By BHA's 2016 Aldo Leopold Award Winner, Mark Heckert
I am humbled and deeply appreciative of the honor of the Aldo Leopold Award you have given me for my actions in defense of our public lands during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.
I have always considered my identity as an American to be viscerally intertwined with our great open spaces, owned by every American, where each of us is lord of all we see and travel. These lands are not “revenue streams” or playgrounds for the wealthy, they are treasures bequeathed to all of us by our far-thinking ancestors, and a priceless inheritance for our descendants. They speak to us across time; of real value, and the heart-filling wonder of wildness.
It was the words and actions of BHA staff and supporters that steeled my resolve to confront these usurpers then, now, and at every turn. The leadership of Land Tawney, the great words of Randy Newberg at last year’s rendezvous, the damned-near sacred writings of Hal Herring, and the actions of my compatriots Brian Jennings, Ed Putnam, and Garrett Vene Klasen stiffened my spine.
By Hannah Ryan
A pronghorn’s sharp exhale resonated through the pre-dawn air. Somewhere in the dark, the buck could easily see us awkwardly approaching a small rise without the use of our headlamps. Earlier, a dozen elk crossed in front our low beams as we bumped down a two-track towards this quiet stretch of high desert far from any pavement. The big game numbers in this region are impressive, but that’s not why we were creeping through the sagebrush in early April, armed only with binoculars.
As the light grew stronger we could see the antelope trotting away, nearly stepping on the animal we came to observe. The bird’s white chest stood out against drab surroundings as it shuffled about, making a plopping noise akin to the sound of faucet dripping. More greater sage grouse began flying in to join the others on their historic meeting ground on the side of this nondescript sagebrush knoll.
If you grow up in Wisconsin, you are guaranteed two things from November until March: snow and cold. I never got used to the cold, but I sure loved the snow – especially packing snow. My brothers and I built snow forts and had daylong snowball fights with the neighbors anytime the temperature got over 32 degrees. We'd come home soaking wet, exhausted and starving. Those were great days and started my love for building with snow.
Years later while I was ice fishing with some college buddies at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, one of my friends suggested we build a snow shelter. It was about 10 degrees, and the snow was far from packable. I thought he was kidding. He wasn't, and I learned a whole new way to make a snow shelter.
What we did that day was simply make a pile of snow about 6 feet high and let it sit for about two hours while we fished. Then we hollowed it out. It was pretty small, but two of us fit comfortably while we watched the hole in the ice. The amazing thing was that compared to outside, it was warm! That was my introduction to a snow shelter called a quinzee.
By Land Tawney
Most sportsmen don’t think of deserts as having abundant wildlife populations and great hunting.
Most of us haven’t been to the Chihuahuan Desert.
Straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, the Chihuahuan is the second largest desert in North America. It stretches east to west from Arizona to Texas and north to south from southern New Mexico across much of northern Mexico. This vast landscape includes “sky islands,” isolated mountain ranges such as the Franklins and Organs, along with grasslands interspersed with shrubs, yucca and cactus.
The result? A mosaic of rugged wildlife habitat that’s home to desert mule deer, pronghorn, mountain lion, javelina, waterfowl and four species of native quail, including bobwhite, scaled, Gambel’s and Montezuma.
Last month, outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers brought a group of sportsmen, policy experts and media members to the Chihuahuan. The purpose of the gathering? To discuss the federal Antiquities Act and the role played by American hunters and anglers in establishing monuments such as Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, a 496,330-acre expanse established in 2014 to conserve in the long term this unique landscape and its traditional uses, including hunting.
The following article by BHA Co-Chair, Joel Webster was originally posted on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's blog.
If you’re like me, you live for the fall. But now that the meat is cut up, packaged, and stacked high in my freezer, I’ve entered the post-big-game-season lull. My bow, rifle, and other gear have all been cleaned and put away. I’ll likely get out this winter to call in a few ducks and pull some fish through the ice, but my heart is in the mountains, and I’m still daydreaming about high-elevation basins full of bucks and bulls.
But a true big-game hunter should never stop preparing for the hunt. Here’s what I consider to be the key elements of the off-season:
Staying in shape. Climbing ridges and mountainsides is hard work, and it will wear you down if you keep skipping your workout. I like to stay on top of my fitness regimen throughout the year. If I need a break from the gym during the winter and summer months, I get outside and glass for deer and elk. It’s actually a great way to stay motivated—you literally keep your eyes on the prize.