Blown Radiators and Backcountry Muleys

I was already way behind schedule when I arrived at the trailhead in the middle of nowhere in central Nevada for my first archery mule deer hunt. A blown radiator had left me waiting several hours for a truck to tow me 60 miles to the nearest town for repairs. By the time I hiked the four miles to camp, it was 2:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, first light came quickly. After a bite to eat, I hiked up to a steep vantage point overlooking the canyon where I would be hunting.

I had seen a group of bucks in this canyon a few weeks earlier with my good friend and mentor Larry Johnson with Nevada Bighorns Unlimited. After three days of hunting, neither Larry nor I had gotten close enough to make a kill, and we both left empty handed. I had come back alone with the hopes of filling my tag.

After glassing a bit, I spotted some bucks feeding on a hillside several hundred yards up the canyon. I watched for a while and figured they would bed down in one of several stands of mahogany trees scattered throughout the canyon. I sat tight, hoping to intercept the bucks as they came to bed down.

As the sun rose higher, the group went downhill to some trees about 200 yards below where I sat. There was no way to sneak in on them without being seen, and at this point my lack of sleep was catching up to me. I took a rest, hoping the bucks might move later in the day.

When I awoke, I crept back up to check on the bucks. They were gone. Trying to stay calm, I scanned the canyon and eventually spotted the deer disappearing into trees on a ridge a thousand feet above me on the opposite side of the canyon. I wasn’t exactly sure where they were headed but figured they were going to bed down again somewhere where the afternoon breezes would be cooler.

Grabbing my pack and bow, I began the long hike across the canyon. A light rain was falling by the time I reached the other ridge. The sound of the rain masked my footsteps, and a steady southwesterly wind allowed me to move into the trees and search for the deer undetected. I moved slowly through the mahogany, stopping every few steps to glass. I was looking for movement – an ear twitch, antlers or the silhouette of a bedded buck.

I made several passes through the area with no luck and began to think that the deer had outsmarted me again. Finally, I glanced uphill and saw the unmistakable shape of a deer. I pulled out my rangefinder to check the distance: 32 yards.

Nocking an arrow, I moved to get a better look and see if antlers were attached to the deer. Just then, deer began standing up one by one in surrounding trees. They had seen me.

I froze as a buck stepped out into the open. He was a shooter. I instinctively drew my bow and released the arrow. I heard the thwack of the arrow hitting as the buck jumped and ran across the rocky hillside. After 20 yards he slowed, then stopped, began to stumble and fell to the ground. I later discovered that the broadhead had gone through his heart. It was over very quickly.

My first Nevada archery mule deer hunt makes me extraordinarily thankful for the abundant and unique hunting opportunities that abound in the West. Mine was the type of hunting about which every sportsman dreams – a spectacular setting, far from any roads or signs of civilization, lots of deer and few hunters. I was able to hunt in some of the greatest remaining mule deer habitat in the nation. Nevada has a lot of undeveloped backcountry, but even here, mule deer habitat is threatened.

Mule deer need large areas of undeveloped backcountry in order to thrive. As we lose habitat throughout the West, mule deer numbers decline as do our hunting opportunities.

Sportsmen recognize the importance of conserving these areas, but in order to ensure healthy wildlife populations, hunters and anglers must spread the word. Sportsmen must let federal land management agencies know what is at stake and that we are paying attention. High-quality hunting opportunities on public land comprise the backbone of America’s sporting heritage. It is staggering to think about how much great habitat has been lost in the last 30 years – and the ramifications if this trend is allowed to continue.

This is why the TRCP is working hard to conserve high-quality, intact habitat throughout the West. Get involved today and sign up as a TRCP Western Sportsman Advocate.

Wednesday Win: Throwback Photo Caption

For this week’s Wednesday Win, we’re using a throwback photo from Joel Webster, TRCP’s Center for Western Lands Director. Leave a comment and we’ll pick a winner on Friday, Dec. 14. The victor will receive a TRCP camo hat.

Tackling Fiscal Responsibility for the TRCP

Bob Hale

TRCP Financial Director Bob Hale makes sure that 82.2 percent of TRCP revenue goes to conservation programs.

It’s the end of the year, and a dozen holiday emails are likely waiting in your inbox.

This note is different.

I’m not going to try and pull your heartstrings or appeal to the policy experts out there.  You’ve seen other posts like that already.

I’m the director of finance at the TRCP and I’ve got a different perspective on how we fulfill our mission.  It’s my job to develop the annual budget, keep the organization fiscally responsible and run each year’s audit. As you have probably guessed, I’m a numbers guy.

My work here at the TRCP is vitally important. I want to share two of the TRCP’s accomplishments from the past year: The TRCP earned a spot in the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance and the GuideStar Seal of Accountability.

These two accolades show that the TRCP maintains the highest level of transparency and accountability among other businesses and  non-profits. We know that in order to gain trust and remain effective, the TRCP must focus on providing relevant and reliable information to our stakeholders in a way that is free from bias, comparable, understandable and focused on stakeholders’ legitimate needs.

All of us here at the TRCP work together to cut down costs and establish our credibility as a transparent and accountable organization. By displaying the Better Business Bureau and GuideStar seals on our website, we hope to show the public that we are proactive in ensuring the highest levels of fiscal responsibility.

Overhead costs such as rent, computer network, admin salaries and benefits comprise 17.8 percent of the budget.  That means that 82.2 percent of revenue goes to conservation programs directly related to our mission.

If you choose to donate to the TRCP, you can do so with the knowledge that your money will make a difference in helping us fulfill our mission of guaranteeing you a place to hunt and fish. I’ll make sure of it.

Wednesday Win: T.R.ivia

Theodore Roosevelt is the only person to have won the Medal of Honor AND which other prestigious award?

Photo courtesy of the Harvard College Library.

Send your answer to info@trcp.org or submit it on the TRCP Facebook page by Friday morning for your chance to win a TRCP hat.

Sportsmen: Too Early to Tell With Oil Shale

Oil shale is getting so much attention lately that it’s starting to feel like a cure-all pill for whatever ails us.

Need more energy? Have some oil shale.

Fiscal cliff got you down? How about a little oil shale?

The problem with this assessment is, fundamentally, we’re just not there yet. We have been hearing this same promise for decades. A viable commercial oil shale industry has yet to exist. And as we move forward, oil shale development needs to be done with considerable thought and caution.

Or so say the leaders from some of the nation’s most influential sportsmen’s groups, conservation organizations and scientific societies in a letter sent to Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week.

“Research must precede any commercial leasing,” the letter states, “and that research must demonstrate that extraction technologies and mitigation options exist that will protect clean air and water, conserve fish and wildlife, and sustain the economies that depend on those resources.”

To be clear, we are not saying oil shale is bad – the problem is it’s too early to tell. There are significant concerns still associated with oil shale development – concerns like   water supply, water quality and impacts to wildlife populations. They should not be taken lightly.

This is classic, “cart before the horse” type behavior – but it seems the BLM is working to right that situation. Its plan, released in early November, balances acres dedicated to oil shale research with protecting fish and wildlife habitat.

You can make a difference. Speak out on oil shale development today.

Here’s what sportsmen are saying: Go slow. Let’s do this right. Think clearly. Evaluate what we stand to gain against what we could lose. And if we get to a point where oil shale technology is viable and impacts are acceptable, then we can make decisions about when and where. But we’re not there just yet.

This post was written by  Shauna Sherard, communications director at Trout Unlimited and was originally posted on the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development blog.