Are You Digging Deep?

Regardless of which conservation groups you belong to, it’s that time of year outdoorsmen look forward to … banquet season! It’s a good time for a great cause.

Volunteers have worked countless hours arranging and organizing events, putting in countless hours of hard work and service. The conservation movement that comes from funds generated from banquets are critical for habitat improvements to wild places across the country. I believe I speak for everyone in the fact that we all appreciate the time, effort and energy from volunteers across our great nation.

Having the freedom to climb to the tops of the highest mountains in pursuit of our favorite game with our friends and family creating memories that last a lifetime and beyond is priceless. Our great country and the wild places there in are the exact reason for conservation.

Organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation help ensure a bright future for elk, other wildlife, their habitat and the next generation and beyond. Since the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was founded in 1984, they have conserved or enhanced more than 6.6 million acres of wild places and opened up access to more than 769,000 acres to public access across the country. Folks, that’s something to be proud of.

We all value our time-honored traditions and we need to each act individually and take it upon ourselves to help create a strong future for wildlife and improve our wild places.

The RMEF and conservation has been in my family, literally, since I can remember. For the local banquets, I can remember my mom would get all gussied up—fixing her hair just right—and my dad would dress up his blue jeans with a sport coat and his fancy mule skin cowboy boots and his cowboy hat.

On really blessed years, my parents would save up their money for months on end in order to attend the annual Elk Camp, then held in Reno Nevada. Having grown up in a small logging community, my mom being a waitress and my dad a millwright in our local sawmill, we didn’t have a lot of money—but what we had and still have today is a love for wild places and wildlife. That’s a love that is so deeply rooted within the heart and soul of our family that we made sure that the RMEF was, is and always will be, a part of who we are and what we do.

The contributions of working families is what the 6.6 million acres that RMEF has conserved or enhanced is built upon.

There are many of us hunters out there who share in the same childhood memories that are, like myself, now coming to conservation banquet as adults. Only now, your children are watching you get ready for this big celebration of conservation. Those of you who are like my parents are part of the foundation of conservation, give yourselves a pat on the back for having created a legacy within your own family—a legacy that now has your children supporting conservation and your grand-children learning to also be conservationists and stewards of the land.

This legacy begins in our own homes. My earliest memories of elk sounds did not come from the mountain—they came from my living room. I remember my dad would put in the VHS cassette and grab his bugle and rubber-band cow call and would replicate the bugling that was showcased on the VHS. His eyes would bug out, his face would turn red and, with every chuckle, it seemed his entire body would also chuckle—belly and all. The sound that came out of that bugle … it was loud.

The Magic Of Memories
Maybe you, too, have a similar childhood memory of your parent elk or turkey calling at home. At the time, I was so embarrassed and thankful that we lived in the country because I might have died from embarrassment if any of my friends had heard my dad carrying on in our living room.

That all changed one day when my parents and I packed our mules into the Wilderness of No Return in Idaho for an elk hunt when I was 13 years old. My dad and I headed out in search of elk, and when we got into a herd I witnessed first-hand the magic of elk calling and hunting. There was a bull bugling and my dad got out his tube that he had practiced with and chuckled back at the bull. No bugle, just a chuckle.

Within moments a spike bull was less than 30 yards from us, coming into the call—and on his tail was a larger 5x5 branch bull. My dad had made him real mad with that chuckle and he was running in screaming, head tilted back. I am quite certain that had my dad not taken aim and fired, that bull would have ran us completely over.

Right there in that moment, my life was forever changed and there will not be a rut that passes me by that I don’t return to the woods to hear the sound of the bull elk bugle.

Growing up, my parents did a great job raising me with respect for the land and a sound understanding of how hunting is conservation. But today, kids are facing a much different world than I experienced as a kid and it’s certainly different than when my dad was a kid. Our world is changing fast and, as hunters, it is our responsibility to make sure that we educate our children how and why hunting is conservation.

Now is the time for all of us to stand up as leaders of our households and communities. The anti-hunting groups, next generation of kids growing up and, most importantly, any and all of those individuals in our world who do not understand how hunting is conservation need to be educated, informed and invited to participate in the greatest conservation movement in the world.

Now more than in any other time in history, there needs to be an understanding by everyone about the importance of conservation and our hunting heritage. This is not just for the provision of meat for the table, but how hunters and volunteers like you and like me are working hard to improve, conserve, enhance and fund more land projects that are directly benefitting wildlife and wild places than any other group or organization in the world.

The revenue from the sale from hunting licenses and tags, including state trophy Governor's tags, firearms and ammunition taxation is helping to fund conservation across the nation.

Each and every one of us, as members of conservation organizations and as hunters, are part of this movement. We are the core of conservation. We are the heart of our country.

Banquet season is about the wildlife and wild places that each and every one of us hold so dear. It is about ensuring that the little ones that we all love have the opportunity to hunt, fish and hear for themselves the life changing sound of a big bulls bugle as it echoes across the mountain.

The family bond and friendships forged on the mountain and the memories that are created, are priceless. This is the greatest gift that we can give. This is our legacy in action.

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