Sunday, August 14, 2011

Contemplating The Day...And The Art Of Realizing The Truth...

An Hour Alone In The Morning, With A Fresh Pot Of Campfire Coffee And A Warming Wood Fire Is A Great Way To Start The Day...And To Sort Out The Truth From All The Falsehoods That Fill Our Lives And To Contemplate The Lies Which Are Now Destroying The Outdoorsman's Way Of Life

I seriously doubt if the great outdoor journalists of the past could even begin to fathom the attack that has been launched against the sporting life. Magazine and book authors such as Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway, Jack O'Connor, Corey Ford and Ed Zern would very likely find it extremely hard to swallow how the shooting and hunting industry, without much of a fight at all, has allowed the anti-hunting movement to move in and take over wildlife management in this country...and to destroy hunting opportunities.

Organizations like the Defenders of Wildlife...the Sierra Club...the Center for Biological Diversity...the Alliance for the Wild Rockies...and more than a dozen others have done it pretty much without investing a single dollar in wildlife conservation programs or projects. Instead, they've invested their financial efforts in keeping wildlife issues tied up in federal court - not for the sake of saving wildlife, but to put an end to hunting, and to cash in on the hundreds of millions dished out annually by our extremely abused federal justice system's "Equal Access to Justice Act", which reimburses these organizations for extremely padded legal expenses.

When challenged to become more involved in the fight against all of this, shooting and hunting industry corporation c.e.o.'s and upper management presidents and vice presidents, and division managers, all too often respond that they are strong financial supporters of the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Mule Deer Foundation, or some other or another national pro-hunting conservation organization. And they are quick to point out that "their money" is also going to fight the anti-hunting movement.

Personally, I find that a bit of a cop-out.

Why aren't iconic retailers like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's...or major arms producers like Ruger and Browning...or ammunition suppliers such as Federal and Winchester...or camouflage clothiers Mossy Oak or Realtree...or optic makers Leupold and Bushnell...or game call producers like Primos or Knight & Hale...compound bow manufacturers like Mathews and PSE...or any company that derives its sales, or a large part of its sales, from shooting and hunting products doing more, much more, to openly fight issues that are now destroying hunting?

Why are they not collectively throwing up a barrier that the anti-hunting forces cannot scale, cannot breach? Just who is it they are afraid they will piss off if they take a company stand that says..."Bass Pro Shops (or whoever) Stands Behind Wolf Control 100-Percent!" Or, "Put An End To The Wildlands Project Before It Puts An End To The Outdoor Way Of Life!" Or maybe, "Here Are Those Who Want To Take Hunting Away From You...The Sierra Club, Humane Society Of The United States, The Center For Biological Diversity, Defenders Of Wildlife, Earth Guardians...."

Perhaps the lackluster efforts of the shooting and hunting industry to go nose-to-nose with the anti-hunting forces in this country stems from the fact that those who head major outdoor product corporations, or who are in upper management, are too far removed from areas that are already severely impacted. And that these same people simply have not seen the damage, and have not spent enough time alone to truly contemplate who our enemies are...and how to wage war against them. In short, they have not sat alone in front of an early morning campfire, staring into the bright red bed of coals as the fire keeps the coffee warm, while they sip on hot and strong campfire brew.

LOBO WATCH CHALLENGE...The Campfire Coffee Summit

Dear Shooting & Hunting Industry;

Over the years, I have gotten to know personally many of you who do head up "our" industry. I've become dismayed at how most of the companies in this industry will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote new products, new ideas - in a very visual way, but tend to make great effort to avoid being aligned with anything that may be considered controversial. What has disappointed me, and the vast majority of the sportsmen I am now associated with, is how most every company in this industry has failed to openly take on the forces that want to put an end to our way of life. Or, if your company has provided financial support to national and state organizations to fight anti-hunting efforts, how it has been kept a secret, as if you are ashamed to be associated with taking care of the wolf problem, stopping the big land grab known as Agenda 21, or challenging the claims constantly being made by anti-hunting groups.

What you need, is to see the damage first hand. To ride or hike into some the most beautiful elk country that can be found anywhere in the Northern Rockies...and to see how void it is of life. Maybe to fish a high mountain lake where one could once see 3...4...5 moose on just about any evening...and see nothing...not even a moose track. To ease through country where it was once common to see a hundred or more deer a day...and catch a glimpse of maybe 5 or 6 whitetails flashing through the timber, if you are lucky. To spend time with ranchers who have already thrown in the towel...or are about to...thanks to livestock losses to wolves...and grazing permit losses to the efforts of Wildlands Network radicals. To meet outfitters and lodge owners who are seeing their livelihood and their life's work going down the drain. To see firsthand how many sporting goods stores have been so negatively impacted by the loss of hunting opportunities here in the Northern Rockies...and how many other businesses have been similarly impacted.

You, as an industry leader, need to come to western Montana - and spend a few days in wolf country.

What I would like to see is 25 to 30 shooting & hunting industry leaders to fly into Missoula, MT for a three-night stay. Arrive mid day, have a late afternoon reception so those who do not know one another can meet. Have dinner together...then spend the evening with 300 or so sportsmen, ranchers, outfitters, guides, loggers, veterinarians, local politicians, business owners, conservation group members, rural residents, and others who have been negatively impacted by the anti-hunting efforts.

A microphone will allow these people to share their feelings, their experiences, their concerns, and their losses with you...the shooting and hunting industry they rely on to provide the products they industry they would like to see more active in fighting the problems we now face. While wolves will surely dominate the comments made, there are other issues, such as the Wildlands Network/Agenda 21 project, public land closures, high grizzly densities, and others that are sure to be addressed -and which in one way or another affects the shooting and hunting industry.

The next morning, two of you will be paired, and teamed up with a Montana or Idaho hunter, outfitter, guide, rancher, cowboy or land owner to spend the day in various different areas in the Bitterroot Mountains, the Sapphire Mountains, the Garnet Mountains, the Cabinet Mountains, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Scapegoat Wilderness, or maybe even the Rattlesnake Wilderness that borders the city limits of Missoula - where each of you will spend the night tent camping alone.

Your camp will already be there, in wolf and bear country, with everything you need - a camp gun (or bring your own), tent, cot, sleeping bag, firewood, grub for dinner and breakfast the next morning...and most importantly, a granite coffee pot and coffee, so you can sit and stare into that fire and contemplate everything you heard the evening before from those impacted by wolves, grizzly bears, unreasonable state and federal restrictions, and the loss of hunting opportunities.

The following evening would be a parting dinner, to share what you would be taking home with you from the experience to see what's happening here now, and which will spread across the rest of the country if we cannot contain the damage here. Are you ready for a douse of the see and hear what you have been insulated witness the damage our enemies have already inflicted on the past 75 to 100 years of wildlife and habitat conservation?

I wish I had been able to pull such an endeavor together a year or so ago. The fall hunting seasons are now upon us, and I know that shooting and hunting industry people will soon scatter like a covey of quail in pursuit of their favorite game. So, I will start planning all of this for mid June 2012, a beautiful time in the Northern Rockies, with cool nights that make for great sleeping in a tent - and the warmth of a campfire and a hot cup of coffee is ever so welcomed as day breaks in the morning.

Toby Bridges


  1. When you live in this beautiful country as long as I have, you gather a few favorite fishing and hunting spots along the way, it's not until you go to one of those favorite spots and you realize the river has changed it's course, and your favorite fishing hole has dried up, it's not 'till then that you sit in you camp chair next to the fire, and the reality of the situation hits you like a hard slap across the face, your beautiful bounty is gone forever, never to return, thru misty eyes you realize that all you have left are the memories of all the favorite times you and friends shared at this sacred of spots.

  2. come visit my blog and tell us what your hunting spot and experience means to you

    please share your best spot you have had with your children, friends, extended family, hunting buddies, clients, and if it fits? how it has potentially affected your hunting business. (this is a family oriented site and I welcome children to post as well, tell us what it means to you to hunt with your dad or mom in our vanishing way of life

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  4. Lady Elk...

    Very well written...and I will frequent your new blog as well.