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