort to reverse the stream access regulations

in New Mexico that appear to violate the public’s constitutional

right to access any stream or river within the state as long they

do not trespass to reach or leave the water. Due to the pressure of

in-person testimony, a letter writing campaign to Gov. Michelle

Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Game Commission, a BHA

petition signed by over 1,100 members and a favorable statement

from the New Mexico attorney general’s office, there is hope that

privatized waters in New Mexico waters will be opened to all.

The New Mexico Constitution, enacted in 1907, states that

“every natural stream, perennial or torrential, within the state of

New Mexico, is hereby declared to belong to the public and are

subject to appropriation for beneficial use.” But in 2015, with

support from landowners and special interests, the state legislature

passed a law, by one vote, that gave the New Mexico State Game

Commission the authority to declare waters running through

private property as “non-navigable.” That set the stage for the

commission in 2017 to adopt a new rule (19.31.22 NMAC) that

allows landowners to apply to have stretches of stream designated

non-navigable and therefore closed to the public. The first

applications included stretches of the Chama, Pecos, Alamosa,

Mimbres and Penasco rivers. All five were approved in the fall

of 2018 by the previous game commission. In the summer of

2019, Gov. Lujan Grisham’s newly appointed game commission

placed a moratorium on the access rule until an opinion on its

constitutionality could be issued by the attorney general.

Outdoor recreation in New Mexico supports nearly 100,000

jobs and brings $9.9 billion in consumer spending. Industry

partners who have a stake in defending public access, such as

Patagonia, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Fishpond,

Far Bank Enterprises (Sage, Redington, RIO Products and Fly

Water Travel), RepYourWater, Ross and Abel Fly Reels, wrote to

Governor Lujan Grisham urging her to “support the commission’s

decision and reaffirm the state’s commitment to upholding access

opportunities critical to New Mexico’s economy and outdoor

traditions.” Access to the state’s rivers and streams are not only

integral to the state’s economy; they also are critical for the

enjoyment of New Mexico’s citizens and a lifeblood for outdoor

traditions.

While many people were gearing up for hunting season, in

September Assistant Attorney General John Grubesic released a

letter stating, “The constitution does not allow an interpretation of

19.31.22 NMAC that would exclude the public from using public

water on or running through private property for recreational

uses if the public water is accessible without trespassing on private

property.” He added, “Any language in 19.31.22 NMAC which

attempts to prohibit access to the public waters of New Mexico is

unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

His statement, based on both the state constitution and a 1945

New Mexico Supreme Court decision that affirmed public stream

access, will hopefully inspire the commission to rescind their rule

or revise it to comply with the constitution.

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, along with U.S.

Rep. Deb Haaland, wrote to Game Commission Chairwoman

Joanna Prukop in support of ensuring access, stating, “Like others

who value our federal lands and waters as assets to be enjoyed and

passed to future generations, we respectfully urge you to reaffirm

the state’s commitment to uphold our access opportunities and

stand against the privatization of New Mexico’s streams and

rivers.” With an outpouring of support from the public, the

game commission agreed in November to reconsider the rule.

This spring, they could order the New Mexico Game and Fish

Department to either amend or repeal the regulation.

Leading in to 2020, Gov. Lujan Grisham, who says she

supports stream access, dismissed Chairwoman Prukop, creating

some doubt on the future of stream access in the state. Joel Gay,

chair of the New Mexico chapter, expressed that “New Mexico

anglers, boaters and others had been optimistic that our new State

Game Commission might do a politically courageous thing in

2020 and actually improve public access to our rivers and streams.

Given the political pressure the governor has faced regarding this

sensitive issue, we were not surprised by her action. We remain

optimistic, however, that Gov. Lujan Grisham will do the right

thing and allow the commission to follow our state constitution

and Supreme Court rather than bend to political pressure.”

Our hope is that the next chair continues to lead the commission

and their mandate to protect and enhance the public waters for

the benefit and enjoyment of New Mexico’s citizens.

Rob Parkins, living in Victor, Idaho, is the public access coordinator

for BHA. When not making a living working on access issues, he

makes his life fly fishing and bow hunting across the West and raising

Labradors.

48 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020



Photos by Moriah Boggess

BACKCOUNTRY ON A BUDGET

A poor college student’s guide to Western adventure

BY MORIAH BOGGESS

Growing up hunting whitetails and catching trout in the local

streams of western North Carolina was exciting, but those local

experiences eventually left me desiring big game animals and large

views in the West, which felt like a pipe dream far out of reach.

I’m sure many other Eastern outdoorsmen and women can relate

to these feelings. After all, how does one jump from hunting

whitetails in eastern farmland to backpacking Rocky Mountain

ridges while chasing elk?

Starting Small

For some college buddies and me, shed hunting became an easy

entry into Western adventure. I know what you’re thinking, “Why

go shed hunting when I really want to hunt big game out West?”

But, shed hunting proved an excellent gateway to experiencing

the West on a budget.

Spotting a fresh deer antler hiding in the leaves provides a shot

of adrenaline and excitement that fuels my drive to keep walking.

And the greatest benefit of being a shed hunter may be the variety

of critters and sights seen while exploring the woods. It’s this

innate enjoyment of simply being outside that first interested me

in shed hunting and later led me to deer hunting. Now, I shed

hunt every spring as much as I can, whether that’s for whitetails

around my home in Mississippi or on Western roadtrips.

One of the biggest benefits of shed hunting is that it currently

requires no license purchase, allowing you to experience new

states and game species without paying a high non-resident fee; a

perfect fit with the typical budget of a college student.

Easy as 1, 2, 3

I first tested the waters of shed hunting road trips several years

ago when a close friend, Kyle, and I spent a weekend driving and

walking Ohio and Indiana public land searching for our first

Midwestern deer sheds. A few weeks later, we both had bought

plane tickets and flown to Reno, Nevada, to spend a week in the

Sierra Nevada mountains looking for mule deer sheds, a first for

us Carolina boys! During this trip it all clicked for me: I could

very affordably travel to the West, hike almost anywhere I wished

(thank you public lands), view wildlife species I don’t see in the

Southeast and carry home antlers as memories of the trip. My

Nevada expenses totaled less than $400, and I had been lucky

enough to pick up numerous sheds, but more importantly I had

my first taste of Western country.

50 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


COLLEGE CLUBS

Shed hunting road trips have become annual adventures for my

college buddies and me. Last spring, I took three shed hunting

trips: eastern Arkansas, southcentral Georgia and a five-day trip

to Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. We camped on public land,

cooked in camp, shared many laughs and found a pile of sheds,

including my first elk antler.

Can You Afford It?

The first step in planning any trip is figuring out its affordability,

because even the most elaborately planned trip will fail if no

consideration for finances is made.

For our Colorado road trip last spring we spent a total of $210

on fuel by driving my small crossover-SUV. Lodging could be

another big expense on such a trip; however, camping saves coin

and adds another layer to the adventure.

Eating out every meal can add up, but if you cook at camp and

eat backpacking snacks for breakfast and lunch you can minimize

this expense. If done right, you can keep your food expenses as

low as if you were at home.

Inviting some buddies along on your trip not only adds to the

memories but will further reduce your expenses by splitting the

larger costs like fuel. For our Colorado trip last spring, we each

spent $70 in fuel, camped for free, and ate venison dinners over

the camp stove – a steal for five days traveling the West.

Where to Go?

For an Eastern guy, the most difficult part of planning a trip

will be choosing a destination without any local knowledge and

experience.

I began searching for a specific hunt unit using the RMEF elk

range layer in the onX Hunt app to visualize which units had elk.

I then further narrowed my search using the public lands layer

to find access points and drop pins in areas I wanted to walk.

When narrowing down your search, it’s also beneficial to seek out

local knowledge, such as a wildlife biologist, conservation officer

or other local familiar with the area.

The big game species of the West have much more dynamic

home ranges than do our Eastern whitetails, so there is a bit of a

learning curve when beginning to shed hunt out West. Elk and

mule deer both experience annual migrations that allow them to

winter at lower elevations where conditions are favorable and then

follow the spring flush of new plant growth up the mountains.

This essential adaptation for the animals can also make sheds

difficult to locate when you are not familiar with the herds. To

complicate things further, mule deer shed early, from late winter

to early spring, and elk shed later, usually March or April.

Care must be taken, especially early in the spring, to avoid

pushing animals from their winter range, which can cause undue

stress when they are at their weakest after a long winter. States are

starting to adopt regulations that protect these wintering animals.

For instance, Colorado recently closed shed hunting west of

I-25 from Jan. 1 to April 30, with additional restrictions in the

Gunnison Basin. Utah now requires completion of an online

Antler Gathering Ethics Course for shed hunting prior to April

15.

A Gateway

These trips have helped tremendously with increasing my

comfort level concerning my ability to hike and survive in a

large landscape with extreme weather patterns so different from

what I know in the East. These trips opened the door to archery

hunting mule deer and rifle hunting elk. I experienced my first

successful Western hunting trip last fall while backpacking

deep in the wilderness, where I harvested both my first cow and

bull elk. Camping four miles from the trailhead in single-digit

weather on a self-guided hunt while completely out of touch with

the developed world sounds intimidating to a college student in

Mississippi. However, the miles I’ve spent hiking for sheds and

nights I’ve spent camping on these roadtrips gave me confidence

to hunt this country safely and enjoy a successful trip in the

backcountry. Shed hunting has now mentally unlocked millions

of acres of wilderness for me to explore and hunt!

Moriah Boggess is a graduate student in the Mississippi State

University deer lab where he studies direct and indirect effects of

whitetailed deer on upland oak regeneration. He is also vice-president

of the MSU BHA collegiate club and a co-host of the Hunt The Land

podcast.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 51


52 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


PACK - $ 625

BOW - $ 700

RANGEFINDER - $ 450

BINOS - $ 250

ARROWS - $ 100

FLASHLIGHT - $ 80

Use promo code BHA to get 20% off any new membership when purchasing at onxmaps.com/hunt.

A portion of all proceeds go to BHA to support their mission.

is a proud supporter of

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 53


BRING MY ASHES

HERE

BY DAVID SUMNER

We took the trail slowly, through lodgepole pine, Engelmann

spruce and Doug fir, up over scree-covered knolls, plunging again

into the dark of the trees. We rested often and sang “Stay on the

Sunny Side” and “Country Sunday School.” He bribed us with beef

jerky and hard candy, and an hour or so before dark we walked

from the forest edge to see the surface of Swasey Lake reflecting the

exposed moraine, pocked with the expanding circles of rising trout.

That morning, we left home in the predawn dark: I-80, state

highway 40, north out of Duchesne through the Ute Ouray

Reservation, and in mid-morning sun we bumped up the last rutted

half-mile to Garfield Basin trailhead. We hoisted our packs, starting

the six-mile trek. Excitement filled me, threatening to overflow onto

the boot-worn trail. I had camped before, car camping with Mom,

Dad and my brothers, but this was different. We were backpacking.

We were walking six miles into what used to be the Uinta primitive

area but was now – post 1964 – called wilderness. The music of that

word: we were walking into the wilderness!

As a father now, I’m impressed with my dad. He took three of us,

the oldest 12, the youngest eight, deep into the roadless forest with

one two-man pup tent, hardware store aluminum-frame backpacks,

and new sleeping bags for which he had traded dental work with a

rep for an obscure outdoor company called North Face. No stove.

No water filter. A Vietnam-era canteen on each of our hips, a couple

of mess kits purchased at Allied – “if we don’t have it, you don’t need

it” – four sets of knife-fork-spoon that cleverly fit together with slots

and posts, some foil for cooking hoped-for trout over coals, and,

thanks to the space program, some freeze-dried pork chops, chili

mac and dried ice cream.

Getting yourself out into the woods is hard enough. Once you

take kids, gear, headaches and worries multiply. Does everyone have

a jacket? Are there enough fishing rods in the basement? How much

can eight-year-old Mike carry for six miles? Bobby needs new shoes,

but will this pair make it for the trip? Can we all fit in the one tent if

it rains at night? What if I get hurt? Will Bobby and Dave have the

sense and know-how needed to get help?

Dad carried most the gear on his 38-year-old shoulders, but Bobby

and I carried some on our narrow backs, and Mike wore a daypack

stuffed with his clothing. The three of us, all clad in Toughskins and

t-shirts, carrying spinning rods in our right hands. My dad wore his

outdoor uniform – a khaki Jones-style hunting cap with the back

brim turned up, Stewart-plaid wool shirt, worn Levi 501s and lugsoled

Danner work boots.

We had plastic ponchos for the afternoon thundershowers and a

box full of spinners: bright orange and red and white striped Mepps,

silver spoons, gold Panther Martins, a bottle of maraschino-dyed

salmon eggs and a styrofoam cup of worms for backup.

As a boy, I could imagine nothing better. There was no amusement

park, baseball game or airplane ride that could compete. Three days

of angling and camping. As those days unfolded, we caught fish,

ate surprisingly-good rehydrated pork chops and dried ice cream,

relished the delicate flesh of the cutthroat and introduced brookies,

hunkered under fir trees during the afternoon showers, slept under

the stars and listened to my dad’s stories. I wandered through the

dreamy days of sunlight and water and cloud and trout. I wondered.

I marveled at creation.

As a boy, my father first hiked into the Uintas with his father.

Cecil loaded their pre-war Nash with three wooden-framed, canvas

backpacks and walked my 14-year-old Uncle Smith and my 10-yearold

dad, Bob, into Naturalist Basin. In 1948 the old Mirror Lake

Highway was dirt. It didn’t go all the way through to Evanston. They

had to stop and roll rocks out of the way to get to the trailhead. But

the Civilian Conservations Corps had built the Highline Trail 10

years earlier, and they followed it east, taking a left just before Rocky

Sea Pass and hiking north into the shadow of Mt. Agassiz. They

camped at Jordan Lake. They caught fish, dodged afternoon showers

and cooked over the fire.

I imagine my grandfather, the thin, angular man who taught

me to fish and who worked nights coupling trains for the Union


All photos courtesy of David Sumner

Pacific: square-fingered grip on bamboo rod, elegant motion,

extending line, caddis touching down on still surface. I can see

the rise, the quick upward pull that sets the hook, the lips parted

in determined excitement. With so many hours surrounded by

loud machinery and pungent diesel exhaust, he must have been

grateful to while away a few days fishing and hiking, surrounded

by beauty, grace and wonder.

The Uinta is one of the few ranges in the lower 48 that runs eastwest

and is the highest to do so. It lies just south of the Wyoming

border and stretches a hundred miles, crowned by 13,528-foot

King’s Peak, named for Clarence King – 19th century explorer

of the 40th parallel and first director of the U.S. Geological

Survey. Here, you can wander above treeline, moving from

drainage to drainage through rugged, scree-strewn passes: Gun

Site, Anderson, Porcupine, Dead Horse, Rocky Sea. The high

country is dotted with lakes and tarns filled with snow melt, with

trout, with grayling. When you reach the high country, you see

the structure of the range, the geological history of the lakes and

drainages, the bald, rounded moraines, the work of the Provo, the

Duchene, the Whiterocks and Ashley glaciers. As Powell floated

past its eastern edge on his 1869 expedition, he wrote in his diary

of the “high peaks thrust into the sky, and snow-fields glittering

like lakes of molten silver.”

When I think back on my family’s relationship with the Uintas,

I think about a line from Robinson Jeffers: “When the cities lie

at the monster’s feet, there are left the mountains.” Four years

after my initial trip to Swasey, I took my first trip into Naturalist

Basin. My Uncle Smith was getting a divorce, and my dad wanted

to help. It was 1980, but we were Mormon, and divorce had not

yet come to our provincial community. My dad loved his brother,

and he loved his niece and nephew, so he did the only thing he

could think of: he took them into the Uinta Mountains. He took

them to the same place he had visited for the first time with their

father and our grandfather. “There are left the mountains.”

For this trip, he recruited Alan, a neighbor boy whose family

owned horses. So the nine of us – me, my dad and two brothers,

two cousins, the neighbor kid and two horses – all trekked into

Jordan Lake. I was again overtaken by wonder. We had only two

tents, so we would dodge the afternoon weather by stuffing our

bedding into the dark green nylon shelters, but we slept out.

I would awaken at dawn feeling warm in my bag, my cousins

and brothers lying next to me. I could see the first rays of light

hitting Spread Eagle Peak. Mosquitos buzzed, and I felt my face,

counting bites. I could hear dad breaking wood and coaxing last

night’s coals to life. When the yellow and orange flames grew,

and the smell of bacon beckoned, we quickly dressed to warm

ourselves by the fire.

Because the horses hauled in anything we wanted, we ate like

kings – fried eggs, steaks, canned stew. We supplemented most

meals with foil-wrapped fish placed on hot coals. The ancestors

of these fish had been eaten by my father and grandfather, caught

from the same lake, cooked in the same manner. In the shadow

of Mt. Agassiz, I felt connected to the world and to this place as

only a boy can. When young, the borders of your body seem more

fluid, almost one with glacial valleys, alpine tarns and weatherworn

passes, gateways to remote and ancient worlds.

My dad seemed a magician. He knew how to cook anything

over a fire. Most meals came from a large cast-iron skillet, a blend

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 55


of root vegetables and meat. On the last night he pulled

out potatoes to bake, but we had already used all the foil

for fish. No problem. He took us to a where the stream

had exposed clay soil and showed us how to pack the

spuds in mud and place them in the fire.

“Every fall when I was growing up,” he said, “all the

neighbors would pile their leaves in the street and burn

them. We cooked potatoes like this every year.”

When we pulled them from embers, the dried earthen

shell cracked off, butter melting into the steaming white

flesh. Manna.

As a boy, the thing I loved only second to wilderness

was horses. And on this trip, we had horses. Comanche

and Bar, both palominos. Comanche was 16-hands tall

and strong. Bar had been a racehorse in Evanston before

Alan’s dad bought him. He had a scar on his crooked nose

where he had run into a gate, but he was still fast.

Alan, a year older than I, had been drafted for the trip

as chief wrangler. He and I spent hours riding around the

basin, racing bareback, shirtless and shoeless, out across

the meadow south of the lake, one hand on the reins and

the other gripping tightly, deep in the mane, bare heels

prodding sweaty flank, spurring even more speed.

When you’re on a horse, wild animals register less fear. We

would quietly approach cinnamon does with yearlings or spotted

fawns. We would talk back to the jays, nutcrackers and ravens,

answer the high whistles of pika and marmot and then race across

the meadow to grab our rods for the evening rise.

In 2001, when my oldest son was eight, he, my dad and I were

back in the Uintas, again treading the familiar trail to Swasey

lakes. This time we had two pack-goats. They were strange, devileyed

creatures with large horns and an inscrutable gaze. We rented

them from a tall, thin farmer in Tooele. Each would carry up to

40 pounds, and the farmer said they would “just follow without

much trouble.” These goats were trouble.

After three miles of pulling hard on lead ropes, horned heads

angled back, splayed hooves pushing dirt, we crossed over the top

of a bare moraine before dropping back into the valley. Just as

we reached that exposed point, a thunderstorm fell upon us with

all its violence. The fiends now followed willingly as we scurried

down off the rubble-littered slope – lightning cracking, heavens

opening – and sought shelter in the trees. The goats stood face-in

to the largest trunk, shaking and refusing to move. We bivouacked

for the night.

The next day, sun out, storm forgotten, goats more willing,

we hiked the remainder of the way to the lake. As we emerged

from the trees, a wave of recognition swept over me. The light on

the bald hills, the slowly expanding ripples of fish rising on the

mirrored surface, the clearing to the south where we had camped

that bicentennial summer of my tenth year. We stepped across

the stream where years earlier ravens had stolen the cleaned fish

waiting in the cool water for suppertime. Did Penn see this place?

Did he feel the connection? Will he bring a son or a daughter

here?

We spent three lazy days fishing and napping, hiking to

neighboring lakes. The cutthroat trout were spawning and clogged

the stream leading up the drainage, their speckled backs and red

sides waving in the current like mottled crimson-edged grass. You

could catch them by hand if you cared to, but we plied the waters

of the lake instead: my dad and I with five-weight fly rods, Penn

with a simple spinning set up. If you attach a bubble to a spinning

line, filling it halfway with water, it has heft, and you can really

cast it. Tie on a tan caddis or a gaudy green-and-red Royal Wulff,

and you’re set. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve, strike! Penn pulled in

fish just as I had at that age, at that place. We fashioned tin-foil

packets and dropped then onto yellow-orange coals. White flesh,

salt and pepper; it was as if we could taste the lakes.

The last time I was in Naturalist Basin, my dad met me there.

It was 2002. It had been 22 summers since those sun-gilded days

of horse races and mud-baked potatoes. A week earlier, my friend

Sean and I were dropped off at the Brown Duck trailhead. For

six days, we rambled the high country, dead reckoning from one

drainage to the next, scheduled to meet my dad in Naturalist

Basin on Sunday, at the campsite on Jordan Lake he first visited

in 1948, and I first visited in 1980. We would hike out together,

and he would give us a ride home. He was also eager to spend

some time – once again – in the shadow of Mt. Agassiz, in the

mountains he loved.

As we descended Rocky Sea Pass, we caught our first glimpse of

the basin. I could see the smaller Everyman Lake and the larger

Jordan Lake. There was the meadow Alan and I had raced across.

I flashed to the sensation of speed, leaning low over Bar’s neck,

gripping mane as the rhythms of running and breathing pulsed

under me.

As we got closer, I was straining to see my dad’s camp. Although

fit, he’d been solo for two days and was in his sixties; I was eager

to see him, to find him healthy.

As we came closer to the lake, there was the tree I had slept

under with cousins and brothers; there was the stream mouth

where I had caught so many trout. Finally, the yellow of my dad’s

tent peeked through. But as we approached his camp, it was still.

We unloaded our packs and set up our own tent, but still no dad.

We waited. Finally, I saw him coming from the northeast, on the

56 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


All photos courtesy of David Sumner

Shaler Lake trail. An Akubra hat had replaced his hunting cap, and he

now wore shorts instead of the old Levis, but it was clearly him, fly

rod in hand. Yet, as he approached, he seemed strangely dour, and as

he entered camp he wiped away tears. Seeing my concerned visage, he

laughed at his emotions.

“David,” he reminded me, “I came here with my father, and I brought

you here. Mt. Aggazis, Spread Eagle Peak, Jordan, Everyman, the other

lakes. This is the most beautiful place in the world.” A pause, another

embarrassed laugh, emotion in his throat. “When it’s time,” he said,

“bring my ashes here. Bring my ashes here.”

We ate fish that night—the ancestors of the ancestors of the fish I

ate in 1980, the fish he ate in 1948. I burned my fingers as I pulled the

packet from the fire. I slit the foil, the steam rose; I lifted the tail and

with a fork separated the delicate flesh from the fine, translucent bones.

I could taste the lakes; I could taste the glaciers.

BHA member David Thomas Sumner grew up outside of Salt Lake City,

Utah, in the small town of Granite. He read Bring my Ashes Here as a

tribute to his father, Robert Smith Sumner, at his memorial last April. David

currently lives in McMinnville, Oregon, where he is professor of English and

environmental studies at Linfield College. When he isn’t teaching, writing

or playing guitar with his bluegrass band, he loves nothing more than to

wander the wild places of the West with friends, family and a fly rod.

WILDERNESS

HIKING - WORKSHOPS - HUNTING

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 57


Photos by Emily Stone

HOOKED ON THE RIVER

BY EMILY STONE

It didn’t take long to load the gear. Six of the seven boys had

been on a canoe trip with me before; the newbie was a younger

brother. Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, headlamps and mess kits

from the National Park Service went into the garbage-bag-lined

packs with their clothes, toothbrushes and extra shoes. Within

half an hour, the seven boys from nearby towns, two leaders and

two parent drivers were on our way to the Namekagon River

landing just below the Hayward dam in northwest Wisconsin.

Many hands make light work; unloading the heavy Royalex

canoes from the trailer at the landing went quickly. I’m often

impressed with these local kids – they jump right in to help and

don’t complain. Just before launching the canoes, we slathered on

sunscreen and fueled up with gorp (aka trail mix). “Two hands,” I

reminded them as I poured the peanuts, raisins and M&Ms from

the bag; to drop an M&M is a major fail.

Soon we were all floating. Great blue herons rose like dinosaurs

from the reedy shallows. Kingfishers swooped overhead, and

cedar waxwings gave their high, thin whistles from the shrubs

on shore. The boys probably didn’t notice the birdsongs, though,

as they focused on navigating through quick water and around

rocks. Gavin’s canoe got distracted by some fishing line tangled in

the alders, and the boys managed to free quite a bit before moving

on. They’ve been told how dangerous lost line can be to wildlife,

and a use for the line was already swimming in their heads.

A light drizzle gave way to tentative sunshine as we landed at

our first night’s campsite. After we gathered around the picnic

table, David, an intern with the National Park Service and my

co-leader, asked, “Does anyone know where the closest national

park is?”

“Right here!” several boys replied. Just two summers ago, none

of the kids on the canoe trip realized that we live so close to a

national park.

Many local residents drive by the brown arrowhead signs every

day and never stop to realize that they live next to such a gem.

The Namekagon River is a tributary of the St. Croix River and

therefore is part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a unit

of the National Park Service.

Both the Cable Natural History Museum and the NPS want

to get kids on the river, and this partnership makes it happen. As

the naturalist/education director at the museum, I provide the

trip guiding experience, camp food and participants, and the NPS

provides camping gear, a second adult for safety, a park ranger for

an evening program and logistical support.

The kids are the ones who really benefit. We had covered our

miles quickly, and recurrent drizzle dampened their enthusiasm

for swimming. So what could they do around the campsite?

58 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Wild & Scenic

It’s not often that you can paddle a pristine river with plenty of

solitude and almost no visible development along the banks yet

easy road access. The Namekagon River in northwest Wisconsin

is one such hidden gem. Since the beginning of human

occupation after the glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, the river

has been a highway for Native Americans, fur traders, explorers,

loggers and now tourists, fisherman and nature-lovers.

When the Namekagon – and the St. Croix River it flows

into – were threatened by new industries in the 1960s, Sens.

Gaylord Nelson and Walter Mondale stepped in. Through their

hard work, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (which

includes the Namekagon River and a protected, quarter-mile

corridor on either riverbank) was created under the National

Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. The intention of this act

was “to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural

and recreational values in – a free-flowing condition for the

enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Today, the National Park Service manages human

engagement on these two rivers by providing rustic campsites,

frequent landings, maps, rangers and education. Stop by the

Namekagon River Visitor Center in Trego, Wisconsin, or visit

www.nps.gov/sacn for more information.

Before long, Tyler found a bungee cord near the fire ring and

started filing down its metal end to make a fishhook. Grant

began whittling a fishing pole from a stick, and Gavin worked to

untangle the rescued fishing line.

Not a single boy pulled out an electronic device or even

mentioned wanting one. Two Frisbees (one of mine and one

found in the weeds on the river) were sailing among the tents.

No one was bored. Everyone was safe. I sat back and let them

be boys in the woods.

Soon the fishing pole was outfitted with a wooden bobber,

baited with a raisin picked out of the gorp and ready for testing.

The whole troupe followed Gavin down to the landing and

watched as he swung the hook and line into the current. Evening

light reflected off the trees, and bugs skittered along the surface.

The onlookers soon dispersed, but Gavin stood quietly – our most

talkative boy – sliding easily into the fisherman’s meditation.

After several minutes without any nibbles, Gavin decided to try

the other canoe landing – a backwater area filled with water lilies

and muck. As he waded in wearing sandals, I heard him mutter,

“I hope I get a leech on my foot so I can use it for bait.” The rest

of us drifted back around the picnic table.

“I’ve got a leech!” came Gavin’s shout, with not a hint of disgust

or fear in his voice.

Nearby, Grant, who had whittled the fishing pole, replied

“Sweet! Now we have bait!” with the same untainted joy.

The boys never caught a fish with their makeshift pole and leech

bait, but I know they caught the spirit of the riverway: adventure,

resourcefulness, stewardship and beauty. Over the next two days

we paddled class I and II rapids, cooked over a campfire started

with flint and steel, learned about the Voyageur history, picked

other people’s trash out of a fire grate, admired bald eagles and

osprey soaring above and paddled 15 miles in a morning.

Around the final campfire, I asked the kids what they wanted in

a trip next year. “More fishing!” came Gavin’s predictable request.

“Can we go longer?” suggested another. I was glad to hear that

they’re hooked on the river.

Emily Stone is the naturalist/education director at the Cable

Natural History Museum and author of “Natural Connections:

Exploring Northwoods Nature through Science and Your Senses.” She

loves introducing kids and adults to wilderness travel.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 59


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SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 61


TRANSCENDING

WATERS

BY MICHAEL STEPP

“Oh good, you guys are tall,” Glenn said as we stepped from our

pickup. Peculiar first words from a man we were just meeting for

the first time.

“You our guide?” I asked. The confidence came through in

my voice, bolstered by the giant ladder stands towering over the

cab of his pickup. We shook hands and made our way through

formalities in the rain and the dark of a gas station parking lot in

Reno, Nevada.

“It’s good when my clients are over six feet; we can fish my

favorite spot,” Glenn reasoned, explaining how taller waders can

reach deeper water.

I felt incautious, not having put my rain gear on for the parking

lot introduction; I knew we had a long, cold day ahead of us, and

I didn’t want to start it out wet. We finished up with a few selfdeprecating

jokes about our fly-casting abilities and a disclaimer

about my duck blind waders, grabbed coffees from inside and hit

the road.

Six months ago, Brenton had asked me if I wanted to go on a

fishing trip. “Guide and rooms are taken care of. You just gotta

get yourself to Pyramid Lake.” I told him I would check in with

Momma and let him know, but it sounded pretty good. I used

to be a fisherman. I don’t responsibly feel I can lay claim to that

title any longer; the dust accumulated on stacks of Bassmaster

magazines on a closet shelf at my folks’ house has grown far too

deep to justify any validity to such a claim.

It used to be that my mom, my dad, my buddy’s sister – anyone

we could get to drive us – would drop us off at a farm pond some

20 miles from town. The hours we would spend in a weekend

bass fishing every inch of those banks might sicken a modern-day

parent. Age, sports, girls and college seemed to fog over the lure

of those glassy ponds. Marriage and babies put the nail in the

coffin. I still hold fun at the top of my list; it’s just that fishing, as

62 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Photo by Brenton Lammers

a priority, has waned over the decades.

It was a rainy drive in the dark from that Reno quick-stop to the

mountain lake named for the pyramid-shaped rock protruding

from its surface waters. The winding yellow lines of Highway 445

guided us some 50 miles to a dull, dreary beach. The darkness was

the most defining feature so far, save for the bouncing headlamp

of a single fisherman more zealous than us. “I’ve got some rain

gear,” Glenn mentioned in a muffled voice as he dug around in

the back seat of his pickup. He handed us a couple of toughfeeling

jackets.

My reluctance to borrow his gear melted away with the pelting

rain. Built for ultralight backpacking applications, my gear might

not have been up to the task. I didn’t know if my pride was worth

wagering against the severity of the rain and the hours I knew

we’d be at it. I fumbled around by the light of my headlamp as I

navigated the closures, buckles, and straps of Glenn’s self-dubbed

“Alaska Jacket”– a heavy, tough Patagonia piece. “Maybe I won’t

stick out as bad amongst the locals,” I thought, as I covered the

top half of my camouflage neoprene waders.

Night faded, turning the black into gray, as we stood on that

soggy beach. Glenn was giving us a crash course on the basics.

“I’m a blank slate, man. Let me know if I am doing something

wrong. I’ve got a better chance of breaking this damn thing

than learning how to run it,” I half-joked as I tried to imitate

Glenn’s patient casting demonstrations with frozen fingers. The

confidence was low beneath the pitter patter of that oversized

Patagonia rain hood. I left the certainty of surefootedness on

the beach as I tiptoed through an offshore slough, all the while

wondering if Glenn had correctly judged our height back at that

gas station. Each step seemed a fraction of an inch deeper, and I

was quickly running out of wader. Fully expecting a whoosh of icy

water into my waders, I gently navigated towards the silhouette

of my ladder stand. Relieved to be able to spend the day dry, I

carefully fit my clunky boots into the rungs as I made my way up

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 63


that peculiar perch.

“Ladders!” my buddy had responded. I chalked it up to a

misdirected text message. We were chatting about “what’s new,”

and I had mentioned my recently booked trip to Pyramid Lake. A

month later the exact same response from another acquaintance

had me considering the coincidence. Four weeks out from our

trip, a social media post from a celebrity-of-sorts prompted me

to dial my Google research a bit tighter: “Pyramid Lake fishing.”

Photos of fellas standing on ladder tops with fly rods and giant

fish filled my phone screen.

“What in the heck do these knot-heads have against boats?”

I wondered as I dialed Brenton’s phone number frantically.

“Brenton, I think I just made a discovery.”

“Yeah?” he replied.

“Are we fishing from ladders!?” His pause could only cover his

laughter for a moment.

“Yep!” he said, probably in total disbelief that I didn’t know,

yet. My curiosities of the details of just what we were getting into

had been unleashed.

Lahontan cutthroat trout – a subspecies native to Pyramid

Lake, Nevada – were extirpated in the 20s and 30s, overfished

commercially to feed the folks comprising the gold rush of

neighboring California. The biggest cutthroat in the world, the

Pilot Peak strain of Lahontan, has left artifacts suggesting they

grew to 70 and 80 pounds. Modern-day, after rediscovery in a high

mountain stream and successful reintroduction and conservation

efforts, folks are catching fish near the 30 pound mark while

balancing on top of a ladder. The Pilot Peak strain shares the water

with the Pyramid Lake strain of Lahontan cutthroat. The latter is

typically a smaller fish but still has the capability of runs that leave

you all but helpless, clinging to the cork grip of a fishing pole

wondering what you just tangled with.

The beach had a mellow gradient, and we would try to intercept

the feeding fish that cruise along that stretch throughout the day.

Casting is king in this strategy. Standing near the top of a sixfoot

ladder placed in five feet of water serves multiple purposes.

First, it keeps your elbows up out of the water making repeated

casting less cumbersome. Next, it gets your eyeballs up off the lake

surface. Spotting fish as they cruise and roll along the shallows can

be advantageous if you can get your bug to fall through the water

column in their line of travel. Lastly, it keeps your body out of the

seasonally 40-degree water temps.

Glenn stood in the water near my ladder coaching me from

his chest-deep vantage point. I was almost solely focused on

not making a mess of the fishing line, piling it neatly into the

stripping basket. The confusing list of jargon muddled my mind:

shooting head, strip setting, water hauling. I felt like I needed a

picture book to keep it all straight. I chuckled at the idea that

water hauling was something I probably had a better chance of

doing with my waders than with my fly rod. Everything was so

foreign and awkward; it seemed as though actually catching a fish

would be nearly impossible.

It was only my fourth or fifth cast. I hadn’t been on my ladder

for more than six or seven minutes. The fish smashed whatever the

heck Glenn had tied onto the other end of my outfit. It was like a

largemouth bass on performance enhancing drugs.

“I’ll be damned,” I exclaimed. I was still in disbelief that a fish

had afforded me the courtesy of taking my bait.

I will never forget seeing that first fish in the net. We knelt in

the lapping waves near the beach admiring her for quite some

time. The connection between her and I felt very natural and very

mutual. She waited patiently in the water, almost posing for us

as we reveled in our first impressions. She was a class act – a true

ambassador of her species.

Slightly more than a year before this trip, Brenton was in Las

Vegas, Nevada, bedside in a special-care facility room with his

Uncle Lynn. Lynn had been diagnosed with leukemia mere days

before and, weakened by his year-long fight against MDS, was

likely on his deathbed. Though it is tragic, Brenton speaks of that

experience and of his uncle fondly. The connection he shared with

his uncle was a deep one, built over many years and rooted to when

Brenton was a little kid growing up. They spent the afternoon

that day recounting stories of hunting, fishing and camping with

family and friends. The outstanding detail was Lynn’s fishing trip

to Pyramid Lake that was less than a month away, and Lynn was

dejected that he wouldn’t likely be around to take it.

Lynn’s funeral was April 14, 2018. Brenton wouldn’t make it on

account of a planned trip to Boise, Idaho, for BHA’s Rendezvous.

The fact that he’d shared a great afternoon with his uncle just

before his death, coupled with the knowledge that Lynn most

certainly wouldn’t miss a huntin’ and fishin’ party for some damn

funeral, put Brenton at peace with sticking to his original plan. As

it would happen, the online auction at the rendezvous featured a

guided trip for two, ladder fishing at Pyramid Lake; omen enough

that Uncle Lynn endorsed the decision.

It was pure excitement, but I held some underlying guilt for

having caught the first fish. Beginner’s luck as it was, I would have

hoped for Brenton to find it first. The day went on, and I caught

a good number more fish, though they did not come easily. I

spent the long draws between hookups pondering the similarities

to backpack bowhunting elk – some suffering is required. If you’d

have made this comparison to me before I’d experienced our

entire first day of ladder fishing, I’d have called you crazy or worse.

Doing anything for 12 hours, though, can be grueling.

In the waning hours, I had slowed my retrieve considerably. I

spent the duration of each retrieve almost dreading the suffering

of the next cast. The lake was void of anything beautiful: soggy,

sloppy shores the same tone of gray as the sky. A worn-out arm,

creaky, aching knuckles and raw fingers begged me to sack up the

bats. Giant cutthroat trout nipping the surface ahead kept calling

upon every last drop of determination. All of this and still those

encounters would reign. Just as a distant bugle erases your shortterm

memory and drags you over the next, the crushing blows of

Lahontan cutthroat trout and the ensuing ride they take you on

thaws your fingers, if only for a frozen handful of minutes.

Mid-afternoon the rain dried up. Shortly after, the sun broke

through. Before long, we were feeling halfway decent. I no longer

needed 10-minute beach breaks every half hour in order to get my

blood pumping and my fingers feeling. What followed the sun

was, without a doubt, a handsome reward for our perseverance

throughout the first two-thirds of the day. After burning away

all of the fog and most of the clouds, the sun lit up the far side

of the lake in a way I will never forget. The opposing repetition

of casting and stripping became a trance led by the unbelievable

beauty of the snow-capped, sun-kissed peaks that stared down at

us. “There’s some serious elevation over there,” I mentioned to

64 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Photo by Brenton Lammers

Brenton. Purple mountain majesties couldn’t possibly make more

sense than from atop those ladders that evening. If the trout alone

couldn’t make the suffering worth it, we cast flies and admired fish

under the most spectacular hand-painted sunset I’ve witnessed in

my 33 years, and we did it until darkness was all around us.

I had caught a good many fish. They did not come quickly,

maybe one an hour, but with each one my apprehension grew. It

was three in the afternoon, and Brenton had yet to catch a fish.

Beginner’s luck was off the charts at my ladder, but that lady was

overlooking Brenton in a bad way. He would never say it, but I

could feel his frustration from 40 feet away.

I waded back to the beach to stretch my legs. It almost called

to me. The camera, and whatever lens was currently affixed to it,

was way above my paygrade; it had more bells and whistles than

I could shake a stick at. But that turquoise … that purple ... the

way the sun was orange-washing the peaks ... and there was a lone

fisherman lit up in the middle of it all, diligently searching for

that first fish.

I fumbled around for five minutes before I could take one out of

three pictures with frame, focus and lighting somewhere close to

decent, figuring my only insurance policy towards a decent image

was by sheer volume. I was fidgeting with the zoom wheel when

Brenton’s fly rod doubled over. The camera’s shutter sounded

like a ratchet wrench clicking away as fast as it could. “Glenn!”

I hollered, as I kept shooting the situation. Stowing the camera,

I waded out to Brenton’s ladder in time to watch Glenn slip the

net beneath the fish. Sighs of relief and congratulatory high fives

circled the three of us, and we headed for shore with grins as

bright as the cheeks on that cutthroat. I didn’t tell Brenton about

my photoshoot – how I’d experienced my luckiest moment of the

trip when I watched him set the hook on that fish through the

lens of his camera.

A moment later, when I looked up, a giant neon rainbow had

appeared. It dipped into the lake from the mountaintop across

from us.

My heart stopped.

I looked at Brenton and his head was down. He was stripping

line from his reel in preparation for another next cast. “I think

your Uncle Lynn saw that fish,” I choked, trying to get it out loud

enough for him to hear while motioning with a nod. The bill of

my hat cast Brenton’s gaze across the lake.

The waves, the wind and the whip of fly lines the only response.

And Uncle Lynn smiled.

Born and raised on Nebraska dirt, BHA life member Michael

Stepp and his wife Melanie work hard at instilling in their four boys

a deep appreciation for all things outdoors. Learn more about him

@beerandbackstraps on Instagram.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 65


Photos by Cory DeStein

ON THE BRINK

Woodland caribou herds throughout Western Canada teeter on the edge of extinction

BY VICTOR YVELLEZ

As the sun rose over the snow-capped slopes of the Rocky

Mountains in late November, Tibor Egri started his truck’s

engine. His job: patrol a stretch of highway known for its

seasonal migrations of woodland caribou – one of Canada’s most

controversial endangered species.

With a population of around 3,500, traffic isn’t common in

Grande Cache, Alberta – a town founded on the backs of coal

miners. Highway 40, which bisects the town from north to south,

consistently remains one of Canada’s deadliest roads for caribou.

Crystalized pieces of salt lie within the yellow lines separating

the highway from the various trees and grasses, while vehicles of

all sizes zoom in both directions. Bright yellow signs lining the

highway portray a large-antlered caribou preparing to stroll across

the road, highlighting a species becoming more threatened with

each passing season.

For Egri, a biologist and field supervisor for the Caribou

Patrol Program, it isn’t difficult to diagnose just how Highway 40

became such an issue.

“It’s hard for caribou in the winter when they put salt on the

road, because caribou like to lick the salt,” Egri said. “And the

cars often speed on the road because of low traffic and lack of

enforcement.”

The Aseniwuche Winewak Nation of Canada founded the

Caribou Patrol Program in 2012 as a grassroots response to the

declining herds around the Grande Cache area. The program’s

mission is to mitigate vehicle collisions with caribou on Highway

40 through periodic patrols, collect wildlife data and enhance

public awareness of caribou management. Four herds roam

in close proximity to the town. For the Aseniwuche Winewak,

caribou represent a living connection to a cultural heritage going

back hundreds of years.

Revered by indigenous people of the region and decorating the

reverse of the Canadian quarter since 1937, the caribou stands as

one of the country’s icons. But their significance failed to prevent

their decline. Many indigenous groups in Alberta and British

Columbia gave up their legal rights to hunt caribou as a means to

help recover populations.

Scientific estimates, though not perfect, put woodland caribou

populations at one tenth of their historical numbers. The situation

for mountain caribou – a ecotype of woodland caribou – is even

more dire.

Melody Lepine, a member of and director of government and

industry relations for the Mikisew Cree First Nation, remembers

when her mother could enjoy roasting her favorite delicacy –

caribou head. Declining populations throughout Alberta make it

difficult to hunt caribou on their treaty lands; a scene playing out

across Western Canada.

“There is a fear in the community when they see their culturally

important species not managed properly. It has a profound impact

on our culture and our treaty,” said Lepine. “We have a right to

harvest these culturally important animals, but we aren’t able to.”

The Caribou Patrol Program displays a local response to a

regional problem, which has seen minimal federal and provincial

government response. And the program has found some success

in preventing vehicle-animal collisions: In 2019, just two caribou

were killed on Highway 40 – their worst year since the inception

66 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


of the program. But, the Caribou Patrol Program can only do so

much.

Caribou licking salt off the road shows one of the most visible

representations of how human impacts affect the species in real

time. However, caribou decline throughout Western Canada

isn’t only due to vehicle-animal

collisions; its root problems are

much larger in scope.

“The state of the situation is that

caribou are in catastrophic decline.

Virtually every herd, at least in the

province of Alberta, is on their way

out,” said Stan Boutin, a professor of

biological sciences at the University

of Alberta, who has studied caribou

for 25 years.

British Columbia faces a similar

dilemma. More than half of the

province’s 52 southern mountain

caribou herds face local extinction.

And the 2019 extirpations, or local

extinctions, of the South Purcell herd and the transboundary

South Selkirk herd – the last caribou herd in the contiguous U.S.

– lend the issue more urgency in the region.

Habitat loss on a large scale spearheads the problem.

Industrial development, such as mining, forestry and oil and gas

development, has fractured and changed the landscape of Western

Canada. Mountain caribou herds throughout Alberta and British

Columbia have declined precipitously from the effects of over 100

years of industrial presence.

“We know why caribou are in decline; that work has largely

been done,” said Rob Serrouya, a scientist who has been a leader

in the mountain caribou research in British Columbia. “The

legacy of industry in the region will keep this an issue for many

years even if we stopped all logging today.”

Historically, caribou were the main large game species of the

region. Old-growth forest was simply unsuitable for deer and

moose populations. Caribou eat lichen growing on mature, oldgrowth

trees while deer and moose do not. Their spatial separation

from other ungulates afforded them safety from predators. As

forests were razed piece by piece, primary prey species began to

thrive within regenerative forest. Predators soon followed in larger

numbers than ever, following increasing moose and deer numbers.

British Columbia and Alberta conduct intense wolf culls

throughout caribou ranges. Wolves receive much of the blame for

disappearing caribou herds, and Boutin and other scientists do

agree wolf culls are a necessary strategy in saving caribou. They

also harp that it isn’t as simple as only killing wolves – a Band-Aid

solution to the problem.

“Wolf numbers have increased substantially, and that’s driven

by deer and moose numbers going up. And with those higher

numbers of wolves, caribou just take it on the chin,” Boutin said.

“As soon as you take your foot off the accelerator on the wolf

control, it’s right back to square one and you’re in a bad situation

again.”

The problem also involves industry influence throughout the

region, jobs in rural areas, political will and the effects of climate

change. Industrial development remains a cornerstone of the

provincial economies in Western Canada. Oil and gas account

for 30 percent of Alberta’s economy, according to the Canadian

Association of Petroleum Producers. Forestry impacts British

Columbia’s economy in a similar manner. In both western

provinces, small towns like Grande Cache rely on resource

extraction for survival.

Lepine notes that though this

is the case, the law requires the

government to protect these animals.

“In the face of development and

economic priorities,” she stresses,

“it seems that important species are

pushed to the bottom of the list.”

The controversy around how

to properly address caribou

recovery magnifies industry’s

deep connection with the people

and politics of the region. Many

citizens fear that proper caribou

recovery will negatively impact the

economy. Recent consultations on

the recovery of mountain caribou in British Columbia drew large

crowds of citizens voicing concerns over how recovery plans will

impact local economies. But, as caribou populations continue to

decline, the federal and provincial governments also face increased

pressure from indigenous groups, conservation groups and citizens

fearing the point of no return.

Boutin remembers when he first began researching caribou.

“I thought the solution to caribou was going to be pretty

straightforward, that we could do some mitigative measures and

everything would be good,” he said. “And since then it’s been a far

more complicated situation. It’s been a really tough nut to crack.”

Slow government action has forced indigenous and

conservation groups to take caribou protection into their own

hands. Throughout British Columbia and Alberta, local groups

are taking ownership of their herds. For the Caribou Patrol

Program, their mission to patrol and educate is a small piece in a

large puzzle.

“Five years ago it was all doom and gloom, but we’ve seen that

intensive management can change the story for caribou,” said

Serrouya. “But I don’t think herds will ever be self-sustaining;

caribou will likely always need some form of human management

from now on.”

Back along Highway 40, Egri points to a spot in the road where

a caribou calf was killed in the fall – a semi-truck rounded a bend

too quickly to slow down. Even one death impacts a herd that has

shrunk to around 88.

“Human-wildlife problems are constant problems that will not

end. It can be bears or caribou, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “All you

can do is accept it and not give up.”

BHA member Victor Yvellez is earning his BA in journalism at

the University of Montana and enjoys backpacking, mountain biking

and skiing.

Editor’s Note: Tibor Egri is no longer employed with the Caribou

Patrol Program.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 67


WORTH THE WAIT

Photo by Christine Peterson

When do you decide, or not, to pull the trigger?

BY CHRISTINE PETERSON

I didn’t take my first shot at (what would have been) my first

wild turkey because I questioned if hairs on the bird’s chest were

from a beard or ruffled feathers. I had a tom tag, not a hen. I

wasn’t about to shoot the wrong bird.

I didn’t take a shot the following year because when the toms

finally fanned their cream-tipped tailfeathers and strutted,

releasing prehistoric-sounding gobbles, all I saw were the pencilthin

sticks between me and the birds. I couldn’t risk a bad shot.

I didn’t take a shot the next year because the wobbly-but-stealthy

birds wandered between me and a rural dirt road. I may have been

new to shooting, but even I understood pulling the trigger at a

dirt road was borderline illegal and certainly not advisable.

So when I found myself with a shot another year later – this one

fanned, on national forest land, away from roads and in a clearing

– I had to decide if I was actually going to shoot.

I’d been carrying a turkey tag in the breast pocket of my

camouflage coat for five years. I’d spent weeks chasing the birds,

calling to them, listening for their replies and scanning for their

tracks. I’d had offers to hunt on private land – but those were

ranch birds, farm birds even, ones that spent their lives in front

yards near humans they no longer feared. I wanted my first turkey

(and subsequent ones) to be public land turkeys, ones that didn’t

know humans came with fields of grain and occasional food

scraps. I wanted to wait until I had a shot as secure as a shot can

be. I wanted to limit opportunities for failure.

Hunters have been talking about, analyzing and deciding when

and if they should shoot for centuries. It’s at the core of who we

are and how we understand ourselves as a hunting community.

And all of those decisions not to shoot – the years of wandering

hillsides and sitting frozen in stillness, certain the turkey could see

if not hear my heart throbbing and adrenaline building – flashed

through my mind that cool day in April as my thumb rested on

the safety and finger on the trigger.

Some of the best modern advice on whether or not to take a

shot comes from acclaimed hunting and conservation writer Jim

Posewitz. His ability to clearly and concisely convey eons worth of

hunting lessons in a 53-page book is impressive.

In the early pages of Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethics and Tradition

of Hunting, he explains a scenario very similar to mine: A boy and

his father were hunting bull elk, but when the boy finally had

a shot he couldn’t see antlers through thick trees. He turned to

look at his dad. That motion made the elk bolt and the chance

was gone.

“Doing right, at the critical moment, was more important than

killing a fine bull elk,” Posewitz wrote. “There was a doubt, so the

boy did not shoot. In time he would realize the hunt had already

been fulfilled.”

A local game warden-turned-biologist living in my little

northeast Wyoming town first introduced me to the book in the

middle of one of our many discussions about turkey hunting.

Joe Sandrini, a clean-cut wildlife biologist and Catholic deacon,

has been my source of information on turkey habitat, habits and

populations for the better part of a decade.

For Sandrini, deciding to shoot comes down to three easy

68 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


questions: Can an animal be killed

quickly and painlessly? Does the hunter

have an advantage that makes it less a

hunt and more a kill? Can all of the

meat be removed legally?

And he has his own story to support

that he lives by his convictions.

More than 20 years ago, he decided

not to shoot a bighorn sheep. The

tag was rare. The shot was the best he

would have after a long season of hard,

high mountain hunting.

“I did it like you’re supposed to. I had

a camp and spiked out on this ridge and

slept under my blue tarp and walked

a little more and came back and here

were nine rams all bedded down, and

I was within 150 yards of them and

picked one out,” he said.

He wasn’t familiar with the area and

was on a talus slope. He could have shot

one and killed him. But he didn’t know

if he could have safely brought it home.

So he didn’t shoot.

It’s not a regret, he said. He believes

he made the right choice.

“It took me a few years to come to

that, though. I thought for weeks, ‘I

should have made the shot,’ and after

ruminating on it for a few years, I

thought I did the right thing,” he said.

“I suppose it’s how you mature as a

hunter.”

The author and her first turkey.

Photo by Theresa Peterson.

A turkey isn’t necessarily the same

as a bull elk or bighorn sheep. It won’t

fill my freezer and feed my family for a year. It isn’t a once-in-alifetime

tag. But until that point, I hadn’t shot anything larger

than a pheasant.

I was as ready to shoot a turkey as the boy in Posewitz’s book

but also as nervous about making sure he wouldn’t be wounded

and lost in the woods.

A close friend and experienced hunter sat next to me, perched

under a thick Ponderosa pine in a bed of needles. Nothing

separated us from the approaching turkey but our camouflage.

The tom had left a group of hens and other toms to find my

friend’s hen call. He puffed out his chest, ruffled each of his

hundreds of feathers and fanned his tail, letting out occasional

gobbles I can still hear.

He was 45 yards. My friend told me I could shoot if I was

comfortable.

I waited.

He was 40 yards. He told me I could shoot anytime.

I waited.

He was 30 yards. My friend said I should shoot.

I waited.

He was less around 25 yards.

Shoot!

I shot. Twice. The first one missed the tom completely. The

second one didn’t.

I can’t remember now the length of its beard or his spurs. It

doesn’t matter. It was a male turkey shot deep in public land far

from ranches and farms in Wyoming’s Black Hills.

In that moment, I stopped regretting earlier hunts where I’d

failed to shoot. I had waited for the shot I knew, with as much

certainty as you can know, that I would make. I could leave the

woods that day, carrying the turkey over my shoulder, knowing

I was successful partly because I was lucky (aren’t we all when we

harvest an animal?) but mostly because I waited. I waited until I

was sure. Until I was comfortable.

I’ll wait again next time, even if it takes another five years.

Christine Peterson has written about outdoor recreation and the

environment for the past decade from her home in Wyoming. When

she’s not chasing trout or trapping grizzly bears and bighorn sheep,

she’s wandering the West’s public lands with her daughter, husband

and Labrador.

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 69


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70 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


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ALWAYS

SHOW UP,

NEVER

GIVE UP

For nearly 70 years, Tony Schoonen was above all else a bare-fisted brawler for wild country and his bone-deep

conviction that “blue-collar people should be able to hunt and fish.”

BY DAN CROCKETT

Tony Schoonen cat-footed within 80 yards of his last bull, a

solid six-point, four years ago. That was back when he was 85.

Tony was alone on that hunt, but he did get some help packing

it out. He shot his final elk two years later. When I asked him

how many he’d killed all told, he eased off to the side a little bit

the way you do when you’re on a hot set of tracks, and they start

meandering like the bull is getting ready to bed.

“Well, the statute of limitations has long since expired,” he

chuckled and paused. “You have to understand things were

different back when I started hunting elk. There weren’t nearly

so many of them. You could hunt hard for a week and not cut a

set of fresh tracks. So, when you got into a bunch, you made the

most of it.”

He shouldered an imaginary rifle and swung: bam, bam, bam.

It’s a pretty sure bet there would have been three elk lying in the

lodgepoles. He hunted with the same Belgian Browning BAR .30-

06 since 1956. What Luke Skywalker is to a lightsaber, that was

Tony with his BAR. But that was all long ago, the ethic a product

of earlier, leaner days.

“Times have changed, and it’s absolutely for the better. For elk

and for hunters.”

So…?

“I’ve killed 92 elk.”

All but four of them lived and died on public land. What made

Tony extraordinary, though, was what he did beyond the elk

woods. It’s tough to imagine a more dogged champion for wild

elk, wild trout and above all, opportunity for the common man

to seek them.

Born the ninth of 10 children as the Depression cinched

tight on America in 1930, Tony went to the orphanage in Twin

Bridges, Montana, when he was six months old. He lived there

for 13 years until Jack Seidensticker took him on as a hand on the

family ranch along the Big Hole River. Tony already knew how

to work, but it was there that he learned to hunt and fish and fell

irretrievably in love with wild places.

He became one of Montana’s first licensed fishing guides, a

profession he pursued every summer with an angler’s passion

and a teacher’s patience across an almost four-decade career spent

first in the classroom and then as a principal. He launched Tony’s

Family Guide Service in 1960 and laid down the oars in 2012.

He was 81. These days the outfit is known as Blue Ribbon Guide

Service, but it’s still going strong in his hometown of Butte, run

by his sons, Tony Jr. and Jack.

For nearly 70 years, Tony was above all else a bare-fisted brawler

for wild country and his bone-deep conviction that “blue-collar

people should be able to hunt and fish.”

Fed up with a hostile landowner who strung barbed-wire

fences all the way across the Dearborn River right at the waterline

– making floating not only impossible but, during runoff,

potentially lethal – Tony teamed up with fellow Butte sportsmen

Tom Bugni and Jerry Manley in 1978 to launch the Montana

Stream Access Coalition. When attempts at diplomacy failed, the

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 71


three scraped together their limited funds and hired Jim Goetz,

the best lawyer they could find. They sued over the public’s right

to access not just the Dearborn but every river in the state. The

case eventually went all the way to Montana’s Supreme Court in

1984. And the court ruled for the people.

Because of that landmark victory, anyone can walk or float every

foot of Montana’s navigable creeks and rivers no matter who owns

the land those rivers run through. All you have to do is stay below

the high-water line. Despite a ceaseless barrage of challenges,

Montana’s Stream Access Law still stands as the staunchest in

the nation. I’ve put that law to maximum use over the past three

decades, and my life has been immeasurably

richer because of it.

Want to see how it could have been

without Schoonen and his fellow warriors?

Look no farther than Wyoming and

Colorado. There, whoever owns the land

that a river flows through rules that water

from bank to bank and has complete control

over who can access it. Yes, provided you can

find a public put-in and take-out, you can

float through. But no stopping; drop the anchor to work a run

and you can be cited for trespassing.

I have been fishing, floating and camping along the Dearborn

for almost 30 years. Good friends once led my wife and I to an

eagle pit trap overlooking the river. A stack of red ocher circles

topped by an arrow pointing skyward mark the base of a 150-foot

cliff. On top, young Blackfeet men went to prove themselves by

seizing the tail feathers from the birds they revered. They would

lie motionless in a shallow trough in the limestone, camouflaged

with brush, a raw buffalo hump or jackrabbit staked out beside

them. Then they’d wait as an eagle funneled down in wary circles,

ever closer to the bait.

“You’ve got to get out

there and fill your heart

back up. That way you

remember how precious

these things are that

you’re fighting for.”

I proposed to my wife along the banks of the Dearborn, the

air sweet with willows, dogwoods and cottonwoods. While

hardly comparable as an act of bravery, it was a moment no less

transformative. I try not to step into its waters without offering a

quiet thanks to Tony for giving me that opportunity.

Four years after the stream access triumph he and his lifelong

friend and hunting partner, Jack Atcheson, swung their sights

to another galling inequity. They pooled their money and filed

suit to open more than 5 million acres of Montana state school

trust lands to the people who own them – all of us. This would

open almost a million more acres of adjoining national forests and

BLM land that were otherwise landlocked

by private land. For most of a century, the

landowner who leased those state lands for

grazing held exclusive authority over who

could access them to hunt, fish and camp.

That ended when the judge sided with

Schoonen and Atcheson.

I killed the biggest mule deer of my life

(so far) on a rugged chunk of the state land

they unlocked. Those blue squares on the

map have given my family dozens of other mulies, whitetails and

pronghorns over the years. Whenever I’ve knelt beside one on

state land, I’ve tried to remember I had that chance because two

men believed that everyone should.

The moment that set Tony on the long road of conservation

came in the early ‘60s when he rounded a bend on the Big Hole

to find the river reduced to a trickle courtesy of a fresh-gouged

berm that sent much of the river into an irrigation ditch. Appalled

by the fact that a rancher could take a D-9 Cat and treat a river

like his personal sandbox, Tony vowed to take action. The result

was the passage of the Montana Stream Protection Act in 1963,

which restricts county and state governments’ ability to rearrange

72 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


streams and rivers. He followed that up by championing the Natural

Streambed and Land Preservation Act (commonly known as the 310 rule),

which brings the same scrutiny to bear on private landowners.

In the midst of this, the Bureau of Reclamation proposed damming the

lower Big Hole near the town of Glen to generate electricity and control

flooding. Tony was convinced the river held greater power and value in

its natural, free-flowing state and immediately began enlisting forces

of opposition. Tony’s work to keep rivers in their natural beds had not

endeared him to the ranching community. But some of his fiercest and

most effective allies against the dam were ranchers whose bottomland

would have been inundated. In 1967, he and kindred spirits drove a stake

through the heart of the dam scheme.

Tony once told me, “You’ve got to get out there and fill your heart back

up. That way you remember how precious these things are that you’re

fighting for.”

Toward that end, he taught his sons everything he knew about tracking

elk. Then never accompanied them on a track again.

“He was fine moseying along together until we cut a track,” Jack said.

“Then it was over. He was strictly one man on one elk.”

Back in 1990, elk season was well past the midpoint, and Tony and Jack

were both hungry to put a bull on the ground when they went prowling

the Big Hole somewhere west of Wisdom. Hiking together, they struck a

lone set of platter-sized tracks slanting up through the lodgepole jungle,

not smoking fresh, but not old.

Jack said, “Well, I’m going after this bull.”

Tony replied, ‘Oh no, I’m going to take this bull.”

They glared at one another. Then at the ground. A stony silence passed.

“You’ve gotta understand, we’re both pretty hard-headed and tend to

come out swinging,” Jack said. “He knew I was pissed, and I knew he was,

too.”

Finally, Jack smiled and said, “All right, go take him then, old man.”

Jack dropped into the next drainage and never cut another track. After a

few hours, he looped back around and hit twin sets, his dad and the bull.

By then, both tracks looked like they’d just been carved into the snow with

a skinning knife. Jack figured he might as well see how the story ended

and started up their trail. Presently, Tony’s BAR spoke once. Jack found

him moments later in what passes for a clearing in that country. Tony was

kneeling, head bowed beside a six-point with beams thick as truck axles.

“That was the last really nice bull he killed,” Jack said. “Looking back

now, it was perfect.”

Tony tied all his own flies, and when he killed a late-season bull like

that with long, prime guard hairs, he would cut a big strip right behind

the shoulders and treat it with wood ash. He loved to fish big dries and

streamers, going smaller only when needed and switching to nymphs

purely as a last resort.

“Probably his very favorite dry fly was what he used to call the Bloody

Butcher, which is an old, old pattern from England that got modified

Butte-style for the salmonfly hatch,” Jack said. “He would only tie it with

elk hair.”

When closed-cell foam hit the fly-tying world, Tony immediately saw its

virtues. He got hold of some foam the color of arrowleaf balsamroot just as

the petals start to darken and substituted that as the body on a Sofa Pillowstyle

bug. The wing and hackle were still elk hair, with a squirrel tail. No

fancy blood-soaked alliteration for that one.

“He just called it a Foamy. He used it for golden stones, but also just as

a big hunting fly,” Jack said. “He loved those damn Foamies. And so did

the big browns.”

As Aldo Leopold counseled, “He who kills a trout with his own fly has

Tony with his grandson Sage and

granddaughter Helena by the Stillwater

River outside of Dillon, Montana.

Tony with his son Jack, granddaughter

Helena and her buck.

Tony’s granddaughter Brooke fishes the Big

Hole .

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 73


Tony Schoonen’s

Favorites

Favorite River: Big Hole

Favorite Dry Fly: Bloody Butcher

Favorite Elk Gun: Browning BAR .30-06

Favorite Hunting Dog: Lab

Favorite Conservation Victory: Montana

Stream Access Law

Favorite Apre-River Establishment: Glen Bar

Photo: Tony’s best whitetail, killed at 35 yards with a Model

12 12-gauge and double-ought buckshot, his favorite way

to hunt whitetails. The inside spread was just over 29 inches.

scored two coups, not one.” Make it a Foamy or a Bloody Butcher

you tied from an elk you killed, and you can bump that up to a

hat trick. (Even if, as Tony invariably did, you ease the trout back

into the river and watch it become part of the river once more.)

Roy Morris, his ally in dozens of conservation struggles, said,

“Friends my age and younger never took chances outdoors. Tony

was way older than me, but he’d call me up and say, ‘You want

to go fishing.’ I’d say, ‘Of course.’ And he’d reply, ‘Great. Bring

rope.’”

Across more than half a century of

guiding – and probing lesser-known

waters on his own time – Tony never lost

his appetite for showing people how to

fish, or to fish better.

“He loved teaching people of all ages,”

Jack said. “But what he loved best was

to take kids fishing, loved teaching them

how to fish. He couldn’t resist the magic

of watching a kid light up when they got the rhythm of the cast –

or hooked that first fish.”

Tony fished all over Montana, but his home water, his favorite

by far, was the place where he first fell under the spell of rivers, the

Big Hole. He and his sons fished there for the last of a thousand

times last September, just as the willows and cottonwoods began

to glow. They made sure to go to the locals-only stretch.

Back in 1998, Tony helped spearhead the Big Hole and

Beaverhead river recreation rules, held up by many as a model and

a yardstick for other rivers too popular for their own good. One

of the things those rules did was divide the Big Hole into eight

zones. The uppermost reaches are closed to all float outfitting. In

the lower seven zones, each one is closed to all guided float trips

one day a week. The two most popular stretches of the river are

closed to all guiding on Saturday and Sunday. On top of that,

weekends in those two zones belong strictly to Montanans, with

“He always believed that the

rivers belonged first and

foremost to the people, and

nobody should have to write

a check to go fishing.”

-Jack Schoonen

no floating by nonresidents allowed.

“Dad was extremely proud of the fact that he always put

fish before fishermen. And that he always put fishermen before

outfitters and guides,” Jack said. “Even though he made a good

chunk of the money that fed our family as an outfitter, he always

believed that the rivers belonged first and foremost to the people,

and nobody should have to write a check to go fishing.”

One of the sorry truths of conservation is even when you

win you have to keep fighting the same

damn battles over and over again. After

buying land that engulfed eight miles of

the Ruby River in southwest Montana,

zillionaire James Cox Kennedy thumbed

his nose at the stream access law and had

barriers built that sealed off three bridges

over the Ruby in 2004. Those barriers

denied blue-collar anglers access through

the public right of way to get below the

river’s high-water mark.

Back to court Tony and his cohorts went, originally suing

Madison County. They reminded county commissioners that

recreational use qualifies a public county road for a prescriptive

easement and pushed them to uphold their duty and tear down

the barriers. The discord see-sawed back and forth for a decade,

ultimately landing in the Montana Supreme Court. When the

5-2 decision came down, the justices ruled in favor of the public’s

right to go to the river and fish.

Early on in the dispute, a real estate developer and fellow

landowner in the Ruby had aligned himself to Kennedy and the

cause. This man had long argued that private property rights

trump public access, and did so again at a hearing in the State

Capitol in Helena. He became so inflamed that as the parties

were all walking out into the parking lot afterwards, he grabbed

Schoonen by the shoulder, shaking him and shouting in his face.

74 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


Bad idea. The man was 20 years his junior, but Tony

never hesitated. He spun and swung from the gut.

Technically, it wasn’t a KO, but the developer lay

splayed on the pavement and nobody was having to hold

him down to keep him from jumping back in the fight.

Given his bellicose nature and ferocious commitment

to principle, Tony was often at odds with even his

longtime conservation allies. I’ve spent the last 30

years helping to edit Bugle, the Rocky Mountain Elk

Foundation’s magazine. Tony became a life member of

RMEF in 1987, when the odds of the fledgling group

surviving were still up in the air. Over the years, I received

more than a couple phone calls and hand-written letters

letting me know he thought RMEF had gone in the ditch

on some stance or the failure to take one. You never had

to wonder where he stood on an issue.

But we saw eye to eye on more than a few. One of

the finest came on the morning of Aug. 27, 2019, as

an exuberant knot of people gathered along the upper

reaches of the Dearborn, the same river he had fought to

open to public access 35 years earlier.

The crowd ranged from lifelong ranchers to firefighters

with a passion for backcountry elk and mulies to U.S.

senators. They came together to celebrate the dedication

of 442 acres of newly minted public land purchased by

the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and protected

as national forest. That acquisition not only created

new access to the Dearborn but also encompassed a

voluptuous mile of Falls Creek, including the 60-foot

plunge that gives the creek its name.

Most of all, though, this property provided a gateway

to 27,000 acres of incredible backcountry on the shoulder

of the Scapegoat Wilderness that had been sealed off for

decades. Now anyone willing to cinch up their boots or

saddle is free to look up Falls Creek toward Bear Den

Mountain and the high, wild ramparts of the Scapegoat

beyond, and go there.

Tony was too sick to be with us that day, but his

daughter, Becky, was, and he was there in spirit, too.

Exactly seven weeks later, on Oct. 22, he crossed his last

river. He was 89.

As dawn broke on the day that he went into the

hospital, Tony was out savoring his stream access rights

along the Big Hole with Ginger, the latest in a long line of

Labs. He killed three mallards with three shots. On Tony’s

final day, Roy Morris came to visit and seek his counsel

on strategies to keep the Madison River from being loved

to death. No longer able to speak but comprehending

everything, Tony nodded or shook his head like an old

brown trying to rid itself of a Bloody Butcher.

The last time I talked with him, I asked what advice he

had for those of us working to make sure the things he

loved go on. His reply could well be his epitaph: “Always

show up. Never give up. If you’re determined, you can do

it. Don’t ever stop fighting.”

A proud life member of BHA, Dan Crockett lives in

Missoula, Montana.

Remembered: Tony Schoonen’s

Contributions to BHA

When I heard Tony Schoonen had passed, I immediately thought of a Bruce

Springsteen lyric:

“They say you can’t take it with you,

but I think that they’re wrong;

Cuz I woke up this morning

and something big was gone.”

I don’t remember meeting Tony, because I was too young to remember, but

I always remember him being “there.” “There” was anywhere someone needed

help, and anywhere a bully needed to get knocked down. Tony’s fingerprints and

boot prints are all over Montana’s wild places, mostly attached to a figurative

sign that reads, “Public land for all to use.”

My last two memories of Tony encapsulate his life to me. First, Tony was

advocating a land swap and leading a tour of the properties. He was guiding

his raft down the Big Hole and the Jefferson rivers at 86 years old, while my

82-year-old father fished. The idea of the 168 combined years of conservation

heroism in that raft humbled me to my core. Then, at the end of the trip, my

dad had somehow lost his rod case. I watched the wheels in Tony’s head turn,

and he walked about 100 yards downstream, disappeared under the magnificent

waters of the Jefferson river and emerged with the rod case. Seriously, the man

was 86.

My final memory of Tony is his work as part of the coalition to finally

resolve public access in the Crazy Mountains. Our paths to the coalition began

separately, mine with BHA and his with Skyline Sportsmen, but they eventually

merged, and when they did I knew a solution was in our future. Being on a team

with Tony means the public will win, because he feared no one, refused to settle

for less and never quit. Ever. I remember the initial phases of our coalition, and

one of the concerns was if we could afford to do what needed doing. It took less

than five seconds for Tony to offer to mortgage his house to pay for it.

Whether Tony was helping someone or everyone, he was always part of the

solution. His legacy will be written by people far better with words than I am.

However, his impact on me will be to make sure his legacy is respected by a life

of conservation activism to preserve those things that matter most; when you

find them, fear no one, never settle for less and never quit. Ever.

-Andrew Posewitz, BHA life member

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 75


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SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 77


OPINION

Backcountry

Doesn’t Only Mean

Public Land

BY CHARLIE LEVESQUE

I’ve been a member of BHA for many years now. I was drawn to

the organization because, like all of you, I like to work hard when

I hunt and fish. When I fly-fish, I much prefer to catch a six-inch

native brook trout in a remote beaver pond than a two pounder

at a stocked site. It’s about a fair chase hunt or fish, but it’s also

just that I like to be up in the sticks and backcountry, where I

might be lucky enough not to see another human.

BHA now has chapters all over North America, and many of

these are in areas dominated by private land – not public land –

such as in the Northeast. So, those of us who hunt and fish here

usually hunt and fish on both public and private land – some, like

me, mostly on private land. As BHA expands further, it is critical

that the organization and Backcountry Journal highlight the many

opportunities available in Eastern backcountry, much of which

occurs on private land.

In much of New England – one of the most forested regions in

the country – there has been a time-honored tradition of open,

free access to private land for walking, hunting and fishing. In

southern New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode

Island) that open private land tradition is waning, lost as the

urban sprawl from New York City to Boston encroaches. But, in

northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont),

my closest stomping grounds, the tradition is still going strong as

stated by New Hampshire Fish and Game:

“Based on long-standing tradition, nearly all lands in the

state of New Hampshire are open to hunting. The ‘rule of

thumb’ in New Hampshire is: all state, federal, municipal,

county and private land is open to hunting unless it is posted

against hunting. However, hunting is a privilege granted by

the landowner – not a right granted to the hunter.”

Maine and Vermont have similarly written rules.

This year I only hunted grouse, turkey and deer on private land

– none of it posted against access. As a small forest owner, we

have never posted our land and never will. While statistics are not

readily available on the amount of private land open to access for

no fee, the vast majority is in northern New England.

Those of us who hunt and fish private land in the Northeast

treat it as a privilege and not as a right. Legally, we are entitled

to access private land on foot if it is not posted against access; so,

technically, it is a right under state laws. We need to treat these

lands carefully, however, making sure we don’t litter (many parcels

have been posted over time as a result of littering), and that we

don’t wreck a woods road or accessway by driving it when soils are

saturated or not in condition for a vehicle.

The Northeast has plenty of private land with conservation

easements in place as well. A conservation easement is a

permanent deed that prohibits current or future landowners from

Federal, state, county and local public

land in New England and New York totals

6.1 million acres in a 7-state area of 81

million acres.

developing the land. Many of these easements require the lands

remain open to hunting and fishing, too. All of these Northeast

states have active programs to acquire and purchase conservation

easements on private land – most requiring permanent public

access. According to Maine state officials:

“Since the 1990s, Maine state government and private land

trusts have protected over a million and a half acres using

purchased and donated conservation easements. Using

federal Forest Legacy funds and Maine’s Land for Maine’s

Future Program funds, over $100 million worth of easements

have been purchased to assure public access and keep these

lands undeveloped – in perpetuity. These lands remain

private and owners continue to pay property taxes.”

I hunted and fished on some of these lands this year.

Conservation easements have been a wonderful tool for keeping

forests as forests and farms as farms, as well as providing the public

with a special hunting and fishing benefit – all on private land.

Having worked and lived in the West early in my career, I can

attest to the wonders of public land to walk, hunt and fish in

remote backcountry. Getting there on foot is half the fun. In the

Northeast, we like backcountry hunting and fishing, too. But,

given the land use and ownership patterns, this is more likely to

occur on private land than public.

Our BHA mission is, “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to

ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing

in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild

public lands and waters.” In my mind that lends itself equally well

to the backcountry traditions on private land in the Northeast as

well as the vast public land of the West.

Charlie Levesque is a forester and longtime BHA member from

New Hampshire. He is the co-owner of Innovative Natural Resource

Solutions, LLC, a natural resource consulting firm.

Editor’s Note: Always verify access regulations in your state before

venturing onto private land! BHA is committed to promoting public

access to private lands, just one example being our support of the

Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, which is

funded through the 2018 Farm Bill.

Graphic by Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, LLC

78 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 79


if we

take care of

our future,

our future

will take

care of us.

80 | BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL SPRING 2020


THANK YOU BHA SUPPORTERS

NEW LIFE MEMBERS

Matthew Allred

Tommaso Anselmino

Timothy Barry

Dale Bauer

Travis Beakley

Ryan Bloom

Justin Brown

David Brown

Ricky Brule

Peter Bryjak

Gil Burgess

Liam Cassidy

Scott Chase

Nic Craig

Gabriel Darbyson

Ross Davis

William DeBlois

Dylan Dennis

Rudy Dodorico

Michael Dukes

Barry Dunn

Jefferson Durham

Josh Engel

Keith Fasteson

Will Faust

Jared French

Alex Getty

Richard Glover

Brad Green

Cortney Gregory

Timothy Harden

Tim Harris

Sarah Hayes

Lisa Herdering

LEGACY PARTNERS

Austin High

Darrell Hobson

Kurt Holmes

Derek Irwin

Andrew Juelfs

Joe Keating

Judd Knudsen

Kody Krien

Andrew Lacy

Kai Lampson

Kyle Larson

Spencer Lawley

Matt Little

Kyle Lukes

Gary Maerz

Tucker Martin

Craig Mathews

Ian McClelland

John Mertz

Travis Michael

Paul Miskulnig

Jen Moore

Paul Moseley

Luke Murphy

Scott Napoli

David Neitzke

Colter Nicolarsen

Hannah Nikonow

Mark Norquist

Joseph O’Shea

Robert Palmer

Jackson Parvin

Jeff Peracchi

Jordan Phillips

Legacy Partners are public land and water advocates, like you, who choose to donate $1,000

a year or more to ensure that BHA’s campaigns and advocacy efforts are sustained.

Lou and Lila Bahin, Mike Beagle,

Kip Carpenter, Sean Carriere,

Chris Cholette, Dave Cline, Todd

Debonis, Dan Edwards, Dan

Ermatinger, Blake Fischer, Sarah

Foreman, Whit Fosburgh, John

Garofalo, Stephen Graf, Don

Holmstrom, Ryan Huckeby, Thom

Jorgensen, Richard Kacin, Ted Koch,

PLANNED GIVING

Peter Lupsha, Robert Magill, Chol

McGlynn, Andrew Miller, Nick

Miller, James Montieth, Paul Moseley,

Nick Nichols, Jared Oakleaf, Doug

Okland, John Pollard, Rick Potts,

William Rahr, Adam Ratner, Jesse

DONATE ONLINE

Ken and Marcia Polhamus

Christopher Ream

Joshua Reed

Kyle Reedy

Vern Schaller

Ethan Scheffler

Ben Schmidt

Chad Schultz

Mark Schwomeyer

Michael Scott

Mohamed Seck

Andrew Shuler

David Soules

Zachary Steed

Rae Stevenson

Ryan Thomas

Ford Van Fossan

Alec Vander Giessen

Chris VanKauwenberg

Joseph Wahl

Chuck and Natalie Wall

Larry Williams

Matthew Wilson

James Young

Jake Yundt

Josh Zoller

Riggleman, Mike Schmitt, Jason

Stewart, Bob Tammen, Land Tawney,

Lynda Tucker, Karl Van Calcar,

Nathan Voris, Barry Whitehill, J.R.

and Renee Young

SUPPORT THE CAUSE

MEMORIAL

Photo by Joe O’Brien

Planned giving allows members

to make larger gifts than

possible using ordinary income.

There are three basic

types of planned gifts: outright

gifts, financial benefit

returns .and bequests.

You can make secure, online donations

through our web portal. Facebook also

makes it easy to donate to BHA and get your

friends involved on your birthday or special

holidays.

CHAPTER CORPORATE PARTNERS

CALIFORNIA

Ridgeline Knife Works

Orvis

COLORADO

Good Bull Outdoors

MICHIGAN

Beyond The Ears

Common Hunter

Connected Guide Service

Flint Ridge Rifles

Great Northern Bowhunting

Jay’s Sporting Goods, Inc.

Karma Kane Rods

Long Range Archery and Firearms LLC.

Scientific Anglers

The Deer Hunter Podcast

The Hunting Dog Podcast

True North Trout

Vanguard USA, inc

Werkman Outfitters

MINNESOTA

Tyto Knives LLC

MONTANA

Optics Northwest

Orange Aglow

Sitka Gear

Sportsman & Ski Haus

The Trail Head

True Water Fly Shop

NEVADA

Anderson’s Outdoors LLC

IMBIB Custom Brews

Lowland Knives

Pilot Peak Guide Service and Charters

Honor hunting partners and family with a

gift in their name. There is no better way to

celebrate their life than with a gift that will

help BHA fight to preserve the lands that

generate so many memories.

Call BHA at 406-926-1908 or email

admin@backcountryhunters.org for more

information.

NEW YORK

Adirondack Mountain & Stream Guide Service

Gumleaf USA

PENNSYLVANIA

Sandcut Outdoors LLC

Skull Brew Coffee Company

SOUTHEAST

AG Russell Knives

TEXAS

Duck Camp

FIREDISC

Smile Outside

Smoke Monkey BBQ

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 81



END OF THE LINE

Reactivated

R3. Since coming to work for BHA a year ago, I’ve heard it often:

recruitment, retention and reactivation. I’ve been quizzed about

what it stands for in meetings, published articles about it in

Backcountry Journal and taken a keen interest in how new hunters

are being recruited through BHA’s Hunting for Sustainability

program. But it wasn’t actually until very recently, the end of this

past fall’s hunting season, that I realized I was part of that mix.

You see, I grew up bowhunting. Even in college, when friends

were partying late and sleeping later, I would go to bed early and

leave while they were still raising havoc to canoe several miles

upriver to my favorite treestand. But then, I didn’t; I stopped

hunting. It wasn’t overnight but more of a long, drawn-out

breakup. The reasons were many. Fall fishing was winning out

more and more often, until the opener of bow season started

coming without me having even shot my bow. I had also grown

a little disgusted with some of the behavior I was seeing. Ted

Nugent, my childhood hunting role model, sang in my favorite

song, Fred Bear, “There I was, back in the wild again.” It turns

out, wild to Ted meant high-fence hunting over bait. I didn’t want

to be like Ted anymore.

Not long after killing my last deer, I moved west, drawn by

fish I had not yet caught. And then I became a fishing guide who

worked every day each fall. There simply wasn’t time to hunt. And

I forgot what I was missing.

It took nearly a decade to come full circle, which started by

watching rutting mule deer on the hills above the river while

guiding. I started to wish I was stalking those hills rather than

standing wader-clad in the river. And there was our favorite

campsite on overnight steelhead trips, where we would watch a

resident elk herd come out of the draw above every sunset and

then fall to sleep to the giant herd bull’s scream. I started bringing

a diaphragm call just for the sake of hearing him answer. It seemed

that Call of the Wild wasn’t just a book title; it was a state of mind.

Around that time, I found out about this small but rapidly

growing organization called Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. I

saw that there were a bunch of people hunting the way I envisioned

it; it was about wild places, wild-harvested food, protecting those

places for the future and so much more. And, like that, I was

ready to be a hunter again.

I could say I regret not having hunted more for the past decade,

but I don’t. Sure, I missed out on some things, but with it came

perspective and an appreciation that I don’t know I would have

found otherwise. When I look back over these years, it is now

so clear how each and every little decision led to the next, none

of which I could see as they were actually happening. If I hadn’t

taken a break from hunting to focus on fishing, I might not have

moved west, started guiding, met my wife or formed a little flyfishing

magazine – all of which, together, led me back to hunting

with a new-found appreciation – reactivated – and then here to

BHA and Backcountry Journal.

-Zack Williams, editor

Photo by Zack Williams

SPRING 2020 BACKCOUNTRY JOURNAL | 83


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