Remembering Jim Range – and his dogs

Image courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

Fall means many things to sportsmen – elk in the Missouri Breaks, whitetails in the hardwood forests of Pennsylvania, ringnecks in South Dakota.

For many of us at the TRCP, fall brings to mind Jim Range – and his dogs.

TRCP’s co-founder and visionary, Jim was known and beloved by so many. A lifelong sportsman who served as chief counsel to Sen. Howard Baker during the years when the senator was majority leader, Range played a critical role in advancing some of the nation’s most important natural resources legislation, including the Clean Water Act.

Defined by his passions, Jim was a consummate leader and bridge builder, as well as an enthusiastic hunter of birds and big game and a devoted trout fisherman. His capacity for seeing past differences and finding the common ground among diverse interests, both within the sportsmen’s community and outside it, set the course for the TRCP and our mission.

Jim Range harbored a particular love of upland hunting, and the sharp-tailed grouse held a special place in his heart. Bob St. Pierre, vice president of communications for Pheasants Forever, recalls Jim saying while on a hunt, “I love everything about these birds. The environs where they live, the way they flush and laugh at you as they fly away. I love the taste of their meat, the simple beauty of each feather, their fur-covered feet, and the rose hips all around. I love everything about these darned sharpies.”

Like all upland hunters, Jim was especially fond of his dogs. They featured prominently in his life and his stories, and they served as cherished companions, friends and foils. Plague, Tench, Jambo and Sky are familiar to so many who knew him.

Jim died in 2009 – far too young, following a short battle with cancer – but his legacy lives on. And so do his dogs. The TRCP recently received word that Sky, Jim’s German wirehair, continues to chase birds every chance he gets. Taken in by John Neel Range, Jim’s brother, Sky travels as far afield as eastern Montana on occasion, where he spent some time last month hunting there with John, his son Jake, and Jake’s black Lab Jambo. (The Range family tradition of naming dogs continues.)

Sky on a trip to Montana. Image courtesy of the Range family.

“Sky spends a lot of time at our farm in Tennessee,” said Carol Walker Range, John’s wife. “He’s become an Eastern grouse dog most of the time, although he does a pretty good job at our annual dove hunt.”

We at the TRCP think Jim would be glad to hear it.

In addition to his leadership of the TRCP, Jim Range served on the boards of Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, the Wetlands America Trust, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, the American Bird Conservancy, the Pacific Forest Trust, the Yellowstone Park Foundation, and the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Read more about Jim Range and the fund established in his name, the Jim Range Conservation Fund.

Wednesday Win: Photo Caption

For this week’s “Wednesday Win,” we’re going back to our roots. Leave a comment on the blow photo of TRCP’s co-founder and compass, Jim Range, and we’ll pick our favorite on Friday. The winner will receive a TRCP camo hat.

Photo by Steve Belinda.

Remembering Dr. James ‘Bud’ Range

Anyone who’s been around the TRCP for a while has heard about Jim Range. Jim is thought of as the primary founder of the TRCP, and while many individuals contributed to the organization’s foundation, Jim had the strategic vision and extraordinary passion that remain at the heart of the organization to this day.

Jim’s instincts for the necessity of the TRCP for American sportsmen have proven to be 100 percent on target in the ten years since he led the way in launching the sportsmen-conservation organization. He was a brilliant strategist and known widely in Republican and Democratic circles in Washington, D.C., as one of the best brains in town. He could walk up to a legislative problem, measure it up and down, cut to a diagnosis and course of treatment without a lot of fancy talk.

Like a country doctor looking over a sick kid, Jim worked as quickly as anyone I’ve ever seen and the solutions he prescribed were always nonpartisan in nature. If you knew Jim’s dad, there was no great mystery as to how he came by this gift.

Jim’s dad, Dr. James J. Range, passed away in early October. “Bud” as his friends knew him, was 94 years old. Unlike Jim, who passed away three years ago at the age of 63, Dr. Range lived the kind of long, full life he deserved. I was fortunate enough to get to know Dr. Range as were many of Jim’s friends and while their outward personalities were markedly different, Jim took after his dad in many ways.

In the mountains of Tennessee around Johnson City, Jim gained a deep appreciation of the outdoors from his dad and it set him on a professional path that would see him become one of the most important sportsmen-conservation advocates of his generation. Jim took traits and smarts learned from his father and applied them to the political arena where he worked to heal divisions that threatened to forfeit American’s great natural resources and the outdoor way of life.

I mostly spent time with Dr. Range out at Jim’s place in Montana. Jim was such a huge personality and such a giant in the political and conservation arenas and it was fascinating to get to know the man who had, along with Jim’s mother, unleashed this whirlwind on all of us. Dr. Range was a warm wonderful person and it clicked for me right away – how this mellow and methodical doctor was connected to his colorful son. They both loved hunting and fishing and the outdoors deep down in their hearts and they both cared so much about other people.

So today I’ll just say thanks to Jim one more time for all he did for me as a friend and for all he did for this country’s sportsmen. And I’ll say thank you to Dr. Range for spending part of his long wonderful life raising such a fine son. We miss you both.

This article was written by TRCP board member George Cooper.