Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Member Profile: Andrew Gorder


Occupation: Legal Director for the Clark Fork Coalition

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers? A little over a year

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom? I grew up in South Dakota, hiking, fishing and exploring the beautiful Black Hills, but I was always drawn to the West. I went to college in Wyoming before landing in Montana in 2008, and I haven’t left since. To me, Montana has always seemed like what the Black Hills must have been like 100 years ago. Montana’s wild places, and the hunting and fishing opportunities they provide, are almost overwhelming in scale – offering a lifetime of adventure. But these places, streams and wildlife deserve more than our admiration, they also require our protection and stewardship. As an organization of volunteers, HHA understands that meaningful conservation takes more than just a passion for wildlife and hunting, it takes long-term thinking and sacrifice, and that’s why I’m proud to be a member.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? I don’t know what this says about me, but my favorite stories are always about the least successful outings. Some buddies and I once drove 250 miles one-way and hiked 4.5 miles through grizzly country to access a notably fickle stream that was supposedly holding some trophy trout. Suffice to say our timing was off. We fished until dusk and caught two fish between three of us. Having been fully bamboozled, we hiked out and drove back that night. The absurdity of how hard we worked that day to essentially get skunked made it one of the more hilarious experiences of my life.

Have you ever given away your Honey Hole? I find the best spots are only special if they are shared with friends/family; so yea I’ve definitely taken people to some “secret” fishing spots. That being said, if I actually had a decent elk hunting spot, I’d probably take it to my grave.

One bug Challenge: If you had to use one bug for the whole season what would it be? Size 10 olive woolly bugger. You can fish this fly all year and catch fish. I also like streamer fishing because it forces you to be active, and (if you’re a coward) you can even drift it under a bobber. I’ve had some really good days fishing this one fly.

What is the story behind your first fly rod or gun? Who gave it to you? I inherited my first fly rod from my late grandfather, who I never met. It’s an antique, 3-piece bamboo rod that my dad kept and passed on to me. I’ve never used it because I’m afraid I’ll break it.

What is the best hunting/fishing advice you have received? Spend far more time in the field observing than you do hunting or fishing. It’s easy to get impatient and constantly be on the move or obsessively casting your fly, but the more you slow down and observe your surroundings, the more you learn and grow as a hunter/angler.

What is your advice for younger generations? Get off social media.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Member Profile: Alex Hughes

HHA Board Member Alex Hughes

Name: Alex Hughes

Occupation: Medical Device Sales

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers? 3 years

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom? Being outside and looking for wildlife was one of my favorite pastimes in childhood. Thanks to a few inspirational high school biology teachers, I carried this passion into college and studied Wildlife Biology. My time as an undergraduate was really when my obsession for wildlife took hold, thanks to a great education in the classroom, but also with a semester in east Africa studying wildlife, and an internship in Yosemite National Park. Wildlife remains a passion of mine today in the forms of hunting, bird watching, and wildlife photography.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? My first bull elk taken with a bow! I was in the mountains with fellow HHA member Josh Conner, tracking some elk in the snow. I bumped a cow, quickly cow-called and nocked an arrow hoping she wouldn’t go far, and maybe I could get back on her. Well, the cow call happened to attract a young bull that was also in the area, and he made an appearance through the thick timber, allowing me an easy shot. I’ll never forget it!

Have you ever been lost? Yes! Also with Josh Conner, up the Blackfoot river drainage a few years ago. We were elk hunting in late November, and we split up. The area we were in is a giant redundant maze of rolling hills and meadows. I was supposed to walk a certain road back to a meeting place when shooting light was up. Well, it was my first time in this area, and I walked a road, but it was the wrong road. What was also fun was that this area is an absolute Grizzly pit, so this was no casual night walk. I quickly ran through my options, and given that there was no cell service, yelling came to mind as the next good idea. As dumb as it sounds, it worked! After a round of desperate shouting, I caught Josh’s voice on the wind. Thankfully we linked up and got out of there, as plan B was a very long, very unpleasant hike to a highway. Ay yi yi.

Favorite River/Hunting snack? Moose Bars from the Break!

What is the best hunting/fishing advice you have received? This may earn some disagreement, but when it comes to chasing elk, it’s to be aggressive, and don’t give up! Steep miles, early mornings. Keep after it, and it pays off. The success rate is low for a reason!

What hunting/fishing adventures are on your bucket list? Caribou in Alaska, and Coues Deer in Mexico (so I can pretend I’m a Cormac McCarthy character)

Friday, February 8, 2019

Member Profile: Bill Geer

HHA Board Member Bill Geer

Name:  Bill Geer
Occupation:  Retired Fish & Wildlife Biologist/Agency Director
How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers?  About 10 years I think
How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?  From the time I was a Boy Scout, focusing on every nature, forestry, fishing, hiking and outdoor merit badge, fish and wildlife conservation has been my end all-be all for my life’s career and focus.
Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? This may not be the memorable story a parent wants to hear.
In 1964, my best friend, John, walked in to my morning English class in Salinas, California, and told my teacher the school newspaper wanted to interview me for a story.  I was excused from class and out the door I happily went. But John wasn’t a reporter for the school paper. In the hallway, he said, “Let’s split and go fishing in the Sierra Mountains.” So, we fired up my 1953 Pontiac, went home to pack our camping gear and fishing tackle and roared off 200 miles to Beardsley Reservoir, a great trout lake in the Sierras. When my teacher found out John wasn’t a school reporter, he roared I’d be suspended for two weeks when I returned.
Well, we camped and fished in the mountains for three days and then drove back home, sure of the big trouble we were surely in. But the Fishing God smiled I guess, because my parents didn’t blink an eye – they knew me too well, I suppose – and my English teacher not only didn’t suspend me, he never even gave me a grade demerit. And, best of all, we caught lots of rainbow trout.
Have you ever given away your Honey Hole? Hey, I’m not a kiss-and-tell sportsman.
Choose your weapon:  Orvis split bamboo fly rod my wife bought me for a college graduation, a Winchester Model 70 .300 Win Mag rifle and a Remington Model 870 12 gauge shotgun.

One-Bug Challenge: If you had to use one bug for the whole season what would it be?  Black and yellow Montana nymph hook size 10, or a gold-ribbed hare’s ear nymph hook size 12 or 14
What is the story behind your first fly rod or gun? Who gave it to you? I bought my first fiberglass fly rod in 1961 from my earnings working at my hometown’s professional rodeo. I then began fishing every available day of the year in coastal California.
Worst/Most miserable day of hunting or fishing? In a southwest Montana elk hunt in 1976, I failed to pay attention to the time while chasing elk through the mountains. I was too far back in the woods, many miles from camp late in the day in bitter cold and snow. I was unprepared for the conditions, wearing leather, uninsulated hiking boots rather than snow pacs. The score? No elk shot, but frostbite on 10 toes.

Monday, April 16, 2018

HHA Board Member Casey Hackathorn      

Occupation: Conservation Project Manager

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers? 10 years

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?  
I lived on a farm as a kid with a creek out my backdoor and I’ve been captivated by all things wild for as long as I can remember. There weren’t many days that my brother and I weren’t fishing or wandering that creek looking for critters or bait. It didn’t hurt to have a family that had me in a boat before I could hold a pole and in the field before I could carry a shotgun. It wasn’t until I settled in Montana though, in my late twenties that both my career and personal pursuits aligned with the mountains, rivers, and the critters that hold me captive today. I have every bit the adventure out my backdoor today that I had as a barefoot kid blasting through the screen door on my way to the creek.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story?  I was lucky enough to harvest an archery bull early last season and was relieved to be back in camp before midnight with four hanging elk quarters after a typically-exhausting day of hunting. Unfortunately, it was an unusually warm night for southwestern Montana and I had to break camp to get the meat on ice. I must have pulled into the Town Pump in Dillon just after last call because the place was packed with bleary-eyed revelers. I quickly paid for half of a dozen bags of ice and slipped outside to the freezer only to find a small pile of bags locked in a frozen mound from a water leak.  Faced with lining back up behind a horde of drunks clutching bags of Cheetos and cups of F’Real, I retreated to the truck for ice-chipping tools. The only useful thing I could find under my pile of gear in the back was a splitting maul. Heading back across the dimly-lit parking lot hefting a maul, I became acutely aware that I hadn’t bothered to change out of my bloody hunting gear before coming to town. Fortunately for me, I guess a bloody guy with an axe doesn’t look out of place at 2am in Dillon, MT and I was back home in Missoula in time for breakfast with some well-cooled meat in tow.

Have you ever been lost? Yes, but I’ve always found my way home eventually.

Favorite River/Hunting snack? Snickers

Have you ever given away your Honey Hole? Not really but I’m pretty open with my hunting and fishing partners

Choose your weapon:  fly rod, rifle, or bow? I’m an opportunist so I’d say all the above plus a shotgun, spinning rod, and my bare hands.

What is your advice for younger generations? Get involved and don’t take the places you care about for granted.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Member Profile: Alec Underwood

HHA Board Member Alec Underwood

Occupation:  Western Field Representative, the Montana Wildlife Federation

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers?  Two years

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?  I have fly fished since the age of seven and my life has revolved around the sport ever since. It has led to a deep appreciation for wild places and fish/wildlife and is probably the sole reason I became involved in conservation in the first place.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story?
Probably the story of the Bull elk I harvested in September 2015. After my first shot, I took off my boots to put a stalk on the bull as he was bedded down to take a second shot. After the shot, I could not find my boots as I was in a burn and everything looked identical. Being early September, I knew I needed to get the meat cooled down so I quartered the bull in my socks, the entire time thinking that I was really screwed if I couldn’t find my boots. Long story short, I had to pack the first load of meat (front quarter, hind quarter, and backstraps) two miles in my socks… the most painful pack out I will ever have. Upon returning with a few friends to grab the last two quarters and the head, we combed the forest and never did find the boots. A valuable lesson to always flag where you leave your stuff!

Favorite River/Hunting snack? Jerky

Have you ever given away your Honey Hole?   A smart hunter/angler would never do such a thing, but who hasn’t?

Choose your weapon:  fly rod, rifle, or bow?  Bow

If you had to pawn everything- what hunting /fishing item could you not live without?   Probably a fly rod since you can fish most of the year.

One bug Challenge:  If you had to use one bug for the whole season what would it be?  Some sort of wooly bugger or streamer pattern… extremely versatile fly that you can fish many different ways for many different species.

Worst/Most miserable day of hunting or fishing?  Gravellys elk hunt in September 2015. We drove up in a snowstorm and it was absolutely freezing for the first two nights. About a foot and a half of snow and wind chills in the single digits.

What is the best hunting/fishing advice you have received? 
Always stop, look, and listen before you proceed with tromping through the woods or water.

What hunting/fishing adventures are on your bucket list?  
Where to start? Alaska Caribou, Atlantic Salmon in Scandinavia, New Zealand browns and rainbows, Argentina sea-run browns to name a few.

What is your advice for younger generations?  
Probably to follow your passion and protect what you love. If you love to hunt and fish, then you will ultimately find ways to give back through conservation and being a steward for protecting public lands and wildlife. If we don’t have passionate young hunters and anglers who will fight to protect those things, then the future of hunting and fishing is surely doomed.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Member Profile: Tony Hoyt

Founding HHA Board Member Tony Hoyt

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers?  Founding Member of HHA

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?  
My grandfather, Asa King was an encyclopedia of outdoor knowledge. He shared his great love of nature with me. We spent many summers together in the finger lakes of western New York. Unfortunately, he died before I could learn all he had to teach me but I was instilled with a love of nature and an eagerness to learn more.

I came to Missoula in 1962 to attend the University of Montana (them MSU). I wanted to hunt but I lacked knowledge.  Fortunately for me my roommate in Craig Hall was from Alberton. Since there wasn’t much to do in Alberton, hunting was a favorite pastime.  My roommate, Denny, wasted no time getting me into elk hunting. I will never forget the first time out we parked his four-wheel jeep at the bottom of a mountain and headed straight up. I thought I might die. I was in good shape being on the swim team but had never learned the skills of walking up hill. Using a borrowed rifle, I got a spike bull the third time out.

Hunting took a backseat after freshman year as I did my schooling and went into the Peace Corps in Liberia. There I ate wild meat for the next two years and got addicted to it. When I returned to the States I was ready for healthier wild meat.

Two serious Montana hunters and mentors, Carl Helding from the Jocko and Rod Hambley from Ovando taught me about hunting and all that goes with it. Now at 73 I have the great joy of hunting with my son, daughter, and grandkids. And after 50 years I can really walk up hill.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story?


It was a week before the big game opener in the mid-80s. My hunting buddy Rod, a boilermaker from Ovando, called to tell me that another boilermaker from DeBorgia had invited us to hunt with him and his dad on opening day up by the Montana - Idaho divide. That Sunday we parked the truck at the locked gate above Haugan well before shooting light and the four of us headed up the road on foot. At about shooting light we rounded a bend and entered an old clear-cut. There was a herd of elk with a nice bull. The elk saw us and started to move out. We only had a brief time before they bolted. Time slowed down and two of us took the only shot we had. An offhand headshot. I hate to shoot without a rest. The bull went right down. When we got to him we discovered two things, first that he had three main beams of equal length and second, we did not know who shot him. There was a bullet hole in the back of his head behind the ridge. I was shooting a 270 and the other man was shooting a 300 Weatherby Magnum. A quick bullet in the hole determined it matched my 270.
The rest of our hunting crew thought there was a raghorn in the herd so they took off. We were supposed to hunt west below the divide and down to DeBorgia. 

As soon as they left I realized that the elk was wedged against a log on a steep hill. It was one heck of a job getting a back leg open enough to start gutting. Pushing and twisting with my back at unnatural angles I managed to clean out the heart, liver, tongue and kidneys and finish gutting. These items in my pack I tried to stand up. WOW My back had seized and I was unable to straighten and stand. It took many tries to straighten. Alone, without my hunting buddies, I slowly hobbled back to the truck. I drove to the house below where one of the hunters lived. I thought someone would be at the house but no one was home. I couldn’t get out of the truck so I spent the rest of the day into the late afternoon stuck in the truck.

After my hunting buddies hiked down to the house and found me in the truck they had to pick me up and put me in my old Honda so I could drive myself home. I bribed and begged and the other hunters agreed to get my elk out. I ended up with the hindquarter, the cape, and the head.

When I got home, my family had to pick me up out of the car and carry me to bed. I was in bed for two weeks. I only left my bed to go to the bathroom and see a chiropractor every other day. 

The head hangs in my bedroom. 

Most important piece of equipment?  Binoculars

Favorite hunting snack?  Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Choose your weapon:  fly rod, rifle, or bow?  My 270 rifle

Monday, March 26, 2018

Member Profile: Land Tawney

Founding Board Member/President Land Tawney

Name: Land Tawney

Occupation:  President & CEO, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers?  
Since its inception

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?  From an early age on my dad’s back while he fished the Big Hole river, in the duck blinds down the Bitterroot, or literally walking in my father’s footsteps up steep snow-covered mountains in pursuit of wapiti.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? 
One of my greatest joys as a father is seeing the great outdoors through my children’s eyes.  It reminds me of my own upbringing and inspires my work today.  Seven years ago, my wife and I took our then two-year-old daughter on her first camping trip up Rock Creek, the famed blue-ribbon trout stream just east of Missoula.  No one slept the first night as the novelty of sleeping in a tent was just too exciting for our restless young one.

Knowing that our trip hung in the balance, I put Cidney in the car and we headed upriver while my wife got some much needed rest.  Cid fell asleep in no time and I seized the opportunity.  Finding a nice stretch, I pulled over, rolled down the window closest to the river and locked the doors.  She was finally asleep and it was time for me to steal a few casts.  In no time I had two small brown trout which I kept for dinner.

That evening when we were preparing our meal, I let Cid handle the fish.  She gazed upon these new creatures, one in each hand.

I looked down at her and said, “You know, Cid, we are going to eat those for dinner tonight.”

She looked up at me with trusting, inquisitive eyes, back down at the fish and one last look at me.  She then proceeded to take a big ol’ chomp out of one of the fish. 

“Cid, we have to cook ‘em first!” I exclaimed.

Have you ever been lost? 
Yes…the first time my dad and I split up in the woods we had a designated meeting spot at dark.  It started to get dark and I started to get nervous.  I hit a trail that I thought was another trail and walked the wrong direction until it got dark.  I sat down, gathered my wits and figured out I was on the wrong trail and started back the other way…soon I heard the horses and then saw my dad’s flashlight.  I was relieved to say the least.  His first words out of his mouth?  Where is your gun…

Favorite River/Hunting snack?  Dry salami, Triscuits and hot pepper cheese

Have you ever given away your Honey Hole?  Yes…and we haven’t heard from that SOB since

If you had to pawn everything- what hunting /fishing item could you not live without?  The Irish lass…my 14 ft. Aire

Choose your weapon: fly rod, rifle, or bow? Shotgun

What hunting/fishing adventures are on your bucket list? Alaska