Thoughts from Boise – Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Rendezvous 2018

Every time I am in the woods I am reborn.  Cleansed by campfire smoke and baptized by the rivers and streams. Heaven is America’s wild places and I’m never turned away at her Pearly Gates.  

There is a deep spiritual difference between watching nature through the lens of a camera and watching it from between the pins of your bow or through your rifle scope.  It’s the difference between watching your kids play and playing with your kids.  It’s about participation.  It’s about being engaged.  It’s about being present.

All those who criticize do so because they don’t understand.  Those who say, “you think that makes you a tough guy?” don’t understand the vulnerability it takes to emotionally lay yourself bare to nature, to failure, to rejection and to the cold and frustration.  They don’t understand the internal conversation you have when you decide to take a life, that the life you take is so you and your family can live.  People like simple feelings, but hunting is a complicated mix of responsibility, sadness, thankfulness, appreciation, frustration, joy, calm, peace, relief and more frustration.  

That having been said, it takes a certain fortitude to endure the elements, gain the skills to succeed, get blood on your hands and turn all of that into food. However, I don’t view that as some machismo based in insecurity, I see it as becoming fully human and not being afraid to fully engage in the natural world.  I choose not to delegate the dirty work in life to others.  I don’t see that as being “tough” or “manly”, I see that acquiring basic human skills, skills that are quickly disappearing from our species.

The modern world is supposed to be connecting us, but is it?  We’re quicker to judge, quicker to hate others different than us and quicker to hole up in our bubbles.  Whereas the natural world, when you engage it, connects you to all of creation including other humans.  When I return from the woods, I’m less concerned with the worries of the day, such as politics, money, etc. and more concerned with the overall well-being of my fellow man and our world.  Things become clearer, priorities readjust themselves to their proper places and what was dark all of a sudden has a beam of light in the distance.

In short, time in the woods makes me a better man, a man searching for meaning and a man who carries a little peace in my heart.  As the time in between my trips to the wild grows longer I become more of a man of the modern world; angry and empty.  The time in the woods calms me and fills me to the brim with goodness.  

Conservationists, Let’s Not Get Too Big for Our Britches

“I’ve pretty much given up on old white guys solving problems” – Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia.


 “I’ve pretty much given up on old white guys solving problems” – Old White Man Sitting on a Panel Talking About Solving Problems

About five minutes before that was said in Boise at the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Rendezvous on Saturday, Tom McGraw (BHA Board Member), eloquently spoke about how he didn’t care about your other politics, or about your religion or anything else, he was committed to conservation and if you are too, then he’s ready and willing to work with you.  Then Chouinard went on a rant about old white men, compared President Trump to Hitler and talked about how conservatism ruins everything.  

That’s too bad.

In spite of me not having a favorable opinion of Patagucci going in, I kept an open mind listening to the man speak and for 45 minutes, I almost liked him.  He is a likable guy and he has done a lot of good stuff in his life.  However, he’s also a part of the problem.  A man who flies all over the world in an airplane talking about shutting down the petroleum industry “tomorrow”.  Hellfire and brimstone is good for putting asses in pews and therefore cash in the collection plate, but it doesn’t solve problems.

It’s easy for us to get wound up about things we care about, but we should be cautious about following leaders blindly.  Leaders are human and therefore make mistakes.  Especially in issues of conservation, these things are incredibly nuanced.  As sportsmen, we drive gas guzzling trucks to haul elk out of the woods or carry our canoes, but yet we still fight the federal government on drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  We incessantly talk about “getting back to nature” while at the same time not being able to get our face out of our smart phones, and using whatever technology is available to us to increase our odds at catching a fish or killing big game.  

Do not fret, we are only human.  However, in order to make progress we must accept our contradictions, not ignore or justify our own faults while making adversaries out of possible allies in order to lay the blame at someone else’s feet.  Somewhere in our contradictions is a conversation that will lead to a way forward. The world is not black and white and neither is conservation.  Conservation is for liberals, conservatives, libertarians, centrists and others. Conservation is for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus and Pagans. Conservation is a big umbrella that can fit all of us, so don’t throw stones from inside your glass house.  

And we all live in glass houses.