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

Friday, March 23, 2018

Code of the West: Fair Play, Loyalty and Respect for the Land

Mr. Daines,

Allow me a few brief qualifiers in an attempt to convey the importance of this message to you, as a representative of Montanans. My name is William (Alex) Hughes, and I am a multi-generational Montanan, currently residing in Missoula, with most of my family in the Bitterroot Valley, originally from north-central Montana. I work in medical sales throughout western Montana, I am a military veteran, I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and I am a generally conservative person and voter. Additionally, I serve on the board of a local rod and gun club that keeps me informed and involved with not just local outdoor issues, but also with how the everyday folks of western Montana perceive and feel about these issues. I can certainly tell you that we expect our elected officials to meet with their constituents to hear questions, comments, concerns, etc.

I will now address your recent proposal legislation that would release 450,000 acres of wilderness study areas. I’m sure you are being inundated by various groups and organizations on the pros and cons of wilderness, different types of access, wildlife biology, etc. The evidence of the importance of wilderness study areas to wildlife is obviously important, but that is not the point of this letter. The one aspect I would like to highlight concerning the details is as follows: access must be defined when it comes to land management, and I fear that you have intentionally equivocated when it comes to using that word. Of course the wilderness study areas have access, and you know that. But, you highjack an appealing word while omitting the detail that your bills would allow motorized access, with the hopes that most voters without the time or care to learn the details will think that you are unlocking land that was previously inaccessible at all. We live in Montana! There is more than enough land in nearly every corner of this giant state for every type of access, including extraction; there is also more than enough room to limit types of access in some of these areas. Transparency and resolute honesty are traits held by the few politicians and leaders of this country that have stood the test of time and whose names are remembered honorably. You should strive to demonstrate these traits in your office.

Finally, to return to my main point. I pointed out that I generally hold conservative values. It absolutely pains me that public land management has become a partisan issue, and that I have to emphasize my own views in order to gain the ear of my republican elected officials. Mr. Daines, you are antagonizing and alienating a large contingency of voters that should be a substantial part of your base. Many of my friends and peers are hunters, veterans, businessmen, and healthcare providers who also share conservative values, and are infuriated by this legislation. You are not representing Montanans with your current legislative actions, and I urge you to deeply consider why you chose to run for office, and what your position truly represents from a historical, philosophical, and pragmatic perspective. Please do not sell out your people for industry, or for a vocal minority of special interest groups who do not have our best interests in mind.


Alex Hughes

Monday, March 19, 2018

Member Profile: Pelah Hoyt

Member Profile:  Founding Board Member Pelah Hoyt

Name: Pelah Hoyt

Occupation: Land Conservation

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

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?
Hunting with my dad in the Blackfoot

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? 

“Momma, you got an antelope!” my six-year-old twins yelled as they ran towards me. Their hunter’s orange glowed in the setting sun. It was the last day of our hunt in the Centennial Valley. It took a while for us to figure out how to hunt “lopers” here, and we thought we’d come home empty handed. But as they sun started to set on the last day, my buddy and I each got one on the count of three. We were all grateful to be together in this beautiful place with food for the freezer.

Favorite River/Hunting snack?
Halloween candy

If you had to pawn everything- what hunting /fishing item could you not live without?
Shooting sticks

Who took you on your first Hunting/Fishing trip?  Do you still hunt and fish with them today?
My dad. Yes, he is one of my main hunting buddies.

What is your advice for younger generations?
Take care of the places you love.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Member Profile: Adam Shaw

Member Profile:  HHA Vice President Adam Shaw
The good end of the rainbow
Learning to fish with Dad
Name: Adam Shaw

Occupation: Attorney

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers? 
8 years and I’ve been on the board for four years.

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom? 
My Dad, Uncle, and Grandfathers all revered untrammeled wild places. When I was young, they would take me into the mountains and deserts of Arizona to explore. I grew up listening to stories about my great, great Grandfather, who was a Government trapper in the Arizona Territory before it became a state. My Dad and Uncle also told lots of humorous stories of various backpacking trips they took in wilderness areas. My Uncle Brian, who is a great hunter, was always admired for his hunting and fishing prowess and I’ve always looked up to that. He once caught a huge rainbow trout with his bare hands and it's on the wall in my Grandpa’s shop. He also has a local wild Gambel’s quail he trained that jumps on his shoulder if it happens to be around – yeah, he’s that guy! I guess I grew up listening to hunting, fishing, and exploring stories and that fed my love for hunting and fishing in wild places.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story? 
That’s tough! But one particular boondoggle sticks out. I moved back to Missoula from Dillon, Montana and was blessed with twin boys. Work and rascal wrangling has put a damper on my fishing addiction. However, my great friend Kit Fischer indulges me often, and on one occasion took me on a float through one of his honey holes. The game: every man for himself in a personal pontoon on a river known for big cutthroats. I chose to take a beautiful Winston 4-weight fly rod my father-in-law had recently given me as a gift and I had yet to fish. I also brought a 7 weight as a spare since my 5 weight had been broken and not repaired…because…I’m a father of twins.

I started the day by forgetting my wading boots while explaining to Kit that I had nearly zero experience operating a pontoon kick-boat whilst fishing and floating down a river. He didn’t seem concerned, so I went along carefree. Then we put in. For those of you who aren’t accustomed to this form of floating, the idea is you float down the river in a personal pontoon while using fins to steer yourself. This allows you to fish at the same time – if you’re good. Seems simple. But in practice, its like trying to tie your shoes while you’re jumping.

I was happily floating along for forty minutes casting a yellow sally when I approached the first significant rapid. I wedged the Winston in between the tube and my seat with the tip pointing backward. Plunging through the rapid I noticed the yellow sally miraculously hooked to the tube by my left leg. Anyone who’s grabbed a hot pan can attest to the processing delay while you’re being burned. By the time I grabbed the tippet, it pulled taught, snapped, and the yellow sally sat in my hand.  

After an hour standing in the rapid waving my arms side to side to feel the line - a tactic brown bears use to fish for salmon - I noticed two anglers standing on the shore. The first one opined “isn’t it a little early to have had so much to drink?” Given my condition, I figured it was a little late to be so sober. After enduring the smart-ass, I had to give up on the rod and catch up with Kit, who was likely miles ahead. Harkening to a past life, I simply figured I’d come back a few weeks later when the river dropped and find the rod. I could see my bride’s face with two screaming babies in her arms while I explained that I had to spend another day on the river to look for a lost rod.

I’d like to say the trip got better, but I spent the next 9 hours trying to similarly lose the 7 WT. I once looked to my left to see its handle bobbing like a periscope of despair before I grabbed it as it sunk. We dragged our silly crafts over dozens of rock gardens while walking backward in fins. It all culminated at the take-out where Kit dumped the contents of his boat bag in the river. The entire day, I endured the crushing decision of telling my father-in-law that I lost the Winston before I ever really fished it.  

The cold beer at the truck couldn’t massage the edge of losing the rod. We did catch some fine cutthroat but overall, the fishing wasn’t good. The coup de grace to my anguish came a few weeks later when I was in Minneapolis for work. A text message from Kit showed the Winston on his kitchen table. He and another friend, Josh Conner, went back with wetsuits, masks and snorkels and fished her out.

My father-in-law loved the story. I learned valuable lessons: It’s good to have great friends. Great to have good single friends with lots of time. And always keep one hand on your rod.

Favorite River/Hunting snack? 
Pudding cups. I do a backpack archery hunt every year with my best friend, Evan. My wife, Erin, took over food planning after watching us flail and legitimately worry we’d starve. The first year she tossed in pudding cups which I objected to because of their bulk and general absurdness. Aren’t we supposed to be eating pemmican, bark, and small woodland animals if necessary?! When you eat a pudding cup for dessert after days in the mountains, you’ll thank Erin.

Choose your weapon:  fly rod, rifle, or bow? 
Ooooooh! Hard question. Close between bow and fly rod. I’d rather hunt elk with a bow than just about anything. However, I have to go with a fly rod. I can’t even fathom not fishing.

One bug Challenge: If you had to use one bug for the whole season what would it be? 
I’d go with what my fishing buddies and I call “Wonder Bug.” It’s an old Tony Schoonen pattern for the Big Hole. I can’t explain it, but it works everywhere in all conditions.   

What is the best hunting/fishing advice you have received? 
Keep up the PHA! Positive Hunting Attitude. Pronounced (“Fa”). Hunting can change in an instant and staying positive is crucial. Especially on multi-day hunts. And of course, mind the wind. I’m very serious about wind conditions.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Member Profile: Katie McKalip

HHA Board Member Katie McKalip

Each week leading up to our annual fundraiser we will be profiling one of our Hellgate Hunters & Anglers members and their love for Montana’s Hunting and Fishing opportunities. 
Next up:  HHA Board Member, Katie McKalip 

Occupation: Communications Director, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers? About a decade

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story?  I’ll tell you my most recent favorite story, from just last fall. I had one day to fill my deer tag and spent it in the Swan with my good friend Vickie. I have two little kids and my husband lives to hunt big game, so getting out and about can be a challenge. The snow was beautiful but crunchy. We hunted hard all morning and afternoon, saw lots of tracks but never got a shot. Late afternoon came, I’d pretty much written things off, then a chubby little buck strolled toward me from behind some trees. I shot him in the neck and dropped him in his tracks. Got him back to the rig just after dark, got back to Missoula right before the kids went to bed. They were wildly excited. All this courtesy of our public lands on the Flathead National Forest.

Have you ever been lost?  All who wander are not lost.

Choose your weapon:  fly rod, rifle, or bow?  Shotgun. If I could choose one hunt for the rest of my days it would be chasing wild birds on public lands with good friends and great dogs.

What is the story behind your first fly rod or gun?  Who gave it to you?  I have my dad’s Ruger pistol. He got it in Delta Junction, Alaska, when he was in the Army. This was back in the late 50s. I have two big brothers, but Dad gave the gun to me. I don’t shoot it a lot, but I like taking it out every now and then.

Who took you on your first Hunting/Fishing trip?  Do you still hunt and fish with them today? My grandfather – my mom’s dad – used to let me and my brothers come fishing with him on Lake Erie. He was a cranky old codger. He used to point his cane at us when he got mad, which for some reason scared the daylights out of me. But he’d always relax once he got a fishing pole in his hand.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Member Profile: Kit Fischer

HHA President Kit Fischer
Each week leading up to our annual fundraiser we will be profiling one of our Hellgate Hunters & Anglers members and their love for Montana’s Hunting and Fishing opportunities. 

First up:  HHA President Kit Fischer 

Name: Kit Fischer

Occupation: Wildlife Conservation with National Wildlife Federation

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters & Anglers? 8 years

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom?  I grew up hiking, fishing and paddling every nook and corner of the state.  My folks wrote wildlife and river guide books and my brother and I were eager to join in on the adventures.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story?  Lost in a blizzard chasing a wounded elk on Ovando Mountain with my brother.  We argued about everything- his shot placement, how long to wait for it to bleed out/get covered with snow, and ultimately how to know when you’re really lost.  When you’re arguing about which direction a frozen creek is running, you’re lost.  We eventually found a camper trailer late at night and knocked on the door- an old couple invited us in for cookies and coffee and gave us a ride 8 miles to our truck.

Who took you on your first Hunting/Fishing trip?  My Dad still loves telling me how to set up a better duck spread, be a better bird hunter, shooter, caller, dog handler, driver, and gentleman. My Dad and Steve Woodruff took me up to Brown’s Lake for my first duck hunt when I was maybe 9.  He gave me a single shot .410 for some early gun safety and training and was stunned when I dropped a green wing in the decoys.  Unfortunately, my shooting has only gone downhill since then.

What is the best hunting/fishing advice you have received?  You can spend as much money on fancy hunting gear and guns as you want, but if you don’t put serious time in the woods, prepare to be disappointed.  Hunting is the great equalizer. A $2000 custom rifle will do the same thing as your grandpa’s venerable Springfield .30-06 if you know how to use it. 

How many Honey Holes have you lost to ex’s?  I’ve lost more spots during the courting stage of a relationship than the dating stage.  Hormones are rushing, you’re trying to ensure a good time so you slip and go to your best fishing or hunting or gathering spot - neurons aren’t firing correctly, secrets are exposed. Seemingly they all carry write-in-the-rain notebooks in their back pockets.