Public Lands Changed the Way I Hunt

A lifelong private-land hunter becomes a public lands evangelist

Although I’ve been hunting deer, ducks, and turkeys for as long as I can remember, the thought of hunting public lands never really crossed my mind until high school. Having grown up in central Virginia, there was no need—friends, family, and neighbors all provided endless connections for me to pursue my outdoor passion on privately-owned farms or leases. But, when my father and I started planning a hunting trip out West for my 16th birthday, we quickly realized that guide services were well outside our budget and researched what would become my first all-public-lands adventure.

That fall, I spent a week with my bow in the Idaho backcountry, chasing elk and mule deer entirely on public land, and I was completely blown away. The landscape that lay before me every morning was breathtaking—and it was all mine. That trip opened a whole new door to the hunting and fishing world that I’d never considered before.

A few years later, I moved south to attend college. While asking permission to hunt private lands certainly taught me lessons I’d never trade, I found myself in exciting and unchartered territory for my hunting and fishing pursuits, and I didn’t know a single person. Realizing I couldn’t put my passion on hold for four years, I researched public hunting and fishing areas all over the Southeast. I stalked deer in wildlife management areas, called in ducks on national wildlife refuges, and had gobbling toms in close range on national forests and my school’s experimental forest.

I even started exploring publicly accessible areas closer to home on school breaks and made it a point to invite die-hard private land hunters to join me.

I had become a true public land sportsman.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

After graduation, the first thing I did after securing my new apartment in Memphis was locate all the public access areas within a half-day’s drive. As a result, I had good success duck hunting many of the state-owned lands in western Tennessee that season. When I found out I was being relocated to North Dakota for a campaign assignment, I immediately downloaded the PLOTS (Private Lands Open To Sportsmen) book to map out all my hunts there. In a span of five years, I’d gone from never even considering hunting on public land, to using it for almost 90 percent of my waterfowl and small game needs.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

I still have friends and relatives who hunt entirely on private spaces, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s more important than ever that all sportsmen understand the critical role that public lands play in the overall future of hunting and fishing, because loss of access is the single largest threat to hunter retention and the livelihood of our sports.

Fewer hunters in the deer woods may seem nice on opening day, but we all realize the impact: Fewer dollars for conservation. Fewer stewards of our lands and waters. Fewer champions to stand up for our traditions.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

Even if you plan to continue to hunt solely on private lands, the opportunities to enjoy public places will always be there for you, should you reconsider. Our hunting and fishing traditions are woven into the fabric and topography of our country through our public lands. If I’d never left my hometown, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to understand this in quite the same way. But I’d urge every sportsman and woman to pledge themselves to preserving our access to public lands for future generations of hunters and anglers.

Here’s a good first step: Sign the petition at sportsmensaccess.org and prevent the sell-off of YOUR public lands.

A Great Year in the Outdoors: Brought to You by Public Lands

To enjoy our best year of hunting and fishing yet, there can be no off-season for defending sportsmen’s access

As we flip the calendar to 2016, we’re given an opportunity to reflect on the past year. It also becomes painfully clear that we have many pages to turn before another fall season of hunting and fishing. For most sportsmen, fall is the culmination of a year’s worth of anticipation and preparation. It’s all-too-brief and usually departs imperceptibly, like a ghost buck on the edge of a field at last light.

Image courtesy of Coby Tigert.

Last year, I spent September chasing screaming elk near the Wyoming border. In October, I followed my bird dogs in pursuit of sharptails and partridges in the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area near Idaho Falls, Idaho. In November, I was trying to outsmart rutting whitetails along the Snake River. The brief opportunity to catch Macks as they ventured into shallower waters to spawn in Bear Lake or to fight a powerful Salmon River steelhead fresh from the ocean was all that could persuade me to leave the woods. As a hunter, I give that time grudgingly. As an outdoorsman, I appreciate the change of pace. A couple of late-October days wading cold water is not just good for the soul—it provides a needed respite for legs pushed to their limits over untold miles before I charge into high-desert rim rocks and canyons of the Owyhees for chukars or jump-shoot mallards on open eddies and backwaters of the Snake.

Fall wouldn’t be so special—and I wouldn’t yearn for it the way I do—without healthy fish and wildlife habitat and abundant public access to the places where we can take on these challenges. Certainly, for millions of sportsmen around the country, America’s public lands are essential to the hunting and fishing experiences we’ve come to expect.

Image courtesy of Coby Tigert.

No matter the season, we all have a joint stake in America’s network of 640 million public acres—national lands that provide the habitat needed for fish and wildlife to thrive and access for all of us to pursue our sports. This is a uniquely American concept, dating back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt, and serves as the basis of our sporting heritage. We should not take it for granted.

All year long, the TRCP will continue working to galvanize sportsmen and women against the public land transfer movement in the West—and in Washington, D.C.—and there can be no off-season when it comes to these efforts. The future of our hunting and fishing opportunities and the legacy we leave for our children depend on us standing up for public lands today.

So, while we all yearn for fall, and hopefully enjoy a good bit of meat still in the freezer, I urge you not to forget these feelings: that hunting season will always feel too damned short, but we’re privileged to enjoy. There truly is no other place in the world quite like this.

There is still time to speak up for your hunting access. Sign the petition or learn more at sportsmensaccess.org.

Authorities Should Hold Extremists Accountable for Seizure of Public Land

Eight major hunting, fishing, and conservation groups are condemning the extremist takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Image courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

For the last several days, as reported by numerous news outlets, a headquarters facility at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon has been occupied by an armed group of extremists from outside the state. This ongoing occupation represents a seizure of public land that American hunters and anglers find unacceptable.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and seven major sportsmen’s groups—the Wildlife Management Institute, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Public Lands Foundation, Berkley Conservation Institute, Snook and Gamefish Foundation, and Dallas Safari Club—are united in condemning these unlawful actions and have issued the following statement:

“Many citizens of the West—sportsmen and women included—take issue with some public land management decisions, but there is a legitimate process, well-established by law, to provide significant opportunity for public input and influence on these decisions. When an extreme minority uses lawlessness and threats of violence to occupy public land, it threatens the rights of many for the benefit of very few—a profoundly un-American course of action.

We want to thank refuge employees, public land management employees, and law enforcement personnel for their dedicated service during this incident, and we’d urge authorities to uphold law and order by bringing a peaceful resolution to the occupation and then by bringing these armed extremists to justice.”

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. The refuge provides essential habitat for more than half of the Pacific flyway’s migratory waterfowl, as well as sandhill cranes, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and native redband trout. It is typically open to hunting and angling—but not today.

More than 23,000 hunters and anglers have signed a petition opposing the seizure of America’s public lands.

Help protect public lands and Roosevelt’s legacy—learn more at sportsmensaccess.org.

Your Must-Do List for the Off-Season

A big-game hunter should do more than just dream of next fall

Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

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.

Researching and applying for tags. One of my favorite things to do during the winter and spring is research hunting units and apply for special hunts. I don’t have the best luck when it comes to drawing special tags, but my bonus points are adding up, and I know that I’m bound to draw a coveted bighorn sheep or trophy mule deer tag at some point. This is also time I use to investigate new public hunting areas that have peaked my interest throughout the year. Opening day is no time to make fresh tracks in an area I’ve never researched.

Attending to equipment. From broken bootlaces to torn pants, it seems like something wears out every season. Now is the time to take care of this stuff, and make a few gear upgrades I’ve been dreaming about, so I’m not scrambling the night before a big trip. Many manufacturers and retailers mark down their gear this time of year, too.

Being an advocate. The wildlife we pursue depend on functional habitat, and sportsmen depend on access and opportunity. If we don’t get involved and advocate for these resources, other interest groups might soon be writing the rules. I like to encourage hunters and anglers to get involved at three levels: national, state, and local. At the national level, the TRCP is the best group to keep you posted on major opportunities to get involved and actions that could impact the entire country. We try and make it as easy as possible for sportsmen to engage, and when you do, it is meaningful—lawmakers do listen.

It’s also a good idea to join an organization that focuses its attention on the proceedings in your state’s legislature and fish and game commission. And, especially if you’re a public lands hunter, it is important that you keep an eye on how public lands are managed in your area. You can do this by taking a look at the local BLM field office or national forest website every month or two. Usually that’s where proposed actions are listed under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, log—this could be anything from proposed changes impacting access to discussion of industrial development, and the agencies are required to allow you an opportunity to provide comments. At this level, it is easy for proposed management actions to fly under the radar, and sportsmen wake up to what is happening after all of the decisions have been made.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to the TRCP staff if something requires our attention, or if you have any questions about getting involved. Want to do something today? Visit sportsmensaccess.org and support our public lands. You won’t regret that you did when you down that big buck or bull on public land next fall.

Wildlife Habitat is About to Get a $3.5-Billion Boost

No matter how you like to spend your time outdoors, Congress just stuffed your stocking

Congress will likely pass a budget bill this week that will make significant investments in conservation and begin to reverse a decades-long decline for funding that impacts fish and wildlife habitat. Whether you hunt public or private lands, and whether you fish freshwater or saltwater, this is good news for hunters and anglers. ‘Tis the season of giving, and there’s something for everybody.

Image courtesy of Eric Petlock.

For Public Land Hunters

Our national public lands, like the Missouri Breaks and Arizona Strip, have been underfunded for decades. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has lost 12 percent of its workforce in the last four years alone. The Forest Service has had to cut 39 percent of its personnel working on land management, timber production, and recreation since 1998.

This budget deal starts to reverse the trend. With funding increases across the board—12 percent for the Forest Service, 10 percent for the BLM, and 5 percent for the Fish and Wildlife Service—our public lands managers finally have the resources they need to protect and improve habitat.

For Private Land Hunters

As part of the omnibus deal, Congress permanently authorized a tax incentive that helps farmers and ranchers place conservation easements on their land. This provision will drive over $3 billion worth of easements to be created in the next ten years, which will translate into at least three million acres of conserved habitat that benefits big game, birds, and water quality.

For Freshwater Anglers

This week’s spending deal is also notable for what it didn’t include. Certain members of Congress, at the behest of developers, were pushing hard for a policy rider to block the Obama Administration’s clean water rule. This rule clarifies that the Clean Water Act does indeed—and always has—apply to 200,000 miles of headwater streams that provide irreplaceable habitat for trout and salmon. And this rule is also meant to combat wetlands loss, so it’s good for ducks, too.

For Saltwater Anglers

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is home to the National Marine Fisheries Service, will receive $325 million for in 2016. That’s a 6 percent boost to improve fisheries data collection and management.

For Everyone Who Loves to Be Outdoors

The spending bill also includes a three-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a hugely successful tool for improving everyone’s access to national, state, and local lands, and boosts its funding next year by $100 million. These are dollars that forest rangers and state fish and game agencies can use to purchase inholdings and easements to create better access for sportsmen, but you’ve probably also seen LWCF dollars put to work in your local parks and state forests.

Sportsmen have always believed that we have a moral responsibility to pass on America’s great outdoors to our kids and grandkids a little better than we found it. Thanks to this bill, we are giving our kids better days afield in the New Year and beyond. 

Arizona’s Pima County Opposes Transfer of National Public Lands to the State

Board of Supervisors supports sportsmen’s access and local economies over short-term economic gain

Image courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Yesterday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution opposing any effort to transfer national public lands to the state of Arizona or local governments. The vote was held amid efforts by an Arizona State Legislature committee to examine processes to transfer, manage, and dispose of public lands within the state of Arizona.

The resolution recognizes the importance of public lands for:

  • Wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, wildlife-watching, horseback riding, bicycling, and more.
  • Meeting the objectives of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan to maintain a network of interconnected lands where native habitat and natural corridors remain protected.
  • Attracting tourists and employing hundreds of county residents, who contribute in many positive ways to our community and spend their wages at local businesses.

The resolution also recognizes that the state does not have the financial capability to responsibly manage public lands—and sportsmen’s groups agree. “While federal land management certainly isn’t perfect, transferring these public lands to the state is not a viable solution, especially considering that the vast majority of Arizona sportsmen and women depend on public lands for hunting and fishing,” said John Hamill, the Arizona Field Representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Arizona simply doesn’t have the funds to maintain roads and recreation facilities, prevent and fight wildfires, restore damaged wildlife habitat, and enforce laws or prevent abuses. Ultimately, the state would be left with no choice other than to sell these lands, which, once privatized, would be off-limits to hunters and anglers forever.”

“I don’t always agree with federal policies and processes, but the Forest Service and BLM are generally good stewards and work toward conservation that’s good for Arizonans who depend on public lands for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation,” said Supervisor Ray Carroll (R-District 4), who cast his vote on the resolution yesterday. “The state is in a tough financial situation and would probably use or sell these lands to fill critical budget gaps.”

“Pima County appreciates the importance of federal public lands to the citizens of our state,” said Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the Coalition of Sonoran Desert Protection. “In 2012, voters in Pima County and throughout Arizona overwhelmingly rejected the idea of transferring ownership of public lands to the state by a two-to-one margin. The Board recognizes this fact and believes that this latest attempt to circumvent the loud voice of public opinion is a bad idea.”

A growing number of Western counties in states like Wyoming and Colorado have recently taken formal positions to oppose the sale or transfer of national public lands. To learn more about the land transfer movement across the country, visit sportsmensaccess.org.

Sportsmen’s Act Moves One Step Closer to Senate Floor – and to Improving Your Access

The bipartisan package of bills would prioritize recreation on federal lands and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Today the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance S.556, “The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015,” which would protect and enhance public access for hunting, fishing, and target-shooting on federal lands. The legislative package would require federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting and that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service keep lands open to these activities. The bill also includes reauthorization of two key conservation programs.

Image courtesy of National Parks.

“Lack of access is one of the major barriers to sustaining our uniquely American heritage of hunting and fishing—one that powers local economies and provides local jobs,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, who testified before the committee in support of the Sportsmen’s Act back in March. “We’re eager to see this legislation move forward and empower our federal land managers to make these assurances for the next generation of sportsmen and women.”

The Act mandates that, barring an emergency, publicly accessible hunting, fishing, and shooting areas cannot be closed without consultation of state fish and wildlife agencies or public notice. “For recreational fishermen, guides, and outfitters who drive spending in their local communities, the weather and water conditions can be unpredictable—but access to public waterways and boat ramps shouldn’t be,” says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Other provisions would allow the vehicular transport of safely secured bows and crossbows within federal parks and promote the use of volunteer hunters for wildlife management.

First introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Martin Heinrich in February 2015, the legislation also deals with reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

“It is just as important to uphold the public’s ability to access key lands and waters as it is to conserve them, so we thank Committee Chair Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell for including compromise language for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our nation’s most popular and successful conservation programs, in the bill,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 is a path forward for funding conservation programs that enhance fish and wildlife habitat and secure public access for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. We appreciate the committee’s commitment to advancing their portion of this important legislation.”

Hunting, fishing, and conservation groups are calling for both chambers to make floor time for a comprehensive sportsmen’s package as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of the 114th Congress.

State vs Federal Public Land Management is Not an Apples-to-Apples Comparison

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss improving coordination between the federal government and Western states—a conversation that is welcome and necessary—and the “need for the government to defer to state authority”—a sentiment that sportsmen should definitely question.

Access to state and federal public lands is vitally important to hunters, anglers, and other Americans who either work in or support the outdoor-recreation industry across America, particularly in the West. This $646-billion segment of our economy is often ignored—in fact, it was never even mentioned in the briefing memo for today. We believe that energy, forestry, water use, and wildlife should all be considered in the management of federal lands in the West, but future land management decisions cannot ignore sportsmen, our financial contribution to local economies, or our ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation.

Sportsmen are the first to agree that there are real challenges with federal lands management, but it’s impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between state lands management and the track record of federal agencies, because there are key differences in how states manage their lands compared to the federal government. States are constitutionally mandated to maximize profits from their state trust lands, which can reduce the quality of outdoor experiences and, at times, prohibit public access. In Idaho, for example, the state’s current asset management plan for “endowment” lands calls for dispersed recreational uses to be accommodated, provided that they don’t impair financial returns from other uses, like logging operations.

Federal lands are managed under a multiple-use mandate by which recreational opportunities are emphasized in management planning, while allowing energy development, grazing, and forestry to continue. If federal public lands had been managed for maximum profit since the time of Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, our country would most likely look very different today.

States Do Play a Crucial Role—as Partners

Image courtesy of Jeannie Stafford/USFWS.

The best solution for balanced management of our public lands is collaboration, not deferment. A great example of this can be found in the state and federal plans meant to benefit the greater sage grouse. Eleven Western states crafted conservation plans that are critical and meet the needs of their constitutional mandates, while the feds crafted complementary plans that, by default, must be stronger. All efforts—state plans, federal plans, and voluntary conservation measures undertaken by private landowners—were necessary to get to the not-warranted decision announced on September 22, and none of these plans can stand alone and deliver the necessary habitat conservation or regulatory certainty to avoid a future listing.

Opponents of the federal plans have no scientific evidence to support their claims that voluntary efforts alone are working, or that substituting state plans for federal plans would provide adequate conservation for sage grouse. In fact, the recently documented increase in males attending leks (up 63 percent from 2013, the second lowest count on record) has not altered the overall downward trend in the bird population observed from 1965 to present (an average annual decline of 0.83 percent.) This year’s increase falls within the normal range of fluctuation for game bird populations, which are known to shift rather dramatically with climatic factors, like precipitation. The majority of the greater sage grouse’s range has experienced excellent precipitation in the past two years, helping habitat conditions rebound and facilitating improved nesting, brood-rearing, and chick survival. Read more about that here.

Furthermore, the notion that the federal conservation plans for BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands are “just as restrictive, or more than, a listing decision” is simply wrong. Had the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species, these same federal plans undoubtedly would have been required as part of an overall recovery plan, but the Service would also be required under Section 7 of the ESA to consult on every project impacting sagebrush habitat. This would certainly have added extensive time and costliness to the process.

Hunters and anglers agree that improvements should be made to forest and range management on federal lands, and we are ready to engage in those conversations with state and federal agencies. Better habitat means increased opportunities for sportsmen who pump dollars into local economies, and all the while, energy development, grazing, and other activities will continue. This opportunity for the West shouldn’t be squandered on political and litigious intervention. Congress needs only to support and fund efforts to implement critical conservation efforts and remember that sportsmen are an equally lucrative part of the Western economy.

Glassing The Hill: September 28 – October 2

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

Both the Senate and the House will be in session from Monday through Friday this week.                                                                                                                                

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Last week was all about the Pope’s arrival and Speaker John Boehner’s exit, so now it’s time to get a budget deal done. Boehner’s abrupt decision to resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective on October 30, clears the way for a short-term agreement to fund the government through December 11. This short-term continuing resolution provides Congress with a two-month extension to make a lasting bipartisan budget deal.

Last week, a spending bill that would fund the government but defund Planned Parenthood was sent to the Senate floor. Unsurprisingly, this effort was voted down and Leader McConnell has scheduled a vote for Monday at 5:30pm on a “clean” continuing resolution that will meet the September 30 deadline and fund the government through the second week of December. The House is expected to pass the clean CR later this week.

All signs indicate that the Land and Water Conservation Fund will not see floor time and will be allowed to expire as of the end of the month. At this point, appropriators can still use the fund for conservation projects, but offshore oil and gas royalties will stop coming in to refill the coffers for future investments in public access to America’s natural resources.

After celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday, we’ll be happy to avoid a government shutdown—for now—that could impede sportsmen’s access at one of the best times of the year to get outdoors.

Other legislation on House members’ minds: Rep. Meehan’s (R-PA) bill, Justice for Victims for Iranian Terrorism Act and Rep. Thornberry’s (R-TX) defense authorization legislation.

What We’re Tracking 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015:

The EPA, in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on President Obama’s clean air initiative

Federal forest management, in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

Proposed improvements to the Endangered Species Act, in a Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife hearing

Pipeline safety, as examined by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security

Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

The Clean Water Rule, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water hearing

Energy development, as the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on states’ authority in regards to resource management

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment checks in on progress

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Gold King Mine spill, in a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on the EPA’s flub*

Sodium production on public lands, as discussed by the Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining

*Just for fun: Read how Durango-area brewers have created a special orange-tinted “Heavy Metal Extra Pale Ale”—or EPA, for short—to raise money for the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). The fund donates to individuals whose businesses were financially impacted by the spill—almost exclusively in the river rafting industry, according to the Durango Herald.

We have a winner! Fishing and #PublicLandsProud

Thanks to everyone that has been using the #PublicLandsProud hashtag, showing us why they love public lands, and sharing why we need to stand up for them.

And now the moment we’ve been waiting for: our guest judge, Jess McGlothlin of Jess McGlothlin Media and American Fly Fishing Trade Association (congrats on the new job, Jess!) has selected the winner for our fishing-themed portion of the contest.

Your winners: 

Winner: @seaandines with his “blue line sessions” shot. This shot is an awesome reminder that sometimes the fishing we need isn’t on some epic river halfway around the world, but rather right in our backyards. Wherever you live, it’s worth taking the time to appreciate your local waters—you never know what you might find. Also a great example of #keepemwet.

Always fun hanging out at the best “rest area” along I-40. #bluelinesessions

A photo posted by Sean Deines (@seandeines) on

Runner-up #1: @josh.kuntz with his shot of an angler fishing a backcountry lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains serves as a potent reminder that fish don’t really tend to live in ugly places, and sometimes the experience is less in the catching, and more in the getting out there.

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”. #Aristotle ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• The Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho are a popular public land backpacking and fishing destination. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Photo:  An angler casts into the reflection of Upper Cramer Lake in the early morning. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #fishing #mountainlake #backpackfishing #backpacking #id #idaho #solitude #publiclandsproud #thetrcp #keepitpublic #bha #backcountryhuntersandanglers #reflection #sawtooths #idahogram #exploreidaho

A photo posted by Josh Kuntz (@josh.kuntz) on

 

Runner-up #2: @mt406shooter with his shot of a “proper double haul” on the Yellowstone. Good composition, beautiful water, and a strong cast. Solid.

 

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, not to mention win a new pair of Costa Sunglasses or a Yeti Cooler. From now until October 4, show us the best scenery shots from public lands and tag them with @thetrcp and #PublicLandsProud, and our guest judge, Johnny LeCoq of Fishpond will be watching. More details and all entries are here.

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands.