Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In the Hunting World, There is no Room for Dissent (You Can't Go Home)

A few days ago I read a good essay written by an outdoor writer I have long admired and respected. It was about how we hunters, through license fees and excise taxes on hunting equipment, pay most the bill for state wildlife management and habitat protection. Which is true. But then it delved into the tiresome, arrogant, widely-touted, propaganda-sort-of bullshit about how we hunters care about and do more for wildlife and wild places than non-hunters.

I complimented the writer, but offered a respectful dissenting view regarding some of the flaws to our North American Model of Wildlife Management — the type of flaws Aldo Leopold himself recognized when he helped shape and influence the system more than 60 years ago — in which we hunters have the most power and influence, and therefore management sometimes emphasizes hunted species such as deer and elk to the detriment of non-hunted species, particularly fellow predators such as wolves and grizzlies.

My remarks were met with flippant arrogance and disdain. Like other aspects of our society, there is very little room in the hunting world for dissent or intelligent discord. You’re either with them or against them. You’re fully on the bandwagon or you get booted and run over. You get in line, share and praise the propaganda, or you’re voted off the island. Shut up or be shunned.

I deleted my comments. I ‘unfriended’ the writer. I abandoned my attempt at discussion. It’s no longer worth it. I’m tired.

I’ve been hunting most my life, and spent more than 25 years writing about hunting and working for hunter conservation groups. I spent ten years working as a writer and conservation editor for a popular hunting magazine produced by a large hunter-conservation organization. I helped found Hellgate Hunters and Anglers in Missoula. I served two terms as president of Montana’s largest and oldest hunting conservation organization (a group that, in more recent times, fired me). Back in 2000, they selected me as Montana’s Professional Conservationist of the Year. I served on the board of directors of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and won several awards from the group. I’ve killed and consumed a pile of wild elk and deer.

But I just no longer fit in. I’m not sure I ever did. I still try at times. Sometimes I miss it.

Sure, I brought much of it on myself as a result of personal struggles (including some addiction issues) and by burning (demolishing?) a few bridges. I think, to some degree, coming out of the closet had something to do with it. But I’ve apparently lost all credibility and respect in the world where I once served as a leader. An employee of one of the better hunter conservation groups (“the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife”) recently, publicly ridiculed “green weenie tree-huggers,” insulted me, and told me “we have nothing in common and nothing to talk about” when I attempted to discuss it with him. (I quit.)

I’m on the Island of Misfit Toys. I’m an anti-hunter who hunts.

So now I stock fruits and vegetables at a grocery store for slightly-above minimum wage, and I’m always broke.

Sometimes I wish I could jump aboard and remain on the bandwagon; be a good, well-behaved, agreeable member of the good-old-boy (and gal) hunting clubs that even the best of groups have become. But there’s no turning back. You really can’t go home.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers: Don't Fear Wilderness (Great Places To Hunt and Fish!)

When Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) was founded, they took strong positions in defense of designated roadless lands and wilderness -- the places many of us refer to as, well . . . "the backcountry." Recently, the Montana Chapter of BHA responded to proposed legislation by Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) to open Wilderness Study Areas to motorized use and development.

Fortunately, BHA is doing the right thing and opposing the actions. That's good. But why are they opposing it?

"We oppose top-down management," they say. Seriously, that's their stance; "We oppose top-down management."

The organization doesn't say it supports wilderness study areas and roadless lands. The organization doesn't say they support wilderness designation. The organization doesn't explain why wilderness and wilderness study areas are critical to many of the wild animals we like to hunt in wild places. They say they oppose "top-down management." (I'm assuming, and hoping, they do support top-down management when a president, says, gives national monument status to some special federal lands?)

Why the lame, weak political speak? I assume that, once again, they are afraid of confirming any talk about them being "greenies" and "environmentalists." They don't want to be perceived as "Green Decoys," as some industry-backed opponents of our public lands accuse them off. The word "Wilderness," (the big "W" word), should be avoided at all costs, I often heard during my many years working for hunting-conservation organizations. It may offend people. (One of BHA's employees publically ridicules us "tree-hugging," "enviros" "greenies" and assures people that he, and BHA, don't fit in with us green folks!)

So once again, instead of being bold leaders and speaking on the values of wilderness and wilderness study areas -- for healthy watersheds, for wild cutthroat and bull trout, for grizzlies and wolves and other wildlife, for hunting and fishing -- they worry about who they might offend and whether or not they'll be perceived as "green-weenie tree-huggers."  

They're playing right into the hands of their opponents. They should stop worrying about appeasing those who will likely never support them and be the bold leaders they pretend to be -- be more like Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold and other past, bold leaders we love to quote. Help educate and inform hunters and anglers about the importance of wilderness; don't evade and avoid the topic. It's okay to be green!

Be green. Be proud. Be Bold. Be Leaders!

The green, proud, bold leaders at Trout Unlimited set a good example with their bumper sticker:

"Wilderness: A Great Place To Hunt and Fish." 

Friday, December 15, 2017

On the Wild Edge: A "Must Watch" for Hunters

I sometimes feel like an anti-hunter who hunts.

I recently felt that way when I watched a popular celebrity hunter claim that “we hunters” brought wildlife back from the brink of extinction, and therefore it’s ours, and nonhunters have no right ruining everything with actions such as “bringing wolves back.” Another so-called hunting hero claims to hunt for meat while traveling the world and paying guides to help him kill more animals per-year than Disney's Gaston himself could consume. Both hunting "reality-show" hosts are spokesman, of sorts, for one of the better hunting-conservation organizations, which claims to be “the sportsmen’s voice” for hunters.

They don’t speak for me.

Neither do the more popular groups who claim wolves are annihilating elk herds; hunters are being “shut out” of our public lands because we can’t ride ATVs everywhere; we need to kill grizzlies, and there’s “anti-hunters” hiding behind every tree, out to stop our “God-given American heritage and way of life.” They tend to focus more on and defend hunting opportunity rather than conservation.

Despite bragging about a successful “North American Model of Wildlife Management,” with tenants against the commercialization of wildlife and in support of “sound, scientific” management, hunting has become tremendously commercialized and many hunters only support “scientific management” when the science supports their preconceived notions (such as slaughtering wolves to maintain artificially high populations of elk for hunters to kill).  Even the most conservation-minded hunting groups go with the flow to appease the masses – or, what the famed hunter-conservationist Aldo Leopold called “the lowest common denominator.”
Like an accused communist of the McCarthy era, an employee of "the Sportsmen's Voice" insults “enviros” and “greenies” to reassure their members he’s not “one of them!”

Among the so-called “conservation organizations” that a giant sporting-goods chain boasts about giving money to is the National Rifle Association – apparently because they “conserve” our “right” to hunt with weapons designed for war, capable of killing, say, 20 kids and seven adults at an elementary school kids in less than five minutes; 49 people at a nightclub, or 58 at a concert?  

Although I’ve pursued, killed and eaten numerous elk and deer from the backcountry of Montana over the past 30-plus years, I belong on the Island of Misfit Hunters; I just don’t fit in.  

Aldo Leopold addressed such issues more than 50 years ago. One of his conclusions: “The sportsman has no leaders to tell him what is wrong. The sporting press no longer represents sport; it has turned billboard for the gadgeteer. Wildlife administrators are too busy producing something to shoot at to worry much about the cultural value of the shooting.

There are, however, leaders (Leopold himself being one of them). They just don’t appeal to the corrupted culture of hunting – they don’t bring in the money like the hunting equipment and entertainment industry does.

When people new to hunting ask me for good learning material, I don’t send them to the Outdoor Channel or Outdoor Life. I suggest they read “A Sand Country Almanac” by Aldo Leopold; “Beyond Fair Chase: The Ethics and Traditions of Hunting,” by Jim Posewitz, and “A Hunter’s Heart: Honest Essays on Blood Sport,” by David Petersen – an anthology of writers who are leaders regarding the moral and ethical challenges of hunting.

After watching a film produced by Christopher Daley, called “On The Wild Edge:Hunting For a Natural Life,” I now also recommend it not only to new hunters, but all hunters; a “must watch” if ever there was one. I never thought I could enjoy a hunting video. I was wrong. Then again, calling “On the Wild Edge” a hunting video is like calling “A River Runs Through It” a fishing story. It may be true, but doesn’t quite to it justice, perhaps could even come across as an insult.

The film focuses on writer, philosopher and hunter David Petersen, “taking us along on the most difficult hunt of his life, revealing the intimate connection to the wild place and wild experiences that define him as a person and informs his strict code of ethics.” He, too, is a hunter critical of hunting. “I want the good part to prosper,” he says. “But I hate what our culture has done to that.” With people seeking easier, faster, more high-tech ways to find and kill animals, we lose the kind of hunting that “bonds us to this world,” he says.

During the 67-minute video, we see a lot more than David Petersen hunting. We hear elk bugling, yes, but we also see and hear ravens, jays, bears and watch a chipmunk attempt to rob him from his hunting pack – all seemingly unaware of his presense. In other words: We see and hear (and can almost smell) what hunters often see, hear and smell -- the wilds.  But we also get to hear Petersen's informed thoughts and philosophies on hunting. He says his “Zen-like” approach allows him to spy on the "intimate, relaxed side" to wildlife. “Hunting often has nothing to do with killing, and everything to do with an honest engagement with life.”

We also meet his friend Thomas, who he calls “Mr T.” and Thomas’ father and grandfather, three generations of hunters, “who value meat and dignity over macho, and deeply respect elk and elk country.”

What we don't see or hear is just as telling: We don't watch an elk get shot and die, and we don't see or hear promotions for hunting gadgets, products and profit. This film is NOT sponsored by the NRA or the Sportsman Channel. It's a real hunting video.

Petersen is an articulate, thoughtful hunter whose carefully-chosen words reflect knowledge and wisdom that comes from living a life so close to the land. “Ethically-hunted wild game offers huge, moral and health-advantages over chemically-polluted, production-line meat products,” he says. “Wild meat is organic, local and, done right, cruelty-free -- a gift from nature that sustains a bond of reciprocity between thoughtful hunters, our food and the wild landscapes that nuture us all, predator and prey alike. “

Petersen talks as passionately about his love for his wife, Carolyn, as he does for the land, which he makes clear is all interconnected. With cancer soon to take her away, he talks about how it “increasingly reminds me of life’s bittersweet fate -- Carolyn, the elk and me.” He hopes his ashes will someday be mixed with hers among the aspen groves he so loves, and the bones of elk he has killed. (In the film we visit one such spot. “I don’t keep skeletans in my closet,” he says, as he talks about his strong, mixed emotions about killing wild animals. “They are scarred through the mountains.”) He hopes someday his remains will nurture the lives that nurtured him.  “It’s deeply personal,” he concludes. “Every aspect of this isn’t pretty. But it’s real, it’s natural, it’s the way life works. In the end, all thing pass. That’s the song of life.”  

Filmmaker Christopher Daley says his hope for the film is that it captures David and Carolyn Petersens’ “exemplary commitment to living honest, uncluttered lives not merely ‘close to nature,’ but as active players in and courageous defenders of wild nature.” He succeeded!

To purchase a DVD, or rent or purchase a digital copy, click here: ON THE WILD EDGE.

Click on THIS to watch the official trailer

Friday, September 29, 2017

Semper Fi?

Paul Olenski: A Real Marine or Stolen Valor? 
Once again I attempted to have a rational, reasonable, respectful discussion with some others who claim to have been Recon Marines, on a Force Recon Association Facebook Page. Last time I did that the topic was gays in the military. Some of the so-called "Marines" on the site were bashing gays, expressing every homophobic insult you can think of. When I mentioned that I am gay, yet served honorably in 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, several of them -- including a guy from Arizona named Paul Olenski -- accused me of being a "phony," not a "real Marine," a "fake." Seriously. Some people's brain-housing groups are so tiny they can't even comprehend that there are gay Marines. It seems beyond their mental capacity. They can't respond respectfully or intelligently, so they fall back on insults to boost their fragile egos and comfort their insecurities

The more recent topic was NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. Some Marines expressed their understandable disapproval, stating that they think it's disrespectful to our nation and those who served our nation. I respectfully disagreed and stated my opinion on the matter: I don't think it's disrespectful to symbols of freedom to exercise freedom. Freedom is hardest to accept when people do things we may not like. Patriotism can't be forced upon others; there's a fine-line between patriotism and nationalism. Several so-called "Marines" berated me for my view, including (once again) Paul Olenski, who claims to have been a Recon Marine in Vietnam. He couldn't handle a rational, reasonable, respectful discussion so instead pitifully, childishly and humorously attempted to dig up "dirt" on me. He searched and found an old article about a time I was arrested for assault and posted it on the public forum in an apparent attempt to discredit and shame me. (It didn't work: I don't regret hurting a guy who robbed the store I was working at and threatened me and my family. Fortunately, all charges were dropped when the Judge witnessed the store's video tape and said my actions were in self-defense and justified.)  Paul Olenski didn't care about the facts; he just wanted to insult and attack me in anyway he could because I view a topic differently than he does. He apparently hates disagreement. He apparently hates freedom. He apparently hates our Constitution. He apparently hates what our nation stands for. While complaining about what he perceives as people being "disrespectful" to veterans, he insults and disrespects veterans.

(Interestingly enough, as an aside, a quick online search reveals that a Paul Olenski who fits his description and lives in his neck of the woods is on a sexual offender register. He's no Marine.)

Later, a Marine friend of mine posted a heartfelt story about a fellow Marine who lost his life saving his life. It so happens that Marine hero who save his life was gay and black, and had shared numerous stories with my friend about the hate, discrimination, racism and bigotry he had experienced throughout his life. My friend then related the story to the current protests by some NFL players regarding hate, discrimination, racism and bigotry, and concluded by saying all Marines should speak out and support their rights, freedom and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution we took an oath to defend.

The response? Several so-called "Marines," including (again) Paul Olenski, posted hateful, derogatory, bigoted comments about the gay, black Marine hero. Seriously. Some of them then defensively claimed to not be racist. (They're so ignorant and incapable of self-reflection that they don't even know they're racist.)

Sadly, people like Paul Olenski seem to dominate the Force Recon Association site. They bully others. The majority, who are good people, seem to remain quite -- and with people like Paul Olenski on there, I can understand why.  There are too many like him who can't comprehend diversity; who don't really understand the principles of liberty that are the bedrock of our nation and Constitution.

I served with some great men, and a lot of good, smart people have served in Force Recon. unfortunately some of them, like Paul Olenski, are ignorant, mean, racist, bigoted, miserable men who seem to hate diversity and freedom. They think because they served to protect freedom, they can dictate the values, beliefs and behaviors of others. Ironically, they work against the very nation and Constitution they profess to cherish.

Hardly what I would call Marines.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

"Wake People Up!" (The Horrors of Nuclear War)

When John Hersey's story "Hiroshima" was first published in the New Yorker in 1946, one of the magazine's editors, William Shaw, said the importance of the piece was to "wake people up" to the reality and horrors of nuclear war.

Hersey, then a war correspondent, was one of the first Americans to see the devastation caused by the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. His story (later published as a book) focused on six survivors, and describes in horrific, gruesome detail the aftermath of the bombing --including men, women and children with melted eyeballs, or vaporized, leaving only their shadows etched onto walls. The story provided Americans with a different view of the Japanese people than the demonizing propaganda generally portrayed in the media during war time. These were real people, not so different from us, most of them innocent of the atrocities committed by leaders they did not choose, victims of circumstances beyond their control. According to Hersey's account, most of them did not blame the United States, but rather blamed their own government.

The bombing of Hiroshima destroyed 5 square miles of the city. An estimated 180,000 people died. Another 100,000 died when another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. Thousands more suffered and died from cancer, birth defects, deformities and other tragic results of radiation poison.

In Hersey's words:

"Their faces were wholly burned, their eyesockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks.”  

"The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands. Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns—of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbed it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos. Many, although injured themselves, supported relatives who were worse off. Almost all had their heads bowed, looked straight ahead, were silent, and showed no expression whatsoever."

"The scene inside was so terrible and so compelling that it had not occurred to him to ask any questions about what had happened beyond the windows and doors. Ceilings and partitions had fallen; plaster, dust, blood, and vomit were everywhere. Patients were dying by the hundreds, but there was nobody to carry away the corpses."

"They did not move and he realized that they were too weak to lift themselves. He reached down and took a woman by the hands, but her skin slipped off in huge, glovelike pieces. He was so sickened by this that he had to sit down for a moment.On the other side, at a higher spit, he lifted the slimy living bodies out and carried them up the slope away from the tide. He had to keep consciously repeating to himself, These are human beings."

“The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result? When will our moralists give us an answer to this question?”

In regards to Hersey's story, Time magazine published this:

“Every American who has permitted himself to make jokes about atom bombs, or who has come to regard them as just one sensational phenomenon that can now be accepted as part of civilization, like the airplane and the gasoline engine, or who has allowed himself to speculate as to what we might do with them if we were forced into another war, ought to read Mr. Hersey."

Perhaps we all ought to read (or reread) Mr. Hersey. It's time, once again, to "wake people up."

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Volatile Brew of Plausible Deniability

It's 2017. Are we seriously anxiously awaiting for the so-called president of the United States to denounce white supremacy, and act relieved when or if he actually does?

"They're thugs," he says.

They're not thugs. They're not hoodlums. They're not hooligans. They're fucking racists. Terrorists! They think they're better than others because of the color of their skin, and they use bullying, threats, intimidation, fear and violence in an attempt to subdue and control others.

They think they're better than others because, in large part, the GOP leadership, for years, has told them they're better than others. They tell them that minorities hate them. They tell them that non-whites are all on welfare and living off their hard-earned tax dollars. They tell them that non-whites rape, rob and kill. They tell them that non-whites are sneaking across our borders and taking their jobs. They tell them that non-whites are turning their religious beliefs into law and supplanting U.S. law. They tell them that those who don't believe them hate America and are part of the problem. They tell them they need guns, lots and lots of guns, to defend themselves and America. They tell them all this and more, lots more, to feed, instill and incite fear, anger, hate and win votes.

In the meantime it is they, the GOP leadership, taking their money and health care and jobs and brain matter and souls to increase wealth and power for a relatively small percentage of elitists.

And people believe them. People fucking believe them! People who think they are superior to others do not have the brain power of critical thinking to see the obvious; to see what's right in front of their noses. They could be drowning in the hot floods of climate change and if the GOP leadership tells them it's the fault of non-whites and gays and liberals and refugees and only they, only the GOP leadership, the only real Americans, can throw them a lifeline  . . . they actually fucking believe it!

And so they flood to the polls and vote Republican. They wave American flags and evoke the name of Jesus while ranting against refugees, the poor, the sick, the libtards, the snowflakes, the non-whites . . . the 'others'.  They want to make America great again.

This volatile mix of frustration, confusion, ignorance, half-truths, lies and, yes, stupidity boils over to anger, rage, hate and violence. Some now wave Confederate flags, and Gadsten "Don't Tread on Me" flags and Nazi flags. Nazi flags! In the United States of America.

Some drive their cars into hordes of peaceful protesters.


These people think they're true Americans. The only Americans. Patriots! And they're dangerously dumb enough to think they're superior.

It's a recipe for insanity, and GOP leaders are the master brewers, adding a potent dose of plausible deniability, while continually feeding the monsters of their creation growing out of control.

They call these monsters "Thugs." 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Extremely Extreme Huntress: Get Out of Bed and Get Some!

Extreme Huntress Kristi Puts the Hammer on a Coyote 
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has organized a "get in shape for hunting with fellow hunters hike" up to the "M" on Mount Sentinel in Missoula, Montana, early Monday and Tuesday mornings ("Hunting season's just around the corner . . . so get out of bed and get some!"). You don't want to miss it, I am told, because Kristy Titus will be on the hike!

Not wanting to miss anything big, and not knowing who Kristy is, I looked her up.

Kristy is an "Extreme Huntress" who apparently wears a lot of make-up while traveling the world and sometimes paying guides to help her kill a variety of animals for profit, entertainment and amusement. She represents the wolf-hating Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as part of "Team Elk," and hosts "NRA Women" while appearing on a variety of hunting shows (including "Pursue the Wild") to promote and defend our "hunting heritage," which nowadays seems to mean supporting an industry of high-tech gadgets as well as policies that diminish our wildlife and wild places while waving a "conservation" flag, quoting Aldo Leopold and pretending to be Theodore Roosevelt.

"Stand and fight with NRA!" she says. . . you know, the gun-industry's public relations firm and branch of the GOP that helps fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- which is leading the push to sell our public lands -- as well as backing politicians who deny climate change and other science, and want to gut the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Protection Agency and other laws, regulations and agencies that protect the wildlife and wild places we claim to cherish -- all so we can focus on the more important, bogus, fear-mongering claims of fictitious boogeymen (and boogeywomen) who are surely going to take all of our guns away . . . one of these days . . . you'll see! 

But hey, she extremely pursues extremely dangerous game in extremely rugged, extremely dangerous, extreme places while looking extremely good, just like all the famous macho-men hunting heroes who kill for profit, amusement and entertainment. That's pretty extremely cool, dude . . . right? 

In one of her "Out West with Kristy Titus" live-blog videos -- sponsored by RealTree, Swarovski Optik, RMEF Team Elk, Trophy-Taker, Cabela's and "Always Lethal" Under Armour -- she shares tips from the Titus family ("excellent sources of information for coyote and bobcat hunting") on killing predators. As a bonus, she puts "the hammer" on a coyote so we can all watch the animal die as many times as we want in regular and slow motion.

In another of her shows she shoots and wounds a bear from 450 yards. Then she shoots and wounds it some more from 300 yards. The bear retreats to its den where she eventually kills it. You can watch this extremely exciting, extremely daring, extreme "hunt" right from the comfort of your recliner while eating chips and drinking beer. (I recommend a RealTree camouflage chair and Busch special hunting-season beer in camouflage cans.)

Perhaps we can soon watch Kristy, Randy Newburg, Steven Rinella and other extremely rugged, extremely fearless and extremely amazing backcountry hunting entertainers share their extreme grizzly-killing tips while putting the extreme hammer, and the big extreme kibosh, on an extremely rugged, extremely deadly, extremely dangerous extreme Montana griz hunt! Stay tuned (and be sure to have extra chips and cammo beer on hand).

Commercial Message: In the meantime, be sure to head to Cabela's and get Kristy's "Pursue The Wild" elk call line by Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls -- The "Wild Frenzy Bugle," "Wild Fury Diaphragm" and "Ignite-Her-Wild" external reed cow calls, available now! (I hear rumors there's a new one coming out: "The Whining Crying Baby Calf Calling For Mommy Which Infuriates the Huge Bully Bull Who Will Come Running In Fast -- Whether He wants to or Not -- Diaphragm Elk Call Extreme!")

Hunting season's just around the corner: Get out of bed and get some!