Thursday, November 20, 2014

Who We Are

By Mark Olson

Since our founding, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers (HHA) has held Aldo Leopold in high regard.  His writings concerning issues such as a land ethic, wildlife management and sportsmanship  has guided HHA as we strive to fulfill our mission.  Our newsletter was even called “The Leopoldian”.  But what does it mean to be a Leopoldian?  How are we different from other hunters and anglers out there?  What are our core beliefs?  What follows is a quick sketch of two of the core ideas of a Leopoldian and how they relate to the Mission of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers.

LAND ETHIC

     Leopold writes, “ a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise”.  This forms the basic premise of a land ethic.  For a Leopoldian, every piece and part of the natural system is equally important and necessary to the proper functioning of the ecosystem. We may not understand or like certain parts but that does not diminish their role in the system.  Whether game animals or non game species; predators or scavengers; soil microbes or a ponderosa pine - all are necessary parts of their biotic community.  Leopold says it best:

     The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant:
     ‘What good is it?‘  If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every
     part is good, whether we understand it or not.  If the biota, in the course
     of aeons, has build something we like but do not understand, then who
     but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts?  to keep every cog and
     wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

     In this view, homo sapiens are no longer viewed as superior or separate from the rest of the biotic community.  We are no longer the conquerors of nature but fellow members of it.  A leopoldian includes soil, water, plant, and animals in his definition of community and so has a deep respects for all the other (non Human)  members of the community. 

     One key aspect of HHA’s mission is to conserve wildlife and wild places.  From a Leopoldian standpoint you cannot have one without the other.  Our efforts to conserve wild places in effect conserve wildlife and vice-versa.  Wild places are essential to the health and long term survival of all wildlife.  They need places to roam away from the human dominated landscape.  HHA strives to help protect critical habitat for game and predator species and hopefully everything below them on the land pyramid.  HHA comments on everything from forest travel plans, to land acquisitions, roadless designation, and public access.

     In regards to wildlife management, HHA takes a balanced long term approach. We seek to conserve all wildlife -- both game and non game species; predators to scavengers.  Every piece has a role to play in the health of the landscape and is necessary to the functioning of the whole.  This may occasionally put us at odds with those who think there should be fewer or no predators and also with those who think we shouldn’t manage predators.  But with a view to towards the sustainability and long term survival of the system we are protecting the game when we protect the predator.  Leopold says it best:

     You cannot love game and hate the predator... The land is one organism.        
     Its parts compete with each other and cooperate with each other.  The
     Competitions are as much a part of the inner workings as the cooperations. 
     You can regulate them - cautiously, but not abolish them.



Sportsmanship

     Leopold defines sportsmanship as ethical restraints.  “Voluntary limitations in the use of armaments.  Its aim is to augment the role of skill and shrink the role of gadgets in the pursuit of wild things.”  This type of sportsmanship is key to HHA’s mission to conserve our fair chase hunting and fishing heritage.  Skill and preparedness; respect and right choices; woodcraft and marksmanship are held in higher regard than gadgets and other aides to help overcome the rigors of the wild.  The “go light “and “one bullet one critter” philosophy are American Traditions stemming from our early history of exploration and pioneering.  Going light means taking only what you need because a lot of stuff just gets in the way of our experience with wild things and places.  Having skills in outdoor living and travel is ultimately safer and instills in ourselves and our children a sense of self-respect and self-reliance. 

     HHA works to protect this ethical tradition through education, outreach, partnerships, and youth camps.  We actively work to recruit new hunters into the fold and to help lead them on the way to good choices.  Because every hunter must learn the hard lessons for themselves --  through trial and error, on their own, with their conscience as their guide.  Leopold should have the last word on this as well:

     Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one is watching -- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.   


    

     

Friday, November 14, 2014

Go Easy on the Brussels Sprouts

What kind of flies are these? They look so realistic. I showed the vial to Kevin, who scowled like I was offering him a roadkill sandwich.

Houseflies, he said returning his attention to his ice hole. You should clean out your tackle box once in a while.

It was, of course, a leftover container of maggots from the last ice fishing trip of the previous winter. Maggots grow up to be houseflies. My ice fishing gear was in shambles, but at least I was physically prepared for the rigors of ice fishing. Allow me to share some tips for getting yourself into shape for the upcoming season.

Your preseason conditioning regimen will depend on the style of ice fishing you prefer. If you fish from the relative comfort of a collapsible ice shelter, you should start eating a lot of carrots. They are rich in beta-carotene (I know, right?), which has been shown to help with night vision. Obviously, you have to keep it pitch dark inside the shelter in order to see the maggot squirming deep in your ice hole. I would recommend increasing your carrot intake until your skin begins to turn orange, then back it off a couple of carrots.


 It can get mighty intense for a man, staring down his hole all day.
Youll probably be spending several hours sitting on the hard plastic of an upturned five-gallon bucket, so you want to make sure you have any hemorrhoid or colo-rectal issues under control before you hit the ice. Also, even if you have buns of steel, your ass will go to sleep if you sit in the same position for longer than one beer. Its a good idea to stand up every 20 minutes or so and clench your butt cheeks together several times. Clench, relax. Clench, relax. Just make sure you inform your fellow fishermen what youre doing so they dont get the wrong idea.

If youre fishing inside a shelter, do your buddies a favor and go easy on the Brussels sprouts, beans and other gas-producing foods. Itll probably be too cold to leave a flap open for ventilation, and you want to be invited back. Remember, if you let one rip while youre sitting on a plastic bucket, there will be no doubt as to who dealt it. And if the propane heater is on? The burns resulting from an anal flareup could be hard to explain in the ER.


 Q: How many ice fishermen does it take to drill a hole? A: Pass the whiskey 
You might prefer to fish outside, especially if its a bluebird day, and your friend Kevin who owns the shelter got in trouble with his wife and cannot go to the lake with you. Some core strengthening may be in order to facilitate a quick recovery when the edge of your bucket punches through the snow crust, spilling you onto your back and providing some wonderful entertainment for your companions. You know what they say: you have to get right back on that horse and get your eyeballs on that maggot.


One last thing to keep in mind for your ice fishing conditioning is the ability to imbibe in the morning and not be asleep by dinner time. Start training now by adding a shot of whiskey to your coffee every day, and soon youll be in tip top drinking shape, ready for another winter full of exciting times pulling trout and salmon through the ice at your favorite lake. Ah, who are we kidding. Weve been training for that since 1983.


 Just to be clear, this is the fish, not the bait. Pass the whiskey.



Bob Wire writes words and plays music in Missoula, Montana. This father of two teenage redheads spends much of his time working frantically to keep up with his kids, but is usually a step or two behind. Fortunately his long-suffering wife keeps an eye on the ball and knows where everything is.
Bob’s blog, “Bob Wire Has a Point (It’s Under His Cowboy Hat),” runs weekly at makeitmissoula.com. He writes with no holds barred from his unique perspective as a beer-swilling, guitar-slinging, road-tripping, fly-fishing, meeting-skipping, freelancing, dinner-cooking bigmouth. Sports, politics, drinking, Missoula culture, education, music, the outdoors, the indoors, travel, drinking—Bob spouts off on all that and more.
His blogs have been anthologized into a series of eBooks, The Bob Wire Chronicles, which are available for download at Amazon.com.
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