Skull Bound TV: Hunting is Conservation

Today’s blog post comes from Jana Waller, host of Skull Bound TV.  You can tune in for hunts with Jana Wednesdays at 8:30 PM ET and 11:30PM ET and Thursdays at 12:30 PM ET.  Follow Jana on Twitter or Facebook.

Propaganda is defined as “ a form of communication aimed toward influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument.” It the perfect word in describing the actions of the ʻanti huntingʼ movement that has been worming its way into our homes the past few decades.

The crew glasses for a whitetail in an old burn from the Montana fires of 2000.

The crew glasses for a whitetail in an old burn from the Montana fires of 2000.

When our ancestors were riding the wagon trains across the barren West I doubt there was anyone complaining about animalʼs rights when fresh meat was brought to the campfire, sustaining their lives. From big screen movies portraying the hunter as a mindless hillbilly to ʻSave The Wolfʼ junk mail that clutters our mailboxes, the antiʼs are spending millions of dollars annually to convince people that hunting is malicious.

There will always be people who simply donʼt understand the true complexities of hunting, especially if theyʼve succumb to the influence of ʻglobal Hollywoodʼ or havenʼt been raised in a hunting family. Putting food on the table, experiencing nature and creating family bonds are some of the obvious reasons people hunt but the true benefits of hunting often fall to a deaf ear.

Hunting directly accounts for more than a million jobs in America and according to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, $746 million dollars are spent annually on licenses and public land access. We provide the vast majority of funding that allows state wildlife agencies to successfully manage our wildlife resources. The millions of acres of public land that have been set aside for biking, hiking, dog walking, bird watching and overall general use are in large part because of hunting-based conservation groups. A majority of animal rights groups spend their money in the courtrooms versus positively impacting animals and their habitat. Conservation groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Mule Deer Foundation, and others contribute $300 million dollars annually to wildlife conservation. Simply put… there are more animals today because of hunters.

Conservation is an important topic that we feature on Skull Bound TV. I belong to seven conservation organizations and often donate my skull designs to help raise money for their fund raising events. Along with my art donations, I decided to donate two filmed hunts this past fall to be featured on episode nine “Hunting IS Conservation.”

My friend Ben Wohlers, owner of Painted Rock Outfitters, came up with the idea of filming the youth hunt weekend in Montana. Together we donated the hunt to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation where Dr. Stewart Long bid on the hunt for his 15 year old niece Emma. I was excited to accompany Emma on her very first whitetail hunt and pass along what I feel hunting is all about… experiencing nature, exploration and comraderee, not to mention the proud feeling of filling oneʼs freezer.

Stewart, Emma, Jana and Ben celebrate in Emma's first buck.

Stewart, Emma, Jana and Ben celebrate in Emma’s first buck.

Despite the 5am wakeup and freezing cold temperatures of opening morning, Emma was all smiles and excited for her first spot and stalk whitetail hunt. We spent the day glassing the lower fields of the Bitterroot Valley as well as walking the logging roads that curved up through the timber forest. Right off the bat we spotted a nice 4×4, Ben instructed Emma to get in the prone position and ready herself for the shot. The buck was on the move and never presented a comfortable shot for Emma but it didnʼt dampen her attitude. She happily picked up her gun and backpack with a smile and we headed off in search of another opportunity.

We spent two days combing the mountains of Montana for a whitetail buck. Despite the beautiful scenery and filming a bachelor group of bull elk from 100 yards, I must admit I was getting a little anxious in hopes that Emma would notch her tag. I wanted her to experience the entire process from scouting to field dressing and was praying weʼd be able to ʻget our hands dirtyʼ. Nearing the end of the day we rounded the last corner of the logging road when a doe and small buck appeared in a small opening along the timberʼs edge. “Wait until the last one steps out behind that tree.” whispered Ben. Emma raised her rifle and when the buck took a few steps forward she fired and dropped him in his tracks. To say we were all excited is an understatement. Thereʼs nothing more thrilling than experiencing someoneʼs first hunt and the smiles on everyoneʼs faces said it all.

Emma and Jana wash their hands in the creek while appreciating the details of the hunt

Emma and Jana wash their hands in the creek while appreciating the details of the hunt

After field dressing Emmaʼs buck together, we went down to the creek to wash our hands. We talked about everything we had seen over the past two days and how lucky we were to be able to hunt the beautiful mountains of Montana. Emmaʼs appreciation and reverence for her deer were evident and I believe sheʼs going to make an incredible huntress in the future. She is lucky to have an uncle who cares about passing on his familyʼs traditions and  I am lucky to have shared in this memorable hunt with both of them.

The second hunt I donated in 2013 was to the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF). Along with Pioneer Outfitters of Heppner, Oregon we offered to accompany the hunter on a guided mule deer hunt and film it for an episode of Skull Bound TV. This area of Oregon has some incredible elk and mule deer hunting and we were excited to capture great footage while raising some great money for the MDF.

Heather Tenney and her son Wiley joined Jim and I on the hunt along with Scott Coe, Manager of Pioneer Outfitters. Despite the hurricane force winds the night prior to our hunt, our spirits were high in anticipation of combing the countless coulees in search of a great buck.

We spent the morning perched high on a ridge in order to glass the canyons. The winds were still strong and we found it nearly impossible to use the spotting scope. Despite the gail force winds throwing a curve ball in to our game plan, we knew that the wind could quickly become our ally if a stalk was in order.

That afternoon we spotted two bucks bedded on a hillside approximately one mile away. We devised a plan to drop off into the deep gorge and hike around an adjoining hill for a better look. Two hours later we were within 250 yards of the bucks. With wind burned faces we glassed up a different buck that was feeding in the bottom of the coulee. Heather steadied her shooting sticks and on Jimʼs command took the shot. The ground exploded behind the wide 4×4 as he bounced up the ridge and out of sight. “ You shot just over him; Scott whispered. “Thereʼs more bucks coming out of the bottom” I exclaimed as Heather repositioned herself. “Last one. Last one. Cameraman Jimmy said focusing the camera on a beautiful 6×5 that suddenly materialized. The shot rang out and I watched the big buck moonwalk backwards down the ridge. Heather quickly chambered a second round and dropped the buck when he stopped.

Heather and her son Wiley proudly pose with her magnificent Oregon muley alongside the Scott Coe and the Skull Bound crew.

Heather and her son Wiley proudly pose with her magnificent Oregon muley alongside the Scott Coe and the Skull Bound crew.

“I canʼt believe how that went down!” I exclaimed. With the cameras rolling we walked up on Heatherʼs buck, all excited to get a better look at this magnificent animal. A final interview was filmed on the spot thanking the Mule Deer Foundation for their efforts in protecting and preserving the mule deer, an icon of the West.

Together with the help of Painted Rock and Pioneer Outfitters, Skull Bound TV raised $11,000 for conservation with these two hunts. Hunters deserve to be proud of their contributions towards helping wildlife and their habitat. We need to stand strong together in protecting our hunting heritage and educate others that WE are the ones fighting for the animals.