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“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.� T H E O D O R E R O O S E V E LT

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P H O T O : D U S A N S M E TA N A

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For those of you who don’t know, Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented today, this publication will be presented from the perspective of hunting purists and philosophers, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, corporate interests, or misinformed emotional rants. For many of us, hunting is a way of life; a tradition passed down by our grandfathers, fathers, and brave mothers. It’s a way of staying connected to the land, harvesting wild food to sustain our families, and is a shared passion and pursuit in many countries the world over. Hunting also plays a majority role in conservation, which ensures that expanses of land stay untamed, and that wildlife populations thrive — something we’ll be prominently focused on moving forward. But this isn’t just for hunters. While we know that there will be opposition, we believe that through our collective stories, photographs, and films, we’ll be able to educate some folks about overlooked realities and win the minds and hearts of those who still have them open. Through presenting stories based in virtue, ethics, personal growth, and scholastic merit, our aim is to inspire, educate, challenge, and in some cases, set the record straight. Tired of being spoken against, and labeled things we are not, it’s time to tell a new story about hunting. We created Modern Huntsman to be the banner under which forces muster, and with this first issue, not so much to confront as to clarify, we’re riding out.

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by Charles Post

by Dusan and Lorca Smetana


by Tanner Johnson

by Travis Gillett









by Tyler Sharp

by Kaleb White

by Tyler Sharp









by John Dunaway

by Nicole Belke

by Chris Douglas and Charles Post

by Camrin Dengel

by Jillian Lukiwski

P H O T O : D U S A N S M E TA N A

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by Charles Post

by Eamon Waddington

by Tyler Sharp







by Dusan Smetana

by Eamon Waddington








by Jillian Lukiwski


by Adam Foss

by Charles Post

C O N S E R VAT I O N REVIEW with Simon Roosevelt


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Photo taken at Peter Beard’s Hog Ranch in Nairobi, Kenya

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Between 2006 and 2009 I traveled to nearly 25 countries, filming

In the pages that follow, we’ll be showcasing the work of

and photographing hunts in some of the most remote regions of

photographers and writers who, in my opinion, are some of the

the world. It was an incredible opportunity, and I was exposed to

more relevant voices in the hunting space right now. Their work

cultures, landscapes, and wildlife that I previously didn’t know

is thoughtful, ethical, and beautiful, yet rarely showcased in

existed. (We’ll get more into that experience later in the issue.)

mainstream media. Many of them I’m fortunate to call friends, and all of them I can confidently call brilliant talents. We hope

While on assignment in Nepal, I ran into a prominent National

you’ll agree.

Geographic photographer (whom I will not name), and asked if he’d look at my work, or offer some advice for getting published.

By design, this first issue is of an introductory nature, which

He reluctantly agreed, but quickly made it clear that he not only

will help us lay a foundation for the path ahead, and introduce

detested the images of hunting, but thought that I didn’t have

some of the topics we’ll be addressing. More importantly perhaps

what it took to be a photographer, and should “consider becoming

is the tone which we’ll be taking. From elk in the American

someone’s assistant.”

west to waterfowl in South Texas, the savannahs of East Africa to falconry in California, Volume One covers a diverse range of

Back then I took it personally, almost as an insult. By dismissing

topics, all unified by common ethics. Expertly guided by my two

my work so quickly and refusing me a chance to explain, I felt he

guest editors, Charles Post and Chris Douglas, it should begin to

was being closed-minded about the topic of hunting. Maybe he

illuminate our collective philosophy, which is drawn from both

was. But in hindsight, that experience had a major influence on

wisdom past and lessons yet to come.

the path I’ve taken since. I distinctly remember thinking, “Forget that guy, I don’t need his approval. I could just publish my own

We have a lofty mission and know that it won’t be accomplished

work, or even start a magazine. ”

right away. It’s likely to be a long and difficult road ahead, but we plan to stay the course, and weather the storms. But it’s heartening

It was on that day that I decided two things: one, that I was no

to have so much of your support right out of the gate, and we will

longer going to seek outside validation to publish the stories I

do our absolute best to continue earning that.

thought were worth telling; and two, that it’s important to try and educate people about how hunting plays a role not only in

From all of us on the Modern Huntsman team, we wanted to say

conservation, but in fellowship, and even cultural preservation.

a sincere thank you. This magazine would not have been possible

Turns out I was not alone in that sentiment, and after meeting

without your support, and we look forward to continuing the

Brad & Elliott (co-founders of @modernhuntsman), quickly

journey with you.

realized that we had complementary visions for bringing about

Now, it’s with an indescribable amount of pride (and relief) to

much-needed change in the hunting narrative.

present Volume One of Modern Huntsman Magazine, and we sure

Well folks, after nearly two years’ worth of determination,

do hope you enjoy it.

collaboration, and coffee/whiskey consumption, we’re led here, to

In both purpose and practice, aim true, and shoot straight.

Volume One of Modern Huntsman Magazine. We’re pursuing those same principles, but this time around, we’re calling the shots.


The reputation of hunting has been tarnished in the public’s eye, and no matter the combination of events, misunderstandings, or skewed news stories that might’ve caused it, our plan is to amend that narrative, and start to improve the perception of hunting Editor-in-Chief | @tylersharpphoto

traditions that so many of us know and love.

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Charles Post

Tyler Sharp

Chris Douglas Jillian Lukiwski


Dusan & Lorca Smetana

Kadie Smith

John Dunaway


Camrin Dengel

Brad Neathery

Travis Gillett Eamon Waddington


Tanner Johnson

Elliott Hillock

Nicole Belke


Kaleb White

Red Car Media

Tyler Sharp Simon Roosevelt Adam Foss



© 2018 Modern Huntsman LLC

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Charles is an ecologist and filmmaker inspired by the confluence of society and wild landscapes. With nearly a decade of experience studying at U.C. Berkeley to earn his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree in ecology, he applies his passion to creative projects that lean on the communicative power of film, journalism and photography to inspire our next generation of stewards. Intrigued by society’s


relationship with our rapidly changing natural environments, Charles draws

Hunting Snow Geese To Save The Arctic

inspiration from this simple notion: how can we expect others to care about a species, river or watershed if they don’t even know it exists? Through storytelling, Charles has found a vehicle to expose and illuminate narratives bound to the


future of landscapes and waters worth fighting for.

Snow 162

Give An Inch, Take A Mile

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Chris was born and raised in east Tennessee, along the Clinch River in Anderson County. His interest in photography began at age 10, where he began snapping photos of surrounding wildlife and family hunting trips. While attending the


University of Tennessee, he was approached by a print scout and was sent to New York to work with world-class photographer Bruce Weber, for famed fashion designer Gianni Versace. For the next four years he lived between New York, Paris


and Milan, but quickly became tired of city living. Shortly after, Chris decided

Interview with Micah Fink

to put down roots in southwest Montana, where he worked various ranches and competed as a saddle bronc contestant in rodeos throughout Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Blending raw outdoor and wildlife moments with a creative approach to visual storytelling, his photography is intended to reflect his life as an outdoorsman, conservationist and cowboy. His objective is to express the respect and gratitude he has for his Native American lineage. When not on assignment in remote locations, Chris resides in Bozeman, Montana where he lives with his wife, two children, and their horses.

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D U S A N & L O R C A S M E TA N A


D U S A N . P H O T O S H E L T E R . com / / @ D U S A N _ M O N T A N A _ S M E T A N A

Dusan was raised in a small mountain village of Czechoslovakia. He spent his boyhood on a quest to understand the soul of a hunting lifestyle, learning forestry and traditional survival skills from his father. Following his lifelong dream of living under the expansive skies in the American West, he eventually left repressive communism for Montana and has since garnered over 150 national and international magazine covers, had work showcased all across the US and Europe, and has worked with more notable and prestigious clients than we could list here. His wife, writer and consultant Lorca Smetana, teaches resilience management at Montana State University. Together they combine art, family and creatures on a farm in Montana, providing a window into a self-sustaining life that melds the cultures of two continents.





A Different Food Chain

A Sporting Life // @CAMRINDENGEL

Camrin is a lifestyle photographer living in rural Idaho. Originally from Alaska, her work focuses on life in wild places and is threaded with themes of self-sufficiency and of returning to our roots. As a self-sufficient hunter, Camrin spends a lot of time in the wilderness focused on the details of the landscapes and wildlife; the direction of the wind, tracks and raked up trees from bull antlers, what birds are flying, and where water or north-facing slopes are. She enjoys working hard during a hunt and earning the meat that fills the freezer.


At the Ready

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Jillian hails from Canada but has found home on the Snake River in Idaho. Drawing inspiration from the natural spaces she abides in, she is a silversmith, writer and photographer committed to revealing the indelible spirit of the West with her work. She values creative process over finished products, and honesty and courage over accolades. Jillian takes her time most everywhere she goes, and lives expansively along the way.




When Your Faith is Gone

And So I Hunt

Artist Feature



T R A V I S G I L L E T T. com / / @ T R A V I S G I L L E T T

Travis works to capture the peculiarities of often overlooked everyday life in the western United States. His passion is for places beyond traffic jams and without running water and for the people inhabiting these areas who choose to live on their own terms. Using natural light and shooting predominantly on film, he documents real-life characters and wild places with abandon. Originally from Idaho, Travis grew up surrounded by the great outdoors, where hunting and fishing were tradition. Now living in the city of Seattle, these activities are necessary escapes from an increasingly frenetic and technologic existence— to disconnect is to connect with something deeper.


Up A Mountain On a Horse Named Homer

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Contributor // @KALEBWHITE

As a child, Kaleb spent his time pursuing one adventure after the next—camping, hunting and fishing throughout North America was only the beginning. As a husband and father, his responsibilities have changed, but the relationship, respect, and passion for a vanishing frontier hasn’t. Kaleb’s career has allowed him to combine his passion for hunting with international travel, where he seeks adventure through a camera lens. Whether bowhunting whitetail deer at home in Nebraska, chasing bull elk in high alpine basins, or tempting trout on blue-ribbon waters, he believes in authentic storytelling and deep respect for the outdoors.


Cured Perspective



A B S T R A C T C O N F O R M I T Y. com / / @ A B S T R A C T C O N F O R M I T Y

A merchant mariner by trade, John travels the oceans on a cargo ship for six months of the year, visiting exotic lands and cultures across the globe. When off the ship, his time is mostly spent with his family, but he is in the outdoors as much as possible. Come hunting season, he and his dog Nixon wingshoot frequently, which fulfills a passion for the outdoors and provides food for the table. Whether ashore or afloat, he seeks to document the often neglected or poorly depicted lifestyles of hunting and life abroad. Abstract Conformity is his approach to sharing these stories from a voice outside of the norm, which he is continuously adapting.


Clarity in Silence

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TA N N E R J O H N S O N . u s / / @ TA N N E R J O H N S O N . U S

Tanner was introduced to the outdoors at a very young age and has developed a deep connection with it ever since. Working with various outdoor brands, he aspires to portray

“the other half”

of the outdoors by combining his passions for hunting, fishing, mountaineering, and travel photography. Tanner travels as much as possible, documenting everything on the way, and strives to learn the land, study the people, and bring back anything that inspires others to never resist the urge of adventure.


Symmetry Afield



N I C O L E B E L K E . com / / @ N I C O L E B E L K E

Nicole is a hunter and photographer based in







outdoors, paired with experience as a seasoned photographer, brings a unique perspective to sporting life storytelling. Though assignments vary between western big game and deer, it’s the chaos, adrenaline, intensity of dogs, miserable weather and camaraderie of waterfowl hunting that makes it her favorite. When Nicole’s not traveling to photograph hunts, she spends as much time as she can with her family, hunting whitetail deer, waterfowl, and upland birds.


Earned Keep

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Eamon is an Australian photographer with an innate connection to the wilderness. He seeks to create images that help educate people about cultures, traditions, and secrets of the outdoors. Eamon’s work encourages people to explore their ancestral and primitive selves, to ignite a lost curiosity for understanding the intricacies of our ever changing ecosystems, and grasp how we can contribute to conservation and sustainability.




Homeward Bound

Cured Venison Loin Recipe









and ambassador for outdoor brands. With a background rooted deep in mountain bowhunting, and as an athlete for various hunting companies for 7+ years, he’s become known for his ability to help tell unique stories and seek out adventures full of big smiles.


Remote Therapy

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Simon is an avid hunter and conservationist and is involved in a wide variety of environmental and conservation projects in North America,

A M E R I C A N C O N S E R VAT I O N P R O J E C T S . o r g

South America and Africa. In the US, he is the founder of the Conservation Roundtable, a periodic gathering of the heads of leading conservation organizations to discuss and take action on shared issues. Simon is also a co-founder of the Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch, a private initiative that successfully organized the purchase and transfer of the last remaining parcel of unprotected private land ranched by Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands of North Dakota to the US Forest Service’s Dakota Prairie Grasslands. Simon is a member of the Boone & Crockett Club (America’s first private wildlife conservation club), a member of the President’s Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation, Chairman of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, and is Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the New York City Region.

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Conservation Review


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don’t think I slept for more than a few hours a night that fall; I watched the hands of my wristwatch spin as the hours slipped by with dawn, coffee, wing beats, and birdsong on my mind. For most waterfowl hunters, 4 AM is a telling time; it’s the progression of alarms that rattle, buzz

and ring from each of the bedrooms that reveal volumes about a person. Some look for those extra minutes of sleep while others – those camp dog sorts – err on the side of early, to be sure coffee’s made before flying down country roads, immersed in a sea of corn and rice fields with eyes fixed east. You can be sure there’s the convenient types, too; those guys that land somewhere in the middle, the sort who don’t want to be chastised for sleeping in and would rather find coffee ready on the stove instead of waking up early to help get all the lunch fixings together, prep gear, load dogs and decoys. You all know who you are. Assumptions aside, what binds that group of sleep-starved, dawn-hungry hunters is fall, a time when smiling eyes glow by headlamp, and the butt of your gun becomes the sledge to break a trail through the frozen pond while the flicker of sunrise dances on the horizon. It’s the whisk of wings, honks and whistles, the silhouette of snows, specks, mallards, pintails, widgeons and teals. “This is what we do in the fall. It’s not a time to get married or have kids. Fall’s for hunting.” It’s a way of life.

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I’ve been told that a life guided by the ebb and flow of hunting is

Aldo Leopold, a great American author, fisherman, hunter and

in no way the same as a life guided by conservation; a statement

naturalist of the 19th century explained this dichotomy well. “A

which I believe to be as broad and overgeneralized as saying all

conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke

thoroughbreds are good racing horses, and all quarter horses are

[of the axe] he is writing his signature on the face of the land.” And

good on the trail. Like anything in life, there’s a spectrum that

with this definition in mind, a hunter may be a conservationist so

becomes clear after peeling back layers to expose the subtleties

as long as his “stroke of the axe” is guided by principle, ethics and

and pillars of what so often seems apparent from the surface. As

a dose of ecological mindfulness. It is with these attributes that I

they say, don’t judge a book by its cover; hunting’s no different.

propose hunting can in fact exist as a modern and powerful tool of conservation in the 21st century.

I didn’t grow up with a dad or grandparents who put life on hold for hunting in the fall; I was raised by a dad who spent a decade

By 6 AM, it’s been nearly an hour since we hiked the two miles

working to protect wild rivers in California, a grandmother who

from our mud-kissed trucks to the reed-swamped blind. With

was an avid birder, and a grandpa who was a Harvard-trained

decoys and guns slung over our shoulders, we trudged in seven-

forester that called the northern forests home. They all hunted

millimeter neoprene waders along levees, through a patchwork

(except for my grandmother who preferred fishing), and they

of ponds, and both flooded and dry rice fields. All carried guns,

knew deep down in their moral fabric that hunting, like fishing,

ammo and decoys, while those “camp dogs” carried the coffee and

offered more than a meal — it offered time outside to commune

lunch of egg and bacon sandwiches. By flashlight and headlamp,

and understand nature, her patterns and obscurities.

we followed faintly moonlit ribbons of migrating birds overhead, blooming and swirling like a writhing breath of fall.

While I wasn’t swaddled in Mossy Oak camo at first breath, I do, like every human on Earth, come from a family tree of hunters and

Before an hour had passed, we waded into that final smooth coat

gatherers. The only difference between a non-hunter and a hunter

of water ever so slightly punctuated by the ripples of the day’s

is that one continued the tradition. As for my own lineage, I come

avian frontrunners. The scene was one of quiet commotion, as a

from a family with roots that go back to the first days of America’s

few dozen dabblers and divers harvested the muddy waters. The

young history. My family arrived in New England as whalers,

hazy outline of reed, bamboo and tule dressed in a soft sheet of fog

moved east into the Hudson River Valley as conservationists

marked our final destination. Here, tucked away from the day’s

and members of the Transcendental Movement, and eventually

migratory progression, we would hunt one of the world’s most

spread across the Iowa and Nebraska territories, where they took

abundant and prolific birds, the lesser snow goose.

up farming and tanning leather. Eventually, they marched their

While it’s true more often than not that migrating lesser snow

way to the Pacific following the Second World War. Then on a

geese stick with migrating lesser snow geese, such selectivity

July morning in 1988, I showed up. Not long after, I had a fishing

does not often guide the barrel of a seasoned gun; instead you’ll

rod, butterfly net, a 28-gauge shotgun, magnifying glass, a stack

find that most hunters have an acute preference for a particular

of buckets and field guides, and an insatiable thirst for nature.

species. Perhaps they prefer the taste of a mallard over a shovler -

Along my 29-year journey, I’ve balanced my love for nature with

and we were no different, except that our preference was guided

a lifestyle guided by an intention to leave as little of a footprint

by the crosshairs of conservation, rather than culinary potential.

as possible.

And while we did set out to hunt lesser snow geese (henceforth,

What I’ve learned is this: Each one of us loves something, and each

snow geese) armed with sound science, it goes without saying that

one of us has got to eat. And when you love animals alive more

hunting waterfowl often provides an opportunity for your barrel to

than dead — having spent nearly a quarter of your life studying

meet the eyes of other migratory waterfowl: mallards, buffleheads,

them — you’re bound to feel more than a few moments of moral

widgeons, shovlers and pintails among them. And when an

and emotional conflict, whether you’re buying chicken from the

opportunity presents itself to sustainably and mindfully harvest

supermarket, catching a trout from a stream or shooting a mallard

an animal free from the threats of endangerment or extinction, it

from the marsh. You might ask yourself what the answer is to this

seems prudent to do so. After all, if the environmental and ethical

dilemma — well, all there is to do is this: Be mindful, but do your

realities of the conventional farming, dairy and meat industry

research, so that you may make the most informed decision possible.

were realized, and the general public had an intimate, unfiltered

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understanding that incorporating conventional nutrition (meat

While the U.S. land area covers some 2.3 billion acres, the

or plant based) into their diet directly drives the destruction of

proportion designated as cultivated farmland – places where

virgin forests and rivers (e.g., palm oil, bananas, soy, wine, cattle),

migratory waterfowl feast and fatten on their way north and

loss of rare and threatened species and loss of economic stability

south – has declined from 63% in 1949 to 51% in 2007, yet lesser

for small communities across the globe, then maybe, just maybe,

snow geese populations remain on the rise. Milder winters, few

people would gain a more intimate appreciation for the true costs

natural predators (the polar bear and arctic fox among them),

of food and the ecological requirements necessary to support life

high fecundity (amount of offspring per reproductive year), and

— be it humans, waterfowl, whales, caribou, trees, prairie or fish.

a relatively long life paired with a relatively young age of sexual maturity speak to a reality ripe for a population boom of epic and

And while the sight of fleeting wings or sound of ragged antlers

detrimental proportions.

in autumn tug our eyes marshward, we must keep in mind that these species and populations are indeed managed by wildlife

So, here’s the nuts and bolts of it: Snow geese populations are

researchers who determine—to the best of their ability given the

booming. Being the prolific birds that they are, millions of

available resources—how many individuals can and should be

snow geese are eating themselves out of house and home. This

removed from a population, with the interest of the ecological

destruction is unfolding across two fronts, the western and central.

fabric in mind. Yet, just like hunting or horses, wildlife management

The central population of snow geese migrates from the verdant,

unfolds across a spectrum of best and could-be-better practices;

summer tundra that hugs the western shores of Hudson Bay to

there’s always room for growth and better science to guide and

the fields of the American south and southeast (namely Louisiana,

shape the way we manage natural resources.

Mississippi and Alabama). The second major population of snow geese summer and breed in the Alaskan arctic and overwinter in

With the sun’s photic frontrunners riding the eastern brow of the

and around California’s central valley.

Sierra Nevada, we stood waist deep in cold, muddy water armed with sound research and a level of faith bound to waterfowl

For decades, scientists and wildlife managers have watched

management. We raised cold guns skyward and peered down

helplessly as the central snow goose population has bloomed out

polished steel, with data warning ecosystem managers of a

of control, far exceeding the carrying capacity (the number of

snow goose population explosion that would undoubtedly and

individuals an ecosystem can support) of their breeding grounds.

irreversibly destroy vast swaths of the arctic. As my watch struck

This population growth has led to the transformation of a lush

6:33 AM, the day’s hunt began. A cacophony of rounds broke the

landscape into a sea of saline mud that lacks the potential to return

silence that had once enveloped the marsh, and I reflected on the

to its once verdant and biologically rich state. This transformation

hand of man and how it can shape the land through the simple

was and is continually propelled by incessant foraging and hungry

pull of the trigger. I couldn’t help but think about the 2,543-mile

beaks, which over time denudes the landscape of all things green

journey these snow geese had embarked on from their breeding

and edible. What happens next takes place on the microscopic

grounds in the Alaskan tundra to their overwintering grounds in

level: Water stored in the frozen soil (permafrost) evaporates

central California. What a journey.

under the summer sun, a process that draws out the water but leaves behind salt. This accumulation of salt in turn drives a shift

Along the way, these snow geese would have crossed countless

in the soil’s chemistry that will never again support the sea of

snowcapped mountain ranges, great river valleys, vast grasslands,

flowers and grasses that once turned the high north into a flower-

having weathered storms and headwinds beyond imagination.

soaked summer nursery for innumerable plants and animals.

They would have crossed over miles and miles of urban sprawl and cultivated fields rich with wheat, corn and rice. And they would have flown in a formation inextricable from the season, one that spans generations, culture, and language, yet undeniably speaks to winter’s steadfast southerly march from Earth’s icy crown.

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Fast forward to 2017, and the western population is following a similar path, one compounded by a flood of central snow geese believed to have abandoned their now destroyed summering grounds for greener pastures alongside their equally prolific western counterparts. With this surge of beaks, Alaskan scientists and wildlife managers are scrambling to avoid a repeat of history by initiating aggressive management measures and extensive studies that may shed light on a sustainable path forward. Yet one thing’s for certain, hunting these snow geese remains an unequivocally sound and well-supported measure to address this forecast of ecological demise, one that will surely have repercussions through the social, floral and faunal fabric of the land. How we engage with our world and the infinite connections that bind us to the landscape and one another is up to us. With a dose of mindfulness and a commitment to stewardship, each one of us can feel confident that our swing of the axe is leaving a signature on the land that we are proud of—one that will undoubtedly help shape the world we are passing on to our kids and grandkids.

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S T O R Y by C H A R L E S P O S T

Micah Fink is a family man, horse packer, Navy Seal, Ironman, woodsman and hunter. He founded Heroes and Horses, which has helped transform the lives of scores of American veterans through horseback wilderness experiences deep in Montana’s backcountry (as profiled in Yeti’s film, One Eighty Out).

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Q: To start off, tell us a bit more about you, your background and connection to the outdoors. A: My name is Micah Fink, and I grew up in a rural town in upstate New York. My connection to nature and the outdoors started at a young age – 10 years old, to be exact – when I met an older man named Mike Carano. Mike was a combat veteran and Army Ranger, and he decided to take me under his wing and introduce me to the world of hunting. He became like a second father to me, and later in life I would come to deeply appreciate and understand his way of living. He was a lifelong fisherman, hunter, conservationist, and woodsman who passed his knowledge on to me daily. One of the fondest memories I have is shooting my first deer with him in 1991. I would end up spending a large chunk of my childhood and young adult life with Mike in the mountains – watching and learning. He held an incredible wealth of knowledge in that brain of his, and he would come to be one of my closest friends. He was the person that gave me my first gun and bow, and to this day I think of him often. Life events would later take me on a much different path than that of working on a dairy farm in upstate New York. The most significant of those events? Standing at the World Trade Center on September 11th. That day would become the catalyst of a series of events that would eventually lead me to joining the military and becoming a different kind of “hunter” — a Navy SEAL. During this time in my life, I was always by the ocean, so I naturally took up a different type of hunting sport: free-dive spearfishing. This “hobby” would later take me across the globe on one single breath — sometimes to compete, sometimes just for me. I’ve hunted sharks, giant tuna, wahoo, and everything in between, all while holding my breath for up to five minutes at a time.

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Q: How does hunting play a role in your life?

Q: In your opinion, how could the perception of hunting

A: Today hunting plays not just a sporting role, but also a fundamental role in our way of life in Montana. My family —

be improved, and are there any ways that you feel it is misrepresented?

including four children — are nourished nearly exclusively on

A: Hunters are their own worst enemy. There is this current

game that I hunt. Last year, 95% of all the meat consumed in

narrative that has mechanized the process and made it solely

our household was from what I’d hunted. We process the game

about killing. “Blood this” and “killer tips” and “rage hunter,”

ourselves, and my children are very involved in the process. I

etc…this verbiage glorifies the kill, with no appreciation for the

make sure that they understand the importance of where their

hunt. Better glass, better gear, scent killer… the list goes on. But

food comes from and how and why we respect the animals we

do they study the animal, its ecosystem and what is required to

harvest. It is a traditional way to live, but, at this point, it is all they

sustain that animal? My approach? Take the time to learn the

know. Without touching and understanding that process, I believe

animal’s habits, become a student of the environment, and stalk

it leaves us in a void of sorts, one that inherently disconnects us

them down. Face the cold, feel the loneliness and isolation as

from the very essence of life.

you pursue the animal with relentless desire. But, what do we

Q: You are raising a family in a pretty much self-sufficient lifestyle in Montana. How does your approach to familylife-hunting influence your perspective on stewardship and conservation?

see instead? We see (some) modern hunters spending tens of thousands of dollars to ride around and shoot animals for an iPhone picture and bragging rights. The connection is lost, and there is no honor in the hunt. The entire concept of modern hunting should remain grounded in the elements of an ancient

A: Without public lands and a sustainable approach to managing the wild animals that roam on them, people who live as we do would not be able to have the freedom to take ownership of their lives. Hunting is conservation simply by placing you in the middle of what is important about being alive. Connection. Connection to a cycle, to the place where everything lives and

tradition that has allowed man to evolve - not about killing, but about providing and caring for the ecosystem that sustains the animals we pursue and rely on. Q: How does hunting and living a life closely tied to wilderness (as a packer and guide) influence the way you see the world?

breathes. The more I am in the backcountry, the more it changes

A: Life slows down in the mountains, and your perspective

my perspective about life, why we are failing as human beings,

becomes clear and still. As the “noise” of everyday life begins to

and fall short as a society.

weaken, space opens up for your thoughts and ideas flourish. You

Q: Does knowing how to hunt make you a better outdoorsman? In what ways? Does being a hunter make you a conservationist?

learn patience and to live in the “now,” and that is where I believe ultimate peace comes from. Q: What’s one moment in nature that you’ll never forget, one

A: Hunting places you in a learning environment. It teaches you

that changed you on a cellular level?

humility and respect for all things living, and it makes you realize

A: I witnessed a horse getting killed after a “cowboy” felt the need

that without the cycle of hunting and harvest, humanity would

to show off and ride off a very steep hill solely for “cool points.”

not survive. I remember the first time I shot a big bull elk with my

The results? The horse was impaled. Cool points are all about you,

bow, being so overwhelmed by this warrior, and knowing that his

and that is when disaster strikes. We need to do things that matter

death would bring life to my home. I felt an overwhelming sense

to us and who we are now or striving to be as people in the future.

of honor as I placed my hand on him and felt him take his last

We cannot let other peoples’ opinions drive us and the actions we

breath. I can confidently say that I have never had that feeling

take. If we do, then the perceptions of the known and unknown

getting a steak from the grocery store.

person drives us further away from who we truly are.

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On a totally different note, the first time I packed into the

focusing on the harvest of an animal. They need to make the

Beartooths by myself is an experience that I will never forget.

case about why hunting is important and pass those lessons on

It was a trip that made me look at myself closely and deeply.

to their families, communities and this nation. They should be

Being completely alone with my thoughts was unnerving at

advocates for these wild places, not just the species they pursue.

first, but then I found truth in the silence. After years of conflict

There’s an entire ecosystem out there, not just a big bull.

and deployments, I began to find the answers to questions I

Q: Do you have any books, films, or podcasts you’d

had never known. I stopped running from time, began to grow

recommend to learn more about hunting and conservation?

again, and reconnect. Without places like the Beartooths, I do not think I would be where I am today.

A: My favorite books are The Grass Beyond the Mountains, Give Your Heart to Hawks, Blood and Thunder, The Adventures of

Q: What does it take to be successful as a public land

the Mountain Men, Lewis & Clark, Empire, Among Comanches,

hunter in the American West?

Addicted to Danger, Skeletons on the Sahara, Jedidiah Smith.

A: You have to be in good shape and know how to use the

No podcasts…well, Joe Rogan!

resources in the wilderness to your advantage. It takes time

Q: Any closing thoughts? Here’s a chance to speak your

and commitment. You’re not going to just go out and shoot

peace if you’ve got something else you want to say that we

something just like that - you need to dig in for the long haul.

didn’t cover.

Spending the time to learn the landscape, to understand the animal, to think like the animal, and to read the signs that the

A: I am blessed to have had the opportunity to fight for this

animal is giving you – those are all essential tools for success.

country and the lands that we love so much. We need to make sure we do not let the ambitions of man destroy the majestic

Q: Do you think public land is one of the greatest gifts

beauty that is found outside and all around us. If you call

America has to offer its people? If so, why?

yourself a “hunter,” then hunt — don’t kill. And when you

A: By far the greatest gift. No other nation in the world has this

do, show respect and honor for the animals and land that

much free access. It is our duty to protect it and the resources

provides us with so much. Pass those lessons down.

it contains. We need to be stewards of this gift, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s critical that we see the value in being able to pass it down from generation to generation.

More recently, Micah’s leadership and mission has been celebrated through 500 Miles, a film that aims to start a new,

Q: As someone with a background in the military and

universally understood conversation around the necessity of

extensive experience working and living in America’s

struggle, challenge and perseverance as they relate to creating

wildest corners, how do you hope our public lands are

meaning in one’s life. The 500 Miles film tells the story of the

managed into the future by our government? What role

un-purposed wild mustang and the un-purposed veteran,

do hunters have in shaping the future of our public lands?

following both as they learn to face and navigate challenges,

A: I think it’s all about education. Seventy-five percent of the

with the ultimate goal of discovering what their greater

land owned by the public is located in the West. We need to

purpose in life is.

nationally educate people who may not even know that this

You can learn more about Micah’s work, including the 500

land exists for them. People cannot fight for what they don’t

Miles project, at

know they have. Hunters need to get more involved than just

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“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” Q WAT S I N A S ( H E R E D I TA R Y C H I E F E D WA R D M O O D Y ) , N U X A L K N AT I O N

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AT T H E R E A DY S T O RY & P H O T O G R A P H Y by C A M R I N D E N G E L

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read The Jungle in junior high and had become a vegetarian before I finished the first chapter. It was almost ten years before I ate meat again. I had just come off a mountaineering trip coupled with a marathon the week prior. Experiencing altitude sickness and a weakness like

I’d never felt before, I remember hitting a diner the night of the descent. My brother looked at me and said, “Maybe you should eat some meat.” As a college student attending one of the greenest schools in the nation, dabbling with veganism, I’m sure I could have done a better job with my diet than I was doing. My body was sure, too. After I graduated and moved to rural Idaho, I started buying local, humanely-raised meat. Not long after that, I met a guy. I fell for said guy. Said guy lived and breathed hunting and fishing. I was at a pivotal point in my life where I was open and interested, and over the course of the last five years, I’ve gone from revisiting meat-eating to eventually hunting for my own meat. It’s become part of my identity, how I define who I am, and who I want to be in this chapter of my life. I started bird hunting a couple of falls after we met, and to my surprise, I liked it. Mitch (said guy) bow hunts all September and usually shoots a bull. We’ve been grinding it into burger and wrapping up special cuts, filling our freezer with provisions for the winter, an alternative to what we could buy at our small grocery store. I like the way this feels. It isn’t cruel. It isn’t slaughter. I see how hard he has to work for this meat, pacing up and down mountains, out before sunup, home after dark. He doesn’t hunt the way I’ve seen others, who hardly have to lift a finger except for the one that pulls the trigger. Mitch showed me what backcountry hunting really means, how it immerses you in the wild, and how you become part of the web that is wilderness. So, this fall I decided to buy a cow elk tag.

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My mom bought a Winchester .270 when she was 28 and shot a rag-horn bull the following fall of 1980. She lent me this gun for my first season chasing big game, and packing this rifle around the woods reminds me of the strong women that came before me. My grandmother, Emma Jean, was raised on a farm in western Montana, where everyone was expected to pitch in to get by. She shot her first buck at age 16. My mother, Leila Lane, worked wild land fire on one of the first women’s crews in the nation. I asked what made her decide to buy a rifle, and she told me that was just what everyone around her was doing. It was the norm. My Uncle Bo, one of her two younger brothers and the outdoorsman of the Lane family, took her to a fire lookout where she’d been working early summers. They split up after coming across warm beds. As she made her way up a shale gully, a bull appeared in front of her. She said she just knew that was the one she was supposed to shoot. She explained to me how automatic it wasn’t, steadying her gun against a tree with the elk less that 50 yards away. She walked herself through all the steps; get a shell in the chamber, steady, find him in the cross hairs, safety off, squeeze. She met my dad walking out of the woods with the same gun slung over her shoulder. After they moved to Alaska, we spent a lot more time recreating in the outdoors, exploring by bush plane, winter camping, boating, and skiing. Hunting was never part of my childhood. So here I am learning the ropes in eastern Idaho. It’s cold and hard to get out of bed at five in the morning. It takes me a while to remember not to let the truck door slam, not to let my gators rub together, only to speak in whispers, and to get used to the weight of the gun on my shoulder. I could sense myself rooting for the elk when we’d come across fresh tracks and sign, thinking thoughts that weren’t encouraging to my own hunt. After a few days of walking up and down ridges, I was ready. I had “earned” my shot. It no longer felt like a slaughter. It was a hunt. I was a predator, and I was ready for my chance. A few more days into the season, and we hadn’t had a lot of positive reinforcement. Discouraged, we drove into a remote drainage that required chains and a little human weight distribution that had me hanging off one side of the truck with the door open, as the truck crept sideways through a frozen, rutted-up Forest Service easement road. That day we saw more elk sign than I had the whole season. We followed tracks to the top of the highest peak in the range only to find that the herd had continued down into another drainage. I love being on the trail, seeing tracks, beds, and raked up trees from bull antlers. I love tuning my focus to all the details: the direction of the wind, what birds are flying above, where we might find water or north-facing slopes. But I didn’t get to pull the trigger this season. It was an ideal intro, because I’m not sure I was ready to pull that trigger. I’ve learned that this is the kind of hunting I’m game for. I want to work for our winter meat. That’s part of the deal. It’s what makes success sweet, and it’s what I’ll be ready for next fall.

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“Hunting has opened the earth to me and let me sense the rhythms and hierarchies of nature.”


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Growing up as children on opposite ends of the world, we both

Now, a hemisphere away in Montana, we live a life grown from

knew foods that started and ended in family hands. Lorca was

these Old World roots, grafted with fresh, wild, western stock.

raised in the West, harvesting vegetables, mushrooms, shellfish,

Always dreaming to live someday in the Wild West of his nighttime

seaweeds, and fish from rich mountain and coastal lands. And

stories, Dusan stubbornly made his way here, tempting Lorca

in a small village in a deep valley in Czechoslovakia, Dusan lived

away from islands to the great Rockies. Montana has great scope

in a world where community herders collected family flocks of

for public access to foodstuffs. Starting from bare land, our family

geese, cows, and sheep from each house in the mornings and

has crafted a progressively more self-sustaining and community-

took them up into the hills. All houses had gardens, and hunters

fed life, one in which bodies, land, skills and foods are intimately

gathered around stoves in the evening—smoking, eating sardines

entwined. We ask more of our food than it just be available in a

and telling stories of stag, boar and roebuck to the listening ears

box. It’s opened our curiosity about provenance, freshness, and

of kids hoping someday to become, too, a myslivec—a word that

nutrition, but also about engagement, beauty and narrative. This

holds two meanings: hunter and thinker.

engagement has fed not only our bodies, but who we are to each

In that world, you earned the right to hunt larger and larger

other, and how our children have grown into this world.

game through points gained over years of study, woodcraft, and

There is both a pragmatism and a gentleness in our kids around

hours spent tending and observing centuries-old forest lands and

animal life and death, a way of being around mortality that feels

their inhabitants. These same gnarled hunter’s hands grafted

more real and more true than what we see in children sheltered

fruit tree branches, smoked blood sausages, crafted plum brandy,

from any and all death. Our kids can dote upon and bottle-feed

and built chicken coops. One of the most valued qualities in

lambs, carry ducks around in their arms, cradle tiny chicks, and

man, woman or child was that of craftiness—the ability to make

still get really pleased about the night’s chicken soup, an antelope

something from nothing, to waste little, to turn your hands

brought home, the slow-roasted whole lamb, or the successful

to anything.

sale of a hand-raised pig. Being the one to actually harvest an

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animal is not theirs yet, but it comes closer as

The strength in the deeply colored breast

they practice target shooting with bow and .22,

muscles, the brilliance of their feathers, and the

pluck feathers and shot from grouse brought

grace of their limbs speaks to the health and

home, and track or sit in tree stands with

vitality of these bodies that will feed ours.

Dusan as he hunts for deer, like he did with his father.

This is a different kind of food chain we have claimed here. There is the link of the food that

They take a similar pleasure in eating braised

we hunt and fish in the wild—elk, deer, antelope,

pheasant meat as they do in picking and eating

grouse, pheasants, partridge, salmon, trout, and

peas from the garden that they planted and

walleye. There is the food that we gather in the

watched grow. As we cleaned those pheasants,

wild, like chanterelle, morel, oyster mushrooms,

we laid out the bright contents of their stomachs

elderberries, chokecherries, and rose hips. There

and the kids noticed the variety in each bird’s

is the link that consists of the food that we

breakfast — blueberries and soybeans from one,

grow—root vegetables, fruits and greens, honey,

green leaves and tiny grasshoppers for another,

eggs, and herbs. There is the link of the meat

red and white snowberries for a third. With each

that we raise and harvest here on our land—

comes an imaged landscape, a vision of a bright

lamb, pork, chicken, turkey and duck.

pheasant morning, a good pheasant life.

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There is the fifth link of food that we collect from friends—potatoes, goat cheese, jellies, plums, mead and beef. And finally, there is the link of the food that we buy—coffee and tea, yogurt, crackers, wine, beer, and oil. One day, some of these last things may move into the other links. Food that has a story tastes different. All harvested animals in our lives are known, thanked, and honored. The mushrooms gathered with a sister on the spring banks of the Yellowstone River have a savor to them. The elk bull that you hauled off the mountains in the company of an old friend and a five-month-old baby makes your face light up at the table when it’s served, garnished by laughter. The wild boar shot with the gun your father always used is served up with memory. The dross of what we harvest is not wasted, but goes to feed Czech-born hunting dogs, poultry, and the gardens, feeding the larger cycle of life. We create entire meals that the kids had their hands on — planting, weeding, watering, feeding, harvesting, stalking, hauling, discovering, slicing, measuring, baking and serving. Why we harvest, why we breed, why we barter — this is how we treat our children, our bodies, our land, our world — with love. As we sit at the table and see the looks on our children’s faces — that pride, that interest, that fun! — we exhale, and Dusan says, “That’s why we hunt.”

This beauty and this heart is the what, and it is the why.

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here’s no way around it, hunting in Africa is a

light on a situation that most only hear about in controversial

controversial issue. Every bit as complicated as the

news headlines or social media rants, I’d like to share a bit of my

continent itself, the topic has been a heated subject

personal experience.

of debate for quite some time, and like any historic

conflict of note, has heroes and villains, unknown truths, hidden agendas, and myths that have been spread as fact. It’s a story of shrinking wilderness, expanding population, invasive farming, bribery and scandal, foreign political pressure, conservation, and murder. The saga continues every day, and the fate for individual countries is decided and amended erratically, subject to the varying combinations of these factors, or the greedy whims of politicians. Simply put, it’s a volatile situation, and in a place where regime change can turn a country on its head, the future of hunting in Africa is fairly uncertain.

For the record, before anyone jumps to conclusions, when I refer to my experience with hunting in Africa, I’m talking about plains game species like kudu, sable, eland, impala, warthog, Cape buffalo, etc., and NOT lions or elephants. While there is a complex history of lion and elephant hunting that traces back to tribal traditions, in no way do I feel qualified to address those issues, nor would I ever try without the expert perspectives of the wildlife researchers, ecologists, and specialists who dedicate their lives to studying such things. Furthermore, I’d like to distinguish the difference between a

I won’t pretend to have all of the answers, because those are difficult to plainly produce, but what I do have is perspective based on experience, having lived in and out of Africa for the past twelve years documenting this topic. So in an effort to shed some

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“hunter” and “poacher,” for those who might not be familiar. All too often, anti-hunting and animal rights groups paint these as one and the same, which is not only unfair, but grossly inaccurate. In the context of this conversation, a “hunter” is someone who abides by and adheres to the regulations and legal restrictions of

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a particular country or state to harvest an animal. They respect

turned on me. And not just like a frown of respectful disapproval,

the wildlife laws and understand that those are in place to ensure

but were angry, aggressive, and even verbally abusive. “That’s

that only a sustainable number of animals are taken, based on the

disgusting Tyler, how can you justify going over there to film these

region or sanctioned hunting season.

people murder beautiful animals? Shows what kind of person you are. I can’t be your friend anymore,” quipped one individual who

In contrast, a “poacher” is someone who does not follow these

I’d studied with for four years. At that time, I didn’t have answers

regulations, is often a paid mercenary of sorts, undermines

to those questions, or know how to defend myself against such

conservation efforts by killing indiscriminately with no limitation,

hostility. Since then, I’ve made a point to be educated in these

and usually lacks any hunting ethics. This is a very important

matters, and what better way of learning than actually going

distinction, and one that I hope you’ll continue to make not just

there to experience it firsthand—despairingly, a novelty concept in

in this story, but whenever this topic comes up, especially online.

today’s world of under-informed extremists and online antagonists.

Before moving to Los Angeles to study film and photography, I had

Over the years, I’ve spent time on the ground in Tanzania, Kenya,

lived most of my life in Texas. While I didn’t do a lot of hunting

Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa,

as a kid, I was around it enough to become deeply interested, and

Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Namibia, Burundi, and a few others.

learned to respect the balance of life and death as it has played

Every country has a different political landscape, and in some

out in the natural world since before recorded history. The tools

places hunting has now been outlawed, having buckled under

have changed, and the landscape in which the hunt subsists has

foreign political and financial pressures to instate bans. But for the

been altered, but the relationship of hunter and prey has mostly

purpose of illustration, and considering I’ve spent the most time

remained the same. We’re all born with an inherent knowledge

there, I’ll specifically talk about Tanzania.

of this, and whether we accept it or not, hunting instinct is part of our DNA, passed down through millennia. Some of us choose

As expected, that first trip to Africa after college changed my life. I

to cultivate this instinct more than others, and in today’s world,

was transported to the middle of the bush, hundreds of miles away

are often criticized and harassed for it, and in the most extreme

from the nearest inhabited city, and stayed nearly five months in

cases, threatened with death or torture. Sadly, this happens more

an area that’s as wild as it gets. It took several weeks of getting

than you’d think, regularly warranting law enforcement or the FBI

bit by tsetse flies, scratched by acacia thorns, and brushing my

to intervene, as death threat letters and anthrax mail bombs are

teeth in the pitch darkness with lions roaring outside of camp

serious matters that border on domestic terrorism.

before I started to feel comfortable, and really alive. I stopped wearing a watch, telling time from the sun’s position instead. I

Leaving Texas for Los Angeles, I was introduced to all sorts

learned to track, predict movements and potential dangers from

of new people, perspectives, and political combativeness. My

wildlife, and for the first time in my life, was only eating meat that

beliefs, values, and opinions were constantly challenged, which

we hunted. I was chased by rogue elephants, struck at by black

offered a valuable opportunity to decide which of them I stood for

mambas, charged by Cape buffalo, and even had a lion physically

and which I did not. Hunting was one of those, and while learning

breathe on the back of my neck. It was one of the most fulfilling

to articulate myself, I carefully chose the company for those

and enchanted periods of my life. But instead of just reveling in

conversations. A few years later, graduation neared, and by some

the marvel of freedom and adventure, I begin to ask questions.

miraculous stroke of fate, I managed to land a job in Tanzania,

Lots of questions.

where I would be filming and photographing hunts for a safari company. Most of my friends would be getting entry-level business

How does all of this work, and how do I explain to people who

or marketing jobs, and I was heading to the wilds of East Africa

challenge me that this is okay? Despite support from local villages,

to document adventures I had only read about from Roosevelt,

conservationists, and government officials in Tanzania, I knew I

Hemingway, and Stanley. A dream job to say the least.

would catch hell back in the US, as a lot of folks have developed emotional attachments to animals they’ve never seen. Again, I will

But something unexpected happened when I began to tell my

not make claims to have ALL of the answers, but from my own

friends, classmates, and teachers. Less than half were encouraging,

interest and involvement in the subject, here are a few things that

offering congratulations for a unique opportunity, while the rest

I’ve come to understand.

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In Tanzania, roughly 38-40% of land is set aside for conservation

poachable meat, or potential threats to their crops, many now

use, which is sanctioned into national parks/controlled areas (like

act as stewards for the game and work in partnership with safari

the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater), open areas, and game

outfitters to improve the sustainability of the area.

reserves. Hunting is not allowed in national parks, but Tanzanian

Most leases on game reserves are for a period of years, so it’s in

residents may obtain inexpensive permits to hunt in open areas,

the best interest of an outfitter to instill effective conservation

similar to the license system in the US. Game reserves, on the

and stewardship measures that ensure the livelihood of the area

other hand, are vast areas of wild lands that are sectioned into

they’ve been entrusted with. Some are better than others at doing

“concessions,” and leased to Tanzanian safari operators, based

this, and as with most news stories regarding hunting, you mostly

on their compliance to rigid criteria and previous track record

hear about the bad ones. But in my experience through the years

of conservation and stewardship. Hunting is allowed, but strictly

I’ve spent in these game reserves, the vast majority of outfitters

regulated by the government.

are dedicated conservationists, often with several generations of

A census is conducted in these areas, and based on the population

a family pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into cultivating and

numbers of each species, a specific number of hunting permits are

protecting these areas. What is rarely discussed, however, is the

issued by the Tanzanian government, which adhere to conservation

amount of actual blood spilled in defense of these lands. Yes, that’s

principles of wildlife management. The outfitters may then sell

right, murder.

these hunting permits as “safaris,” and the length of the hunt can

Surely you’ve heard of ivory poaching, or the lust for rhino horn,

vary from 7 to 28 days. Hunters typically pay between $1,500-

but just as rampant is a demand for bushmeat. You see, these

$2,000 a day to even be in the game reserve, plus substantial

things all have black market value, and whether it’s a Somali

governmental trophy fees for each animal they harvest, on top

warlord, corrupt politician, or a nefarious foreigner who believes

of conservation and observer fees. A government game scout is

powdered rhino horn to be an aphrodisiac, they pay handsomely

present at all times to ensure that all regulations are followed,

for poachers to procure these things. Oftentimes, syndicates will

such as all animals harvested must be male, past a certain age, and

commission organized teams with night vision, satellite phones,

have horns of a mature size. This is not so much for the “trophy,”

and smuggling operations, who stop at little to get what they’re

but as one of the most accurate ways to assess the actual age and

after. In these game reserves, anti-poaching teams managed by the

maturity of a bull or ram. The older the better, with an ideal male

outfitters are the last line of defense against these criminal missions,

being past an active breeding age.

and quite frequently it results in shootouts. I’ve been caught in

About 30% of the trophy fees go back to the government, to help

several, and have a friend who narrowly escaped assassination in

pay for game scouts and anti-poaching rangers, and as some game

his own home, after leading one of the largest illegal ivory seizures

reserves are beholden to local village councils, additional money

in Tanzania’s history. Every year, there are deaths in defense of

is used for community development in the form of schools for

these areas; reconnaissance helicopters are gunned down, patrol

children, water wells, medical clinics, or solar energy solutions. In

vehicles are ambushed, or game rangers are shot in the back. These

most cases, these outfitters put a considerable amount of money

brave souls risk their lives to protect the lands they love, and while

generated by these hunts into their own anti-poaching units. These

I can’t name them all, hopefully a mere mention will bring honor

teams patrol to not just prevent indiscriminate animal slaughter,

to the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They

but farming and cattle encroachment, as well as illegal tree

are wilderness warriors in the truest sense.

harvesting, all of which are major contributing factors to habitat

Is sustainable use hunting in Africa a perfect system of

destruction — the number one cause of wildlife loss.

conservation? Definitely not, but most ideas have flaws. As with

To further combat the poaching problem, most safari outfitters

any endeavor, there are bad examples, people who don’t follow

employ members of local villages, who might’ve otherwise

the rules, or lack even the slightest sense of ethics. In those

attempted to be, or previously were, poachers. They can then

cases, areas get over-harvested, regulations are completely

earn honest wages in an otherwise remote area, and in this way,

ignored, funds don’t make it where they’re supposed to, or a

regulated hunting affixes a legal monetary value on the wildlife,

turncloak is bribed, and poaching goes unchecked. Typically, those

effectively improving the community perspective on conservation.

outfitters are promptly ousted, their lease terminated, or their

Where villages might have previously seen the wildlife as

license to operate revoked. Even worse, in my opinion, are the

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few hunters who lack respect for wildlife and seem to be going

when he shot his first Cape buffalo. There was a former rodeo

through the motions for entertainment value, showmanship, or

champion bronc buster who hunted to honor the memory of his

their Napoleonic shortcomings. While there isn’t an active term

father, whose dying wish was for his son to experience all that

for such people, I’d not consider them part of the same definition

Africa had to offer.

of “hunter” that I’m describing here, or in the subsequent pages

There was a single dad whose daughter loved to hunt, so he

of this book. The silver lining is that their dollars are still put to

surprised her with a safari for her high school graduation, and

conservation use.

by the end I felt part of their family. I met two San Diego border

While regulated hunting in Africa is certainly not the only method

patrol agents originally from Mexico, a group of women who

of conservation, it’s one of the most effective, generating hundreds

were lifelong friends that all chipped in to go hunt together, and a

of millions of dollars each year, from an estimated 18,000 hunters.

father and son whose home-building company became successful

The environmental impact on the game reserve is quite low,

enough for them to finally afford a trip. Some of these people had

usually with 1-2 hunters in an area for a period of weeks, and

a lot of money, and some did not. But what they all had was a

animal behaviors remain relatively undisturbed. Compare this to

passion for hunting, a deep respect for wildlife, and a tangible joy

an estimated 17.2 million photographic tourists that visit national

and thankfulness to be experiencing a truly wild place.

parks each year, all who are consuming resources and are only

And while hunting in Africa may be out of reach for many of us,

commissioning safari vehicles for a few days at a time. In popular

or continues to be painted as an elitist pleasure quest, I wrote

places like the Serengeti, animals have become accustomed to

this story to merely tell you what I’ve experienced and learned

human presence and altered their behaviors, including lions who

in the time I’ve been blessed to spend over there. Clickbait news

hunt from behind the swarms of land cruisers that follow them

headlines, trendy opinions, and emotions aside, my hope is that,

around. It’s something worth considering as one of the many

from this point forward, you might view the situation with a bit

factors in this complex issue.

more grace, compassion, and open-mindedness. I would encourage

It’s also commonly stated that hunting in Africa is only for

you to do some digging of your own on this topic, being mindful

“rich, white trophy hunters.” Let’s be clear, these safaris can be

of the difference between facts and emotion-based opinions.

very expensive, but the range in affordability varies by country

More than that, I truly hope that you have an opportunity to go

and outfitter. But it’s not only “rich, white people” who go on

experience it for yourself while you can, as there is little certainty

these hunts, and I only say this to discourage the use of over-

in how long it will continue.

generalizations, or the passing of judgment on someone’s character

In the end, it is our morality, character, and purpose that define

based on their supposed “wealth.” Sure, you could probably

us as hunters, stewards, and humans. This should be independent

classify some of these hunters as wealthy, but that does not take

from any classification of wealth, race, country of origin, and if

into account how they earned their money, how long it took them

anything, serve to bring about commonality, rather than division.

to save it, or the quality of their moral fiber. Yes, I have been on

But such virtue is a massive personal responsibility and is what

safari with a few of the “types” that you’ve seen in sensationalized

separates what I feel to be “good hunters” from those who have

news, and just like with any troublesome client or customer, you

tarnished the reputation of this tradition.

hold your tongue, and smile through your teeth, knowing that they are directly funding conservation work, whether they care or

In the wise words of José Ortega y Gasset, “A good hunter’s

not. But in my experience, they are the minority.

way of hunting involves a complete code of ethics of the most distinguished design: the hunter who accepts the sporting code of

Just about everyone else I’ve spent time with hunting in Africa

ethics keeps his commandments in the greatest solitude, with no

I can call a friend, as dangerous situations tend to bring people

witnesses or audience other than the sharp peaks of the mountain,

together and show character. I’ve filmed a once dirt-poor, door-to-

the roaming cloud, the stern oak, the trembling juniper, and the

door coffin salesmen turned independent oil operator, who would

passing animal.”

spend over a million dollars a year to send his employees’ families on their dream trips all over the world, many of which were hunts.

This code, which oftentimes goes unspoken, is something that we

I spent 21 days with a humble taxidermist from Missouri who had

are committed to further defining with Modern Huntsman.

saved for over 20 years to go on that safari and cried tears of joy

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For those who know the code, keep to it, as the future of hunting depends on it. For those who don’t know it, seek it, and may the pages of this book be a guiding light. And for those who are not hunters, we welcome you, whether to partake in the hunt or not, and extend respect for our differences, and commonality in our love for all wild places and things. Therefore my friends, keep to the code.

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shift my seat so the stone biting at my tailbone loses its teeth and the other side of my arse can have a turn at going numb. I blink the rain off my eyelashes. It’s miserable out here. There are some things in life that require a little faith. My mind wanders. I think of my grandfather, a dry-wheat farmer from Saskatchewan. He planted every spring for most of his life, waited for the right moment to sink seeds

into rich earth, and hoped the right amount of rain would come. The violent summer storms ripped through, the gnawing flocks of grasshoppers took what they wanted. By fall, if he had a couple thousand acres of gold standing tall and ready for harvest, then it was a result of his faith marrying all the other variables that made him a farmer. Some years were good and some years were bad, but he kept on planting. I think dry farming anywhere in this beautiful world is one of mankind’s greatest acts of faith, unless we’re talking about God, or hunting. We glass Garrett’s bull from camp and ride out through shifting clouds past an eerie old burn where the low brush is auric and autumn is a refining flame. Wes leads the way on his dapple grey. I’m on a mule and he’s a jerk, as my arms are being yanked from their sockets. I find myself uttering righteous insults at him under my breath, things no lady should say. I am creative with my slurs, and still, he rides like an angry freight train. We stop to glass, then ride on until we cross the creek, tie our steeds to sturdy trees, loosen cinches, and begin the hike further in and higher up. The sky is a miasma of squalls. The timber on the ridgelines slides in and out of shades of white, in and out of focus. Douglas fir and ponderosa pine tap out morse code against the sky — message received. We stop to breathe on a scrambly section of rock and watch a bear sow and cubs on the other side of the drainage. Wes tells me to grab a photo, but my long lens isn’t long enough, so I watch the bears and do my best to remember the quiet details with all my heart. I’m warm now, opening my layers zipper-by-zipper, scratching free of my insulation to let the weather in. Soon, we’ll stop climbing, shift into a crooked side hill amble, and my sweat will shift to ice. It begins to rain in earnest, and the scent of autumn turning is on the wind. Huckleberries blaze like wildfire across the slope. Upwards, into the clouds, ankles and knees creak under the weight of our packs on a side slope that disappears before us. I think of Indiana Jones and the leap of faith test on his final approach to the Holy Grail. Each step I take out here feels like a leap of faith. I look to the sky, squeeze my hands into fists, and step one foot closer to the thing I cannot see but believe is there. Across the smoke and ash of autumn stands the holy thing we seek. I step out and find solid ground beneath my feet. I step again. I think I see the thing we chase. It has a white rump and horns like trees. It is a mirror we turn on ourselves. We hunt the beast within.

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Behind a large log, we wait. Garrett’s bull is not where it is supposed to be. In fact, his bull has done something unexpected, which we should have expected, but didn’t. He has crossed over and taken his harem of cows with him, evading our checkmate. The cold percolates deeper into my bones. I slide out of my pack, flip over onto my stomach and begin to do push-ups, pumping the blood through my arms into my heart and down into my toes and fingers as quickly as I can. Garrett leans over and quietly sings in my ear, “When your faith is gone, give it one more day.” He’s right, and I smile at him with blue lips. Anything and everything can change in a moment, all we have to do is hold steady. Across the way, we hear a cow mew. We prop our elbows on our knees, steady our eyes to glass and see that our bull remains hunkered down behind a tree trunk, burping testosterone, and ruminating on his prowess. We look away. We talk in whispers. We do push-ups. We check across the distance again and again and suddenly, we are shocked—he’s gone. The bull is gone. He’s slipped out the back door in the blink of an eye, like a Latin lover. He’s moved up past the timber into an old burn scar. “There! Can you see him?” in a whispered shout. The bull is threading his way effortlessly through reprod and a jim-jam of decaying trees. He is too far away, and moving further still. We move. We move fast. We skitter off the ridge. We cross the creek, hip deep in brambles and slippery as newborns. We make our way up the other side. We find ourselves in a patch of lanky timber, perched on the edge of pooling elk musk; the perfume of the West. There are no noises between the silences, so that every movement of my arm against my knee, every sniffle of my dripping nose, sounds like a hurricane. There is utter stillness except for the throbbing thunder of our pulses. Wes pulls out the tools of his trade, gives me a wink, and begins to call to that bull. That old tawny, wiley, lusty bull. I fear he’s left the country. I’m sitting on shaky ground. My faith has left me. I despair. The bull swings me like a pendulum between elation and devastation as only an elk can. Wes calls again. The bull answers. Our eyes strain against the glass of our binoculars. Again, a call, an answer — closer now. The bull steps out. The distance is far enough. Garrett is ready. I don’t envy him. The pressure is too great. He’s buzzing with nerves, his every cell sings with adrenaline. Steady now, Garrett. Steady. I cup my hands over my ears, Garrett squeezes through his trigger, and my hair wooshes about my face in the jetstream of his muzzlebrake. My bones jitter. Silence falls to earth again, shattered in fragments all around. Garrett shouts in joy as he looks through his scope and I know an elegant, well-placed bullet has made purchase. We sit and wait and watch. I know there’s a mighty heart inside a cage of bones, upon a bed of branches and moss.

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It is slowing.

It is slowing.

It is stopped.

The bull is down. Garrett stands up and speaks into the broken stillness, “I’d like to go alone.”

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We let him, resting back in our patches of saturated pine needles, grinning at each other as we watch him walk away, alone but not lonely, towards his kill. He steps over a wide log and enters into the holy of holies. I know he’s preparing his heart and mind for sacrament, like I would. He’s preparing his eyes to see what his heart knows he has done, to feel the complicated blend of grief and joy that many hunters know. I envy him and I don’t. I imagine him digging his fingers deep into cinnamon fur, running icy hands over long tines, touching the velvet of a muzzle, looking deep into an unseeing amber eye. Oh, I envy him. When we finally join him, the tears on his face are still wet and mixing with his sweat. I know. I know. I don’t mention his emotion, I simply reach out and hug him. I say, “What a beautiful bull. What a job well done.” But the job isn’t done. The next hours are spent with sharp knives, brief bouts of sun, and the metallic scent of life force. A massive body is broken into five pieces; I see something beautiful begin to transition into food. The stars arrive, one by one, twanging high lonesome for all who would listen. The air turns to crisp shadow, brisk on my face, sawing through my skin to frost my delicate bones. We are riding home. I’m on my mule, and he’s still a jerk. Ahead, Wes urges his horse on. She takes a few steps up the swiftly rising ridge and then stops. She’s tired. It’s been a long season. I ask if I can step ahead with my mule, to see if he’ll lead, with the selfish hope that I can stop warring with him. Wes nods and I give the critter a squeeze with my legs. We stride forward, and all the rankness in that beast ceases to be. His ears swivel forward and we go forth smoothly. I relax in the saddle, and he leads. All my mule wanted, all along, was to lead, to use his talents and live with purpose. Me too. My eyes reach and strain against the night, which has arrived in fullness now. My mule is sure-footed and fast. I shift my hips to a smooth gait, lean forward on especially steep sections, and give the mule all my trust. I slide a numb hand between the saddle blanket and his withers and tell him, “I believe in you. Take us home.” Up across the stony spine of the ridge, past granitic monoliths, under the stars, over jumbles of logs — we climb and wend. At the trailhead to camp, we dismount, joints creaking in their sockets. We light our headlamps and walk the last mile home. My limbs warm and begin to buzz, as though lit with flames. Our horses drink deep at the spring. In the distance, the wall tent is puffing smoke. I wonder what Christina has concocted for dinner. She comes out to greet us with the dog at her heels and exclaims, “Almost gave up on you!” I tell her, “I’m glad you kept faith.”

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n October, the larches throughout the North Cascade mountains are lit with neon yellow needles, the grouse are flushing, and the cutthroats are biting. And for those who trek out seven miles, and up 3,600 feet from Twisp, WA with their livelihoods on their backs, they’ll

find that Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness is a surreal sportsman’s paradise. Fortunately for us, we had different plans for this trip and enlisted the assistance of Early Winters Outfitting’s crop of mules, pack horses, and guides to experience this country from the saddle instead, a rare and treasured assignment with my friends at OneBlade. As the last of the Pacific Northwest’s Indian summer splayed through the trees and heated our backs at the trailhead, we laid out a selection of our most important belongings and packed them into canvas manties — a wall tent and stove for heat and community, a few days worth of food (in case we were outsmarted by both grouse and trout), blaze orange accompaniments, a couple of old Filson game vests, a trusted Ranger 101.6 side-by-side, rods, reels, a heap of flies, enough coffee to fuel an ICBM, and just enough whiskey to toast the hunt. Over the course of four days, we felt the awesome power of a change in season. A crisp, clear trail on the way up led us to the years’ first snow at elevation, and we were covered in flakes as we set to cutting lodge poles, chopping firewood, and making camp. Our site was only a stone’s throw from a crystal-clear alpine lake and habitat that served as perfect cover for grouse. Over the course of our hunt, we took a few birds on the wing, prepared them on top of the cooler — a makeshift butcher block— and perfected our grouse nugget recipe. Freshly harvested grouse tastes best cooked over a campfire, and nobody wants to carry whiskey back down a mountain, so we enjoyed both as the seasons turned, and a light snow fell.

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here are certain moments that define your life, moments when everything balances on the outcome of a single experience. Naturally, you follow intuition, make a decision, and realize that for better or worse, nothing will ever be the same. For most of us, these moments are

defined by life’s milestones; births, marriage, and even deaths. We are awakened by the fear of the unknown, and these profound experiences often provide perspective, curing the difference between living and feeling truly alive. You see, as a man living in America’s Midwest, my life has been a path of conviction, but also one of uncertainty. We have jobs, homes, cars, and even a place to sleep, but most dreams are dead. Instinctively, I need to create, and to feel alive. I have a burning desire to build my own path, which is not necessarily the most secure path. It’s taken me over three decades to understand that in order to grow and improve, I need to take risks. Sometimes you have to be on the edge of uncertainty, look each moment in the face, and understand that ultimately, it may break you. I’m okay with that. I’m very self-aware of my failures and victories – both provide new perspectives, and each new adventure brings more understanding for the obsession that calls me to the wild. Since, a decade of passport stamps has filled my life with more than just perspective. I’ve been beyond blessed to travel the world, experiencing what would be considered bucket list adventures for most sportsmen. Documenting moments that only a handful of people get to witness became more than a passion, and capturing the next best image fueled my obsession. Endless days spent planning, preparing, and educating myself has helped me see the world in a new way. From Alaska to Australia, my experience in each ecosystem has shown me new friendships, foods, wildlife, and cultures. I’ve taken more risks than I’d like to admit to “get the shot,” including getting run over by a 2.5-ton truck in New Zealand. But I still got the shot. Did you say run over by a truck? Yeah. A big truck. I’ve always known I was going to die, I just didn’t think it would be in a country 7,000 plus miles away from my family. Damn, a truck… it still hurts. I should’ve bled out ten different ways within minutes. I remember the smallest details; the weight of the tire running over my legs, stomach, chest, and over my shoulder, inches from crushing my head, balling my body up

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like a ragdoll, and stopping on top of my body. Instincts kicked in,

have been painted in caves and on tanned hides for thousands of

and I attempted to yell for help, but my left lung was lacerated

years, but storytelling doesn’t have to be an extravagant tale, just

and collapsed and had started to fill with blood. The weight of the

simple and authentic.

truck expelled the remaining air out of my lungs, and I kicked and punched the tires until I passed out from suffocation. Just before I lost consciousness, I remember seeing the faces of my wife and our two boys...then nothing. I didn’t feel pain, didn’t know where I was, and didn’t know if I was alive or dead. Just blackness. I became calm, content, happy.

Visual storytelling became a way of fostering a lost way of life. Pressing a shutter not only provided me a livelihood, it gave me purpose in educating my children. Part of resetting was questioning my influence on our boys’ future. How could I teach that a vanishing frontier is worth fighting for? If I lead by example, teach them early, and continue to learn with them, I believe they’ll

Eventually I woke, gasping for air. I gently rolled my head back

hold the hunting lifestyle close to their hearts. I want to show them

and forth to check if my spine was injured. I attempted to get back

that fighting for conservation, access to public land, respecting

on my feet, thinking it might not be that bad. But moving was

wildlife, and following governed laws will be productive in

almost physically impossible, with multiple fractured ribs and my

securing the future of hunting and fishing. Boys playing outside

intestines herniating into my chest. But there was no way this was

is second nature, and they’ll continue to do so as they mature, but

the end, and as I raised my right arm, read a wristband given to

their responsibilities will evolve. I want to ensure that “playing

me by a hunter one day prior that said, “God is Big Enough.” This

outside” is much more; we’ll go shed hunting, call in turkey, scout

was all I needed to fight for my life, and I chose to live.

for deer, set up stands, and foster something much larger than a

I can tell you for sure, that single moment redefined my perspective

hobby - a way of life.

on life. It spun my world upside down and provided clarity. None

To help achieve this, I quickly realized that my imagery should

of the small, petty things mattered anymore, and I was given a

be more than just “good.” I want people to feel something, and

new purpose and needed to re-evaluate my future. I took a step

have a reaction, even if it’s sometimes negative. Critique it, give

back and reset everything. I mean everything. Family, friends, and

feedback, and ask the hard questions, because our conversation

how I spent my time. I formulated a plan to build the next chapter.

is the catalyst. If I can evoke emotion, or inspire you to question

It amazes me how people adapt when change is needed, like a

your perspective, I’ve done half of my job. Only in wild moments

wolverine backed into a corner, you fight your way out to survive.

have I found the limits between life and death, which has been a

I desired to build my path with a greater purpose and passionately fight for a life worth preserving. The way I could preserve a legacy or tradition that has been passed down for centuries was through my lens. This is nothing new to our culture, as hunting stories

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valuable lesson in capturing emotional images. These moments often lead to questions of conservation, and stewardship. Many do not understand how hunting is vital to the livelihood of wildlife, both foreign and domestic. Many governments and organizations embed hunting regulations within their constitution

— fundamental regulations that control animal populations, and

continue to take my boys outdoors so they can create their own

the annual revenues from hunting and fishing are considerable,

stories, and I cannot wait until they take their first animal. There

often supporting entire ecosystems.

are thousands of ways to spend your time, but believe me when

Take into consideration the concept that animals are a commodity, as objects of value, and part of our natural resources. Animals regarded as commodities dictate the market; there are products, tools, service fees, employees, and regulations in place to ensure the market continues to thrive. Simply stated, hunters are vested and passionate in ensuring that wildlife thrives. If my imagery

I say that living wildly for a cause can make your life much more fulfilling. The adventure ahead is destined to make a great story, for better or worse. This is a life worth living, so get outside. Get off the couch, make a decision, and go for it. Chase the moment and feel alive. Cheers to a life worth living.

empowers anyone to take another step, ask a question, or take time to understand both sides of this conversation, then I’ve completed the other half of my job. My life’s work is dedicated to this cause, and empowering this way of life. The task will be a never-ending chase, always two steps ahead of me, but it is the

*This article was inspired by true events and one of my favorite poems by Robert W. Service, Call of the Wild

life I choose. I want to see as much as I can on this Earth during my lifetime, but I also want to encourage my children, and others, to travel and create their own adventures. Don’t let anything hold you back, not even a truck, or fear of death. I continue to place myself in uncomfortable situations and chase my dreams fearlessly. I continue to travel, and more than ever, the future is clear now. I

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Have you gazed on naked grandeur

Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?

where there’s nothing else to gaze on,

And though grim as hell the worst is,

Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,

can you round it off with curses?

Big mountains heaved to heaven,

Then hearken to the Wild -- it’s wanting you.

which the blinding sunsets blazon, Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?

Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,

Have you swept the visioned valley

groveled down, yet grasped at glory,

with the green stream streaking through it,

Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?

Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?

“Done things” just for the doing,

Have you strung your soul to silence?

letting babblers tell the story,

Then for God’s sake go and do it;

Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?

Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.

Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?

Have you wandered in the wilderness,

(You’ll never hear it in the family pew.)

the sagebrush desolation,

The simple things, the true things,

The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?

the silent men who do things --

Have you whistled bits of rag-time

Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.

at the end of all creation, And learned to know the desert’s little ways?

They have cradled you in custom,

Have you camped upon the foothills,

they have primed you with their preaching,

have you galloped o’er the ranges,

They have soaked you in convention

Have you roamed the arid sun-lands

through and through;

through and through?

They have put you in a showcase;

Have you chummed up with the mesa?

you’re a credit to their teaching --

Do you know its moods and changes?

But can’t you hear the Wild? -- it’s calling you.

Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you. Let us probe the silent places, Have you known the Great White Silence,

let us seek what luck betide us;

not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?

Let us journey to a lonely land I know.

(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.)

There’s a whisper on the night-wind,

Have you broken trail on snowshoes?

there’s a star agleam to guide us,

mushed your huskies up the river,

And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go.

Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize? Have you marked the map’s void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,

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C L A R I T Y in S I L E N C E P H O T O G R A P H Y & S T O R Y b y J O H N D U N A W AY

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ot a thing is stirring. There are no sounds to be heard. Within this void, even light refuses to shed its illumination. Then, life is upon us. I am startled out of my slumber by the alarm clock’s shriek, reaching immediately for this pesky device so that it may be ceased. It all occurs in mere seconds. But before my feet meet the chilling temperatures of the

barren floor, the realization of why I’m wide awake with anticipation at an uncivilized hour of the morning rushes over me. A quick glance to the far corner of the room (where my faithful hunting companion Nixon resides) indicates that he too acknowledges this purpose. We are headed for the outdoors; an instinctual return to our genetic roots.

Many miles of travel later, I gradually ease the truck off

that we are not driven to the outdoors by modern necessity,

the interstate at our exit. The truck has accelerated and

but by something that resides deep within us, guiding us away

decelerated, made left and right turns through the morning,

from the city lights and technological comforts, and back into

but none of them caused Nixon to budge from his tightly curled

the wild. We have arrived.

position in the back seat. But as we exit, he rises on all fours to peer across the center console, staring out the window, then up at me to acknowledge I have indeed taken the right turn. There were no signs to read, nor GPS guidance that spoke out to him, but he knows, just as he does each time we make our way towards the coastal marsh, that this is our path to the hunting grounds. Nixon moves towards the window with his nose raised, searching for a scent the way humans might read a map. I roll down the rear window to aid his curiosity, flushing the warm cabin with a crisp chill of morning air. If the alarm clock and black coffee had not provided my brain with enough stimulus to be at full attention, this was certainly the final push. We have a few miles of two-lane road to go before reaching the field, but we’ve already arrived mentally. As the road sweeps around bends, our headlights illuminate trees lining the border of our path. Occasionally, a lone porch light reaches out of the darkness, indicating that civilization still exists amongst nature. It’s a brief, yet sturdy reminder

With the engine turned off, I open the truck door, step into the morning darkness to stretch my appendages, then let Nixon out to do the same. That same crisp chill I allowed through the windows fully engulfs me like a bear hug, offering its welcome to the outdoors. A brief shiver rings through my body, signaling that it’s time to light the internal furnace. My pupils dilate to the current lack of light, opening themselves just as the aperture of a camera does. These systematic processes take place without our consideration, further proof that we are naturally adapted to be present in the wild. It does not take long for my vision to adjust before stars commence their introduction through patchy holes in the night sky. Distanced from civilization’s blanket of illumination, they are free to share their presence with us, an asset once utilized as the sole means of navigation. Today we have much more convenient assets, but the option for guidance still remains. I find the Big Dipper, with its spout slightly tilted towards the

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horizon and lead edge serving as a direct guide north. Aligned

anyone sees them, so I keep a keen ear into the northerly wind for

for millennia, this leading edge will run you through the night

the sounds of their wings approaching, which resembles the roar

sky until you reach the first prominent star, not flamboyantly

of a modern jet engine. Nixon is on guard, scanning the horizon

bright, but prominent nonetheless. We have arrived upon Polaris,

himself and observing our movements for any sign of approaching

the “North Star,” assuring that with it at our back, we’ll be led

birds. “Oh!” The sound escapes my lungs like a jerk reaction from

right into the coastal marsh, precisely where we intend to hunt

the burst of teal just over our heads, then back into the darkness

migrating waterfowl.

south of the pond. According to the time on our watches, it’s legal

We are not alone though. Figures move amidst the darkness, followed by the voices of friends. This is not a surprise, as everyone coordinated to rendezvous here as we do nearly every weekend during hunting season (and on weekdays when possible). Solitude is a blessing to clear one’s mind, but the camaraderie of fellow hunters chasing their instinctual passions is just as welcomed. Through a burst of fog expelled from Bob’s mouth, a comment about the temperature enters the morning. It is indeed brisk at this hour, but that has not kept anyone burrowed in their beds.

to shoot, but shots are not manageable yet. Everyone wants to take home birds, yet we understand the responsibility afforded us in the hunt and have to let the first few groups buzz on by. Taking a shot in this darkness means a high probability of wounding or losing the bird amongst the marsh grass, from sheer inability to see them fall against the dark backdrop. We know the cost, and hold steady a few more minutes, certain that opportunity will come. Even if it does not, we will have benefitted from the time outdoors nonetheless.

We agree through shared laughs and short grunts of approval,

Today, the opportunities come with a relentless flurry of birds.

before hearing the call. “Let’s roll out.” There are six of us with two

Nixon holds steady amidst the volleys of fire until the calm

dogs, making a pack of eight. We split into two groups amongst

resumes, then darts off the boardwalk with pure passion at the

the marsh grass, and spread many hundred yards apart, in hopes

call of his name. He returns each time, lungs expanding and

of intercepting the morning flight of birds as they traverse their

contracting in mighty rhythm from the effort expended in the

ingrained flight patterns. For now, Polaris is dead astern as the

retrieve, a bird gracefully in tow. Once instructed, he releases the

pack moves further into the hunting grounds.

bird into my hand, steps beyond the blind to shake off the excess

We have since split from the other group, Sean, Bob, Nixon and myself dispersing within the blind to cover all angles of the pond and marsh grass beyond. I am situated well below the grass line, encapsulated by the wooden structure of the pit blind when Nixon pops his head over the ledge. He has been laying on the boardwalk dividing our pit from Bob’s, sheltered from the wind, but on an unobstructed path into the water when the retrieving

water, then takes two steps forward, back into position. Our daily limit of birds is stacked atop the blind from our morning’s good fortune when Bob says, “That’s a wrap.” Nixon stares directly into my eyes, pleading that this isn’t true. He may not vocalize it, but when the shells eject from the gun, you can see his ears drop to a sulk, now that the hunt is over. I promise him there will be plenty of mornings to come.

commences. Just as we’re here following a deeper desire, Nixon

The passion to venture into the outdoors may be lost to some from

does not tag along for the mere sake of obedience. He takes notice

millennia of adaptation, but when the deceleration of civilized

of shells loading into guns with a widening of eyes and a perking

noise allows you to listen, the call will ring inside you, just as the

of ears. This drive to retrieve birds pumps through his Labrador

exit ramp informed Nixon that we were on the proper path to our

blood, clearly evident by his attention. It will not be long until

genetic roots. You just have to learn how to listen, and gain clarity

legal shooting time, but the morning remains rather dark from the

in silence.

scattered cloud cover, ever thickening into a dense blanket. I stand inside the pit, looking over the backside of the blind northwards for signs of movement in the sky. Teal will move first, a lesson learned through years of being in the field. They will be atop us before

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hen first asked to write a story in regards to changing the “hunting narrative,” I was a bit perplexed. It made me wonder how one can actually do that. It’s such a sensitive subject to be reckoned with, but I know it has to be done.

Is it to be tackled simply through my stories and photography? With these questions in mind, I did what I’ve always done; tap into my being, and pull everything out that I have to offer. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to be able to attend, guide, and photograph many hunts with all types of folks. From chasing giant desert mule deer in the Mojave National Preserve, to traditional pheasant hunts in southern England, my experiences in the field have been nothing short of an outdoorsman’s dream and have shaped my soul. After many years of watching my dad and brother leave home for hunting season, my 11th birthday finally came, and it was my time. My father first handed me a gun at the annual dove hunt, an Ithaca 410, and at the time I thought it was the prettiest thing I’d ever laid my adolescent eyes on. A beautiful firearm indeed, but I barely knew the world that was being shown to me as I opened the break of that shotgun. I thought to myself, “How can I be trusted with such a tool? Can I perform with accuracy, and will I amount to his expectations?” I was just as anxious as I was excited. To think that the man I look up to the most trusted me with the same weapon his father entrusted him with sent my young and bolstering confidence through the roof. First light came quicker than ever, and the dove were flying from every direction. From that moment forward, the art of hunting has completely changed my direction as a young man, and in turn, has sculpted my patience, redefined my discipline, and intensified my respect for the animals I’ve pursued — lessons ever so important in the life of any growing teenager.

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In contrast, I can’t pinpoint the exact time in my youth when I

Stepping out of your comfort zone and into the field of hunting,

decided to pick up a camera. I was lucky enough to be brought

you are shown the truth about natural light, heritage, tradition,

up in a pretty adventurous family, and we were always on the

astronomy, weather, wildlife and conservation. Such valuable

move, which most often involving hunting. As I aged, and drifted

things are so easily forgotten in a world like today’s, but I can

in-and-out of hunting camps with my father, I began to notice

assure you that these things are still so prominent in the natural

the prevalent beauty that you couldn’t find anywhere else. An

world. The artistry of patterning something so elusive and complex

untouched utopia, I’d find myself amazed by the surroundings, in

is an enticing challenge, and it becomes addictive. Resonating

a place I had only dreamed that existed, which I experienced only

within us, I believe hunting sits deep in the heart of every human.

because I was hunting. It felt like I struck gold, and I couldn’t resist

From the beginning of time we have hunted for our food, and this

the urge to document.

primal instinct is exposed every time we step into the field.

What goes on in the wilderness is so candid and organic, and I

Since I was old enough to know better, I’ve tried to shed a

wanted to bring these photos back to the world I lived in, where

much brighter light onto this topic that so many people tend

most people didn’t seem to understand the delicate side of

to misconstrue and show folks back home the integral process

hunting. I started to believe that my sole purpose was to show

that hunting plays in wildlife conservation. Hunting requires

where I’d been, and what I’d seen. I am no scientist, nor am I a

discipline, stewardship, and above all else, an understanding

biologist, but I now see myself as an advocate for hunting and try

that wildlife research and management techniques are vital. We

to document the preservation and conservation of wildlife and the

are caretakers of our public lands, and managers of the game in

numerous like-minded individuals I have reckoned with over the

which we pursue. I hope that in time, my work will show that

years. I aim to pave a different path for hunting by sharing in-

hunters are extremely cognizant — aware of their surroundings,

between moments with my photography, not just the kill.

natural instincts, responsibilities, and the role they play in keeping wildlife populations managed, and conservation budgets sizeable.

A life of hunting for me exists naturally and without restraint.

If my photography and these words are called to do anything, it

Time seems exempt from clocks, almost as if it shouldn’t be

is to encompass these virtues, illustrate their effective functions,

attached at all. No matter how hard you try to catch the light,

and communicate what draws us back to the hunt. In a society full

savor the rogue elements, or fully comprehend the unique

of imbalance, I’m seeking mental and spiritual symmetry afield.

structure and behavior of any given animal, you simply cannot. I believe that this is what keeps us coming back, and what keeps the longing to hunt deeply rooted in our core and so prioritized in our schedules. We indulge the urge to be more mentally and spiritually fulfilled than when we arrived, maybe even leaving pieces of ourselves along the way.

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eep in the heart of southern Tanzania’s Kilombero Valley lies a vast marshland covered by twelvefoot-tall “elephant grass,” aptly named for its ability to hide full size pachyderms. I was stationed at a camp there for several months, filming and photographing a group of adventure-seekers and

Cape buffalo hunters. On the outskirts of the camp, near the Kilombero River, I shared a safari tent with my good friend and professional hunter Georgie Ferreira. It was deathly hot even at night, which made it impossible to sleep with the canvas door closed. Since the zipper on the mesh door was broken, we left it wide open to salvage what breeze we could. I lobbied to get the zipper fixed, given the number of lions in the area, but George chuckled in the way that Africa PHs do when you stoop below their standard of toughness, and told me to not be a wuss. So I dropped the matter, despite my bed being first inside the door. Zipper repair now being out of the question, I opted to shave my head, in hopes of cooling off at night. Georgie suggested a mohawk, and being that I was several months away from any job interviews, decided to try it out for a bit. Every morning before sunrise, we set out in search for signs of buffalo and plains game, amidst treeless marsh habitat as far as the eye could see. We mostly hunted by river, using a double decker boat with a Massai watchman perched atop, who would keenly scan for white oxpecker birds on the backs of dark, indistinct shapes. We’d stalk in blindly, hoping to find a mature buffalo bull, but mostly found disorienting stampedes that snorted and crashed through the grass. When we returned in the evenings, a campfire and cold beers awaited us, as dinner was prepared from the days’ hunt. But on that particular evening, something much more dangerous awaited our return. Around 4 AM that morning, I was awoken by the unmistakable, haunting sound of a male lion’s call, less than ten yards behind our tent. I sat up, and my heart quickened in pace as I remembered that the canvas door had been left wide open for the breeze to come in. As I lay listening, frozen with indecision, the lion let out a much louder call, even closer this time. I breathed a whisper to Georgie, whose .470 double rifle lay loaded under his bed, but his only reply was a light snore. As the breeze died, and the silence grew, I knew the lion was very close. Closing the doors would require me to run outside the tent, untie both canvas flaps, unroll them, jump back inside, and zip the eight-foot fastener closed. But as my muscles twitched in anticipation of action, the lion called again, just outside the mesh window, about six inches from my head. Apart from the deafening sound of blood pumping in my ears, all I could hear were his guttural breaths and lowly grunts only inches away. I waited and anxiously peered into the deathly still scene, illuminated in detail by the mystically bright light of an African full moon. Not ten seconds later, the beast strode silently out of the shadows and into the ghostly moonlight. As he halted in front of the tent, about eight yards away, I was in disbelief at his gargantuan size. A lion of seemingly mythic proportions, he looked like a centaur, and is to this day the largest I’ve ever seen. Strangely, he had a distinct mohawk mane, but despite our likeness in hairstyle, and the only gun bearer being fast asleep, I was still in considerable danger.

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If the lion attacked, my only realistic option was to grab the bed, in hopes of flipping the mattress on top of myself. But as I leaned down to grab the frame, the bed creaked, and the lion turned around sharply. He stared me directly in the eyes through the open door of the tent, not five yards away, his tail flicking like a house cat as he crouched and dug his paws into the soft sand to pounce. I froze, overtaken by the power of his piercing stare, and awaited my fate. After what seemed a lifetime (but was probably fifteen seconds), the lion turned around and walked towards the river, pausing briefly to scratch his massive head on the reed fence. He jumped in the water, swam across to the other bank, and vanished. As I attempted to drift back to sleep, his distant calls could be heard until just before sunrise, lingering on the edges of my dreams, reminding me of the magical but terrible image of a crouched lion in full moonlight sizing me up. It was simultaneously the most beautiful and frightening scene I have ever witnessed, and still gives me chills to this day. Exactly one month later, on the next full moon, that same lion returned to my tent. But this time, the door was closed. As if to protest, he sprawled out on the front porch, his body sagging the tent wall inward as he breathed and panted. I stood within inches of the bulging canvas, and as I lightly touched what was likely his back, felt that he had become some sort of spirit animal for me. I like to think that he imparted some strength and bravery to me in that encounter, and his return was testing that. To this day, I still draw from that experience in moments of doubt or fear, recalling the power of that vision, and how truly close to death I may have been. The term “strong like a lion” has a relevant meaning for me, which translates in Swahili as “Imara Kama Simba.” I hold those words closely in all that I do. He is the King of Beasts, truly.

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followed close as we tracked Erin’s first archery whitetail

women in this industry. As I’ve continued to hack away at the

buck, the stars of a late October Kansas sky lighting our

stigma, sharing my life, honest photography, and thoughts on

way. We ducked under a stand of pines and abruptly

conservation, slowly but surely, things have started to change.

paused, admiring the mature, tall-tined monarch buck that lay before us. This was just the beginning for my friend, and as she knelt down to pay her respects, I felt blessed to experience this with her—to be able to photograph it, and show how beautiful and humbling harvesting an animal truly is. A landmark moment in her life became a shared memory for both of us, and to me, this is what can make hunting photography so compelling and allow it to change the way in which the world views our tradition.

I’ve earned my place. Too often, the words “hunting” and “conservation” are used for the wrong reasons, and my hope is to help redirect the focus, and show that hunting is a beautiful thing of balance. Many people are forgetting that, or never knew it in the first place, and by telling a genuine story that respects the nature of hunting, some might be challenged or educated about the reality of this passion we pursue. I want people to see the vulnerability and grace that comes with being a woman, but more importantly,

There is joy, struggle, laughter, frustration, success, and

how we can be strong and confident, both as conservationists

humbling moments of failure, and whether you’re documenting

and hunters—a positive example that is often overshadowed by

your own experiences or someone else’s, you feel every ounce of

women in the industry who objectify themselves and animals,

it. There is a relatable humanity that many people don’t get to

welcoming the criticism and hatred that has become such a

see enough of, and social media has been an incredible vehicle

growing trend against hunting.

for sharing these in between moments with a global audience. Unfortunately, societal ignorance comes with it, bringing hatred and judgements from anti-hunters. As I’ve grown a following, it has not been an easy road, but I have managed to establish some hard-earned respect amongst my industry peers.

Whether male or female, we are all hunters, and have to be stewards of this lifestyle misunderstood by so many. Our challenge is to make a positive impact, and tell an authentic story that respects and preserves the tradition of hunting. Whether it’s an iPhone photo, a pencil sketch by your eight-

Being a woman in the hunting world, I’ve always had to

year-old, or the joy of your first bow kill at the age of forty,

work much harder than men to earn respect for my craft and

share what moves your soul, not what fuels your ego. And as

prove that I can hang with the guys on hunts. The rules have

I gaze out the window of an airplane, watching snow-capped

always been: no complaints, no tears, work hard, earn it, keep

mountains descend into the flat plains of the Midwest, I recount

your nose to the grindstone, and time will take care of the

another week of incredible hunting memories and can’t help

rest. When I first started posting online, my photography and

but feel humbled and grateful for a life lived in the field.

hunting efforts were constantly being judged, and assumptions were made about who I was; “just another chick” trying to get free gear and followers. There have been times when the insults got to me, but I’ve never let the criticism change who I am, or effect my ambition—I want my feminine perspective to be something that can change the opinions people have of

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P H O T O G R A P H Y A N D S T O RY by C H A R L E S P O S T

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“Birds of prey are confident and at ease where the Earth is still wild. Follow them there. Study them. They will call you back to the quiet corners of the Earth, maybe to the corners of yourself. They will remind you why those corners matter.” DAN O’BRIEN


s we walked the field’s perimeter, I noticed her eyes pouring across the sea of ochre grasses that extend to the levee and salty edge. The sun warmed us, and the smell of marsh drifted by in small but rich doses, woven into the low tide wind. We noticed a lone white-crowned sparrow proudly perched atop

a gently bent stem. His song filled the air, coating the field in a unique soundscape bound to this corner of California. Amongst an island of ragged coyote brush, a lone California black-tailed jackrabbit lay frozen, tucked away. Even the most-subtle discrepancies leave a crumb trail, one inextricably tied to the respective signature of those in hiding: a quail surely quivers differently from a pheasant, a field mouse differently from a meadowlark. These subtleties are the cues that tugged at each passing glance. She scanned for crumbs that might expose even the most hidden of hares. Weathered talons sunk into worn elk hide as the evening’s rays reflected from her glossy dilating pupils. The innate hunter had kicked into gear, keenly aware of the slightest rustle - a hardwired proclivity. Spend a day hunting with Snow, an imprint female Siberian goshawk (Accipter gentilis albidus), and a new world reveals itself; one that sheds its cryptic guise, exposing a world of opportunity. Snow and her goshawk allies are known to be fearless to a fault, aggressive, relentless hunters that lean on speed, agility and an outsized tail, which creates lift while maneuvering in thick cover. She’s a formidable huntress, an epitome of apex predators. To stand alongside Snow offers a window into a world dominated by an acute awareness that guides her every move. Follow her and you will see, hear and experience a world interpreted through wild eyes. Snow evolved in Siberia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, where prey are often few and far between. She is perfectly matched to this world of scarcity. She is flawless, polished by thousands of years of nature’s fine tuning, and predisposed to take advantage of each feather, talon, slightest tuft of wind or draft. I’m told Snow hunts successfully around 1300g, which is huge for a goshawk. She’s fierce alight.

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Falconry, I’ve learned, is a relationship: training, trust and hunger are the pillars on which it stands. Alongside her partner and falconer, Noah Drever, I walked fields, gullies and levees while Snow, then seven-months-old, gazed through the sea of grass, searching for a crumb that might offer a hare for their efforts, and food for the table. Ancient falconers called them “cooks hawk” for a reason. One would suspect it had something to do with their success in the field and forest. Noah’s bond with Snow has grown since they first met, when she was 12 days old. She had bright blue eyes, sharp talons and wings not fit for flight. In time, she grew stronger and her eyes changed dramatically. It’s the eyes, Noah tells me, that are the window into a goshawk’s soul and development. As she grew, her eyes transformed from baby blue to a pair of piercing yellow eyes that only belong to mature Siberian goshawks. It was a sign that Snow was ready to hunt, and hunt she will; it’s what she was born to do.

This story is dedicated in loving memory to Snow. 2014—2017

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A N D S O, I H U N T P H O T O G R A P H Y & S T O R Y by J I L L I A N L U K I W S K I

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he truth is, I am concerned for humanity. I am concerned with the way we insulate our bodies, minds, and souls from any degree of discomfort, shield ourselves and our children from all suffering, then grow mono-dimensional in our middle age until death bumps us off

into the great beyond, and our bodies go to stardust. I am concerned. I don’t want this for myself. I want to feel it all. I want to feel my anger, my hurt, my joy, my pain; feel those things break me and build me, learn from my life and move deeper into it. I want to have all the beautiful stuff, but I also want to know what it’s like to have a face frozen with cold, an empty and aching belly, a heart filled with despair, shattered faith—I want to know what it is to suffer. My suffering brings my blessings to light. I want to shiver through the night, cut my numb hands to ribbons while gathering firewood, comprehend the desperation of thirst, keep walking under a heavy pack on horrible terrain, even if my bones are broken. I want to run out of food and know hunger. I want to fight a little for my meals, remember that eating is a privilege, reminisce about what it’s like to have the luxury of an overflowing fridge and the convenience of grocery stores on every street corner. I want to warm my hands on the hot and twitching back strap of a deer. I want to feel the dumb and wretched pain of my fingers thawing. I want to know the weight and responsibility of taking an animal’s life, so that I may live. I want to know the darkness and light of that act. I want to revel in the beauty of the deed well done, and I want to feel sad about it, too. I want to feel that swift, elegant bullet in my own soul. I want to understand what I have done to get my food so that I value and cherish every bite of it. My memories of the hunt make me thrifty. I know the pain and toil behind each meal I create, so I waste not. We hunt as husband and wife. Our food gives us a dimensional sense of family; we hold hands, we give thanks. Our bonds are built of beating heart, blood and sinew; our bonds will not be broken. I am greedy for a life well-lived. I want to survive, and not recreationally. It’s not enough to feel cold while I’m out skiing, or catch-and-release fishing in the rain on a beautiful river. That’s trading some pain for play, and I want my suffering to mean more than that. I want to doubt. I want to fall. I want to fail. I want to wind up empty-handed despite my best, truest efforts. I want to work hard, redeem myself, and be redeemed. I want to crawl, walk, run towards my higher calling. I want to know myself better. I want to fear the wild and be feared.

And so, I hunt.

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estled quietly in the lush greenery of Australia’s Kiewa Valley, some 800 kilometers south of my current home, you’ll find the large historic property I grew up on. It has been in my family, the Wallaces of Kergunyah, since 1886, and erupts with

both Aboriginal and early settler history. My parents still live there, working Hereford cattle and running a farm-to-table restaurant they built together. With the changing seasons, the rut had all but come to an abrupt halt for fallow and red deer. My freezer was empty, and I knew the best chance of filling it with fresh venison would be to follow the colder weather south and look for sambar stags. So I invited my friend Kent to come along, and we drove back to Kergunyah for three days of intense hunting. We left around 3 AM and arrived in the valley around midday. With no time to lose, we said a quick hello to my folks, then packed our bags and began our hike into the backcountry. Fortuitously, our property backs up to public land, allowing us access to some 100,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness. It’s the beginning of spring, and as we climb through the thick, damp forest, it feels as though the mountains are softly breathing underneath me. After months of heavy rain and snow, they have finally thawed back to life. We’re surrounded by an abundance of flourishing native life, both fauna and flora unfurling, fecund and new. Creeks are flowing, the grass, trees and ferns are all brilliant shades of green, and I can only imagine the deer are thriving in such conditions. Several kilometers in, with dusk chasing our heels, Kent found a nice clearing to set up camp. As our packs hit the ground, I am filled with relief. A slight evening breeze has pushed the day’s clouds away, and the cool air in the atmosphere allows the stars to glisten vibrantly. I battle to stay awake, watching the stellar show, but the crackling campfire quickly hypnotizes me into a deep sleep. The sun is up before we know it, and after a quick hit on the inside of the tent, the frost cascades down the fly. Kent has a coffee on the go, and before long, we are packed up and moving. The sun rolls above the trees, and our day is spent hiking tumultuous ridgelines, and following valleys. This part of the bush isn’t known for larger populations of deer and thus far, the only sign of deer is from ruts past. After hiking over fifteen kilometers of steep terrain, fatigue had started to set in. Every step is more strenuous, and any stable tree becomes a winching point, pulling you a bit closer to the top. We decide to call it a day, and set up camp again.

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We lit the fire, and made ourselves comfortable as the stars came

sensitive scent glands of all animals. I throw a quick glance over

out to remind us that the feats of the day are now behind us.

to Kent, and we both grin in excitement. Not that being honked

Kent and I shared some beer, food and laughs about life, and all

at by a deer is a good thing, as it means that we’ve either been

that it encompasses. He speaks lovingly of his daughter, how she

spotted, smelt, or heard, but the fact that we’ve actually seen deer

changed his life, all that he’s learned from her so far, and all that

has entirely changed the mood.

he still wishes to teach her – it warms my heart. He asks me about my upbringing here on the farm, and I laugh, thinking about how unconventional it seems. To give him an example, I tell him of the time I was bitten on the finger by a white tail spider. The venom from some of these spiders can result in a necrotic wound, which is what happened to my fingertip. Instead of taking me to a hospital or doctor, my mother made a linseed and poppy seed paste with a mortar and pestle, which she applied to the bite regularly for several days. Believe it or not, it worked. When I asked her as an adult how she knew to do this, she joked (I think) and said, “Cause I’m a witch doctor!” It wouldn’t surprise me though, as she spent time with and learned incredible things from a famous herbalist in Israel by the name of Juliette de Baïracli Levy.

I signal to Kent to hold position, and for about 20 minutes, we do. The initial wave of energy from the deer honk has dispersed through the forest, and things are quiet again. I can hear something moving down the valley, but the thick trees don’t allow for much vision past 60 meters. I slowly move from sitting to a crouched position, and make my way quietly down the trail to get a clearer view of what’s below. There’s a scurry of sticks by Kent, and his body language immediately changes. He turns his head slowly, looking back toward me, and raises his fingers to his eyes, signaling he can see something. The anticipation is killing me, but I’m jolted out of my concentration by another loud honk. These animals are now well

Kent and I continued to share stories and laugh into the night like a pair of howling wolves. The embers from our fire floated up through the trees into the sky and our eyes followed. There is no light pollution here, and the Milky Way is as clear as day. There is something very special about the southern night sky, and as I find the Southern Cross constellation, I trace it all the way to Sagittarius. I point out the Emu in the Sky to Kent, which stretches right across our glittering galaxy. It has always intrigued me, because to see this constellation, you must look at the dark dust clouds, and not the stars themselves. Aboriginal astronomy is extraordinarily beautiful and arcane, as so many stories from the Dreaming are told in the stars, and I hope more people would endeavor to learn and share them.

aware of our presence in their world. But the honk startled something else below me. I grab my binoculars and scan left to right, trying to differentiate between the brown of stringy bark trees and any deer. I fixed my eyes below, focused on identifying any movement. The tension between this forest and myself is suffocating, and I have that innate and unnerving feeling that something is watching me. I stay dead still, and hear the sound of a hoof stomping dirt — a sure indication of a territorial gesture. My ears perk in that direction, and I turn to see the unmistakable large ears of a sambar stag staring right at me. I freeze. He looks at me, then in Kent’s direction, then back at me – continually. We barely moved or made a sound for nearly half an hour, and yet this deer had us made. At this point, I relied

Morning arrives, so we pack up camp and hit the road in search of fresh grounds. Rumours of a valley teeming with sambar stags were passed on by my cousin, and by the time we got there, it was around midday. We eagerly set off downhill in the hopes of intersecting the deer as they made their way back up to bed for the night. All the hairs stand up on my body as we immediately see fresh signs: scrapes and wallows that have been used within hours of us being there.

on my camouflage to do its job and figured that if I could stay still long enough, the deer would divert its attention elsewhere. I hear more and more deer ambling toward us. The sound catches the attention of the stag that has locked onto us, but he does not move. He keeps looking both ways, as if to ensure the protection of the herd. I feel like this may be my one and only opportunity to make a move. As he switches between looking at me and monitoring the scurry of deer behind him, I make a slight move

Kent and I split up, about 20 meters apart, and both followed individual game trails. We both came to a swift, freezing halt, as a

toward my quiver. With each movement, I slowly nock an arrow onto my string.

loud honk rang out. Sambar, like most deer, have some of the most

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Another loud honk bellows just below Kent, and I get goosebumps

The following day, a venison dish is prepared for lunch by my

as the sound reverberates through my chest. The stag in front of

mother, the chef in our family’s field-to-table restaurant. We all

me is now focused on the warning from his fellow deer, and turns

sit down to share the harvest of our hunt, reflect on the journey,

his body broadside to investigate the direction of the honk. This

and pay our deep respects to the deer on our plates, a deer that

is it. This is the moment of moments, and as I pull the string back

will feed us for months to come. These are the moments I cherish.

to my cheek, my pupils dilate to accommodate the diminishing afternoon sunlight, and my eyes to lock into a deadly focus. I take a deep breath, and in those seconds, I appreciate the hundreds of hours of practice I put in for this opportunity. I gauged him to be approximately 40 meters away, and the middle pin of my sight sat just behind his front shoulder.

North American mainstream media, and the efforts going into the conservation of many of their deer species, often guides the misconception of deer hunting in Australia. This is not the same down under. Deer were introduced to this country in the late 1800s, and since then numbers have grown beyond sustainable proportions. Now declared a “feral” animal, deer have had a

I release the arrow, exhale, and can only hope that my aim was

devastating effect on our native wildlife, forests and agricultural

true. In a flurried moment, the deer springs from its feet and

industries. By hunting, an outdoorsman helps ensure that our

disappears behind the trees. I didn’t see the flight of the arrow,

native flora and fauna thrive in a balanced ecosystem. My role

and as I closed my eyes and opened them again, it was over.

in the grand scheme of things may be small, but as hunters here

Kent made his way over to see what had happened. We walked down to where the stag was standing, and immediately see a

in Australia, we play an integral part in maintaining our lands by ethically harvesting these introduced species.

trail of blood leading to a patch of open grass where the trees

Hunting is so much more than just killing an animal. I am forever

had spread thin. There, the stag lay peacefully. The sound of deer

grateful for the privilege to constantly be out in the wilderness,

scattering had gone quiet, and now it was time to pay respect to

continually discovering how to hone my own instincts, and push

this animal. Sharing these moments of vulnerability with anyone,

my body beyond perceived limits. I’m thankful for the mental

let alone a hunting buddy, are special to me. These moments don’t

clarity that nature provides me, the sometimes harsh lessons it

come easy, nor are they let go of easily. I do feel sorrow, regret

teaches me, and the knowledge that I continue to develop of the

and sometimes doubt. I run my fingers along his fur, which is still

intricate ecology in each environment I visit. I am profoundly

warm, and exhale a sigh of relief. It’s done, and I can’t change it.

bound to the land, its rich history, and our human ancestors. Out

But what I can do is be grateful, respectful, honor this creature,

there, I am an explorer, an adventurer, an advocate, a guardian, a

and never take a life for granted. I couldn’t ask for anything else.

provider — I am a hunter.

As a hunter, you make mistakes, and you can’t always guarantee everything will go your way, but this time, I was simply happy. We spent the last glints of light reflecting on the hunt. There was still so much work to be done in getting this magnificent animal back to the truck, but luckily for me, Kent is a former butcher. We get to work parting him out, a process every bit as important as the hunt itself. We each take as much meat as our bags and backs will carry, and hike out in the dark. When we make it back down the mountain to my parents’ restaurant, it’s almost midnight, and we unload and store the venison in the cool room. Exhausted from the thrill and hard work, we crash back at the house.

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with heirloom beetroot, wasabi mayonnaise, capers and micro herbs


Clean sinew from meat

1.1 lbs venison


Mix salt and sugar together

½ cup salt flakes


Mix chopped herbs and pepper

½ cup sugar


Coat the meat in herbs and pepper

1 tbsp rosemary (mixed with pepper)


Place in container

1 tbsp chopped thyme or mountain pepper leaves


Sprinkle salt and sugar over the meat, then also pack the sides of the meat with salt and sugar mix

1 cup vodka/gin/brandy


Pour chosen alcohol over the top

1 tbsp coarsely cracked black pepper


Leave for 6-8 hours, turn the meat, then leave for another 2-3 hours (the meat will firm)


Season medium sized beetroot, wrap in foil, place in oven to bake until soft (approx. 1 hour)

1 medium sized beetroot 1 heirloom beetroot wasabi mayonnaise baby capers micro herbs and edible flowers for garnish

10. When beetroot is cool enough to handle, chop it and blend with vegetable stock or water to puree, and season to taste 11. Add a dash of vinaigrette or a redwine vinegar and lemon juice 12. Slice the heirloom beetroot paper-thin on a microplane slicer 13. When ready to serve, heat the beetroot puree and smear on bottom of plate 14. Slice venison thinly, place pieces alternating with the sliced heirloom beetroot and sprinkle baby capers 15. Top with wasabi mayonnaise, micro herbs and edible flowers for garnish

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hot wind whisked across the boulder and cholla-laden slope of Elephant Mountain as the sounds of cloven hooves on stone trickled from the ridge below. At first, the big ram didn’t notice me, but as the wind changed, our eyes locked. Could he possibly understand his significance and that he was a key player in the salvation of desert

bighorn sheep in the American West? As the seconds slowed to a crawl, I could see the wildness in his eyes and remembered that he was doing what millennia of evolution had trained him for: to thrive in a landscape more rugged and unforgiving than any I’d experienced on foot or horseback. This lone ram represented a half-century of successful conservation and the future of desert bighorn sheep reintroductions across a landscape once carved up by a legacy of exploitation. And in that very moment, the future of Texas desert bighorn sheep stared back at me, and then was gone before the blink of an eye, bounding down a field of car-sized boulders burnt under an autumn sun. American conservationist Aldo Leopold, once said, “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” By 1900, America’s ecological fabric had been largely dismantled as megafauna like bison, pronghorn, grizzly bears, and gray wolves had been slaughtered for the sake of blind progress at any expense. With a theological North Star guiding each stroke of the axe, westward expansion did away with each cog and wheel lacking a conspicuous and timely value deemed worthy as wagon ruts, barbed wire and train tracks cut up and spit out a once endless sea of American wilderness. No ecological community was spared: passenger pigeons that clouded the heavens and provided the single largest dose of nutrients in North America no longer flooded eastern skies. Bison that roamed across the West in great herds extending 20 miles in all directions no longer punctuated a sea of perennial bunchgrasses and songbirds. Grasslands were converted to deserts with the loss of topsoil, rivers turned dry from the incessant pull of irrigation, riparian corridors vanished, and fertile forests that once housed mountain lion, bear and martin no longer supported the predators who shaped them and ensured their wellbeing. By 1900, a war had been waged on wilderness and the aqueous arteries that nourished them. Far from the marbled halls of Washington D.C. where early conservationists like Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt shaped legislation and a future for a select slice of America’s wilderness, the remote, wild and far-removed were largely left unmanaged at the mercy of our collective will to tame, transform, and unwild. This freedom to carve any signature a man deemed right and good into the land existed unbridled from Maine to Texas, Nevada to North Dakota. As we peek into the rearview mirror of land-use and conservation in America, you’ll find few prejudices faded with the test of time. Yet, signs of intelligent tinkering and stewardship abound. One such example took us to the sun-kissed mountains of West Texas where a community of Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists, private landowners, conservationists and hunting organizations are working together to reintroduce desert bighorn sheep to a vast expanse of copper-toned wilderness that pours across Texas and Mexico beyond.

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With the prospect of hiking and riding horseback through a West

for seeding future populations throughout the state lived a wild

Texas wilderness home to one of the state’s source populations of

existence. As we watched them leaping from rocky ledges through

desert bighorn sheep, I connected with conservation filmmaker,

a cactus-strewn landscape, Dewey discussed the importance of

Ben Masters, to research a potential film on desert bighorn sheep

“rewilding” landscapes near and far.

conservation. So, we headed West to Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area and Big Bend Ranch State Park. We hopped in the back of a Texas Parks and Wildlife Ford F-150 and took the long road up the mesa of Elephant Mountain. Here we could access some of the more exposed vistas where, with keen eyes and a steady hand, we could catch a glimpse of a thriving desert bighorn sheep population, and plan our week ahead. Our guides, Texas Parks and Wildlife Biologists Mark Garrett and Dewey Stockbridge, explained the fascinating history of these animals while we drove. Desert bighorn sheep, like other North American megafauna, were mostly wiped out across their historic range from habitat loss, introduced diseases, overhunting, and increased competition for forage with exotics like cattle, sheep and horses. By the early 1900s, Texas had nearly lost the last of its desert bighorn. Their numbers hovered around zero until the 1960s, when efforts to reintroduce them to remote patches of Texas wilderness — public and private — began to circulate through state and private constituents invested in the land’s ecological integrity, structure and function. In 1973, the first desert bighorn sheep reintroduction efforts took place in the Sierra Diablo Mountains. This herd steadily grew and was supplemented by capturedand-released sheep from Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico to avoid a genetic bottleneck. As the population grew, Texas Parks and Wildlife captured and released desert bighorn sheep into other remote mountain ranges that contained suitable habitat. One of those places, Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area— which was donated to Texas in 1985 — received bighorns in 1987. Since then, for reasons unknown, the desert bighorn sheep have thrived on Elephant Mountain better than other mountain ranges, transforming this herd into a vital source population for further reintroduction efforts. With 50 years of active management, conservation and reintroduction efforts, desert bighorn sheep populations have climbed from zero to over 1,000 individuals. It is a massive conservation success story, with forward momentum driving the reintroduction efforts slated in coming years.

It’s fairly simple: to save desert bighorn sheep is to save an entire ecosystem. In the fields of ecology and conservation biology, these animals are called umbrella species because their salvation is inextricably bound to those of every fiber of flora and fauna that comprise the ecological fabric of the area. This notion of saving the top to protect the bottom has been employed across the globe with the protection and reintroduction of bison into the American West, wolves into Yellowstone National Park, sage grouse in the great sagebrush sea, and elephants in Chad’s Zakouma National Park. After our morning scout with the TPW biologists, we set out to document and closely observe the desert bighorn sheep of Elephant Mountain. We made our way down the steep mountain roads, set up spotting scopes, and began searching behind every rock, cholla and yucca for the well-camouflaged sheep sleeping away the hot afternoon. As we scoured every visible inch of ground, I glanced downslope at just about eye level, and something caught my attention. About 500 yards away from us, at the bottom of the hill, a family of sheep stood frozen in the high noon wind. They were hiding right in front of us. We slowly gathered our gear and hiked towards them. At fifty yards, it was clear that they were a bit nervous, so we slowed, then stopped our approach, hunkered down behind some yucca, and began taking photographs. Seemingly, with each passing moment they became more aware that we weren’t a threat, and over the course of an hour or so, we closed the gap, which offered a closer look into their simple but fascinating existence. For the rest of the day, we trailed them across Elephant Mountain. As we followed them through boulder feeds and stands of cholla, I reflected on the shift in value that society places on wildlife. There had been such a broad legacy of exploitation, which has been transformed into one of conservation. These sheep, the benefactors, have once again been given the room and space to call these rugged peaks of West Texas home. They’ve become the seed stock that will slowly recolonize pockets of their historical range.

As we stepped onto the brow of Elephant Mountain, we saw a world largely free from fences or any conspicuous signature of man: a vast expanse where 160 desert bighorn sheep responsible

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“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.�


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n case you didn’t know, quail hunting in Texas is a very serious matter, regarded as one of the more distinguished and gentlemanly of shooting pursuits. Another matter of seriousness in the Lone Star State is barbeque, which has deservedly reached celebrity status now that out-of-staters have finally seen the light. This short story is about both,

but it’s also about teaching two eight-year-old boys the ethics of responsible hunting. Last year, I was invited to close out the quail season with two good friends: Justin Fourton, pitmaster and owner of Pecan Lodge in Dallas, who has since risen to barbeque hall-of-fame status, and Phil Lamb, the Director of Development for the Rolling Plains Quail Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to conserving and increasing wild quail populations in Texas. They both brought their sons, Henry and Cooper, and we spent several days on a family ranch out west in Hamlin, Texas. As we walked the fields, flushing covey after covey of wild bobwhites, we taught the boys about native wildlife, habitat preservation, hunter safety, and how you should treat all of it with care and respect. We harvested enough birds for one meal, and the boys helped us clean and dress them for the grill. It was about as pure of a hunting experience as you could hope for — being able to eat wild food provided by our hands, instead of buying it from some unknown source. We were all thankful for the meat, and leaning on Justin’s secret recipes, grateful to have an award-winning barbeque master to bring it all full circle. After an honest gesture of thanks, it was off to the grill for these wild birds. I think most would agree that a hunted dinner tastes best. Rounded out with green chili mac & cheese and Aunt Polly’s banana pudding, this was one I’ll never forget. It’s hard to say how much of it the boys retained, as they are not my sons, but it sure was rewarding to see them listen and follow along with eager ears and hearts. And while it might be some time before they earn the privilege to wield a shotgun for themselves, you can be sure that when the time comes, they will remember some of the lessons they learned, and respect the weight and responsibility that comes with taking the life of an animal to sustain your own. It seems rarer and rarer these days, but it makes me proud to have friends who are passing on important lessons, helping keep the traditions of ethical hunting alive, and showing their boys the path to becoming respectful, thoughtful young men and hunters.

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“Anytime a boy is ready to learn about guns is the time he’s ready, no matter how young he is, and you can’t start too young to learn how to be careful.” ROBERT RUARK, THE OLD MAN AND THE BOY

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Tell us a bit more about your jewelry did you

card came through, and I worked two other jobs in town — as a

originally get into it?

librarian at the elementary school, as well as at a tiny sandwich

I came to the US 13 years ago when I married my husband. By way of Alaska, we wound up living on a remote satellite station for US Fish and Wildlife on the middle of the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation outside of Parker, Arizona. It was a very isolated location, and Robert was working as a fish biologist, while I was waiting for my green card paperwork to process. While it was processing, I couldn’t work, and had a ton of free time on my hands. I was also lonesome and looking for a sense of community. I was snooping around one day and noticed that a college in Lake Havasu was offering an introduction to silversmithing. Since I had nothing else to do with my time, I signed up for the course. In that class I learned to roughly solder, saw metal, and bezel set stones with extremely primitive tools. Anyone can make jewelry, but not everyone is good at designing jewelry. I was good at both. Once the class finished, I slowly began to collect tools for my workspace, which was located in a quonset, along with 10,000 endangered fish at the facility we were living at (and Robert was managing). That’s when I really began in this medium. I had one hammer, one small anvil, a rusty vice, some moth eaten files, a torch, and a black widow infestation. But I began small with a big dream, which is how all self-employment or small businesses should begin. I added tools to my space as my profits allowed. My green

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and coffee shop upriver of Parker. When I wasn’t at my official jobs, I just kept chipping away at building a dream in my little workshop. I opened an online store, and within two hours had sold my first piece of jewelry. Three months later, I quit my other jobs, went full-time with silversmithing, and the rest is history. There aren’t any distinct differences between how I work now and how I worked when I first started. I set about it with curiosity and dedication, and my designs evolved as my tool collection grew. I did my very best to find inspirations from the world around me, from my personal experiences out on the land, and from life lessons. I did my best to be honest in my work. At some point in time, I might have been romanced by the term “artist” and everything that goes along with that, but these days, I hesitate to call myself an artist. There can be something pretentious about the word, and I prefer to view my work as the pursuit of a craft, and storytelling. I’m trying to build an interconnectedness in my life with my studio time, writing, gardening and farming. I recently told someone that “there is elk on our dinner plates and there are elk on my cocktail rings.” I’m seeking to live a life that is directly reflected, echoed and honored by my metalwork, writing, and photography efforts, so that everything is true to the context in which my inspirations are received and decoded.

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What materials do you typically work with in your jewelry

How often does hunting provide you with usable materials for



I work primarily in sterling silver, but occasionally use 23K gold

Well any antlers I’ve used in jewelry designs are sheds we’ve

for embellishment purposes. I prefer agates and jaspers that come

found while out bird hunting or hiking. I think elk ivories are an

out of the western states of the US — it’s just one more way for

exquisite material, and hold such a strong connection to runaway

me to honor the land I love — with the enormous windswept

ridgelines, cloud encased timber, the autumn blaze of brush in old

spaces that act as sky burnished temples to the elk, the mule

burns, cold wind, and everything that is so alive and thrumming in

deer, and pronghorn. I use turquoise in my designs, as well as

the high country. When we are in the Owhyees, I often find agates,

chrysoprase, elk ivory and antler. I also cast little bones I find,

jaspers, and druzy crystals on the ground as we hunt, and some of

bits of flora, and fabricate sagebrush — whatever catches my eye

those stones have found their way into my designs.

while I’m out and about. Do you make jewelry pieces based on your inspirations, or are they mostly commissions?

How much of an influence is the outdoors or wildlife in the development of your work? It’s a total influence. I don’t identify with new age philosophies

I try not to do commissioned work, but make exceptions from time

or animal shamanism — which is to say, I don’t want someone

to time for friends or family. Sometimes I bump into a person who

to tell me what everything means, what a snake can teach me

simply won’t take no for an answer, and I wind up working for

or an elk symbolizes. I want to discover those things for myself.

them, but I try to keep my schedule free of commissioned work.

I’m pretty headstrong that way, and like to find my own way and

It’s not that I don’t like creating specifically for an individual,

inspirations. When I’m outside I learn a lot from a landscape

but I often end up recreating older designs that I feel I’ve moved

by noticing things and asking WHY — engaging my logic and

past, and it takes the momentum out of whatever direction I am

deductive skills — simply finding a question and then discovering

headed in. I’m selfish about my studio time, and like to make what

the answer to it. There’s a ton to learn from animals and plants

I want to make, to feel free to follow rabbit trails, to explore and

by simply watching them, and I find all of these lessons can be

engage my curiosity. Most of the techniques I employ in my work

metaphors for the human condition; for the growth or decay I see

are things I learned by simply messing around in my medium.

in myself, or for what needs working on in my own heart and life.

The metal has been a wonderful teacher to me. For me, the point

I don’t always spell those lessons out for people when I go to share

is not to make as much jewelry as possible as quickly as possible.

a new piece of work, but the lessons are there, embedded in the

The point is the process behind the work; slowing down to notice

molecules that build the metal and stone. If I am doing good work,

my inspirations, to notice beauty in life and death, and translate

it’s an echo of everything I brush up against outside, or in my daily

those details into a wearable format (or to photograph and write

life. It is true to my life, and it is just true.

about these things). The point is to take a handful of materials and change them into cohesive and contextual beauty that is aesthetically lovely and meaningful to me, the maker, as well as the individual who ultimately wears the piece. This isn’t my job, it’s my vocation.

What’s your favorite piece of jewelry you’ve made to date? That’s a hard question to answer. Whatever has me on fire at present is what I love most. If I’m growing in my craft, working diligently and with great integrity and truth, and am delving into my life outside the studio with fearlessness, my work will echo that. Whatever is right in front of me on my bench, actively in the process of being built, is what I’m all about, right then and there.

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In the same spirit of Native American adornments or other cultural applications, how does jewelry function for you? I’ve always loved jewelry. If it’s well made and thoughtfully designed, it’s wearable art. There’s something magical about wearing an item like that right next to your skin, over your heart, at the pulse points on your wrists, or swinging from your ears. A friend of mine who weighs molecules for a living once told me that the molecules of any material are under constant effect of the world around them, so that they record and remember vibrations, forever, within the structure of their crystal lattices. I like to believe that a piece of jewelry is brought alive by the heat of your body — the metal warms, the stone softens next to your skin, the molecules that build that metal and stone record the data of your heartbeat, so that you become a part of the crystal lattice that builds a jewel. If you wear a diamond that was your great-grandmother’s, a pair of ancient earrings from Oaxaca, or a piece of carved jade from the North country, all of that metal and stone holds a record of the maker and of the individual that wore that piece before you; their pulse, and the melody of their life labor will ring true in that piece of jewelry forever. That’s cosmic to me. As I build a piece of jewelry, my own life is pressed into that crystal lattice, so that I am remembered in that piece forever, in a minute, physical and electrical way. The memory of me, the maker, mingles with the owner of that piece, and her daughters, and her daugther’s daughters. It creates a story and a connection that cannot be broken. How beautiful is that? So beautiful and so intimate. How do you balance your life as a jeweler and photographer? Do you prefer one over the other? I like both, though I am stepping back from freelance photography work right now to focus more on studio work. I find it more grounding. I didn’t set out to do freelance photography work, I simply made pictures because I wanted to tell my story, document beauty, and translate beauty for others. I will continue to work for companies if they suit my lifestyle, but I don’t like to be on the road constantly, and that’s what freelance work was becoming for me. I was perpetually traveling and began to feel separated from the natural world and my rhythms in it. I love to travel, but I would like to be able to take more journeys that are about exploration and seeking inspirations, instead of getting a great shot of a coat being used in a beautiful landscape.

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ixteen muscle-laden horses weaved untethered through an evenly spaced stand of white spruce. They climbed together, gradually, with loaded but balanced panniers, and a steady sense of purpose. I rode third in line behind head Gana River Outfitters

guide, Rachel Ahtila, and her first hunter of the season, Riley Pearson. As we crested the rise, revealed below us was an expansive glacial valley, guarded by mammoth peaks of black and purplish-red rock. We rode on without pause, and as each mountain passed we gazed skyward, craning our necks in hopes of a glance at the white coat and curling horns of a trophy Dall ram. On the valley floor, the Fritz River wound effortlessly beneath us, eventually joining the Mackenzie River — North America’s second largest river drainage behind the Mississippi — hundreds of miles downstream. With heavy photography and video equipment stashed haphazardly in my pack, I was thankful to have four legs instead of two for this arduous part of the journey. It’d been five days since leaving civilization with two days of commercial flights, a float plane connection and an additional two days in the saddle under our belts. My thoughts floated between two realizations: 1) The trails we currently traveled were formed by monstrous mountain caribou native to the range rather than the plodding of man or domesticated stock. 2) Cowboys must have somehow developed an ability to completely halt the human body’s excretory system when in the saddle to eliminate the need for bathroom breaks.

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It was at that very moment that I was torn from my profound

A week or so later, we giggled as we sat around the simple warmth

epiphanies by the sound and sensation of water rushing over my

of a campfire, a belly full of fresh game and a nip of equally

boots, and the chest of my sure-footed steed, Chief, pumping

traveled whisky on our breath. A few days earlier, we’d left our

against the rapidly moving river. We’d reached the banks of the

horse team and traveled deep into the bowels of a canyon under

Fritz River, and the team of untied horses now frantically swam

guide Rachel Ahtila’s steady voice. That day, Riley, a hunter on

across to the opposite bank. The animals and their riders were

the trip, had taken his first ram, and we’d returned with stories

hell-bent on reaching our outpost camp by day’s end, regardless

to go with it.

of the river’s swollen size from weeks of rain.

For me, the experience brought forth the rare confluence of

During our adventure, we collectively fell into the simple routine

peace, connection and heightened awareness. These three values

of waking up in sheep beds, scouring grassy hillsides, and

had taken over, created from rambling remote wilderness for

marching hard with our sustainment gear to explore new folds

weeks on end. My anxiety was replaced with quiet confidence,

in the Mackenzie Mountains’ endless alpine. Our bodies were

and intuition for the natural world around. The sound of email

nourished by cascading waterfalls, freeze-dried meals, and the

notifications, engine noise, exhaust, and LED lights were quickly

allure of monarch rams. Along the way we’d felt the highs and

overtaken by water trickling over ancient stone, and horse bells

lows of mountain hunting, been hit with pounding rainstorms,

in the distance.

kneaded our sore muscles, and carried a dark dart of fear in our guts from the bluff charge of a young grizzly who’d caught scent of our caribou kill. Our senses, normally dulled by the comforts of memory foam and heated seats, began to sharpen after days spent in remote wilderness. Wild places, combined with lack of access to modern amenities, had a transformative effect on the group.

The clarifying ability of remote wildness is profound, though anything but common. These experiences should be treated as secret, stolen treasure to be buried away deep in our hearts. I’ll probably never get back to those exact mountains with those same people, but I hope these lessons never fade. Until then, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, a map nearby, and hope that I’ll be graced by another wilderness therapy session again soon.

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C L AY T O N C H A S E / @ C T C H A S E 0 7




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PA C E B R O T H E R S / @ PA C E _ B R O T H E R S



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Americans share a legacy of lands and wildlife that are spectacular

and most of its big and small game species were depleted close

in scale and scope. From Alaska down and across the continent in

or to extinction. After nearly 100 years of westward exploration,

all directions to the Florida keys, there are mountain, grassland,

expansion and exploitation, the country’s great store of resources,

forest, wetland, and desert landscapes. There are wildlife species

once thought limitless, was nearing exhaustion.

large and small, terrestrial, marine, and aerial, for whom these places provide safe habitat; and all is part of the great inheritance of wealth belonging to every American citizen. With this inheritance came too a system of care and management, to ensure that the lands and species survive and prosper from one generation to the next. We are unique in our sharing of this great store of beautiful and useful public resources, and we are fortunate that many who came before us had the foresight and fortitude to see that the country would continue to flourish and prosper culturally and economically, so long as we respect and use them wisely. As we now enjoy and prosper from what those who came before us conserved and preserved, we too are duty-bound to pass this legacy on to the next generations.

The grand plan of a few great men (for the time of leadership of American women was still to come), to restore first, then conserve and preserve, America’s natural resources to ensure the future benefit of its coming generations was successful beyond prediction, and perhaps beyond their expectations. In the course of only a few decades, they created the foundation of a system of organization and management of our public lands and wildlife: the first legislation to set aside public land as parks for the benefit and enjoyment of the people; the first legislation to reserve forests as timberlands for future public benefit by sustainable use; the first bird and wildlife refuge areas to regain lost wildlife populations; the first legislation authorizing government acquisition of private land to protect watersheds; the first state regulations limiting the

Those who ensured this inheritance were conservationists and

taking of wild game; the first government agencies charged with

preservationists, and some of various points of view in between.

oversight of these landscapes and wildlife; and the first classes of

As America neared the end of the 19th century, it shared a sense of

professionals trained in their management.

urgency about the state of its land and its wildlife. Around 1800, shortly before Lewis and Clark set off to explore the Louisiana Purchase and west to the Pacific, the US population was 5 million; by mid-century it was more than 30 million, and the transition from agrarian to full-on industrial revolution was well under way. By 1900, it had passed 75 million, with more than a quarter of this population living in its rapidly growing cities. And America’s economy grew enormously too, well on its way to becoming dominant around the world. Fueling all of this growth were America’s natural resources — including trees for its buildings, railroads and ships, wildlife to feed its burgeoning population, plumage to decorate its elite — and all free for the taking to any and all, first come first served. During that time, between onehalf and one-third of America’s forested lands were cut down,

Today, just over one-quarter of the US land mass is owned by the public and managed, to greater and lesser degrees, for public benefit — for recreation including hunting, fishing, and hiking; for wildlife habitat and study, long-term natural resource use, including extraction, forestry, livestock grazing; and, increasingly, for a combination of these uses. Wildlife species, nearly all of which faced the real possibility of extinction at the beginning of the 20th century, have recovered to healthy, sustainable, and in some cases greater than original populations. As such, hunters can rightfully claim credit for much of the success. Hunters were among the first to sound the alarm, were most often the initiators of the ideas, regulations, and legislation put into place, and largely led and staffed the agencies charged with oversight and management.

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Credit is especially due to hunters for the sustained recovery of our

and success today. In the most measurable sense, we are the

wildlife species. The overarching principle of wildlife management

primary funders of wildlife conservation, through the federal law

is known as the Public Trust Doctrine, which holds that wildlife is

known as the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act (which

held in trust by the government for the benefit of all of its citizens

imposes a federal excise tax on the sale of hunting goods, firearms,

and managed by the states. Underlying this doctrine is what we

ammunition, and archery products). The states match these PR

call today the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,

grant dollars which, with the sale of hunting licenses, makes up

which defines the system of wildlife conservation and management

the majority of the state conservation budgets for the restoration,

by the following principles:

enhancement and management of wildlife on public lands. Since


Wildlife of North America is a treasure and resource that belongs to all of its citizens and is not owned by individuals.


It is the obligation of federal and state government to safeguard and maintain North American wildlife for the present and future generations of its people.


These rights and obligations shall be fulfilled according to the following principles: •

The right of every citizen to hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife shall be protected by a democratic system of laws.

• •

Wildlife shall not be taken for commercial purposes, and

the creation of the PR Act, more than seven billion dollars has been collected from hunters and distributed to the states. Similarly, the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (known as the Duck Stamp), which is required to be purchased by all waterfowl hunters, has provided nearly one billion dollars for the protection of some six million acres of wetlands habitat. It is worthy of note too, that hunters conceived of and spearheaded the efforts for these laws, and did so during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Simply put, hunters are paying the largest share, if not most, of wildlife conservation work today.

shall never be taken by unfair advantage or by cruel or

Most hunters also support conservation work on the ground,

wanton pursuit.

through our membership in hunting and other conservation

Each species is part of the natural order and may move

organizations. These organizations often support state and federal

freely across national and international borders.

agencies, and work with private landowners to enhance habitat

Proper safeguarding and management of wildlife must

and conserve land for wildlife. To cite just two examples, the

be based on generally accepted scientific principles,

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has enhanced and conserved

understanding and study.

some one million acres of elk habitat, and Ducks Unlimited has

To hunters is also due much of the credit for the creation of this system, and even moreso the credit for its continued operation

conserved more than ten million acres of waterfowl habitat. Hunting organizations also fund and run wildlife and conservation

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education programs, fund scientific study and research, and expend

Considering this, we must recognize that the most important

member and organizational resources advocating for wildlife

question is how we remain relevant. As modern American hunters,

and habitat in Washington and in state capitals. Hunters and the

we need to think now about why we hunt, and how we hunt. If

organizations we support do all of this work, and all Americans

we expect the non-hunting public to accept hunting, we need

benefit by increased wildlife health and habitat. To me, however,

to be able to explain why it has value, and how it fits into the

the greatest benefit is immeasurable — it is in the maintaining of

American system of conservation. It is not enough to say that

our close connection to the outdoors.

we were responsible for it, nor that we help to pay for it — that

At the beginning of the 21st century, there are new challenges to maintaining our public lands and wildlife and ensuring that this great American legacy continues. One of the most important of

was then, and there are other potential funding sources. We are indispensable, yes, but only to the system as we now know it. It may seem unfair, but it’s reality.

these challenges for us as hunters is determining the role that we

My own view is that defining ourselves by our hunting traditions,

will play in that future. In large part, that itself will be determined

and distinguishing ourselves from others that have diverged from

by the perception of hunting by a non-hunting public that is ever

this path, is the answer. Non-hunting Americans understand and

further removed from a connection and understanding of our lands

more readily accept fair chase hunting, and increasingly reject

and wildlife. Most Americans now live in cities and have little

pursuit for and celebration of the kill. Of course, the answers

connection to the natural world beyond visits to national, state, or

are neither simple nor easy and will require much thought and

local parks, and television wildlife specials. This means that most

discussion in our community. But this we must do. We have much

don’t understand why all forests aren’t just wilderness areas and

to celebrate, and we should be proud of the legacy that we have

instead need to be managed, and why wildlife in parks, refuges, and

done so much to create and sustain. But there is much more to do

forests can’t simply be left alone to take care of themselves. With

to ensure that our traditions and their legacy, which we as modern

the exception of Alaska (truly the last remaining American frontier)

hunters hold perhaps more dearly than most, will survive us.

and some designated wilderness areas, man’s encroachment on the landscape means that we can no longer leave nature to take its course in the greatest sense of that meaning—fires on unmanaged forest land increasingly burn hotter and longer, which threaten

Therefore I propose, with sound reasons and modern applications, that we as hunters pursue the solutions together, under common cause.

homes and towns, and growing wildlife populations increasingly intersect with human populations.

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Garrett Gordy / Gordy & Sons Outfitters Joe Scott / Alpha Dog Nutrition Shaun Essery The Dillow Family Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

T H E F O L L O W I N G D O N O R S G E N E R O U S LY D O N AT E D O V E R $ 2 0 0 T O O U R C A M PA I G N T O L A U N C H M O D E R N H U N T S M A N M A G A Z I N E . W E C O U L D N O T H AV E D O N E T H I S W I T H O U T T H E M

Michael Risley

Birdstrap Leather Company

Brent Morgensen

Rory Churchfield

Margret Wood

Raegen Siegfried

Scott Cassity

Jimmy Banks

Nolan John

Pace Brothers

Chad Prejean

Harold L Hillock

Michael Riley

Logan Lewis

Mark Casady

Brady Noodler

Rick Brown

Tom Cole

Emily Wood

Joshua Venghaus

Connor Coleman

Jonathan Hirschfield

Michael Ruoff

Jim Sharp

Lauret Jarvis

Sam Wood

Chandler Perine Josh Pottinger Gregory Venters Ed Magor Samuel Terrell Goathound Outdoors Club Mark Cuculic Jason Tarzia

Douglas & Katie Cooper Trevor Nelson Casey Yager Andy C. Tran Penny Davis Grant Wright Drew & Hannah Lensch Justin Trail

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A F E W PA RT I N G W O R D S For hunters, we ask that you carefully consider the effect that your actions can have on not only your environment, but on the perception of this tradition. Whether through deed, word, or photograph, we feel that care should be taken, and respect given, for how quickly news can be spread in today’s world, for good or ill. Therefore, choose your steps wisely, and wherever possible, see that they aim in a direction of positive progress and accurate representation, instead of confrontational detriment and further divisiveness. Keep to the code. For non-hunters, we appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to hear what we feel is a different, yet very important side of the hunting narrative. While we can’t speak for everyone, it is our aim to give voice to the overwhelming amount of like-minded hunters and conservationists who often lead quiet lives, in hopes of connecting with more folks like yourself and finding common ground. We’d ask that as situations arise, you recall the beauty and honesty on these pages, as compared to the message that mainstream media presents, and let respectful passion and conservation statistics win out over the often skewed biases and violent emotions. And while some of you may never pick up a bow or a shotgun to harvest your own food, know that should the day come when you decide to, this community would jump at the opportunity to show you the ropes. Where you may have once felt opposition, you’d now find camaraderie, and a sense of belonging in one of the oldest traditions known to humankind. In short, we’d love to take you hunting. Until then, and until next issue, we wish everyone the best. Whether in the field or in metaphor, Happy Hunting.

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Profile for Modern Huntsman

Modern Huntsman Volume One