Kermit Roosevelt’s Reflections on Hunting with T.R.

Kermit Roosevelt, son of Teddy, sits under a tree during his expedition with his father down the River of Doubt in 1913. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Kermit Roosevelt’s Reflections on Hunting with T.R. In 1920, a year after Roosevelt’s death, Kermit, his son and boon companion during the great African safari of 1909-1910, published an account of his own hunting adventures. In addition to tales about the twosome’s African adventure, his book includes stories about hunting in the American Southwest for sheep, New Brunswick for moose and South Dakota – along with T.R.’s friend Sherriff Seth Bullock, of Deadwood fame – for prairie chickens. The Happy Hunting Grounds is a slim volume, only 100 pages in length, yet it is reminiscent of his famous father’s writings. It remains in print and is available from Barnes & Noble Books.

In Jennifer Ham’s introduction, you’ll find a quote from T.R. that speaks to the heart and soul of many hunters. “I am fond of politics, but fonder still of a little big-game hunting,” he wrote.

I would suggest that Roosevelt ought to have written “a great deal of big-game hunting”! For few of us can imagine a year-long safari in Africa, not to mention his many excursions out West and to Canada in pursuit of big game.

Kermit was only 19 years old when he accompanied his father to Africa and barely 30 when he penned his own book, but by then he understood the allure of hunting and expressed it well when he wrote, “We get three sorts and periods of enjoyment out of a hunting trip. The first is when the plans are being discussed and the outfit assembled; this is the pleasure of anticipation. The second is the enjoyment of the actual trip itself; and the third is the pleasure of retrospection when we sit around a blazing fire and talk over the incidents and adventures of the trip.” Who among us would argue with those words?

Kermit obviously idolized and loved his father, writing of T.R., “He was a natural champion of the cause of every man, and not only in his books would he carefully give credit where it was due, but he would endeavor to bring about recognition through outside channels.”

The Happy Hunting Grounds is filled with personal nuggets and observations about growing up and hunting with Theodore Roosevelt. I enjoyed it and trust you will, as well.

Alan Wentz, Ph.D.

Alan Wentz, Ph.D. is the senior group manager for conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited. Wentz is also a member of the TRCP board of directors where he uses his conservation biology background to help guide the decisions of the Partnership.

Q: How did you get into hunting and fishing?

My father was determined to introduce both my brother and me to firearms and hunting even though, after being in WWII, he hunted very little. He started that introduction when I was 8 years old and continued to mentor us in firearms use and on a few hunting trips each year until he felt we were safe to send off alone – at about age 14! For most of my early years, my grandfather took me hunting often for all kinds of small game, and he taught me much about finding game. My father was a dedicated fisherman, and he took us fishing on lakes and rivers all over Ohio and Michigan, with regular trips to the northern lakes of Ontario. When I learned that a neighbor was a trapper, I begged him to teach me how, and he did that. I probably learned more about natural history and the animals themselves from trapping and one of my part-time jobs with a fur buyer than anything else I did.

Q: What led you to your career in conservation?

Fishing, trapping, hunting and learning as much as I could about fish and wildlife as a teenager did that. As far back as I can remember, I admired the local game protector, savored my trips to the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area (Ohio Division of Wildlife), immersed myself in the outdoor literature of the day (Fur-Fish-Game magazine in particular), and deeply studied the writings of one Theodore Roosevelt. I worked at a local Boy Scout camp for many summers and became a naturalist with a broad interest in all things outdoors. All of those experiences taught me that there were people who make their living in conservation, and I could think of no higher calling. By the time I got to college, I had no other goal in life than to work in conservation full time, and I have been lucky enough to do that. Several professors and faculty colleagues at the various universities I attended were critical to the direction I have taken over the years.

Q: How did you get involved with the TRCP?

Like many other TRCP board members, I found it hard to resist that “talking to” by [TRCP co-founder] Jim Range. Jim had a way of asking that was more like telling you this was how it was going to happen. I was among the people who met with Jim as the TRCP was being formulated and had more than a few late-night discussions with him and other TRCP leaders about creating such an organization. And while I was surprised to be asked to join the board, I felt a strong obligation to help see the organization develop and grow.

Q: What do you think the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen are today?

Habitat and access are the two things sportsmen must address, and the sooner the better. Habitat is No. 1, since without habitat, access is meaningless.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of the TRCP?

I hope the TRCP can continue to pull together the sportsmen-based community to accomplish what we must for habitat conservation and the future of hunting and fishing. We all have to stand together on the basic issues of protecting, conserving and better managing the habitat base that all fish, wildlife and people depend on.