Monday, February 25, 2019

Member Profile: Walker Conyngham


Name: Walker Conyngham
Occupation: Communications Coordinator

How long have you been a member of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers?
Since February of last year.

How did your passion for wildlife, wild places, and fair chase hunting and fishing blossom? Some of my earliest memories include getting lugged around in a backpack like a sack of potatoes as my father cast to rising trout and bombing through off-piste powder on skis with my mother. Throw in a healthy dose of opportunity here in Montana, and I was hooked at an early age.
I would also credit HHA with deepening my connection to our local rivers and mountains. There aren’t many local organizations this tuned in to the threats facing Montana’s wildlife and ecosystems. I’m lucky to be a part of this group of dedicated conservationists.

Favorite/most memorable hunting/fishing story?
My first Atlantic salmon. Fished all week without a single strike, and then hooked into a twelve-pounder that took off like a scalded cat. Landing a fish with that much vitality and fight after long days of fruitless swinging is just about the best feeling in the world.
Favorite River/Hunting snack?
Peanut butter, bacon, and maple syrup burritos.

If you had to pawn everything- what hunting /fishing item could you not live without?
Probably my dog.

Worst/Most miserable day of hunting or fishing?
There was an infamous chukar trip right after I got my first license at age 12. We ended up spending the night out in the Snake River breaks with a hobbled-up lab, no map, and cotton clothing. In December. As a chubby adolescent, I was left tucked under a cliff while the grown-ups hiked out to the nearest road. Long story short, they came back hours later with food, water, and warm clothing to find me fast asleep on a bed of grass. Never shot a bird that whole trip.

What hunting/fishing adventures are on your bucket list?
Taimen in Mongolia, GTs at Christmas Island, and a bighorn ram here in Montana.  That last one is a real long shot, but I’m optimistic.

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.